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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 by Fooloso4 » July 7th, 2017, 8:38 pm

Sam26:
To make the claim that 'I know algebra" is not dependent on whether or not another school accepts that grade. It's dependent upon the grade itself.
The reason a school may not accept the grade is because the school that awards it may have lower standards. The problem is not simply between one school and another, however. Due to grade inflation and teachers who are reluctant to fail anyone, students who do not know algebra nevertheless pass algebra. The grade itself in some cases is meaningless.
Besides we could make the same argument about a B+.
Exactly, and that is why I said “a C- or even a B or A”.
Surely you wouldn't make the claim that someone who received a B+ in algebra couldn't make the claim that they know algebra.
They could make the claim but that does not mean they would be able to pass a proficiency test. It not uncommon for students who major in subjects that are math intensive to have to take algebra again or do remedial work because they cannot keep up.
A school with higher standards may administer a test to verify that knowledge.
Right, and that is because they have learned from experience that the grade is not necessarily an indication of what the student knows.
It must be established that one does indeed know. There is generally a standard, as in the case of "knowing algebra" that generally applies. If you do pass an algebra test with a perfect score, you can certainly say that you know algebra. However, in saying that you know algebra the knowledge claim doesn't entail knowing with absolute certainty.
What does it mean to know algebra but not know it with absolute certainty? Your example of “knowing” that your car will start is quite different and unhelpful. Possession of a skill and an assumption about the reliability of a car have little in common.

There is no objective standard for what is to count as an objective standard for knowing algebra, that is, for what must be included in an essential skill set. Many students discover this problem when the move from one school to another. They may find themselves way ahead or way behind because the school covers so much more or so much less. The school or school district or state or country may have a standard but it is not a universal standard. Are these different standards all objective? That this and this but not that is included is based on a subjective evaluation of what is essential for knowledge of algebra.
An objective standard can change, it's not necessarily absolute, this of course is seen in Wittgenstein's riverbed analogy.
Or, one might say, there are different standards of what counts as an objective standard. The fact that the standard changes will be seen by some as an indication that it is not objective but a matter of convention. One might, for example, conceive of objectivity as Kant did - universal subjectivity. But this presupposes a fixed architecture of the mind. Hegel emphasizes the importance of history, although he assumed the completion of history. Neither of these concepts of objectivity fit Wittgenstein. This is one reason why Wittgenstein often made appeals to imaginary tribes, with different ways of life and hence different practices, rules, and standards. A tribe may have an “objective” standard for, say, knowing the will of the gods. If one goes out on his own for a period of time without any supplies and returns then he has passed the test and knows the will of the gods. We might see this as evidence of survival skills but not as an objective standard for measuring knowledge of something we think there can be no objective knowledge of since we do not accept the objective existence of gods. They in turn may think we are quite odd for questioning what is for them so obviously evident.

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

Post by Sam26 » July 8th, 2017, 5:44 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
It must be established that one does indeed know. There is generally a standard, as in the case of "knowing algebra" that generally applies. If you do pass an algebra test with a perfect score, you can certainly say that you know algebra. However, in saying that you know algebra the knowledge claim doesn't entail knowing with absolute certainty.
What does it mean to know algebra but not know it with absolute certainty? Your example of “knowing” that your car will start is quite different and unhelpful. Possession of a skill and an assumption about the reliability of a car have little in common.


There is no objective standard for what is to count as an objective standard for knowing algebra, that is, for what must be included in an essential skill set. Many students discover this problem when the move from one school to another. They may find themselves way ahead or way behind because the school covers so much more or so much less. The school or school district or state or country may have a standard but it is not a universal standard. Are these different standards all objective? That this and this but not that is included is based on a subjective evaluation of what is essential for knowledge of algebra.
An objective standard can change, it's not necessarily absolute, this of course is seen in Wittgenstein's riverbed analogy.
Or, one might say, there are different standards of what counts as an objective standard. The fact that the standard changes will be seen by some as an indication that it is not objective but a matter of convention. One might, for example, conceive of objectivity as Kant did - universal subjectivity. But this presupposes a fixed architecture of the mind. Hegel emphasizes the importance of history, although he assumed the completion of history. Neither of these concepts of objectivity fit Wittgenstein. This is one reason why Wittgenstein often made appeals to imaginary tribes, with different ways of life and hence different practices, rules, and standards. A tribe may have an “objective” standard for, say, knowing the will of the gods. If one goes out on his own for a period of time without any supplies and returns then he has passed the test and knows the will of the gods. We might see this as evidence of survival skills but not as an objective standard for measuring knowledge of something we think there can be no objective knowledge of since we do not accept the objective existence of gods. They in turn may think we are quite odd for questioning what is for them so obviously evident.
I think there is generally a standard by which we can measure whether or not one knows basic algebra. Whether every school applies the standard is not the point. Much of this has to do with having competent teachers, but I digress. I see your point though about not having an objective standard in the sense that there is no agreed upon criteria that is universally applied. Although certain tests (SAT and ACT) try to measure a certain skill set.

