Wittgenstein And Marxism
Readers need to make note of the fact that this Essay does not represent my final view on any of the issues raised. It is merely 'work in progress'.
If you are viewing this using Mozilla Firefox you might not be able to read all the symbols I have employed.
Finally, this Essay is the result of joining together several short Essays -- hence its rather odd structure.
Anyone using these links must remember that they will be skipping past supporting argument and evidence set out in earlier sections:
(1) A Bourgeois Mystic?
(2) Materialism And Truth -- Or Lukaçs Neutralised
(3) Conservative Or Radical?
(4) Analytical Marxism
(5) The Truth About "Truth"
(6) Wittgenstein And Revolutionaries
(a) Distorting Mirror
(b) Philosophy Goes To The Dogs
Abbreviations Used At This Site
A Bourgeois Mystic?
Some might conclude that the relatively hard line adopted in my Essays toward the alien-class origins of DM sits rather awkwardly with the apparently uncritical acceptance of ideas drawn from Wittgenstein's work --, an allegedly bourgeois philosopher and mystic himself.
[DM = Dialectical Materialism.]
However, there is nothing in these Essays to suggest that everything that Wittgenstein said has been uncritically accepted. On the contrary, several open criticisms have been made of some of his ideas (to be published in later Essays). Nevertheless, the full extent of my differences with Wittgenstein will not be aired here.1
What is being maintained in this work is that the application of Wittgenstein's method to the tangled theses that have flourished in traditional Philosophy shows them up for what they are: theoretical weeds. Moreover, it also confirms the allegation that such theses do not have to be accepted by anyone with a healthy prejudice against the misuse of language. For Marxists this cannot be an unappealing prospect; indeed, something similar had been Marx's aim -- in his early writings, at least.2
Furthermore, the idea that Wittgenstein's work is mystical and 'conservative' is, despite the remarks made by certain of his disciples, completely wrong. The plain fact is that Wittgenstein was not a conservative mystic.3
More to the point, since Wittgenstein was not attempting to build yet another philosophical system, his approach breaks with 2500 years of ruling-class thought. In fact, he was the first major Philosopher in history to make such a break (even if he did not see it this way).4 Wittgenstein's method is aimed at revealing the bogus nature of all philosophical theories by placing ordinary language at the centre. Again, for Marxists this 'linguistic' turn should be of genuine interest, since the vernacular cannot serve as a source of substitutionist thought, quite unlike the work of practically every other Philosopher (on this see Essay Twelve (summary here) and Essay Nine Part One). Indeed, this method exposes the emptiness of traditional ways of theorising, revealing them to be no more than the systematic capitulation to the misuse of words -- and thus anti-materialist, for all that.
For reasons examined earlier, this means that the approach adopted in these essays complements HM seamlessly.5
In addition, it is not an accident that Wittgenstein's emphasis on ordinary language occurred at or around the time when workers were entering the stage of history as an organised force -- for all that DM-critics of Wittgenstein and "Ordinary Language Philosophy" have failed to notice this.6
Moreover, it is also worth pointing out that even though "Ordinary Language Philosophy" is often associated with Wittgenstein's work, their identification is thoroughly misleading since it blurs the significant differences that exist between his method and that of the so-called "Oxford Ordinary Language Philosophers".7
As he himself put it:
"Our investigation is therefore a grammatical one. Such an investigation sheds light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away. Misunderstandings concerning the use of words, caused, among other things, by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of language….
"[Philosophical problems] are not empirical problems; they are solved, rather, by looking into the workings of our language, and that in such a way as to make us recognise those workings: in despite of an urge to misunderstand them. The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known. Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language….
"What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use…. The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language….
"Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. -- Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain…. The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose. If one tried to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree with them." [Wittgenstein (1958), pp.43-50. Bold emphases added.]8
As it turns out, there are other, equally important reasons for adopting Wittgenstein's approach to Philosophy. These are considered below.
[Anyone unclear why this distinction is sound should shelve their worries, at least until a later Essay on this topic is published at this site.]
Other problems with his work include the following:
 Although Wittgenstein's later work was anthropologically-motivated, it has in fact no detectable historical or social content, which makes the direct appropriation of his ideas by Marxists problematic.
However, this is not an insurmountable obstacle.
 Even though Wittgenstein was not a 'religious' man (in the sense that he practised a particular faith), he was 'religious' in temperament. Because of that, several of his ideas have subsequently been used by some of his followers to defend various different forms of Christianity, etc. Despite this, there are prominent Christian Wittgensteinians who totally ignore this aspect of his work -- probably because of its theological naivety.
Although it is possible to mount a weak sort of defence of religious belief based on certain aspects of Wittgenstein's work, the truth is that his method is inimical to all forms of religious and theological thought. On this, see Cook (1988, 1993). [I propose to say no more about this topic here.]
This is, of course, a conclusion with which Wittgenstein himself would have taken great exception.
 One of the major difficulties with Wittgenstein's work is that it is in fact impossible to settle upon an agreed, or even an identifiably 'correct', interpretation of it. Naturally, this means that it is difficult to determine what he himself actually believed. But, paradoxically, this is also one of its strengths; he was concerned not to advance any philosophical 'theses' about language, reality, thought, or indeed about anything. His main aim was to establish a method that would bring traditional Philosophy to an end (by showing that it was a thoroughly confused discipline -- replacing it with an entirely new concept of what philosophical investigation should be). This novel approach would limit Philosophy's role to the clarification (and hence the unravelling) of confusions that arise because of our tendency to misunderstand language.
However, Philosophers still in the grip of traditional ways of thinking often see this approach to theory as a dereliction of duty; according to them, Philosophy should form part of a general attempt to understand the world (and as far as dialecticians are concerned, it should form part of an endeavour to change the world by helping socialists understand nature and society all the better).
