Friday, August 10, 2007

4.062 Can’t one make oneself understood with false propositions as one has till now with true ones? Just as long as one knows that they are meant to be false. No! Because a proposition is true if things are as we say they are by means of it; and if by “p” we mean ~p, and things are as we mean, then “p” in the new sense is true and not false.

So the meaning of “p” depends on us, as does its truth. This sounds very antirealist, but it is only true in a sense, not absolutely. The quality of a movie depends on the movie, but the truth of my judgment that it is “great” depends, among other things, on whether I am being sarcastic. Truth and falsity might be, as it were, poles of each proposition, but they are not equal. There is, one might say, an orientation toward truth in language. What proposition one utters depends on (is?) what one means, although note that LW uses the plural ‘we’ (wir) here, so he is not suggesting the possibility of a private language.

Are we meant to think of the Tractatus as possibly trying to get the truth across through false sentences? Presumably we are not meant to conclude that this is what is going on. Its sentences are said to be nonsensical, not false. But perhaps we are encouraged to consider the possibility before dismissing it. This is roughly what Wittgenstein thought of Weininger's work (that it expressed a great truth, so long as it was all negated).

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