An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

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An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#1  Postby Sam26 » June 29th, 2017, 6:46 pm

I'm not sure if there is enough of an interest in Wittgenstein in this forum, but I've been working on On Certainty for quite some time. I will post some of my thoughts, and if there is an interest, I will continue to post. If not, then that's okay too. This could be used as a reference point to do one's own analysis of Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #1

What follows is my own analysis of On Certainty, and this analysis is done with very little input (reading or otherwise) from other philosophers. Hence, some of my thoughts may diverge or converge with others, but they are mine and I take responsibility for them. Hopefully, I will hit the mark from time-to-time, at least that is my goal. Maybe some of you will get something out of this, but I can tell you it takes a lot of thought. I have read and re-read On Certainty many times, and each time I do, I learn something new.

Wittgenstein wrote On Certainty in response to Moore's papers, Proof of an External World and A Defense of Common Sense in which Moore lists a number of propositions that he claims to know with certainty. Propositions such as the following: "Here is one hand" and "There exists at present a living human body, which is my body (G.E. Moore, Philosophical Papers (1959), p. 1)." Moore continues to enumerate other propositions that he claims to know, with certainty, to be true. These propositions provide for Moore a proof of the external world, and as such, they supposedly form a buttress against the skeptic.

As we shall see as we examine On Certainty it is not only Moore's claim to knowledge that Wittgenstein criticizes, but he also critiques the skeptic, and specifically their use of the word doubt. It is my opinion that Wittgenstein's response to Moore's propositions is not entirely unsympathetic, although he argues that Moore's propositions do not accomplish what Moore thinks they do, namely, to provide a proof of the external world; which in turn is supposed to undermine the doubts of the skeptic. Moore's proof is supposed to show that the conclusion follows necessarily, and if it does, then the skeptic's doubts are supposed to vanish - at least in theory. The proof would look something like the following:

1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.
2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.
3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.

Wittgenstein is challenging the first premise in the above argument; more specifically, he is challenging Moore's claim that he has knowledge of his two hands. Having knowledge of something presupposes that there are good reasons (at least in many cases) to believe it, but exactly what is it that Moore has knowledge of? He claims to have knowledge of the existence of his hands, but what would count as evidence for such a claim? Do I know that I have hands because I check to see if they are there every morning? Do I make a study of my hands, and thereby conclude that I do indeed have hands? I have knowledge of chemistry, physics, history, epistemology, and other subjects, and there are ways to confirm my knowledge. However, in our everyday lives do we need to confirm that we have hands? And do we normally doubt such things?


From here I will examine On Certainty, sometimes line-by-line, other times a section at a time.
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An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'



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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#2  Postby Woodart » June 29th, 2017, 7:11 pm

I don't see any argument so far? You should have added a little more "bait" to begin with. How did Witt challenge the first premise?
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#3  Postby Fooloso4 » June 29th, 2017, 8:20 pm

I am looking forward to reading your analysis. I am not sure how much interest there is in Wittgenstein here. In part this may be due to lack of familiarity with anything other than the Tractatus and Investigations. I think On Certainty is more accessible and perhaps your analysis will motivate others to read it.

What follows is my own analysis of On Certainty, and this analysis is done with very little input (reading or otherwise) from other philosophers. Hence, some of my thoughts may diverge or converge with others, but they are mine and I take responsibility for them.


The diversity of interpretations is one of the things that first attracted me to him. It was not the content of those interpretations, but rather the fact that so many scholars claimed he was saying so many different things. Like you, I have relied mostly on my own interpretation.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#4  Postby Spectrum » June 29th, 2017, 11:41 pm

I was very into Wittgenstein at one time but now a bit rusty.
Note this;
viewtopic.php?p=79532#p79532

Spectrum wrote:Yes, there are bedrock propositions.
Wittgenstein also mentioned 'hinged' propositions.
Moore's proof was in response to Kant's challenge on the proof of the external world.
Thus if we refer back to Kant, we will be able to get an idea of what Wittgenstein meant by 'bedrock' propositions.
It has something to do with Kant's a priori synthetic judgments.

Moore relied on common sense, but he did not understand the basis of the default common sense. Moore could not comprehend Kant's perspective at all.
Similarly the skeptics also did not understand the 'fundamental (bedrock) why they are skeptical, except they had good enough reasons to be skeptical.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#5  Postby Burning ghost » June 30th, 2017, 5:02 am

I have not read "On Certainty", but I am most of the way through "Logical Investigations". Regardless I think this is an easy enough concept to grasp and a very contrary one.