Now this view of Philosophy is seldom justified, perhaps because there is no justification for it (over and above those explored in Essay Twelve Part One). Nevertheless, this traditional approach reflects a general belief held by Philosophers that they have a special access to profound truths about reality -- these merely being ones that just happen to be conducive to ruling-class interests (although they do not see things this way, these days). However, the traditional world-view(s) underlying philosophical 'knowledge' is (are) largely predicated on the belief that reality is rational and that theorists are capable of constructing some sort of Superscientific picture of it by the mere application of thought -- or by the invention of a specially concocted vocabulary. [This attitude is well expressed in Callinicos (1996).]
However, as we have also seen (and as 2500 years of speculation has demonstrated reasonably conclusively), this 'hard-headed' approach to Philosophy has proven to be about as unsuccessful as any human endeavour could possibly be. It certainly beats the fruitless search to find a perpetual motion machine. Philosophers are no nearer telling us what familiar things like apples and oranges really are, or what truth is -- or even what knowledge is -- than Plato and Aristotle were. This means that traditional Philosophy has advanced even less than Australia has over the same period -- and, as fate would have it, about as much as Theology has. But at least we know the latter is useless. 'Hard-nosed' theorists still wishing to cling to the old way of going nowhere slowly might like to reflect on this disconcerting fact; although experience has shown that this will not side-track them from their endeavour to look for the end of this particular rainbow. [On this, cf., Hacker (2001), and Ambrose (1966a).]
This emphasis on ordinary language as a way of clarifying the mistakes we are prone to make does not imply that human beings do not understand how to use the vernacular. It is simply that when we try to theorise about it -- or when we try to theorise by means of it -- we go astray, creating empty philosophical puzzles and paradoxes as a result.
On this see: Ambrose (1966a), Baker (2002), Baker and Hacker (1983a), Cavell (1971a), Goldstein (1999), Hacker (1996, 1997, 2001b), Diamond (1991), Dilman (2002), Forster (2004), Hanfling (1989, 2000, 2002), Hilmy (1987), Iliescu (2000), Kenny (1973, 1998), Kindi (1998), Kuusela (2005), Lazerowitz and Ambrose (1976, 1985), Peterman (1992), Savickey (1999), Shanker (1987, 1998), Stern (1995), and Suter (1989).
Unfortunately, this has meant that Wittgenstein's work has had an almost negligible impact on Philosophy as a whole. Philosophers in general reject his approach out of hand (often for the flimsiest of reasons; witness Robin Le Poidevin's 'argument', in Baggini and Stangroom (2002)) since it represents a threat to their livelihood and their status. A scattering of philosophers have tried to absorb his ideas piecemeal into their own work, but they have done so in a manner which makes it obvious that they largely reject his method. Such half-hearted Wittgensteinians still seem intent on searching for philosophical truths about language, 'the mind', truth, knowledge, the world, ethics, and so on, by examining the alleged meaning of a few words, imposing the 'results' on the world. [Richard Rorty is a good example of this tendency. Cf., Rorty (1980).] Either that or they have brazenly slipped back into doing traditional philosophy, and have re-joined the age-old attempt to construct new routes to nowhere. [Cf., the special issue devoted to Wittgenstein's work and its rejection in Philosophical Investigations April 2001; cf., also Hacker (1996).]
Finally, on whether Wittgenstein's work is itself an attempt to develop a few philosophical theories of his own, as many still maintain, see Kuusela (2006).
2. On this, see Manser (1973). This theme is explored at greater length in Rubinstein (1981), especially pp.121-38. The attempt to assimilate Marx and Wittgenstein's work will be examined later; cf., Notes 3 and 4, below. See also Brudney (1998), and Labica (1980).
However, here are some very clear anticipations of Wittgenstein in Marx:
"The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. -- real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process. [Marx and Engels (1970), p.47. Bold emphasis added.]
"Only now, after having considered four moments, four aspects of the primary historical relationships, do we find that man also possesses 'consciousness,' but, even so, not inherent, not 'pure' consciousness. From the start the 'spirit' is afflicted with the curse of being 'burdened' with matter, which here makes its appearance in the form of agitated layers of air, sounds, in short, of language. Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists also for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as well; language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men. Where there exists a relationship, it exists for me: the animal does not enter into 'relations' with anything, it does not enter into any relation at all. For the animal, its relation to others does not exist as a relation. Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all. Consciousness is at first, of course, merely consciousness concerning the immediate sensuous environment and consciousness of the limited connection with other persons and things outside the individual who is growing self-conscious.... On the other hand, man's consciousness of the necessity of associating with the individuals around him is the beginning of the consciousness that he is living in society at all.... [Ibid., p.50-51. Bold emphases added.]
"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.
"We have shown that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Ibid., p.118. Bold emphases added.]
"The object before us, to begin with, material production.
"Individuals producing in Society -- hence socially determined individual production -- is, of course, the point of departure. The individual and isolated hunter and fisherman, with whom Smith and Ricardo begin, belongs among the unimaginative conceits of the eighteenth-century Robinsonades, which in no way express merely a reaction against over-sophistication and a return to a misunderstood natural life, as cultural historians imagine. As little as Rousseau's contrat social, which brings naturally independent, autonomous subjects into relation and connection by contract, rests on such naturalism. This is the semblance, the merely aesthetic semblance, of the Robinsonades, great and small. It is, rather, the anticipation of 'civil society', in preparation since the sixteenth century and making giant strides towards maturity in the eighteenth. In this society of free competition, the individual appears detached from the natural bonds etc. which in earlier historical periods make him the accessory of a definite and limited human conglomerate. Smith and Ricardo still stand with both feet on the shoulders of the eighteenth-century prophets, in whose imaginations this eighteenth-century individual -- the product on one side of the dissolution of the feudal forms of society, on the other side of the new forces of production developed since the sixteenth century -- appears as an ideal, whose existence they project into the past. Not as a historic result but as history's point of departure. As the Natural Individual appropriate to their notion of human nature, not arising historically, but posited by nature. This illusion has been common to each new epoch to this day. Steuart avoided this simple-mindedness because as an aristocrat and in antithesis to the eighteenth century, he had in some respects a more historical footing.
