Not reply? I live for this kind of thing.Gertie
I superficially checked out the themes of Tractatus, pondered where it fits with our convo, and ended up writing a screed for what it's worth... don't feel obliged to reply, it at least helped me organise my thoughts on the big picture.
Wittgenstein was an idealist, no doubt, though I don't read him saying as much in so many words. you went through the Tactatus, then you know what he thinks about "the world": it is one of facts, and, though among real scholars the proof is in the details and I certainly am not among these, facts are in logical space and it is foolish to try and think beyond this, where logic does not go. This makes terms like outside and inside without meaning in this context, for it sets up boundaries that are not spatial, but logical. So when we ask a question like, if I leave this room, if all cognition and experience making systems are absent, is there are room at all? It is like answering the question, if you cannot speak rationally, can you make a rational response? It is a contradiction to say you can; and even the formulation of the question contains an absurdity, for it is a positing of something negatively implied by the asking itself. It is a performative contradiction to say it yet refer by the saying what cannot be due entirely to what is said, as in, "I am lying".For me, what you might call the Big Leap is from Solipsism to accepting there is something/anything beyond 'my' experiential states. There is no bridge of certainty or logic from the experiencing itself, to concluding that the nature of those experiences refer to something real beyond them which they are representing.
Hence there is no bridge of certainty or logic, enabling me to say that experience of seeing a fire engine on the corner represents something real in a real world 'outside' that experience.
But the pont I want to make is that regardless of the logical restraints, experiential restraints are only curbed logically, not in content. The world, Sartre said, as the presence before one, could do anything. It is radially contingent, as with his novel Nausea where Roquentin tongue turns into an enormous live centipede. Logic does not stop this. The world, says Kierkegaard, actuality is not logic. So, the fire truck and the "out there" of it: the out there must not be conceived as an enduring thing when the perceptual lights are turned off. Rather, it is what is right before your waking eyes; the "thing itself" is right in front of you, always, already. For me, this is important: expanding understanding of the world, one has to put aside this "representing" notion. This clock before me IS what it is. The beyond of the clock lies before me as well: this is where language ends and the arational presence begins. Heidegger is not like this, Kierkegaard is, and I side with K. The delimitations of solipsism need to be redefined as distance between this clock "presence" which is the transcendental Other before my eyes, and the concept clock, which is familiar and sensible. I take seriously our ability to "do" this, to hold the former as Other and as an existential encounter. Husserl helped me on this with his epoche or phenomenological reduction. Google this and see. So interesting, phenomenology.
One has to remove representation almost altogether. The mystery of what is lies right there, on this table. And I think you are right say that the fire engine and I mysteries, or "leaps", after all, the notes we are comparing are about what appears in the present, and people, trucks and the rest certainly do. Except in the case of the fire truck, there is no indication as to its nature apart from the appearance. I mean, it's not like we are trucks and when we see one we can, well, empathize, look to ourselves and infer which is why it has no value to wonder about things out there. Utterly alien. But with a person we can extrapolate from ourselves, and the direct presence of another possesses is indicative of an interior similar to our own.Certainty? Cartesian doubt has its place and absolute certainty is not forth coming, is it? But this is a trivial skepticism. Others are there, period. And I know what it's like to be a person in a person's world, and when I talk to them, share understanding I know they are structurally like me as they are vulnerable more or less, rational, possess an egoic center and live in the midst of our common dasein, a Heideggerian term that refers to the world we have carved out by language and history and culture into which we are "thrown".Hence there is no bridge of certainty or logic, enabling me to say that experience of seeing a fire engine on the corner represents something real in a real world 'outside' that experience.
The subsequent issue of comparing notes with eg you on whether you see what we agree to call a fire engine on the corner too via language is seconday - because your existence is just as much a Big Leap for me. There is no bridge of certain knowledge or of logic for me to accept your existence any more than the existence of the fire engine we're comparing notes on.
