Friday, October 12, 2007

4.5 Now it seems possible for the most general propositional form to be given: that is to say, to give a description of the propositions of any sign-language whatsoever, so that every possible sense can be expressed by a symbol that fits the description, and that every symbol that fits the description can express a sense, if the meanings [Bedeutungen] of the names are suitably chosen.

It is clear that in the description of the most general propositional form only what is essential to it may be described, -- otherwise it would precisely [nämlich] not be the most general form.

That there is a general propositional form is indicated [bewiesen] by the fact that there may be no proposition whose form one could not have foreseen (i.e. constructed). The general form of the proposition is: Things are thus and so.

Bathos! Surely. All seems right, although flags are raised by the “seems” of the first sentence, until the final “such and such” [German: “so und so.”]

Ostrow (p. 114): “in the transparent vacuity of this culminating statement we are meant to see the vacuity of the Frege/Russell logic, of any attempt to specify a priori the limits of thought and language.” Black (p. 236) calls Wittgenstein’s answer to the question of what the general form of the proposition is “cryptic and unsatisfactory” and adds on the next page that “indeed, the form of words offered is cryptic to the point of unintelligibility.”

White (p. 82): “…in any natural translation, the final sentence of 4.5 looks astonishingly banal, even silly, as a statement of the goal Wittgenstein is struggling to arrive at. Perhaps we should take the overtones of sich verhälten that are lost in the English and render it as: ‘This is how things are arranged’, with the idea, that if we have the general form of proposition, then it will show for any proposition how things must be arranged in the world for it to be true.”

See also PI § 136.

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