"The more deeply we go back into history, the more does the individual, and hence also the producing individual, appear as dependent, as belonging to a greater whole: in a still quite natural way in the family and in the family expanded into the clan [Stamm]; then later in the various forms of communal society arising out of the antitheses and fusions of the clan. Only in the eighteenth century, in 'civil society', do the various forms of social connectedness confront the individual as a mere means towards his private purposes, as external necessity. But the epoch which produces this standpoint, that of the isolated individual, is also precisely that of the hitherto most developed social (from this standpoint, general) relations. The human being is in the most literal sense a Zwon politikon not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. Production by an isolated individual outside society -- a rare exception which may well occur when a civilized person in whom the social forces are already dynamically present is cast by accident into the wilderness -- is as much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals living together and talking to each other. There is no point in dwelling on this any longer. The point could go entirely unmentioned if this twaddle, which had sense and reason for the eighteenth-century characters, had not been earnestly pulled back into the centre of the most modern economics by Bastiat, Carey, Proudhon etc. Of course it is a convenience for Proudhon et al. to be able to give a historico-philosophic account of the source of an economic relation, of whose historic origins he is ignorant, by inventing the myth that Adam or Prometheus stumbled on the idea ready-made, and then it was adopted, etc. Nothing is more dry and boring than the fantasies of a locus communis. [Marx (1973), pp.83-85. Bold emphasis added.]
"The main point here is this: In all these forms -- in which landed property and agriculture form the basis of the economic order, and where the economic aim is hence the production of use values, i.e., the reproduction of the individual within the specific relation to the commune in which he is its basis -- there is to be found: (1) Appropriation not through labour, but presupposed to labour; appropriation of the natural conditions of labour, of the earth as the original instrument of labour as well as its workshop and repository of raw materials. The individual relates simply to the objective conditions of labour as being his; [relates] to them as the inorganic nature of his subjectivity, in which the latter realizes itself; the chief objective condition of labour does not itself appear as a product of labour, but is already there as nature; on one side the living individual, on the other the earth, as the objective condition of his reproduction; (2) but this relation to land and soil, to the earth, as the property of the labouring individual -- who thus appears from the outset not merely as labouring individual, in this abstraction, but who has an objective mode of existence in his ownership of the land, an existence presupposed to his activity, and not merely as a result of it, a presupposition of his activity just like his skin, his sense organs, which of course he also reproduces and develops etc. in the life process, but which are nevertheless presuppositions of this process of his reproduction -- is instantly mediated by the naturally arisen, spontaneous, more or less historically developed and modified presence of the individual as member of a commune -- his naturally arisen presence as member of a tribe etc. An isolated individual could no more have property in land and soil than he could speak. He could, of course, live off it as substance, as do the animals. The relation to the earth as property is always mediated through the occupation of the land and soil, peacefully or violently, by the tribe, the commune, in some more or less naturally arisen or already historically developed form. The individual can never appear here in the dot-like isolation...in which he appears as mere free worker. [Ibid., p.485.Bold emphasis added.]
3. Conservative Or Radical?
Most revolutionaries seem to regard Analytic Philosophy as something of a conservative or ideological phenomenon, with Wittgenstein's work perhaps being seen as a particularly good example of this. That view has partly been motivated by the widely held opinion that Wittgenstein was a conservative and that he pandered to mystical and religious ideas.
That this received picture is incorrect can be seen by reading Alan Janik's essays "Nyiri on the Conservatism of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy" -- which was a reply to Nyiri (1998) --, and "Wittgenstein, Marx and Sociology", both reprinted in Janik (1985), pp.116-57. See also Crary (2000).
In fact, not only were many of Wittgenstein's friends and pupils prominent Marxists -- e.g., Pierro Sraffa, Maurice Dobb, Nicholas Bakhtin, George Thomson, Maurice Cornforth, David Hayden-Guest, and Roy Pascall (cf., Monk (1990), pp.343, 348; Rhees (1984), pp.x, 48; and Sheehan (1993), pp.303, 343) --, but one of his foremost 'disciples' (Rush Rhees) at one point contemplated joining the RCP (i.e., the 1940's Trotskyist version, not that recent right-wing joke of the same name, now happily defunct), and asked Wittgenstein for advice on this. [Cf., Rhees (1984), pp.200-09.]
Rhees and Monk record the many sympathetic remarks Wittgenstein made about Marxism, about workers and about revolutionary activity. While these are not in themselves models of 'orthodoxy', they reveal how close Wittgenstein came to adopting a very weak form of class politics in the 1930's -- certainly closer than any other major philosopher had done since Marx himself; cf., Rhees (1984), pp.205-09. [Cf., also Norman Malcolm's Introduction to Rhees's book, pp.xvii-xviii, Monk (1990), pp.343-54, and Monk (2007).]
In fact, Monk reports a comment made by George Thomson on Wittgenstein's attitude to Marxism: "He was opposed to it in theory, but supported it in practice", and notes another friend who remembers Wittgenstein saying that he was "a communist, at heart" (Monk (1990), p.343). He concludes:
"There is no doubt that during the political upheavals of the mid-1930's Wittgenstein's sympathies were with the working class and the unemployed, and that his allegiance, broadly speaking, was with the left….
