Monday, September 10, 2007

4.123 A property is internal if it is unthinkable that its object should not possess it.

(This blue color and that stand in the internal relation of lighter and darker eo ipso. It is unthinkable that this pair of objects not stand in this relation.)

(Here the shifting use of the word “object” corresponds to the shifting use of the words “property” and “relation.”)

Marie McGinn (p. 182): “In the later philosophy, it is clear that Wittgenstein thinks that the colour-wheel is itself a part of the symbolism, in the sense that the ordered colour samples of the colour-wheel constitute an instrument of our language, by means of which the logical order of our colour concepts is presented. However, it is not clear that he held this view at the time of writing the Tractatus, where he seems to suggest that the logical order of colour-space will be revealed through the logical analysis of colour terms (see TLP 6.3751).” McGinn also discusses Remarks on Colour p. 34 in connection with this.

So, this is what is special about facial features: they have a kind of essentiality. The reference to shifting uses of words here might alert us to the possibilities that LW’s example does not really tell us anything about what he has been talking about till now (objects, etc. in a different sense) and that nothing really can be identified as what he has been talking about till now (objects, etc.). On the other hand, isn’t there a relation of darker/lighter internal to a pair of shades of blue? And a similar essential relation between earlier/later, left/right, and so on? The very necessity involved (seemingly) here makes them, perhaps, not relations proper (matters of fact), but don’t they indeed seem to be relations of a kind? Isn’t one essentially less than three? Perhaps LW wants us to see such apparent metaphysical truths as misunderstood points of logic, definition, stipulation, convention, or grammar.


N. N. said...

It is odd that this example "does not really tell us anything about what he has been talking about till now (objects, etc. in a different sense) and that nothing really can be identified as what he has been talking about till now (objects, etc.)." Perhaps it's too odd.

There is no doubt that the objects of 4.122 are simple objects. Why would Wittgenstein use an example in 4.123 that does not involve simple objects? Is it possible to read "the shifting use of the word 'object'" as an admission that simple objects are of different ("shifting") logical types?

Presumably the word "object" must shift to indicate a property because it is awkward to speak of (internal) properties of properties.

DR said...

With regard to oddness, yes, I didn't mean to say that the example does not tell us anything about objects. I meant only that perhaps this is a possibility that we should be aware of. I'm trying to keep an open mind as I go through as to what exactly Wittgenstein means, not ruling out any possible interpretations until or unless they really are ruled out (by him).

Why the use of the word 'object' has to shift I don't know.

N. N. said...

I've appreciated the neutrality of your exposition. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but from the little I know about your work you're in the resolute camp.)

Anscombe and Copi take "shifting use" to unequivocally rule out an interpretation of this passage that understands the different shades of blue to be simple objects. You seemed to be headed in that direction with "objects in a different sense." I just wanted to suggest that there is another way it could be read.

DR said...

Thanks, for both the suggestion and the expression of appreciation. For what it's worth, I'm in sympathy with the resolute camp but, having never really worked through the Tractatus, have no good reason to place myself in it.

I don't know whether the different shades of blue could be simple objects, but you're right that it makes (some) sense to think of them that way, based on this remark. Wittgenstein's talk of a shifting use of the word 'object' has to be interpreted somehow though, and the idea that these shades of blue are not really simple objects at all is one fairly obvious way to go. I'm not sure that I understand your alternative to this. It would be strange to use the word 'shifting' [schwankende] to indicate that there are different logical types. My German dictionary defines schwankend as tottering, unsteady, precarious, fluctuating, uncertain, unsettled, vague. (A Schwank is a prank or hoax, so there's room here for the temptation to get postmodern, but I'll try to resist that.) 'Uncertain' or 'vague' might be better translations than 'shifting.' The shifting is, I take it, that in the sense that sands are said to be shifting. There is not a definite change that has taken place, from one precise use of a word to another. Rather, the use of the words 'object,' 'property', and 'relation' is here now rather vague or unsettled. Whether it was really determinate before or not, it isn't here and now.

Black (p. 196) says unequivocally that objects here are not logical simples (his italics), but I am not sure we can be so precise.

Anyway, to get to a point, I don't understand the last sentence of your original comment. The word 'object' indicates a property?

N. N. said...

Taking Wittgenstein's statement in the Notebooks (61) that "relations and properties, etc. are objects too," one can understand the term "object" as a generic term standing for entities of different logical types, viz., individuals, properties and relations. "Object" can then be used of an individual or a property, i.e., it "shifts" from one to the other.

DR said...

I see. Thanks.