I think a lot of this stems from what he says about "meaning". The "truth" and/or "certainty" relies upon an abstract structure of sorts. If we have solid rules then the real and the true and clearly defined. In math 1+1=2 is a certainty. As a scribbling of symbols on a page or on your screen their "truth" is a nonsensical concept.

What is certain is that to which opinion cannot be applied. I cannot say my opinion is different in regard to 1+1=2, but I could say that a green apple and a red apple don't necessarily equate to two apples in the same way because all apples are essentially different, not universal items.

What seems to be the case in the OP is that Wittgenstein is hinting at the nature of the heuristic. If X works for Y then we will extend this success to other areas. The more X works when applied to Y, A, T and F the more and more we'll come to hold it in high regard.

By comparison and relation we come to understand differences and we further intrincate how we differentiate between sensible items. We do not develop sensations of weight and light, we conpcetualise the experience and by this abstract process set up a rules of understanding. In the above the rules of math are extremely simple and have multiple application in our sensible world.

(this is bore you fool, you've heard it before from me)

When we have knowledge of our hands we don't have knowledge of our fingers. Sensibly the experience is the same but without a term to distinguish "fingers" from "hands" the sensible nature of the world remains the same in the pure data sense, yet the experience is different. This is due to intrication of sensibility. With hands what I say above is very much obscured because we "feel" our hands and fingers, but it is the conceptual and language weight we add to these that makes a difference too. There are tribes that have no word concept for "tree". They have multiple terms for the various parts of a tree but the larger picture it really of no use to them because they are surrounded by trees. Much like we don't pay particular attention to anything common in our day-to-day experience. We do not look at things in a room and refer to them by the number of points touching the floor (well I have as part of a little mental exercise but that is besdies the point), we do not look at a table and think about it as a four pointed item touching the floor, or people as two pointed items touching the floor. This does not make it untrue only not a convential way of conceptualizing the sensible world.

I think it was Buckinminster who said we should in this modern age talk about going "outstairs" instead of "upstairs" given that we know "up" and "down" are archaic terms given that we are literally travelling out of a gravity field.

From what ever position we start our sensible investigation of the world we start in a very relativistic way. Upon further investigation and item making processes we fit patterns into our experiences and find some things to be more prominent and useful than others. Our extension into the world through imagination is paramount to our sensible regard for the world prior to any linguistic capacity (linguistic in the sense of communicating with other humans in a distinct grammatical way).

Th emost basic function of understanding relies on a simple Yes or No response. It is food? Is it soft? Is it sticky? This sensible functioning does not require language for us to guess as to the sensible appearance of some item as being hard or soft, sticky or slippery. We learn what slippery things look like and what hard things look like by trial and error. The understanding has to be founded on acceptance of "the hands" as "hands". The point of beginning will uncover the same exposition, or a similar one, exentually. The more taken to be the same an item of sensibility is from numerous perspectives the more certainty we trust in this item. With abstract patterns we enforce certainty and explore and constrast this idea with sensible experience.

We can create absolute certain laws and rules in an abstract sense. This enclosed understanding extends as if true to The World in a separate "out there" sense and frames it as being that world there following rules much as the ones we create in an abstract sense. What we do come to find is all abstract laws and rules we apply have limited range and use, and the "limit" and "range" are terms that exist because of this and are generally appreciated in a infinite sense, through measurement and magnitiude.

If Moore has knowledge he has "two hands" he has a lot of knowledge to start with. He has numbers and can recognize ten digits and refer to them as "ten digits". If we were to say Moore has knowledge of hand/s, in a non-plural/non-singular categorization, his starting position is much more unrestricted and open to discovery (or is it?) Where I live the local language doesn't possess terms that directly distinguish between "hand" and "hands". From the get go our grammatical knowledge and structure infers a lot about how we see the world and refer to it.

There is little need to go beyond step (1) because there is no explanation of how he can conclude "external" world or what "external" really means from this beginning? This is the very problem from which the whole body/soul issue arises and the falsehood of "inner" and "outer" much like "tree" is as pointless to the tribesman as is me referring to people as two pointed item touching the floor. Toextend this the tribes would then see the forrest as a seemingly endless number of pointed items touching the floor rather than an endless number of singular items touching the floor. To the tribesman the "trees"/"tree" are neither regarded as singular nor plural, they are mere facets of a larger body, just like a person is a two pointed item touching the floor rather than a collection of two singular pointed items touching the floor.