"Despite the fact that Wittgenstein was never at any time a Marxist, he was perceived as a sympathetic figure by the students who formed the core of the Cambridge Communist Party, many of whom ([David] Hayden-Guest, [John] Cornford, Maurice Cornforth, etc.) attended his lectures." [Monk (1990), pp.343, 348.]
In Rhees's book, Fania Pascall -- who was another Marxist friend of Wittgenstein's, married to Communist Party intellectual Roy Pascall, translator of The German Ideology into English --, reports that Wittgenstein had actually read Marx (cf., Rhees (1984), p.44), but, the source of this information appears to be John Moran ( Cf., Moran (1972)). Garth Hallett's otherwise comprehensive survey omits reference to this alleged fact. [Cf., Hallett (1977), pp.759-75.] But if, as we will see, he had read Lenin, and all his close friends were Marxists, it is a safe bet that he had also read Marx.
Rhees and Monk also note that when Wittgenstein visited Russia he met Sophia Yanovskaya, who was Professor of Mathematical Logic at Moscow University and one of the co-editors of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts. [Cf., Yanovskaya (1983), in Marx (1983).] She apparently advised him to "read more Hegel" (which suggests he had already read some). [Monk (1990), p.351, and Rhees (1984), p.209.] In fact, Yanovskaya even went as far as to recommend Wittgenstein for the chair at Kazan University (Lenin's old college) and for a teaching post at Moscow University (Monk (1990), p. 351). These were hardly posts one would have offered to just anyone in Stalin's Russia in the mid-1930s, least of all to someone unsympathetic toward Communism.
[DM = Dialectical Materialism.]
Monk suggests that Yanovskaya formed the (false) impression that Wittgenstein was interested in DM (ibid.), but Drury (another of Wittgenstein's pupils) informs us that Wittgenstein had a low opinion of Lenin's philosophical work (but, exactly which part this refers to we do not know; but this does indicate that Wittgenstein had at least read Lenin since he never passed comments on second-hand reports of other writers' work), but the opposite view of his practical endeavours:
"Lenin's writings about philosophy are of course absurd, but at least he did want to get something done." [Drury, quoting Wittgenstein from recollection, in Rhees (1984), p.126.]
Fania Pascall also records Wittgenstein's friendship with Nicholas Bakhtin (ibid., p.14), and notes that at one time he expressed a desire to go and live in Russia, as we have seen (ibid., pp.26, 29, 44, 125-26, 198-200). In fact he actually visited Russia in September 1935 (cf., Monk (1990), pp. 347-53), when he met the above Professor Yanovskaya. Like many other Cambridge intellectuals at the time his desire to live in the USSR was motivated by his false belief that under Stalin it was a Workers' State. In this regard, of course, his intentions were more significant than his mistaken views. One only has to contrast Wittgenstein's opinion of Russia with that of, say, Bertrand Russell -- his former teacher -- to see how sympathetic in comparison Wittgenstein was to revolutionary Marxism, even if, like many others, he finally mistook the latter for Stalinism. [Cf., Drury's memoir in Rhees (1984), p.144, and Russell (1962).] John Maynard Keynes (another of Wittgenstein's friends) wrote the following in a letter to the Russian ambassador Maisky (who had in fact once been a Menshevik) about Wittgenstein's plans to live in Russia:
"I must leave it to him to tell you his reasons for wanting to go to Russia. He is not a member of the Communist Party, but has strong sympathies with the way of life which he believes the new regime in Russia stands for." [John Maynard Keynes to Maisky, quoted in Rhees (1984), p.199. Also quoted more fully in Monk (1990), p.349.]
In his biography of Wittgenstein, Ray Monk plays down Wittgenstein's proposed move, and, relying on Fania Pascall's view of Wittgenstein's motives, interprets it as a reflection of his attachment to a Tolstoyian view of the Russian peasantry and the 'dignity of manual labour'. While this clearly was a factor, it cannot explain Wittgenstein's positive remarks about the gains he believed workers had made because of the revolution -- but, given what happened to the Russian peasantry in Stalin's Russia in the 1930's, this is surely the least likely explanation! On this, Rhees is clearly a more reliable guide; he knew Wittgenstein better than almost anyone else.
[The full details of Wittgenstein's desire to live in Russia, and his visit, can be found in Monk (1990), pp.340-54.]
His closest friend before he met Rhees was Francis Skinner, who had wanted to volunteer to fight in Spain as part of the International Brigade (he was finally rejected on health grounds). Wittgenstein thought that Alan Turing (who was also one of his 'part time' pupils for a brief period in the 1930s) believed that he (Wittgenstein) was trying to introduce "Bolshevism" into Mathematics, because of his criticisms of the irrational fear of contradictions among mathematicians. [Cf., Monk (1990), pp.419-20; see also Hodges (1983), pp.152-54.]
As Wittgenstein himself said:
"Turing does not object to anything I say. He agrees with every word. He objects to the idea he thinks underlies it. He thinks we're undermining mathematics, introducing Bolshevism into mathematics. But not at all." [Wittgenstein (1976), p.76.]
On this, and Wittgenstein's 'radical Bolshevism', see Ray Monk's on-line essay, here.
"The changes Wittgenstein
wished to see are...I believe, so radical that the name 'full-blooded
Bolshevism' suggests itself as a natural way to describe the militant tendency
of his remarks." [Monk
See also Monk (2007).