When I say that one can have knowledge of algebra without having absolute knowledge, what I mean is, that one doesn't need to get every problem correct on every test to make the claim that one knows algebra. Absolute knowledge would mean that one would never miss an algebra problem, i.e., I'm 100% certain that I can solve every algebra problem. It's like comparing deductive arguments with inductive arguments. A deductive argument is a proof. Thus, the conclusion follows with absolute necessity from the premises. In an inductive argument one could make the claim that one knows based on what probably follows, i.e., the argument is either strong or weak based on the evidence. The conclusion doesn't follow with absolute necessity, it follows with a certain degree probability. The same could be said of knowing algebra, viz., the claim that one knows algebra isn't a claim that one can get every problem correct. The claim is that I can get many of the problems correct. So if I went to MIT and received a B+ in algebra, I can claim that I know algebra. I know with a high degree of certainty that I can solve a basic algebra problem. I don't know that I can solve every basic algebra problem with absolute certainty.

-- Updated July 8th, 2017, 4:56 am to add the following --

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #7

"For it is not as though the proposition "It is so" could be inferred from someone else's utterance: "I know is it so". Nor from the utterance together with its not being a lie.--But can't I infer "It is so" from my own utterance "I know etc."? Yes; and also "There is a hand there follows from the proposition "He knows that there's a hand there". but from his utterance "I know..." it does not follow that he does know it (OC, 13)"

I have already covered some of this, but it should be repeated again and again, until it dawns.

If the skeptic already doubts propositions of the sort Moore is stating, then showing one's hand does absolutely nothing to dismiss these doubts. It is as though the skeptic does not believe the builder when the builder replies that nothing supports bedrock. The skeptic, in this case, is playing a different game. He is playing his own language-game. One has to show the skeptic that he does not understand the language-game that everyone else is playing. However, note that the skeptic has to accept many of the language-games that we accept, even to ask the question. He picks and chooses what he wants to accept and reject to suit his own purposes. The skeptic is confused; however, so is Moore, but not to the same degree. At least we understand Moore - we sympathize with his answers, and so did Wittgenstein. There is something to learn from how Moore replies to the skeptic, and it is important, and it is subtle. The subtlety, however, must be viewed from the angle of On Certainty.

"That he does know takes some shewing.

"It needs to be shewn that no mistake is was possible. Giving the assurance "I know" doesn't suffice. For it is after all only an assurance that I can't be making a mistake, and it needs to be objectively established that I am not making a mistake about that (para. 14, 15)."

According to Wittgenstein knowledge is something that needs to be objectively verified, at least in the majority of cases - if not all. Hence, Moore's example that he knows he has hands, doesn't suffice, because one's assurance is not enough - we need objective evidence. However, isn't Moore giving objective evidence? He says, after all, "These are my hands," and he shows them - what more objective evidence do we need? Is this a good counter-argument to what Wittgenstein is saying?


I think part of the confusion about what Wittgenstein is saying lies in understanding the following point, i.e., do the propositions that Moore lists, normally require such evidence? The answer according to Wittgenstein, is "No." Why? Because according to Wittgenstein these kinds of propositions, or more accurately these basic beliefs, fall outside the language-game of knowing and doubting; which is why applying such terms (knowing and doubting) doesn't work. If you believe, as Wittgenstein seems to believe, that words and propositions are implicitly rule-based, then it follows that you can't use these words in just any context.

If we say "I know...," then this presupposes a justification for "knowing." However, the problem is that these propositions are not the kind of propositions that require a justification, and this seems to be the point.