The "map making" is certainty and the map made is representive of certainty only. The ease of gettong lost among this is due to the map made being taken on as a touch stone of all map making, when it is merely a circumstance of the representation brought about by "map making". The there comes the difficult task of occupying the space in which analogy and aphorism can be put to use (this is where things break down for me and words seem almost to lead away from the problem or reveal it as a facade.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#6  Postby -1- » June 30th, 2017, 7:24 am

Whoo, boy, Burning Ghost, I don't understand a single solitary concept in this post of yours above mine here.

Either I am losing it or else your text does not make sense, or both.

I am mainly thrown by the "quoted" words; are they to be taken with their real meaning, or are they supposed to mean something different from their real meaning, even if just by a slight margin, and that's why they are in quotation marks?

I really can't say I understood even a single solitary concept from the script above.

Is this a quote from Wittgenstein, or is it your interpretation of it?
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#7  Postby Sam26 » June 30th, 2017, 8:42 am

Spectrum wrote:I was very into Wittgenstein at one time but now a bit rusty.
Note this;
viewtopic.php?p=79532#p79532

Spectrum wrote:Yes, there are bedrock propositions.
Wittgenstein also mentioned 'hinged' propositions.
Moore's proof was in response to Kant's challenge on the proof of the external world.
Thus if we refer back to Kant, we will be able to get an idea of what Wittgenstein meant by 'bedrock' propositions.
It has something to do with Kant's a priori synthetic judgments.

Moore relied on common sense, but he did not understand the basis of the default common sense. Moore could not comprehend Kant's perspective at all.
Similarly the skeptics also did not understand the 'fundamental (bedrock) why they are skeptical, except they had good enough reasons to be skeptical.


Those are old posts of mine, but I wanted to start a completely new thread.

-- Updated June 30th, 2017, 7:44 am to add the following --

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #2

"If you do know that here is one hand [G.E. Moore, Proof of an External World], we'll grant you all the rest. When one says that such and such a proposition can't be proved, of course that does not mean that it can't be derived from other propositions; any proposition can be derived from other ones. But they may be no more certain than it is itself (OC, 1)."

So Wittgenstein grants that if Moore does indeed know that he has a hand, then Moore's conclusion follows. The skeptic says that such and such a proposition can't be proved. However, that doesn't mean that we can't derive them based on other propositions. I think derive here means something different from drawing a conclusion based on logical considerations. The derivation may not be any stronger than the proposition we started with. It can be also said that if we draw a conclusion based on a proposition, the conclusion may not be any stronger than the proposition we originally started with. There seems to be something foundational here.

"From it seeming to me--or to everyone--to be so, it doesn't follow that it is so. What we can ask is whether it can make sense to doubt it (OC, 2)."

The skeptic may have a point (although it may not be the point he/she is trying to make), that just because people (or Moore) say something is so, it doesn't mean that it is. However, Wittgenstein points out that what we need to ask, is whether the doubt makes sense. Doubting occurs in a language-game, and language-games have rules - later Wittgenstein will point out that a doubt that doubts everything is not a doubt.

Knowledge has to be demonstrated - whereas Moore seems to just state his propositions as facts, and this need to be shown or demonstrated in some way.

-- Updated June 30th, 2017, 7:49 am to add the following --

Woodart wrote:I don't see any argument so far? You should have added a little more "bait" to begin with. How did Witt challenge the first premise?

There is no one argument, but an analysis of what Wittgenstein is saying in On Certainty.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#8  Postby -1- » June 30th, 2017, 8:49 am

Sam26 wrote:Those are old posts of mine, but I wanted to start a completely new thread.


The posts you refer to, Sam26, by quoting them, have been left by Spectrum.

Yet you say those are yours.

So you, Sam26, have two identities, two aliases on this site, namely Sam26, and Spectrum?

I mean, you called the posts left by Spectrum your own. That is only possible if you had put them on the site, and since you did, and it was with a different user name, it follows that you have two different user names.

Please report this to a moderator. Thanks.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#9  Postby Sam26 » June 30th, 2017, 8:56 am

-1- wrote:
Sam26 wrote:Those are old posts of mine, but I wanted to start a completely new thread.


The posts you refer to, Sam26, by quoting them, have been left by Spectrum.

Yet you say those are yours.

So you, Sam26, have two identities, two aliases on this site, namely Sam26, and Spectrum?