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, Wittgenstein himself declared that his later Philosophy had been inspired by his regular conversations with Pierro Sraffa (Gramsci's friend). The extent of Sraffa's influence is still unclear (however, see below), but Wittgenstein himself admitted to Rhees that it was from Sraffa that he had gained an "anthropological" view of philosophical problems. [Cf., Monk (1990), pp.260-61. Cf., also Malcolm (1958), p.69, von Wright (ND), pp.28, 213, and Wittgenstein (1998), p.16.]
In the Preface to what was his most important and influential work, Wittgenstein had this to say:
"Even more than this…criticism I am indebted to that which a teacher of this university, Mr P. Sraffa, for many years unceasingly practiced on my thoughts. I am indebted to this stimulus for the most consequential ideas of this book." [Wittgenstein (1958), p.viii. Bold emphasis added.]
This is quite remarkable: the author of what many believe to be the most original and innovative philosophical work of the 20th century -- and one that, if correct, brings to an end 2500 years of traditional Philosophy -- claims that his most "consequential" ideas were derived from a man who was an avowed Marxist!
Attempts to reconstruct Sraffa's influence on Wittgenstein are in their early stages, and they are not likely to progress much further unless some hard evidence turns up; to date, these attempts are based largely on supposition and inference. On this, see Sharpe (2002), Davis (2002) and Rossi-Landi (2002), pp.200-04.
Now, it is not being maintained here that Wittgenstein was a closet revolutionary, only that he has been rather badly misrepresented; a demonstrably erroneous view of his political leanings has been fostered by some of his 'disciples', who have (or have had) their own political agendas in mind.
However, a somewhat controversial book published a few years ago -- i.e., Cornish (1999) -- assembles all the available evidence (and there is a considerable amount --, even if some of it is circumstantial) indicative of Wittgenstein's attitude toward revolutionary politics; cf. Cornish (1999), pp.40-87. [I will not pass comment on Cornish's other views since they are not relevant to the aims of this Essay.]
In addition to conservative misrepresentations of Wittgenstein's views, there is an equally spurious idea that his work is identical to the "Oxford Ordinary Language Philosophy" of Ryle, Austin, Warnock, Strawson, Urmson and Hampshire. Beyond a few superficial similarities, Wittgenstein's work bears no resemblance at all to "Oxford Philosophy". On this, see Cavell (1971a) and Dummett (1960).
4. In his early work, Marx was beginning to show signs of making a similar break from traditional thought, but this petered out somewhere in the 1850's. Almost the same can be said of Engels (who was by no stretch of the imagination a competent philosopher), although he later slipped back into what can only be described as an amateurish dalliance with ruling-class (if not mystical) 'forms-of-thought' in his work on DM, ones that have now been ossified into sacred texts. Lenin and Plekhanov certainly never gave the slightest hint that they were aware that a break with traditional thought-patterns was essential if a proletarian 'world-view' was to be developed -- and neither did Trotsky. More or less can be said for subsequent DM-theorists; all have trooped in the same alien-class direction. [On Marx, see Brudney (1998), and Labica (1980).]
For example, it is impossible to read this comment of Marx's and not see its affinities with Wittgenstein (probably conveyed via Sraffa):
"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.
"We have shown that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases added.]
5. I will not substantiate this assertion in this Essay (this will be done in Essay Nine, Parts One and Two, and Essay Twelve (summary here).
Nevertheless, as might seem reasonably obvious from the tone set at this site, the present author does not share Wittgenstein's respect for ancient metaphysical systems. Although Wittgenstein sought to show that these schemes were the result of the systematic misuse of words, he still held them in high regard; the exact opposite opinion should rightly be attributed to the present author.
Attempts to marry the work of Wittgenstein and Marx have not in general been entirely convincing. Gavin Kitching's work (Kitching (1988, 1994, 2003)) represents perhaps the most concerted effort in this direction to date. Unfortunately, Kitching operates with a superficial understanding of Wittgenstein, which he then uses to outline an even less accurate one of Marx. Unwisely, he also employs his own implausible and inconsistent version of an 'occasionalist' theory of meaning (which will be destructively analysed in a later Essay).
Several other authors have also tried to link the work of Marx and Wittgenstein; cf., Brudney (1998), Eagleton (1982), Pleasants (1996, 1999), and Rubinstein (1981). A much more promising attempt however has recently been made in this direction in Kitching and Pleasants (2002); but, as Cook (in D. Cook (1984)) quite correctly points out, the differences between Marx and Wittgenstein are far more profound than are their apparent similarities.
6. Evidence to support this assertion will be posted here at a later date.
Nor is it coincidental that the decline in Wittgenstein's influence over the last thirty years or so was initiated by attacks on his method spearheaded largely by American Philosophers from the 1950's to the 1980's -- concurrent with the Cold War and the retreat of the working class movement internationally. I hope to say more on this in a later Essay.
7. On this see the end of Note 3, above.
8. John Cook has sought to question whether Wittgenstein actually did redirect our thought to a consideration of more ordinary ways of saying things, as opposed to his merely asserting that this was what he intended to do without fulfilling that aim; cf., Cook (1994, 1999). [In this, Cook was merely developing ideas he first aired in Cook (1980).] Naturally, this is not the place to go into this dispute. It is sufficient to note that Cook's own brand of 'ordinary language' Philosophy (based on the work of Frank Ebersole) is not inconsistent with that of Wittgenstein's; it is just rather parochial and inconsequential in comparison. [Cf., the review of Cook (1999) in Philosophical Investigations, April 2001. See also Ebersole (2001, 2002a, 2002b).]
