Friday, March 09, 2007

3.262 A sign’s application shows [zeigt] whatever is not expressed in the sign itself. What signs slur over, their application speaks out.

James Conant argues that the distinction between zeigen and erläutern is important.[i] The former applies only to meaningful propositions, while the second can apply to nonsense. Without wishing to prejudge the issue, I will use ‘show’ only for zeigen. McManus also mentions this issue in footnote 8, p. 36.

The application of a sign seems almost to be working against the sign itself here. Is this slurring over a deliberate attempt to hide something? Perhaps it could be, but probably not. It might be worth asking whether signs do express anything themselves. Maybe all the meaning/signifying/saying/showing is done by the application of the sign.

The application of a sign is here linked with its meaning. In Chapter 1, §2 of Schopenhauer’s Fourfold Root (p. 2) he talks of the different applications of the principle of sufficient reason and says that the principle acquires a different meaning in each such application.

[i] See James Conant “What ‘Ethics’ in the Tractatus is Not,” in D. Z. Phillips and Mario von der Ruhr (eds) Religion and Wittgenstein’s Legacy Ashgate, 2005, pp. 39-88, p. 82, note 49.

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