Another possible confusion is this: Let us assume that there is no language at all; and let us further assume that there are no other people, so all I have are my thoughts. I have thoughts about the world, and about my interactions with the world. There are no propositions, because there is no language. There are no concepts of knowing, doubting, and truth, because these concepts take place in a language, and in the language-game of epistemology. However I can have beliefs, and these beliefs, although not propositionally based, are seen in my actions. I can also have doubts, and these doubts are also observed in my actions.

These beliefs are similar to the example I gave about the dog's belief that it is about to be fed, which is shown by the dog's action of jumping up and down and wagging its tail. Does the dog's belief require propositions or statements? No. They are subjective beliefs based on causal interactions with the world. Does the dog express its subjective certainty that it is about to be fed? Yes. The dog's actions demonstrate this. Is this knowledge? No. Why not? The dog doesn't have the language skills to understand what knowledge is, it doesn't understand the concepts. These concepts occur in language, so if there are no such concepts, then what is the dog doing? The dog is expressing a belief, and that belief is not based on reasons, again, it is causally based. We too, can have such beliefs. In fact, I believe these are the basic beliefs that form what Wittgenstein calls hinge-propositions. They are outside the language-game that Moore is using to describe them. They arise subjectively, and we can express our state of certainty by what we do. We can also do this with doubting, we can express subjective doubts, and these doubts are also shown in our actions. Let's go back to the dog example, if you continue to pick up the dog's dish without following through with feeding the dog, then the dog will begin to express its subjective doubts by no longer reacting when the dish is picked up. We too can express such doubts by the way we act.

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

Post by Fooloso4 » July 8th, 2017, 12:47 pm

Sam26:
Absolute knowledge would mean that one would never miss an algebra problem, i.e., I'm 100% certain that I can solve every algebra problem.
I don’t want to get bogged down on this but here is what is at issue:
47.This is how one calculates. Calculating is this. What we learn at school, for example. Forget this transcendent certainty, which is connected with your concept of spirit.
It is not your certainty or anyone else’s that is at issue but “transcendent certainty” and a “concept of spirit (geist/mind)”.

Someone who was extraordinarily good at algebra might never miss a problem and might have the utmost confidence in her ability to solve algebra problems, but her certainty is not transcendent certainty and is not connected with a concept of transcendent Mind.
However, isn't Moore giving objective evidence? He says, after all, "These are my hands," and he shows them - what more objective evidence do we need? Is this a good counter-argument to what Wittgenstein is saying?
A skeptic who doubts the existence of the external world is not satisfied with this. Pointing to something in the external world is not going to convince someone who doubts the existence of that world.
If you believe, as Wittgenstein seems to believe, that words and propositions are implicitly rule-based, then it follows that you can't use these words in just any context.
I will have more to say about this when we get to the paragraphs that deal with rules. As he says in the Investigations, grammar, that is, the logic or rules of language are arbitrary. Wittgenstein will ultimately appeal to something prelinguistic, something primitive. This is in partial agreement with what you say further on when you talk about an absence of language, but …
Is this knowledge? No. Why not? The dog doesn't have the language skills to understand what knowledge is, it doesn't understand the concepts.
I do not think that knowledge is necessarily linguistic. Just as your algebra student demonstrates that he knows algebra by correctly completing certain tasks my dog knows how to do tricks and solve certain problems. This relates to what Wittgenstein will say about squirrels later on. That someone knows something is shown.

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

Post by Sam26 » July 9th, 2017, 2:52 am

Fooloso4 wrote:Sam26:
Absolute knowledge would mean that one would never miss an algebra problem, i.e., I'm 100% certain that I can solve every algebra problem.
I don’t want to get bogged down on this but here is what is at issue:
47.This is how one calculates. Calculating is this. What we learn at school, for example. Forget this transcendent certainty, which is connected with your concept of spirit.
It is not your certainty or anyone else’s that is at issue but “transcendent certainty” and a “concept of spirit (geist/mind)”.

Someone who was extraordinarily good at algebra might never miss a problem and might have the utmost confidence in her ability to solve algebra problems, but her certainty is not transcendent certainty and is not connected with a concept of transcendent Mind.
I'm certainly not talking about something transcendent when I talk about knowing algebra, i.e., knowing it with a certain degree certainty. You said, "What does it mean to know algebra but not know it with absolute certainty?" I simply gave you an example of what I meant. While it's certainly possible that someone might know it with absolute certainty, that's not the point. My point has nothing to do with some inner process, viz., some transcendent certainty. However, I'm not sure if your pointing to this quote as a way of arguing against what I'm saying about "absolute certainty" or not.

