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Re: [ontolog-forum] Wittgenstein and the pictures

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2008 14:25:41 -0400
Message-id: <4890B225.7020007@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Folks,    (01)

The thread on the atomic hypothesis has broken up into many little
rivulets.  For the moment, I'd like to comment on the Wittgenstein
stream.    (02)

On technical issues related to logic, I usually agree with Chris Menzel:    (03)

CM> The general consensus among philosophers and linguists is that W's
 > so-called "picture theory of meaning" ... is utterly untenable as
 > a general semantic theory.    (04)

Wittgenstein himself admitted that both his picture theory and his
early version of model theory, as presented in the _Tractatus_, were
inadequate.  And he spent the second half of his life trying to
develop a better foundation based on his theory of language games.    (05)

In the preface to his second book, _Philosophical Investigations_,
he admitted that the organization was far less clear and structured
than his first, book but that the time was past in which he could
improve it.  (It was published shortly after he died.)    (06)

Unfortunately, it is easy to develop very clear, but oversimplified
theories, easy to develop muddled theories of complexity, but extremely
difficult to develop clear, well organized theories of the overwhelming
complexity of everything that people think about and talk about.    (07)

LY> ... it seems to me that summarily writing off his work is a bit
 > premature.    (08)

Nobody is "summarily writing off" W's Tractatus.  It took W. a long
time to develop his later philosophy, and he expressed the desire to
have his second book published in the same volume as his first --
because he wanted to present his newer ideas as a response to and
a correction of the earlier ones.  I think he meant that the views
in the Tractatus represented an important special case, but *only*
a very limited special case.  He was trying to show how much of
language -- and *life* -- lay outside the scope of his earlier book.    (09)

LY> Blair's 1990 book Language and Representation in Information
 > Retrieval, which was selected as the "Best Information Science Book
 > of the Year" by the American Society for Information Science
 > http://www.springer.com/computer/book/978-1-4020-4112-9    (010)

But note that the brief summary on that web site says that the book 
emphasizes W's later work:    (011)

 > [Blair's book] consists of four related parts. Firstly, a brief
 > overview of Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and its relevance
 > to information systems. Secondly, a detailed explanation of
 > Wittgenstein’s late philosophy of language and mind. Thirdly,
 > an extended discussion of the relevance of his philosophy to
 > understanding some of the problems inherent in information systems,
 > especially those systems which rely on retrieval based on some
 > representation of the intellectual content of that information.
 > And, fourthly, a series of detailed footnotes which cite the
 > sources of the numerous quotations and provide some discussion of
 > the related issues that the text inspires.    (012)

GC> I always felt we should concentrate on kids in the 4th-7th grade,
 > working on phenomena and process, and trying to entice them to
 > follow a pathway to study more math and science.  I felt that, if
 > we so influenced one child per class, we had succeeded....    (013)

Your experiences show how early education can make an enormous
contribution toward enhancing children's intellectual curiosity and
creativity.  As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein also tried to do
something like that.  After he finished the Tractatus, he went to
teach children of approximately that age in an Austrian mountain
village.  He had some success with some of the brighter children,
but his methods were not well suited to more average children.
The villagers, in general, were not happy with him.  (They wanted
a teacher who could influence more than "one child per class".)    (014)

In any case, the few years W. spent teaching children must have
been highly influential in showing him that they did not think
along the lines he presented in his first book.  Many of the
examples in his later book relate to child language.    (015)

John    (016)

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