See? The 'absurdity' kicks in as as soon as you try to escape solipsism doesn't it? After that, you can say it's absurdity built upon absurdity or assumption built upon assumption. But the fundamental problem is that only experiential states are 'directly known', certain.
And indeed, the 'sense of self' itself, might only be an experiential state. There doesn't have to be 'an experiencer' (self) having the experience, only the experience of being an experiencer. And there we hit our bottom line of scepticism. From there, it's models all the way up, building upon each other like a house of cards (language being near the top), with no bridge to that first Big Leap to our base layer, which says experiential states 'are about' real things beyond them. (And even then, 'are about' is as much as we can say confidently).
As to the experiencer, thoughts differ here, but I am a Kierkegaardian, and I believe in a transcendental ego, a soul, if you will, in myself and in others, even animals. There is certainty here, and say this notwithstanding red herrings like skepticism. First, there is the Cartesian egoic center. Heidegger does not talk like this, but I think he's is wrong: there is at the center of all that appears before me, a self, which is my authentic self. I will not argue this here unless you want to. I seem to recall touching on this earlier, perhaps with you. It revolves around the concept of value. Value is first philosophy, for all questions beg that of value? To go into this would take time and interest. I don't know if you are interested. At any rate, All that a ascribe to myself in my existential examination of myself in time, value, thoughts and feeling, carries to Others.
I disagree about the solipsistic leap. Phenomenology precludes this kind of thinking, mostly. Just as there is little content in Kant's thing in itself. But I will add that for Kant, WE are the thing in itself, too. I take this to be a starting place for genuine enlightenment. When Hindus and Buddhists close the doors of memory and the way it fills the present, they open the door of presence itself, the only actuality. Here is where certainty does make an appearance: The self, once it begins to deny memory, recollection, as Kierkegaard calls it, it embarks on a most strange and marvelous adventure into actuality.This is our starting position, the Big Leap of Faith out of Solipsism, into the acceptance that an actual world 'out there' exists, and these experiential states are representing something real. Including other critters (eg you) with their own experiential states.
Then we can compare notes about our own experiential states, and construct models which we can agree on. We can note patterns which we can frame as causal or lawful. We can note abstract 'lawful' relational features too, like logic. Eventually we end up with something as incredible as the Standard Model of Physics. All based on sharing notes, only different in its sophistication.
But we can't say the Standard Model of Physics is anything more than a working model, any more than I can you exist as anything more than an aspect of my working model of the world, a feature of my experiential states.
Furthermore, even if I accept you exist and we're comparing notes about real things in the real world, the act of comparing notes brings additional uncertainties. There's the problem of experiential states being inherently 'private'. I don't know if what I see is what you see (eg inverted qualia).
Inverted qualia? Not sure why they would be inverted since the qualia of my inferring are no different from that of Others.
Physics is what humans do, and requires an understanding of the doing. That is us. This kind of thing is what separates science from philosophy, and it brings philosophy to a higher level of understanding. Einstein read Kant and he knew that space and time at the level of basic questions, in one way or another, were grounded in the observing subject. He just wasn't a philosopher; he was a physicist, and his job was just to dismiss such issues. Abstract lawful features of what? Who is doing the abstracting? Why, it is an agency, us, applying exactly those lawful features to construct meaningful propositions. Everybody has understood this since Kant. Hegel, Schopenhauer, everyone saw this problem. It is part of Nietzsche's perspectivalism, it is at the heart of post modern thinking. There is no way out to the Truth with a capital "T" because we live in, we ARE a small t world, which is interpretative.
No way out, that is, unless you abide by Kierkegaard, or Levinas, or the Hindus and Buddhists (depending on who you talk to), or Rudolf Otto, or the Christian mystics; and so on. I am sure these latter are on the right path, that Kierkgaard is right.