Getting back to Wittgenstein: There are least two kinds of certainty (that are used in language-games), which Wittgenstein seems to point out. First, there is a subjective certainty, which is shown by the way we emphasize some inner certainty, which seems to be what Moore is appealing to; and there is the use of certainty that could be used as a synonym for knowing. The subjective certainty, which seems to be what Moore is doing when he points to his hands and says "I know..." is an inner process reflected in how someone might gesticulate while claiming to know (OC, 6 and 42 - I think there is a connection between these two quotes). The second use of the concept of certainty (used as a synonym) is pointed out in OC 8, where the concept of knowing and being certain "...isn't of any great great importance at all." So there seems to be a subjective certainty that is reflected in how we emphasize that we know, and sometimes we do seem to point to something transcendental that supports our inner process. Wittgenstein, as I interpret him, is steering clear of this kind of thinking when showing that Moore's propositions are problematic.
However, isn't Moore giving objective evidence? He says, after all, "These are my hands," and he shows them - what more objective evidence do we need? Is this a good counter-argument to what Wittgenstein is saying?
A skeptic who doubts the existence of the external world is not satisfied with this. Pointing to something in the external world is not going to convince someone who doubts the existence of that world.
Exactly, that's my point. It isn't a good argument to say to the skeptic "I know these are my hands while pointing to them," as if this will convince the skeptic.
If you believe, as Wittgenstein seems to believe, that words and propositions are implicitly rule-based, then it follows that you can't use these words in just any context.
I will have more to say about this when we get to the paragraphs that deal with rules. As he says in the Investigations, grammar, that is, the logic or rules of language are arbitrary. Wittgenstein will ultimately appeal to something prelinguistic, something primitive. This is in partial agreement with what you say further on when you talk about an absence of language, but …
Is this knowledge? No. Why not? The dog doesn't have the language skills to understand what knowledge is, it doesn't understand the concepts.
I do not think that knowledge is necessarily linguistic. Just as your algebra student demonstrates that he knows algebra by correctly completing certain tasks my dog knows how to do tricks and solve certain problems. This relates to what Wittgenstein will say about squirrels later on. That someone knows something is shown.
I agree that Wittgenstein is pointing to something primitive, and as I continue this will be apparent.
I do think that there is knowledge as a skill, such as memorizing the times tables or riding a bike, and there is knowledge in terms of what we believe (propositional knowledge), as in Moore's propositions.

-- Updated July 9th, 2017, 2:03 am to add the following --

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #8


"If I know something, then I also know that I know it, etc." amounts too: "I know that" means "I am incapable of being wrong about that". But whether I am so needs to be established objectively.

"Suppose now I say "I am incapable of being wrong about this: that is a book" while I point to an object. What would a mistake here be like? And have I any clear idea of it (OC 16, 17)."

This is interesting, because "knowing that one knows" is a phrase that we use sometimes to refer to our objective certainty, i.e., that we know that we know, or that we believe we are incapable of being wrong; or that we understand what it means to know, via having a justified true belief. This seems to be what Moore is saying, as he shows us his hands. However, again what we know has to be demonstrated objectively - it's not enough to say that one knows, because the obvious question then arises - how do you know?

If I point to a book, and say that I know that that is a book - what are we trying to accomplish? We can justify such a proposition linguistically, i.e., someone learning English might say after memorizing certain words like - tree, desk, car, building, or book - that they know that that is a book. In such a circumstance there is a justification for the use of the word. However, aside from linguistic justifications, what would such a justification look like in Moore's case? Moore is trying to show that his knowledge is convincing, or that these are the kinds of propositions are the kind that we shouldn't doubt or cannot doubt. Wittgenstein points out that since Moore is incorrectly using the word know, that he is actually making the same mistake that the skeptic is making. Both are using their terms in a way that ignores a certain logic of use, which is Wittgenstein's point as I interpret it. This brings us right back to the idea that knowing and doubting have a relationship that seems inseparable.

There is something more that I want to say here by way of explanation, but can't quite latch onto it. Hopefully it will come to me as I continue to work through this. This can be quite tedious because Wittgenstein seems to be repeating himself, and he is, but I think he is repeating himself with a different slant each time.