I mean, you called the posts left by Spectrum your own. That is only possible if you had put them on the site, and since you did, and it was with a different user name, it follows that you have two different user names.

Please report this to a moderator. Thanks.

I'm saying that the posts Spectrum referred to in another thread are mine. Notice the link.

-- Updated June 30th, 2017, 7:59 am to add the following --

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #2

"If you do know that here is one hand [G.E. Moore, Proof of an External World], we'll grant you all the rest. When one says that such and such a proposition can't be proved, of course that does not mean that it can't be derived from other propositions; any proposition can be derived from other ones. But they may be no more certain than it is itself (OC, 1)."

So Wittgenstein grants that if Moore does indeed know that he has a hand, then Moore's conclusion follows. The skeptic says that such and such a proposition can't be proved. However, that doesn't mean that we can't derive them based on other propositions. I think derive here means something different from drawing a conclusion based on logical considerations. The derivation may not be any stronger than the proposition we started with. It can be also said that if we draw a conclusion based on a proposition, the conclusion may not be any stronger than the proposition we originally started with. There seems to be something foundational here.

"From it seeming to me--or to everyone--to be so, it doesn't follow that it is so. What we can ask is whether it can make sense to doubt it (OC, 2)."

The skeptic may have a point (although it may not be the point he/she is trying to make), that just because people (or Moore) say something is so, it doesn't mean that it is. However, Wittgenstein points out that what we need to ask, is whether the doubt makes sense. Doubting occurs in a language-game, and language-games have rules - later Wittgenstein will point out that a doubt that doubts everything is not a doubt.

Knowledge has to be demonstrated - whereas Moore seems to just state his propositions as facts, and this need to be shown or demonstrated in some way.

I notice that there is no way to edit posts. I accidentally posted this post with a reply, so I'm posting it by itself again.

-- Updated June 30th, 2017, 8:03 am to add the following --

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #3

"Whether a proposition can turn out false after all depends on what I make count as determinants for that proposition (OC, 5)."

This is an interesting point, many of our beliefs are indeed determined by what we make count as evidence. In fact, most arguments are over this very thing. For instance, some religious people believe there is evidence for the existence of God, but other people do not believe there is evidence. Now I am not saying that there is or there isn't evidence, only that a proposition is true or false for me or you based on what we allow to count as evidence. In fact, language-games can arise to support any system of belief. However, it's not the language-game itself that decides whether we have knowledge of this or that, otherwise we could create language-games to support any belief.

However, language-games can give us support for the correct use of certain words; and in the case of On Certainty, we are looking at how we use the word know. So not all language-games are created equal. We need to look at the original use, and how a word has developed over the years, i.e., the language-game that surrounded the word's birth and growth.

"Now, can one enumerate what one knows (like Moore)? Straight off like that, I believe not.--For otherwise the expression "I know" gets misused. And through this misuse a queer and extremely important mental state seems to be revealed (OC, 6)."

This is where Wittgenstein begins to show that Moore's use of the word "know" is contrary to the word's original home, i.e., contrary to how the word is normally used. There is a kind of logic of use involved in Wittgenstein's method throughout On Certainty.

For the longest time I didn't know exactly what Wittgenstein was referring too, when he made the following statement about Moore's proposition: "...a queer and extremely important mental state seems to be revealed."

However, in a later passage he seems to clarify what he has in mind. In paragraph 42 Wittgenstein speaks of the "mental state of conviction," and that this state of conviction is something that occurs regardless of whether a proposition is true or false. Wittgenstein seems to refer to it as a subjective state of certainty, and we observe this in the way people speak or gesticulate. The way we gesticulate will often show our convictions. Moore's claim to knowledge seems to be more in line with this subjective state of certainty, than with real knowledge claims. This will be developed more as we look at these passages.


Finally, if some of you want to learn how Wittgenstein examines words using the methods in the Philosophical Investigations - I believe On Certainty puts Wittgenstein's methods (the methods of the PI) to use, i.e., we can learn how to apply his methods by a close examination of his notes.

-- Updated June 30th, 2017, 8:04 am to add the following --

There seems to be something wrong, because I can't post a post by itself.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#10  Postby Fooloso4 » June 30th, 2017, 11:09 am

Sam 26:

However, language-games can give us support for the correct use of certain words; and in the case of On Certainty, we are looking at how we use the word know. So not all language-games are created equal. We need to look at the original use, and how a word has developed over the years, i.e., the language-game that surrounded the word's birth and growth.