I have to say that it is the presence of language that makes intelligence at all possible, and since our perceptual states are not vacant but in formed at first sight, already there when the eyes open and the world is in place, the clock there a time piece, my trousers there, for wearing; I mean this perceptual encounter with the world is very much a language event. So language is not at all indirect. This kind of thinking issues from the assumption there is something direct, which is never the case (notwithstanding Kierkegaard and what I said above. That is an affair at issue, if you want to discuss it) and intuited that language sits on top of, as if there is this priimordial foundational experience of things that we sit back and talk about. This concept is typical of what Husserl called the naturalistic attitude, one that fails to see that perception itself is an interpretative act filled with implicit or background language. Of course, understanding this, I think, requires language to be understood as dynamic, as a living part of being here, as a person. Language is inherently pragmatic and a word like dog or cat is a learned word first of all, and the learning of the word engenders meaning in all subsequent encounters with cats and dogs. A scientist comes along and fits her taxonomic features on to this history of a learned word, but what you are doing when you assimilate this new knowledge is not qualitatively different from what you did when you established your foundation. The new words don't add on top so much as provide avenues of openess for understanding. Language gets thick, its references and associations multiply and this leads to a wider breadth for meaning making. This is my take on Heidegger who said language is the house of Being.The private nature of experiential states also means we have to create a method of comparing notes - eg language, or symbols. And indeed we can then come to think using that language, so that the model is integrated into our experiential states, itself reinforcing the apparent reliability of the model. The 'logic' and structure of language (as well as the representational symbols) grew out of the way we experience the world, reflects it, and when we actually think in language using that structure, it reinforces that logic and structure as being true about the world. (And within brains, we can see all our perceptual and cognitive systems aren't separate and 'pure', they interweave and affect each other, and manifest as a unified field of consciousness which is the resultant mishmash of those interactions). This I think is one of your major points - which I agree with. I just don't see it as fundamental, I see it in the context of the bigger picture I'm outling here.
Language brings extra problems too, because it a representational system of (semantic) symbols and structural (syntactic) rules, not direct perceptual experiential states themselves. Hence an extra layer of abstraction, deviation and error is introduced. But it mostly works as a tool for creating useful working models, even as awe inspiring as The Standard Model of Physics.
Utility not accuracy? What does this mean? A camera TO the real world would be mute as a camera. And what kind of flaws are we talking about?Furthermore, our scientific model tells us our own experiential states correlate to brain states, and evolved for utility, not accuracy. As a calory efficient evolved kludge of useful fixes to environmental problems. Not as cameras or mirrors to the 'real world' out there. They are limited and flawed. The very basis upon which we assume we can share notes, is rooted in us having similarly faulty notes. We can be shown how our senses trick us, science can tell us that solid table is mostly empty space, etc. We have no idea what else we're missing or wrong about. This is the flip side of the coin, which places us within the shared model, which we created. Our own model finds us to be flawed, limited model makers!
It's a bit of a mess really, but it seems to me that's just the way it is for us. And if we've got any sense we should take very seriously science's story about why we are the way we are, even as part of our flawed, limited model, because that model is the one we live our daily lives in. From not stepping out in front of a bus, to realising we are flawed, limited critters. Thrown into Absurdity and Solipsistic Isolation, trying to make the best of it. Model making being our only route out of that, making it 'tractable' so to speak.
It depends on what the question is, doesn't it? If you are in a body of ideas the pervade normal science, then you have scientific questions grounded in the particular science. But as long as you are committed to questions of this nature, you are not going to address the questions of our existence at the basic level, for these questions must look to the structure of the self, its rationality, its reality and value, its purpose; you must look exactly at those things science does not and cannot look at. If the pragmatists are right about the nature of language, and I think they are, then what good does it to confirm, say, string theory in physics if all of your validating ideas are analyzable in terms of pragmatics? At best, such an affirmation will one day construct a new model and science may have another revolution. But science rests on many such revolutions. Of course, you may think one day science may understand the world "objectively, but you have to go through Wittgenstein for this. Impossible to even think it.
The "Truth" lies within, so to speak.