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

Post by Fooloso4 » July 9th, 2017, 9:08 am

Sam26:
While it's certainly possible that someone might know it with absolute certainty, that's not the point.
The point, I think, is that it is not possible to know something with absolute certainty. Wittgenstein wants to rid the concept of knowledge of the concept of absolute certainty. Cartesian indubitability is an impossible criterion for knowledge.
My point has nothing to do with some inner process, viz., some transcendent certainty.However, I'm not sure if your pointing to this quote as a way of arguing against what I'm saying about "absolute certainty" or not.


I think what you say is correct, but it is important to see that transcendent certainty has to do with the metaphysics of mind and some inner process does not necessarily entail acceptance of a metaphysics of mind. He is rejecting both what might be called psychological or subjective certainty and a form of objective certainty that entails a metaphysics of Mind. To put it differently, to know is not to gain access to something like a transcendent realm of Forms or universal Mind.
However, again what we know has to be demonstrated objectively - it's not enough to say that one knows, because the obvious question then arises - how do you know?
I read #16 somewhat differently. What needs to be established objectively is that “I am so” and this refers to “I am incapable of being wrong about that”. This overstates the case. To know does not mean to be incapable of being wrong. That one is incapable of being wrong is something that would have to be shown objectively. By the same token we should not overstate the case obversely. That knowing does not mean being incapable of being wrong does not mean we therefore have reason to doubt what we know (although there may be reasons we come to doubt some particular item of knowledge).

#17 is connected on the one hand (no pun intended) to what the idealist will say in #19, that he is not dealing with practical doubt, that there is a further doubt behind this one. W. then says that this is an illusion must be shown in a different way. That way is addressed in #24. What the idealist overlooks is that such doubt only exists as part of a language game. And on the other to #21. Moore’s claim that to know can’t be a mistake overlooks the assertion “I thought I knew”. But, as #37 indicates, this is not the end of the matter for either the idealist or the realist.
This can be quite tedious because Wittgenstein seems to be repeating himself, and he is, but I think he is repeating himself with a different slant each time.
I agree. He keeps circling back to the same issues looking at them from a slightly different angle or approach. It should be kept in mind that like most of what we have of W. are notes about thinks he is trying to work out and not a finished work based on what he has worked out.

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

Post by Sam26 » July 9th, 2017, 11:27 am

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #9

"I know" often means: I have the proper grounds for my statement. So if the other person is acquainted with the language-game, he would admit that I know. The other, if he is acquainted with the language-game, must be able to imagine how one may know something of the kind. "The statement "I know that here is a hand" may then be continued: "for it's my hand that I'm looking at". Then a reasonable man will not doubt that I know.---Nor will the idealist; rather he will say that he was not dealing with a practical doubt which is being dismissed, but there is a further doubt behind that one.--That this is an illusion has to be shewn in a different way (OC 18,19)."

Here again, we come back to the language-game of knowing and doubting, i.e., these words have a proper and an improper use within a language-game. When Wittgenstein gives an example of a language-game at the beginning of the Philosophical Investigations, he shows us how a builder and an assistant come to respond/use words like blocks, pillars, slabs, and beams. The point is that there are correct uses of these words within that particular language-game. If the builder calls out for a beam and the assistant brings a slab, then we can conclude that the assistant does not understand that particular language-game. Obviously this primitive language-game is much simpler than the language-game of knowing and doubting, so it is much easier to see if the assistant is understanding the use of the words beam and slab, as opposed to understanding the uses of knowing and doubting. However, the point is the same, viz., in the language-game of knowing and doubting there are also correct and incorrect uses of these words.

If it is true, as Wittgenstein points out, that when using the phrase "I know..." in response to another, one must understand how it is that one knows, then it must also be true that one must have an idea of what it means to not know in these same circumstances. However, do we have a clear idea of either how one knows or how one does not know, as it applies to Moore's examples? The question is not, can we think of a situation in which we can doubt the existence of our hands, of course we can, and Wittgenstein acknowledges this - the question is - is Moore's use of the word know, a correct use in the language-game of knowing and doubting? Wittgenstein obviously does not think so, given that we do not have a clear idea of what it would mean to doubt that these are my hands in Moore's case.