#3 should not be ignored:

3. If e.g. someone says "I don't know if there's a hand here" he might be told "Look closer". - This possibility of satisfying oneself is part of the language-game. Is one of its essential features.


The language-game is based what is empirically evident: “Look closer”.

For the longest time I didn't know exactly what Wittgenstein was referring too, when he made the following statement about Moore's proposition: "...a queer and extremely important mental state seems to be revealed."


I think what he is referring to is the theory that there must be some particular mental state that corresponds to the particular thing that is known. And so if one could see into someone’s mind they would find the mental state. Wittgenstein is not saying that this is an extremely important mental state that has been revealed. He is denying it. The idea of such a mental state is the result of the misuse of “I know”.

However, in a later passage he seems to clarify what he has in mind. In paragraph 42 Wittgenstein speaks of the "mental state of conviction," and that this state of conviction is something that occurs regardless of whether a proposition is true or false. Wittgenstein seems to refer to it as a subjective state of certainty, and we observe this in the way people speak or gesticulate.


But see #30:

30. When someone has made sure of something, he says: "Yes, the calculation is right", but he did not infer that from his condition of certainty. One does not infer how things are from one's own certainty.


And #38:

38. Knowledge in mathematics: Here one has to keep on reminding oneself of the unimportance of the 'inner process' or 'state' and ask "Why should it be important? What does it matter to me?" What is interesting is how we use mathematical propositions.


And the conclusion of #42

To think that different states must correspond to the words "believe" and "know" would be as if one believed that different people had to correspond to the word "I" and the name "Ludwig", because the concepts are different.


It is not a matter of replacing the mental state of knowing with the mental state of certainty. It is, rather, to reject the appeal to mental states. That I have hands is not a conclusion reached by access a mental state or knowing or certainty.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#11  Postby Spectrum » July 1st, 2017, 12:18 am

The main theme of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty' is to challenge the Philosophical Realist 's position of an absolute independent reality, i.e. the external world.

Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that some aspects of reality are ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Realism may be spoken of with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the physical world, and thought.
Realism can also be promoted in an unqualified sense, in which case it asserts the mind-independent existence of the world, as opposed to skepticism and solipsism.
Philosophers who profess realism often claim that truth consists in a correspondence between cognitive representations and reality.[1]

Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality but that the accuracy and fullness of understanding can be improved.[2] In some contexts, realism is contrasted with idealism. Today it is more usually contrasted with anti-realism, for example in the philosophy of science. [wiki]


If one stick to the main theme then one will not stray and misunderstand the central point and intention of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'. Otherwise one will be beating around the bush all the time.

One point to note is Wittgenstein's transition from philosophical realist to a philosophical anti-realist in the later part of his life. So many of his earlier views [books] would not be applicable [i.e. contradict] to his later views.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#12  Postby Fooloso4 » July 1st, 2017, 11:35 am

Spectrum:

The main theme of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty' is to challenge the Philosophical Realist's position of an absolute independent reality, i.e. the external world.


There is far more going on than a challenge to realism. As we move forward much of this should come to light.

One point to note is Wittgenstein's transition from philosophical realist to a philosophical anti-realist in the later part of his life.


Here we may become hopelessly bogged down in definitions and labels. In his later work Wittgenstein severed the presumed metaphysical connection between thought and reality. There is a reciprocal relation between facts and concepts. His skepticism regarding claims of knowledge as absolute and infallible, however, remained unchanged from his early notebooks of 1914-1916 to his last writings On Certainty. There are no con-contingent or necessary truths about the world.

From Wittgenstein’s Zettel:

The essential thing about metaphysics: it obliterates the distinction between factual and conceptual investigations (Z 458)

Do I want to say, then, that certain facts are favorable to the formation of certain concepts: or again unfavorable? And does experience teach us this? It is a fact of experience that human beings alter their concepts, exchange them for others when they learn new facts; when in this way what was formerly important to them becomes unimportant, and vice versa. (It is discovered e.g. that what formerly counted as a difference in kind, is really only a difference in degree.) (Z 352)
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#13  Postby Sam26 » July 1st, 2017, 2:01 pm

I'm hoping this post doesn't give me the same problem I've been having, viz., for some reason my posts have been capturing quotes.

I'm going to try to reply to posts, but I'm not sure I'll get to all of them. Please don't be offended if I skip your post.