Nevertheless, it is in fact a myth (put about by certain of his disciples) that all that Wittgenstein was interested in was ordinary language. Because Cook accepts this fairy tale, the Wittgenstein he constructs is a figment of his own imagination. Wittgenstein was continually experimenting with new ways of looking at familiar problems. Many of his half-formed thoughts have been ossified by his epigones and turned into eternally true statements that supposedly represent his 'official position', even though the 'proof texts' on offer are in general comments found in private notebooks, not intended for publication. Indeed, his last major work (Wittgenstein (1958)) was under constant revision right up until his death, and thus remained incomplete. It was 'completed' by his literary executors on what now appear to be unsound lines. On this, see Stern (1995, 1996). [On the difficulties of interpreting Wittgenstein, see Cavell (1971b, 1996), and Heal (1995).]
Historical Materialism And Truth
In fact, there is another reason why Marxists should re-consider Wittgenstein's method: it would help resolve the so-called 'problem of objectivity'. This 'problem' -- posed by Lukács, among others -- is centred on the question how one class is able to represent truth to itself if it only possesses a relative view of the world, or one which is distorted by the influence of class society.9
A full resolution of this 'problem' will not be attempted here since that would require a long detour into HM. The partial elucidation given below is naturally dependent on all that has gone before in other Essays posted at this site. Nevertheless, the 'solution' outlined below is guaranteed to disappoint those who even now crave a traditional philosophical answer to such 'problems'. This is because my aim is to show that this 'problem' is illusory -- hence the 'scare quotes' around the word "solution".
Despite this, John Rees does attempt to offer a solution of his own, part of which involves an answer to an objection raised by Terry Eagleton:
"[T]o claim that only the proletarian perspective allows one to grasp the truth of society as a whole already assumes one knows what it is. It would seem that the truth is either wholly internal to the consciousness of the working class, in which case it cannot be assessed as truth and the claim simply becomes dogmatic; or one is caught in the impossible paradox of judging the truth from outside of the truth itself, in which case the claim that this form of consciousness is true simply undercuts itself." [Eagleton, quoted in Rees (1998), p.235.]
Rees's answer reads as follows:
"In a certain sense, of course, all truth is relative -- it is just that some theorists do not acknowledge this elementary fact. There is no final, faultless, criterion for truth which hovers, like god, outside the historical process. Neither is there any privileged scientific method which is not shaped by the contours of the society of which it is a part. All that exists are some theories which are less internally contradictory and have a greater explanatory power…. [I]f the truth is the totality, then it is the totality of working class experience, internationally and historically which gives access to the truth…. [A theory's] validity must be proven by its superior explanatory power -- [which means it is] more internally coherent, more widely applicable, capable of greater empirical verification -- in comparison with its competitors. Indeed, this is a condition of it entering the chain of historical forces as an effective power. It is a condition of it being 'proved in practice.' If it is not superior to other theories in this sense, it will not 'seize the masses,' will not become a material force, will not be realized in practice." [Rees (1998), pp.235-37.]
Rees goes on to point out that there is no question whether he and others like him regard the ideas of the working class as automatically true. Indeed, he argues that workers in general have to be broken away from their fragmentary, disconnected, contradictory and erroneous view of the world by involvement in struggle -- albeit perhaps under the leadership of a revolutionary party.
Nevertheless, Rees is remarkably quiet about the question whether the 'proletarian view' -- whenever and however this is produced, and whoever constructs it -- is true (or not), adding little more than an obligatory reference to "practice". As we have seen, that approach offers, at best, a hostage to fortune; indeed, if anything it actually refutes Dialectical Marxism! [On this, see Essay Ten Part One.]
Let us assume then, for the sake of argument, that at some point in the future a sufficiently confident and united working class movement under the leadership of a revolutionary (Leninist) party begins its final struggle to smash the Capitalist system. Even under such conditions, Eagleton's dilemma would still pose the same problem for those who seek a traditional resolution to it -- i.e., those whose ideas have been fatally compromised in this way by dialectics and traditional philosophy. This is because, given such an approach, it would still make sense to ask whether or not the proletariat had the 'correct' view of reality. Unless we are prepared to admit that success is a criterion of truth -- meaning that, in this case, we would only know after the projected success (or failure) had occurred whether a given theory was true or not (and conversely that if the revolution actually failed, it would mean that the bourgeoisie in fact had the 'correct' view all along!) -- we seem to be left with no way of answering this question now, or ever. Worse still, since success is in fact no guarantor of truth (as was argued in Essay Ten), even after a successful revolution, Eagleton's dilemma would still apply.
Naturally, this quandary is even more problematic if Marx's claim that the class war could lead to the mutual destruction of the contending classes is itself correct. If that is so, then according to TAR's own criteria, the 'proletarian view' could in fact, right now, be incorrect in some unspecified way; indeed, we can go further: it probably is incorrect if truth is this intimately connected with success and we can now imagine that socialism could fail one day.
We have already seen that the usual DM-responses to Eagleton's dilemma were radically flawed (i.e., in Essay Ten). Consequently, there is a pressing need to find an entirely new approach. To be sure, and in view of the comments made throughout this work, we have little choice but to find one, and urgently.
I will not set out in detail here how (a modified version of) Wittgenstein's method can be used to dissolve Eagleton's 'dilemma' -- however, an outline of how this might be achieved can be found in Note 10.10
Readers who have made it this far might be tempted to classify the work posted at this site as yet another example of 'Analytical Marxism'. That would be a mistake.
Unfortunately, many of the writers who claim they are working within the Analytical Marxist 'tradition' simply gesture at using the techniques they claim to have derived from Analytical Philosophy.
