Saturday, May 05, 2007

4.024 To understand a proposition means to know what is the case if it is true.

(One can therefore understand it without knowing whether it is true.)

One understands it if one understands its constituent parts.

The first two sentences here seem straightforward enough. The last is problematic, because you might think you do not understand “The cow milks the boy” even though you understand the individual words. But knowing what milking (a cow) is does not tell us what is meant here. So we do not understand the constituent parts of this sentence. We understand parts of other sentences that look the same, that is all.


N. N. said...

A Saturday post. VMI must be done for the semester.

I've often thought that here lie the roots of the verifiability criterion of meaning as it's found in Philosophical Remarks (Carnap refers to this principle, usually credited to the positivists, as "Wittgenstein's verifiability criterion of meaning"). Does the VCM really say anything more than "To understand a proposition means to know what is the case if it's true"?

DR said...

Not quite done yet. I was in to give an exam.

Otherwise you are spot on. I suppose the VCM isn't quite the same as what Wittgenstein says here, but the differences seem trivial.