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #4

"My life shews that I know or am certain that there is a chair over there, or a door, and so on.--I tell a friend e.g. "Take that chair over there", "Shut the door", etc, etc. (OC, 7)"

Our lives show that we have certain beliefs, and many of these beliefs are shown by our actions. The very act of sitting at a computer and typing shows my belief that there is a keyboard; that I have hands; that I am controlling my fingers; that what I type is saved to a hard drive, etc, etc. I don't even think about it, i.e., I don't think to myself and say, "Is this really a keyboard?" After all there is no reason to doubt it, and even if I did doubt it, would that doubt really amount to anything? That I am certain of these beliefs is reflected in what I do. We all act in ways that show our certainty of the world around us. Occasionally things do cause us to doubt our surroundings, but usually these things are out of the ordinary. I am referring to our sensory experiences, i.e., generally we can trust our senses, even if occasionally we draw the wrong conclusion based on what we see, hear, smell, etc.

The backdrop of reality grounds us, if this wasn't the case, then the skeptic would have an argument. However, the skeptic tends to doubt things that shouldn't be doubted. They doubt that which is outside the language-game of doubting; and they violate the rules of doubting within the language-game associated with doubting.

"The difference between the concept of 'knowing' and the concept of 'being certain' isn't of any great importance at all except where "I know" is meant to mean: I can't be wrong. In a law-court, for example, "I am certain" could replace "I know" in every piece of testimony. We might even imagine its being forbidden to say "I know" there. [A passage in Wilhelm Meister, where "You know" or "You knew" is used in the sense "You were certain", the fact being different from what he knew.] (OC, 8)."

This passage seems to be straight forward, i.e., in many instances we can use the two words know and certain interchangeably; and this is probably where some confusion occurs. I can be subjectively certain, but I can also be objectively certain. Both of these refer to beliefs, and as such they also point to states of mind. The difference is how both of these beliefs are supported.

Knowledge is not dependent upon a mental state, it can reflect a mental state, but the mental state doesn't ground knowledge. Even subjective certainty is not grounded in our mental states. Both seem to be grounded, but grounded in very different ways.

Knowledge takes place between people, and it happens within language or language-games. We have different ways of verifying our knowledge with one another; and this takes place in the arena of the objective. Part of what grounds subjective beliefs are our sensory experiences. I use my sensory experiences to arrive at certain kinds of beliefs based on the way we interact with the world through touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. These sensory experiences help us form beliefs apart from the use of language, which make them bedrock for us.

Subjective certainty takes place within our minds, and is not necessarily dependent upon the rules of language, although it can be if we communicate our subjective beliefs with others. When I say that subjective certainty takes place within, I mean the confirmation is dependent upon what we happen to think or feel. And although there is interaction with the objective world, we decide or interpret that information relative to us, as opposed to verifying it objectively.

For example, if I taste an orange and enjoy the sweetness of the orange, I will arrive at a certain subjective belief about oranges. Note that the orange is objective, but the belief I have about the orange is subjective, since it is depend upon my likes or dislikes about oranges. This belief is not dependent upon language, although I can share my belief with you through language. Also note that when I share it with you, the belief I have about oranges becomes objective for you. How? Because what I believe, although it is subjective for me, is objective for you; and it becomes a piece of knowledge that can be objectively verified.

Notice the way Moore is using the word know, essentially he is saying that he can't be wrong about such-and-such a proposition, and this seems to be an appeal to his subjective state of mind. He is basically saying "Look this is a hand, and I know it, and furthermore every rational person knows it. The propositions he puts forth are so certain for him that no rational person could doubt them. He is correct in one sense, i.e. a doubt here seems dubious at best. This is probably why it is easy for all of us to agree with Moore. However, Moore's propositions tell us much more about the use of know and doubt than we may understand.

I may believe that I am not wrong, and have a conviction (the mental state of conviction) that shows my certainty, but that doesn't mean that I am correct. That we are not mistaken must be shown; or as Wittgenstein says, if what Moore was saying was true, then we could infer the truth of a proposition from the mere use of the word know.

Part of the confusion between subjective certainty and objective certainty is conflating the use of the word certainty with the use of the word know. This arises because in some contexts we do use "I am certain..." as another way of saying "I know..." but in other contexts it's much different as I have already explained above.

-- Updated July 1st, 2017, 1:22 pm to add the following --

Spectrum wrote:The main theme of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty' is to challenge the Philosophical Realist 's position of an absolute independent reality, i.e. the external world.

Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that some aspects of reality are ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Realism may be spoken of with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the physical world, and thought.
Realism can also be promoted in an unqualified sense, in which case it asserts the mind-independent existence of the world, as opposed to skepticism and solipsism.
Philosophers who profess realism often claim that truth consists in a correspondence between cognitive representations and reality.[1]

Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality but that the accuracy and fullness of understanding can be improved.[2] In some contexts, realism is contrasted with idealism. Today it is more usually contrasted with anti-realism, for example in the philosophy of science. [wiki]


If one stick to the main theme then one will not stray and misunderstand the central point and intention of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'. Otherwise one will be beating around the bush all the time.

One point to note is Wittgenstein's transition from philosophical realist to a philosophical anti-realist in the later part of his life. So many of his earlier views [books] would not be applicable [i.e. contradict] to his later views.

Hello Spectrum, thanks for taking the time to post. My only particular view on the subject (realism, idealism, or anti-realism) is that Wittgenstein stayed clear of any theory of representation that tried to represent reality in some neat theory. These theorists are held captive to some of the basic mistakes that all theorists make including the one who wrote the Tractatus. Any time we try to tie language into some neat little theory we end up missing the boat. It's like trying to define the word game. As I go along I'll speak to some of these issues.

-- Updated July 1st, 2017, 1:24 pm to add the following --

Why do my posts keep capturing my previous posts?

-- Updated July 1st, 2017, 1:36 pm to add the following --

This post is a test to see if after logging out the issue I'm having stops.

-- Updated July 1st, 2017, 2:29 pm to add the following --

Sam26 wrote:I'm going to try to reply to posts, but I'm not sure I'll get to all of them. Please don't be offended if I skip your post.

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #4

"My life shews that I know or am certain that there is a chair over there, or a door, and so on.--I tell a friend e.g. "Take that chair over there", "Shut the door", etc, etc. (OC, 7)"

Our lives show that we have certain beliefs, and many of these beliefs are shown by our actions. The very act of sitting at a computer and typing shows my belief that there is a keyboard; that I have hands; that I am controlling my fingers; that what I type is saved to a hard drive, etc, etc. I don't even think about it, i.e., I don't think to myself and say, "Is this really a keyboard?" After all there is no reason to doubt it, and even if I did doubt it, would that doubt really amount to anything? That I am certain of these beliefs is reflected in what I do. We all act in ways that show our certainty of the world around us. Occasionally things do cause us to doubt our surroundings, but usually these things are out of the ordinary. I am referring to our sensory experiences, i.e., generally we can trust our senses, even if occasionally we draw the wrong conclusion based on what we see, hear, smell, etc.

The backdrop of reality grounds us, if this wasn't the case, then the skeptic would have an argument. However, the skeptic tends to doubt things that shouldn't be doubted. They doubt that which is outside the language-game of doubting; and they violate the rules of doubting within the language-game associated with doubting.

"The difference between the concept of 'knowing' and the concept of 'being certain' isn't of any great importance at all except where "I know" is meant to mean: I can't be wrong. In a law-court, for example, "I am certain" could replace "I know" in every piece of testimony. We might even imagine its being forbidden to say "I know" there. [A passage in Wilhelm Meister, where "You know" or "You knew" is used in the sense "You were certain", the fact being different from what he knew.] (OC 8)."

This passage seems to be straight forward, i.e., in many instances we can use the two words know and certain interchangeably; and this is probably where some confusion occurs. I can be subjectively certain, but I can also be objectively certain. Both of these refer to beliefs, and as such they also point to states of mind. The difference is how both of these beliefs are supported.

Knowledge is not dependent upon a mental state, it can reflect a mental state, but the mental state doesn't ground knowledge. Even subjective certainty is not grounded in our mental states. Both seem to be grounded, but grounded in very different ways.

Knowledge takes place between people, and it happens within language or language-games. We have different ways of verifying our knowledge with one another; and this takes place in the arena of the objective. Part of what grounds subjective beliefs are our sensory experiences. I use my sensory experiences to arrive at certain kinds of beliefs based on the way we interact with the world through touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. These sensory experiences help us form beliefs apart from the use of language, which make them bedrock for us.

Subjective certainty takes place within our minds, and is not necessarily dependent upon the rules of language, although it can be if we communicate our subjective beliefs with others. When I say that subjective certainty takes place within, I mean the confirmation is dependent upon what we happen to think or feel. And although there is interaction with the objective world, we decide or interpret that information relative to us, as opposed to verifying it objectively.