If I say that I know algebra, or I know American history, or I know physics - we have an idea of what it means to know or not know. Notice that knowledge in these cases gives both the idea of knowing and not knowing, because if you know what it means to know, then you obviously know what it means to not know (or doubt that one knows). This of course is why knowing and doubting are so closely related. In our everyday actions do we generally doubt the existence of our hands? Do we even say "I know these are my hands." No. Only in very specialized situations would the terms know and doubt be used. And if one did doubt that the hands you're looking at, are your hands, then one would think there is something amiss, or that the person was joking.

-- Updated July 10th, 2017, 8:39 am to add the following --

Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #10

"'Doubting the existence of the external world' does not mean for example doubting the existence of a planet, which later observations proved to exist.-Or does Moore want to say that knowing that here is his hand is different in kind from knowing the existence of the planet Saturn? Otherwise it would be possible to point out the discovery of the planet Saturn to the doubters and say that its existence has been proved, and hence the existence of the external world as well (OC, 20)."

I think Wittgenstein is pointing out at the beginning of this quote the difference between a legitimate doubt, and the kind of doubt that the skeptic is expressing generally. It is not the kind of doubt that can be squelched by merely pointing to one's hands. The doubts of the skeptic needs to be tackled in another way. Moore seems to use the common sense approach to the problem. In other words, "this is my hand" - what more proof do you need?

Doubting the existence of one's hands is different from doubting the existence of the planet Saturn. I can understand the latter, but not the former. I can understand how showing someone the planet Saturn would be convincing, but showing someone my hands to convince them that they are indeed my hands seems problematic. There seems to be something more foundational to my belief that I have hands.

"Moore's view really comes down to this: the concept 'know' is analogous to the concepts 'believe', 'surmise', 'doubt', 'be convinced' in that the statement "I know..." can't be a mistake. And if that is so, then there can be an inference from such an utterance to the truth of an assertion. And here the form "I thought I knew" is being overlooked.-But if this latter is inadmissible, then a mistake in the assertion must be logically impossible too. And anyone who is acquainted with the language-game must realize this-an assurance from a reliable man that he knows cannot contribute anything (OC, 21)."

This is a very important point that Wittgenstein is making, and it is central to understanding Wittgenstein's analysis of Moore's use of the word know. It seems as though Moore's use of the word know is meant to convey something almost absolute (that the mistake is logically impossible) or something that is beyond doubt (at least generally). Hence, Wittgenstein says that if this is true, then one can infer from one's claim of knowledge, that one does indeed have knowledge. Saying that one has knowledge does not constitute having knowledge.

Wittgenstein also points out the importance of understanding the language-game of knowing and doubting. The language-game of knowing does not negate the doubts of others, especially if they do not understand how it is that you know, or what it is that you claim to know. This is why Wittgenstein brings up the point about the phrase "I thought I knew," which shows how saying "one knows" is not the same as knowing. Thinking that one has knowledge is different in kind from actually having knowledge. The implication of Moore's propositions, as Moore states it, are that it is knowledge, and everyone knows it except the skeptic. There is a kind of common sense force behind Moore's argument, but Wittgenstein shows us where it goes astray.

-- Updated July 10th, 2017, 12:02 pm to add the following --

What follows in this post are some of my own thoughts based on Wittgenstein's bedrock propositions. I'm not saying that Wittgenstein would agree with my conclusions. I have taken Wittgenstein's bedrock beliefs and extended it into my own theories about what is foundational or bedrock to our linguistic system.

There seems to be no doubt that Wittgenstein's view of Moore's propositions, are such that these propositions are of a very special sort. It also seems to be a correct interpretation of On Certainty that these propositions are foundational (e.g. 448, 449). But the term foundational is not in itself the best description, bedrock is a more accurate description, because bedrock is the bottom of the foundation. The structure rests on bedrock. What is the structure?

The structure as I see it, consists of the world, minds, and language; and the relationship between these three. The world is the backdrop, and we find ourselves existing in it. Our mind helps us to interpret the world; so in a sense our mind is the center between the world and language. Language is the bridge between my mind and the mind of others. What is the relationship between my mind and the world? The initial relationship seems to be between our sensory experiences and the world. We come into direct contact with the world through sensory experience. We can observe this initial contact (between the world and sensory experience) in animals and in young children, i.e., they show their beliefs by their actions. One of the ways a child interacts with the world is by using their hands. Do they have a belief (belief = state-of-mind) that they have hands? Yes, but it's not a linguistic belief, it's not conceptual, especially since they don't have a developed language. It's simply a state-of-mind/belief that is causally formed as they interact with the world through sensory experiences.

