Dec 1, 2010

Wittgenstein on Wednesdays 010

Wittgenstein with his older brother

I tend to think of "logical" as something somewhat akin to "correct." Not "true," exactly, but supported. "Correct" as in "correctly thought" or "thoroughly thought." When I say "that's not logical," I mean the idea hasn't been put together quite right and will, under scrutiny, under pressure, fall apart.

Often, of course, "logical" and "true" are taken to be, if not the same thing, so directly and closely connected as to be all but indistinguishable. Logic is understood to act as a kind of insurance for, an ensurance of the truth of something. It's a guarantee. When, for example, philosophers talk about a "logical language," they imagine it as a kind of utopian language that, by being logical, will only allow for certain kinds of statements, where there is this guarantee.

Many, though, especially when they're working with logic and truth claims, work to clearly separate the two. I had a prof., for example, who regularly talked about "justified true beliefs," a turn of language that opens up the possibility and makes us aware of the possibility that one can have true beliefs that are unjustified, and justified beliefs that happen not to be true. It's an important distinction, and one I try to make, try to be aware of and try to teach -- it's necessary, for example, in the way that it forces one to move beyond just the claim of the truth of something, or the orthodoxy of something, or its general acceptance, and to actually have to think the idea through.

Done this way, though, "logic" is kind of defensive. It's a negative thing, a complicated thing, a kind of equation aimed at solving for the truth. When one asks "is it logical?", one is check to see if the idea will fall apart under pressure.

Wittgenstein does something different with the word, though.



I think by "logical" he only means "possible." When he says, for example, "The logical picture can picture the world," the idea is only that it could. It's a question of possibility, potential. "Logical" means something like "logically possible," and that possibility is reality, and doesn't have any direct connection with something being true.

I think when I read this before I was taking logical as such a stern word -- like Wittgenstein was screaming about that which was not logical and condemning the illogical in all of our lives -- and took from these sentences a kind of insistence, and a demand for a perfect language. Reading it now, though, I'm seeing him use the word "kann" all the time -- not that it must picture the world, but that it can, and he comes back again and again to "Möglichkeit," and I'm starting to think that what he's interested in is not the certainty, the guaranteed truth, but in this possibility that is logical.

So there's the idea, in the sentence, "The logical picture can picture the world," that pictures, for him, are necessarily logical in that they present the same of what could be. That what it means for something to be logical is for it to have this shape of being possible -- whether it's the case or not. The end, then, that this thought process is going towards, is not that something is true, but that something is possible.

It's a very different kind of realism, which, I think, could be a complete abandonment of the kind of anxiety that normally accompanies the word "logic."

If that's what he's doing, though, and what matters, what's real, is what's possible, and for something to be logical is only for it to be possible, then what about the impossible? Is it possible for there to be an illogical picture? That is, a picture that is a picture but does not present the possible shape of things?

Likewise, what about grammatically correct but meaningless sentences (how is grammatically possible different than logically possible?) and what about paradoxes?

Auf Deutsch:
2.19 Das logische Bild kann die Welt abbilden.
2.2 Das Bild hat mit den Abgebildeten die logische From der Abbildung gemein.
2.201 Das Bild bildet die Wirklichkeit ab, indem es eine Möglichkeit des Bestehens und Nichbestehens von Sachverhalten darstellt.
2.202 Das Bild stellt eine mögliche Sachlage im logischen Raume dar.
2.203 Das Bild enthalt die Möglichkeit der Sachlage, die es darstrellt.
2.21 Das Bild stimmt mit der Wirklichket überein oder nicht; es ist richtig oder unrichtig, wahr oder falsch.
2.22 Das Bild stellt dar, was es darstellt, unabhängig von seiner Wahr- oder Falschheit, durch die Form der Abbildung.
2.221 Was das Bild darstellt, ist sein Sinn.
2.222 In der Übereinstimmung oder Nichtübereinstimmung seines Sinnes mit der Wirklichkeit besteht seine Warheit oder Falschheit.
2.223 Um zu erkenne, ob das Bild wahr falshe ist, mussen wir es mit der Wirklichkeit vergleichen.
2.224 Aus dem Bild allein ist nicht zu erkenne, ob es wahr oder falsch ist.
2.225 Ein a priori wahres Bild gibt es nicht.

Translation:
2.19 The logical picture can picture the world.
2.22 The picture has the logical shape of the picture in common with the pictured.
2.201 The picture pictures reality by presenting its possibility of being or not being a state of affairs.
2.202 The picture pictures the possible situation in logical space.
2.203 The picture contains the possibility of the situation that it pictures.
2.21 The picture truly agrees with the reality or not; it is right or not right, true or false.
2.22 The picture presents what it presents, independant from its truth or falisity, through its shape of picturing.
2.221 What the picture presents is its meaning.
2.222 In the agreement or disagreement of its meaning with the reality exists its truth or falisty.
2.223 To reveal whether the picture is true of false, we must compare it with the reality.
2.224 From the picture alone nothing is revealed, whether it is true of false.
2.225 An a priori true picture does not exist.

Notes:
- Vergleichen -- this just means "to compare" or "to match," but also implies sameness, where sometimes, in English, "compare" denotes difference. "Gleichen" can mean "to resemble" or "to equal."
- zu erkenne -- "erkennen" means "to recognize" or "to identify," which places the action with the recognizer or the person doing the identifying. It's interesting that Wittgenstein used this form, whereby the picture is doing the work -- this supports some of the translation attempts I've made, where I tried to show that Wittgenstein is talking about a logical structure that is independent of your action or my action.