For example, if I taste an orange and enjoy the sweetness of the orange, I will arrive at a certain subjective belief about oranges. Note that the orange is objective, but the belief I have about the orange is subjective, since it is depend upon my likes or dislikes about oranges. This belief is not dependent upon language, although I can share my belief with you through language. Also note that when I share it with you, the belief I have about oranges becomes objective for you. How? Because what I believe, although it is subjective for me, is objective for you; and it becomes a piece of knowledge that can be objectively verified.

Notice the way Moore is using the word know, essentially he is saying that he can't be wrong about such-and-such a proposition, and this seems to be an appeal to his subjective state of mind. He is basically saying "Look this is a hand, and I know it, and furthermore every rational person knows it. The propositions he puts forth are so certain for him that no rational person could doubt them. He is correct in one sense, i.e. a doubt here seems dubious at best. This is probably why it is easy for all of us to agree with Moore. However, Moore's propositions tell us much more about the use of know and doubt than we may understand.

I may believe that I am not wrong, and have a conviction (the mental state of conviction) that shows my certainty, but that doesn't mean that I am correct. That we are not mistaken must be shown; or as Wittgenstein says, if what Moore was saying was true, then we could infer the truth of a proposition from the mere use of the word know.

Part of the confusion between subjective certainty and objective certainty is conflating the use of the word certainty with the use of the word know. This arises because in some contexts we do use "I am certain..." as another way of saying "I know..." but in other contexts it's much different as I have already explained above.

-- Updated July 1st, 2017, 1:22 pm to add the following --

Spectrum wrote:The main theme of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty' is to challenge the Philosophical Realist 's position of an absolute independent reality, i.e. the external world.


(Nested quote removed.)


If one stick to the main theme then one will not stray and misunderstand the central point and intention of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'. Otherwise one will be beating around the bush all the time.

One point to note is Wittgenstein's transition from philosophical realist to a philosophical anti-realist in the later part of his life. So many of his earlier views [books] would not be applicable [i.e. contradict] to his later views.



Hello Spectrum, thanks for taking the time to post. My only particular view on the subject (realism, idealism, or anti-realism) is that Wittgenstein stayed clear of any theory of representation that tried to represent reality in some neat theory. These theorists are held captive to some of the basic mistakes that all theorists make including the one who wrote the Tractatus. Any time we try to tie language into some neat little theory we end up missing the boat. It's like trying to define the word game. As I go along I'll speak to some of these issues.

-- Updated July 1st, 2017, 2:32 pm to add the following --

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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#14  Postby Fooloso4 » July 1st, 2017, 4:51 pm

Sam26:

I'm hoping this post doesn't give me the same problem I've been having, viz., for some reason my posts have been capturing quotes.


I’m not sure what is going on but I write everything I eventually post as a word document. If I want to quote I copy and paste it into the document and then highlight and click on quote when I post.

The backdrop of reality grounds us, if this wasn't the case, then the skeptic would have an argument.



We need to be careful when talking about skepticism to identify the claims being made. There are various forms of skepticism. Wittgenstein has been called a Pyrrhonian skeptic.
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Re: An Analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty'

Post Number:#15  Postby Spectrum » July 1st, 2017, 9:53 pm

Sam26 wrote:Hello Spectrum, thanks for taking the time to post. My only particular view on the subject (realism, idealism, or anti-realism) is that Wittgenstein stayed clear of any theory of representation that tried to represent reality in some neat theory. These theorists are held captive to some of the basic mistakes that all theorists make including the one who wrote the Tractatus. Any time we try to tie language into some neat little theory we end up missing the boat. It's like trying to define the word game. As I go along I'll speak to some of these issues.

It was long ago, so I don't have "On Certainty" on my finger tips are present but I am very familiar with its general theme.

    1. Kant [anti-realist] started the ball rolling
    2. Moore [realist] took up Kant's challenge
    3. Wittgenstein [on anti-realist ground] countered Moore

Thus if we want to get the gist of 'On Certainty' we need to get back to the source, i.e. Kant's Challenge.

Kant's anti-realist views is ultimately not leveraged on any fixed theories otherwise he could not be an anti-realist.
Kant's view of the thing-in-itself as an illusion is similar to Wittgenstein's "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
I take 'silent' as not to reify 'what one cannot speak of.'

Theist reify 'what one cannot speak of' as the most real God.
Anti-realists reify 'what one cannot speak of' as the most real physical or material [Philosophical Realism/Materialism].

Thus anti-realists are merely a shade of the theism, i.e. both reify an illusion.

Why?
An existential crisis!
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
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