Analytic Philosophy avowedly relies on one or more of the following features: clear and perspicuous argument, the use of modern FL, a commitment to the centrality of the Philosophy of Language, a reliance on the vernacular in the resolution of 'philosophical problems'.11 In addition, those working in this area of Philosophy largely reject the traditional, dogmatic approach to theory (the latter of which licenses the speculations of lone thinkers, who then obligingly reveal a set of 'necessary truths' applicable everywhere, and at all times, to the rest of benighted humanity), a style-of-thought that largely dominates 'Continental Philosophy' to this day.12 The latter still relies on the bald assertion of 'profound-looking' theses and gnomic aperçus (which are often derived from anecdotal incidents, novels or works of art, the musings of Freud, unfortunately compounded by just enough shaky logic), replacing evidence and argument with tortuous prose, arcane terminology and dubious word-juggling.13
[FL = Formal Logic.]
As noted earlier, the present work draws heavily on a current in Analytical Philosophy (now increasingly out of fashion) that derives from the works of Wittgenstein and Frege. That particular tradition has yet to find clear and consistent representation within Analytic Marxism. In fact, as far as the majority of 'Analytic Marxists' are concerned, the word "Analytical" is to "Analytical Marxism" as Marx's portrait, for instance, used to be to the tea shirts worn by various fashion-conscious 'lefties' a generation or so ago -- i.e., mere adornment.
Anyway, most of what John Rees himself says about "Analytical Marxism" will not be controverted here.14 It is worth pointing out, however, that my Essays adopt a far more conciliatory approach to certain aspects of "Analytical Marxism" than is generally found in some DM-writings.15
9. This topic is discussed with admirable clarity in Rees (1998), pp.202-61. Unfortunately, Rees's adherence to orthodoxy prevents him from finding a way out of this self-imposed dialectical quandary.
10. It is worth pointing out that the method of analysis used in this outline 'solution' may not appeal to many Marxists in view of the fact that it relies on post-Fregean logic, the justification for which was outlined in Essay Three Part One, (especially here and here) and in Essay Four). Anyone objecting to this technique can rightly ignore what I have to say in this regard, and re-join the interminable search for a 'solution' to this meaningless question found in some forms of traditional (mostly academic) Marxist thought.
The problem with Eagleton's dilemma is that its plausibility hinges on a misuse of the word "truth" --, either that, or Eagleton's own use of this term is unclear and equivocal. This can be seen from the way he phrases the dilemma:
"[T]o claim that only the proletarian perspective allows one to grasp the truth of society as a whole already assumes one knows what it is. It would seem that the truth is either wholly internal to the consciousness of the working class, in which case it cannot be assessed as truth and the claim simply becomes dogmatic; or one is caught in the impossible paradox of judging the truth from outside of the truth itself, in which case the claim that this form of consciousness is true simply undercuts itself." [Terry Eagleton, quoted in Rees (1998), p.235. Bold emphases added.]
Eagleton's use of the word "truth" makes it look like it is the name of an object, or quasi-object -- perhaps that of a metaphysical container of sorts, outside or inside of which it is possible to 'stand'. Alternatively, he could be using it as an ellipsis for the entire theory under discussion. Either way his language is clearly metaphorical. But if this is so, his dilemma soon collapses, for the preposition "outside" (or the implied "inside" connected with his employment of the word "internal") must surely be taken figuratively. Hence, reading it this way, if truth is neither an object nor a container, standing outside of it must mean disagreeing with whatever is propounded, or possibly taking a neutral stance toward it; standing "inside" it could then mean assenting to it. In that case, Eagleton's 'dilemma' becomes little more than a roundabout way of recording the unremarkable fact that humans sometimes disagree, which does not seem to be anything worth getting one's 'metaphysical knickers' in a twist over.
The fact that someone of Eagleton's sophistication is capable of producing such overblown or badly-worded truisms (even if he -- or Lukács -- thought he intended something more profound by them) shows just how easy it is to fall into the trap of using language metaphysically: imagining that any use of words is capable of revealing profound truths about reality. Indeed, the fact that Rees was similarly seduced -- i.e., into taking Eagleton's 'argument' seriously -- also shows how ready some are to be misled by something that just looks erudite, or is phrased in traditional philosophical language, the more tortuous the better.
Nevertheless, as noted above, this might appear to several readers to be a completely unsatisfactory 'solution' to this dilemma. However, anyone still tempted to think along these lines must, it seems, still be in the grip of a metaphysical view of reality, interpreting this 'dilemma' literally -- even though it is not possible to do so.
In that case, they might be trying to attribute to Eagleton's words a deep but inexplicable metaphysical sense (of some sort) that is clearly incommunicable in ordinary language.
In contrast, those not so easily taken in by this pseudo-problem wait with interest an explanation (from those who have been, shall we say, 'less circumspect') of the literal truth expressed by this dilemma. Presumably, in order to provide one, whoever aims to do so must already be 'outside the truth' to be capable of apprehending the literal truth about it. But what could that possibly mean?
On the other hand, those who still find themselves stuck 'inside the truth' will need to be shown how to reach the 'philosophical exit' (as it were), so that they too can join the aforementioned 'metaphysical escapees' doing all that explicating, in order to verify (i.e., confirm as true!) that whatever it was that they had once been 'inside' was indeed 'the truth' (inside or outside of itself!?), about itself!
But, if this is indeed the truth about the truth, who would be left to tell the rest of humanity the truth about this new truth -- and where the hell do they stand?
Of course, this is not to question the fact that the word "truth" can be used in a variety of ways -- but in the context here under review it clearly does not function as a name of a container (except, perhaps, figuratively, as already noted).
Now, those who do not know, or do not like, modern logic can skip the next cordoned-off section, and begin again here.
The Truth About "Truth"
In fact, our use of the truth predicate "ξ is true" shows that the word "truth" does not function as a name in such contexts. [Indeed, this use of "true" is not even all that common.]