Our initial beliefs are formed as a result of our interactions between the world and our senses. Wittgenstein's bedrock propositions are really these initial kinds of beliefs (bedrock propositions or bedrock beliefs). They are not propositions of language. Although we can use language to describe them, but this is only after the fact. Bedrock beliefs are subjective, i.e., they are subjectively formed. For example, I don't reason my way to the belief that I have hands, which is why there is no justification for the belief. Much of the confusion comes as we talk about these beliefs, because we are using statements to describe them. Thus, we tend to think of them in terms of propositions/statements. However, from my point of view they are formed, at least many of them, prior to language. Thus, they are primitive beliefs.

When talking about knowledge, we are talking about propositional knowledge. In other words, we draw conclusions based on other propositions, or we justify our conclusions using other propositions. Thus, this kind of knowledge is strictly a language endeavor. However, there is another kind of knowledge, viz., knowledge as a skill, that is shown in our actions. Thus, we could witness prelinguisitc man building something, and properly conclude that they have knowledge. It's knowledge that is expressed as a skill - it's not knowledge that is propositional. Keep in mind though that this is descriptive and backward looking. It's not as though prelinguistic man understands that he has knowledge. We're the ones looking back and describing it in terms of language. We say that he has knowledge or he has a belief, and we arrive at our conclusion based on their actions, and only their actions.

These primitive beliefs allow the mind (if it is the right kind of mind) to move from bedrock beliefs, to the construction of a language. First, very rudimentary language and language-games, to the very sophisticated language-games of epistemology, science, history, etc.

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Sam26
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Favorite Philosopher: Ludwig Wittgenstein

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

Post by Sam26 » November 4th, 2018, 4:11 pm

Because of an illness I was not able to continue this thread, but recently I've been re-writing some of my earlier thoughts, so I thought I might try this again. I know there is always an interest in Wittgenstein, so it might be worthwhile to re-post some of my thoughts.

I want to start by posting something I posted on Quora in answer to the question, "What can be said about Wittgenstein's later philosophy?" Obviously a lot can be said, and a lot has been said, but I posted some of my thoughts about Wittgenstein's later thinking in terms of what I think we should keep in mind.
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What people seem to forget is that Wittgenstein, in his later philosophy, is giving us a method, that is, Wittgenstein invented a method of doing philosophy that is more of an art than a science. He is not presenting theories that put forth dogmatic ideas, in fact, one could argue that Wittgenstein’s philosophy is fighting against dogmatism, and deemphasizing general theories of meaning.

It is the uniform nature of our words that lends itself to theorizing about the general use of meaning. This can be seen clearly in the study of epistemology, namely, what it means to know is not some clearly defined idea without shades of gray. What we get are a variety of uses that do not give us the clarity we are striving for, especially as philosophers. For the most part language hinders our desire for exactness, and our desire for absolute meaning. Instead what we see are words that have a variety of meanings, largely dependent on how they are used in a variety of language-games. The tendency, though, is to draw arbitrary lines of meaning in order to provide clarity. Where we draw these lines of meaning depends on how we view a particular use or definition, that is, what we are stressing. As we stress a particular view of meaning we naturally form an arbitrary boundary that causes more confusion. We tend to get tunnel vision when looking for exactness.

The logic of use that Wittgenstein fosters is one in which the logic is elastic, not given to mathematical precision; and this is seen in the contrast between the exactness of the Tractatus, versus the more elastic view of meaning shown in his later philosophy. His later view is not saying there is no precision, only that we tend to want precision where none can be found. Meaning is not always clearly delineated, but spans a wide variety of uses, given in a host of language-games.

However, there is still another problem, and it is seen by those who think they understand Wittgenstein (including yours truly). The problem is in the application of use as meaning, that is, we find ourselves over emphasizing a particular use that is not in the spirit of Wittgenstein’s enterprise. We tend to push a particular use that is too restrictive, that is, a use that does not allow for the expansive nature of uses, due to the wide variety of language-games. Thus, we fool ourselves into thinking we are doing what Wittgenstein suggests, but in the final analysis we are using a distorted view of use as meaning to perpetuate the very thing Wittgenstein is trying to steer us away from.

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