Thursday, February 22, 2007

3.1432 Not: “The complex sign ‘aRb’ says that a stands in relation R to b” but rather: That “a” stands in a certain relation to “b” says that aRb.

Aren’t these equivalent? Perhaps that is the point. An explanation only puts the same thing another way, a way that is, in itself, neither better nor worse. On the other hand, what Wittgenstein seems to be saying is that the second of his sentences is actually preferable to the first. Why would that be? Perhaps because the first treats ‘aRb’ as needing explanation or unpacking or articulation, whereas in fact it is already fully articulate. For those who understand a sentence or proposition, its analysis is quite useless (i.e. uninformative).

Mounce says, on pp. 24-25, that it might help to substitute some actual relation for aRb. Thus, we could say “Not: ‘The complex sign ‘the painting hangs on the wall’ says that the painting stands in the relation of hanging to the wall’ but rather: That the painting stands in the relation of hanging to the wall says that the painting is hanging on the wall.” Mounce (p. 25): “In other words, the relation between a proposition and its sense is an internal one. The sense of a proposition is to be found in an arrangement of physical signs; it is not to be found in something that corresponds to that arrangement, some entity over and above it, whether in the empirical or some quasi-empirical world.” (If you understand “The painting hangs on the wall” then it does you no good at all to be told the longer version that is the alleged meaning of this complex sign.)

A proposition is not a name, and the meanings of its elements are not independent of it, are not really, we might say, elements, in the sense that the proposition consists of bits that can be understood more clearly or fully when taken apart. Cf. 3.3.

Black (p. 105): “I take W. to be denying that the complex sign is a name of the situation described: a fact is needed to refer to a fact.”

Fahrnkopf discusses a nominalistic interpretation of this passage and a realistic one. Nominalist readings (e.g. Copi's and Anscombe's) take the key point to be that 'R' would have no place in an ideal symbolism. Thus relations are not real, and whatever 'aRb' tells us might just as well be expressed by, say, 'ab' or 'ba'. On p. 29 Fahrnkopf writes: "according to Wittgenstein's decimal notation, 3.1432 is a comment on 3.143, and this latter passage is concerned only to make the point that a propositional sign is a fact, not a name; this is also the context of the remark in the "Notes on Logic" which corresponds to 3.1432. On my interpretation, then, the purpose of 3.1432 is only to contrast symbolizing facts with names, and the nominalist tone of this passage--which could have been avoided altogether had Wittgenstein specified that the relation in which 'a' stands to 'b' consist in their respective relations to 'R'--is in any case minimized by the realization that the status of 'R' as a name is implied in many other contexts in the Tractatus."

Fahrnkopf also points out (p. 35) that in the Notebooks Wittgenstein wrote on 16/6/15 that relations and properties are objects.


Anonymous said...
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Ocham said...

I always assumed this was expressing the nominalistic thesis that relations are not things in reality, i.e. "aRb" doesn't signify a, and b, and also some mysterious relation-thingy that somehow lies in between the two (and which, paradoxically, would have to be further related to a and b). On the contrary, the only relation is between the symbols. Perhaps not.

DR said...

Yes, avoiding mysterious relation-thingies would certainly be good. What you're saying sounds rather like what Mounce says to me, which I think I meant to be endorsing in my comment.

Ocham said...

Er, yes, now I have read it carefully, that is what Mounce is saying. I was confused by his use of the word 'internal'.

I've been following this blog for some time. The Tractatus has always fascinated me. I must have covered every square inch of it at some time or other, some bits many many times over.

I am still no wiser as to what he is going on about, however.

DR said...

Thanks. I had a feeling that perhaps you were saying the same thing in a much more readily comprehensible way. As for what he's on about, I'm not sure either. Each remark can be interpreted fairly plausibly with some work, but it's very hard to work out how they all connect, and how 6.54 affects the interpretation.