This is because it is possible to negate this predicate (to form the sentential modifier "ξ is not true" -- i.e., "ξ is false"). Ordinary predicates occur in language in contradictory pairs (schematically as "ξ is F" and "ξ is not F"). Names do not; "…Socrates" and "…not Socrates" are not contradictory names -- as will be demonstrated presently.
In that case, "true" and "not true" do not function as the names of "The True" and "The False", respectively; their logic is much more complicated and their use far more diverse than most theorists are prepared to admit.
[This last series of points, of course, assumes that "truth" is being interpreted as a proper name, not an ordinary or even 'general' name. Hence, these comments will need to be modified if "truth" turns out to be a general name. However, since those who use the word "truth" in this way appear to use it to name something unique (perhaps, naming whatever the phrases "Absolute Truth", "Relative Truth", or "The True" also 'name') -- that is, as a proper name, not a generic name -- the argument given below does not, I think, beg the question.]
While it is possible to preface a name with a negative particle (as has just been done with "…not Socrates") this does not mean that names themselves function like predicates and can be put in contradictory pairs. We can see this from the way we already use language to express each. Consider the following:
N1: Brutus is not Caesar.
N1a: Brutus is Caesar.
In N1, the locution "…is not Caesar" is shorthand for "…is other than Caesar"; this means that the form here is relational, not predicative.
That this further assertion is correct can be seen from the fact that N1a is uncontroversially relational (even though it is false, it purports to relate one named individual to another, and hence to itself in the end, if 'true'), and stands for:
N1b: Brutus is identical with Caesar.
So, this makes N1 equivalent to "It is not the case that Brutus is identical with Caesar" (or, as already noted, more colloquially: "Brutus is other than Caesar"). Hence, both N1, N1a and N1b express the form: "φ(ξ,ζ)", not "G(η)", i.e., they are not predicative.
[On the logical differences between dyadic relational expressions and dyadic predicables, see Kenny (2003), pp.106-19.
To be sure, it is possible to represent these sentences in the form "F(ξ)" (i.e., as, for example, "ξ is Caesar"), but then that would no more be predicative than would "G(ζ)" (or "Brutus is ζ"), which is uncontroversially non-predicative. This is because "F(ξ)" is parasitic on "φ(ξ,ζ)", as a half-completed instantiation. On this, see below.]
In addition, if it were possible to preface a name with a negative particle, which turned it into another name -- i.e., a 'negative name' (e.g., "not Caesar", if this is how we should now read N1, making the parallels with "not true" more obvious) --, which supposedly contradicted the unaccompanied name (i.e., "Caesar", or "true"), then double negation ought to turn it back into the original name. In that case, "not not Caesar" would mean the same as "Caesar". But, on this view, it can't do this. If "not Caesar" is different from -- but is still a new name 'contradictory' to -- "Caesar", then "not not Caesar" should in turn be a different name from, but contradictory to, "not Caesar". Hence, if "not" operated on names to turn them into other names, then "not not Caesar" would be a new name.
If, on the other hand, the above were no so (if double negation did not do this with respect to names), and both "Caesar" and "not not Caesar" were the same name (i.e., if they named the same person -- presumably, in this case, Caesar), or if both were names for the same man (that is, if this sort of negation were self-inverse, and double negation 'cancelled itself out', to use the traditional jargon here), then, by parity of reasoning, "not not not not Caesar" should be Caesar's name, too. But, if that were so, Caesar would have a potentially infinite number of names (for an even number of "nots"), and everyone else on the planet would have the same name (for an odd number) -- who would all thus be called "not Caesar". So, for example, George W Bush's other name would be "not Caesar", as indeed would yours, too; you would share the same 'other name' with this international terrorist!
In which case, the rest of the human race would have the same name (i.e., "not Caesar") and we would be able to argue as follows:
N2: Plato is not Caesar. Brutus is not Caesar. Therefore Plato is identical with Brutus.
Furthermore, if "not Caesar" were a name (i.e., if it named the man/woman, Not Caesar), it would then be possible to form the following true sentence:
N3: Not Caesar is not Brutus.
Which would mean that the said person (that is, whoever "Not Caesar" and "not Brutus" both named), although seemingly two persons, was in fact only one person!
Even worse is the following:
N4: Not Caesar is not two people.
This would mean that Not Caesar was now three people (i.e., Not Caesar, Not Brutus and Not Two People)!
In ordinary life it would be possible (but perverse) to name someone "Notcaesar" (or even "Not-Caesar"). However, in such circumstances the "not" so used would surely cease to function negatively, as already happens when the individual letters "n", "o" and "t" occur in other names. For example, no one interprets the name "Dilnot" as "not Dil" (i.e., "other than Dil"), just as no one construes "Nottingham" to mean "not-Tingham".
And there is good reason for this: confusion would surely ensue otherwise. For example, if in response to the question "Who's that over there?" the reply was given: "Notcaesar" --, which phrase could only function as an identifying use of a name in this context --, the questioner could only respond with: "I asked you who he was, not who he wasn't!"
[Just as the reply to this question: "Where are you off too?" (i.e., "Nottingham") would not elicit an "I asked you where you were going, not where you weren't!"]
If a name and its alleged negative are viewed as special cases of the general first-level predicate schematic pair "F(ξ)" and "not F(ξ)", then of course they would be contradictory predicables. But, it would be equally clear from their syntax that they weren't names -- for they would be incomplete, and so could not name anything.
On the other hand, if these were viewed as first-level predicables "F(ξ)" and "G(ξ)" (where "F(ξ)" expressed the pattern in "ξ is Caesar" and "G(ξ)" expressed the pattern in "ξ is not Caesar"), then this form would hide the alleged contradictory pair, and the supposed contradictory names would then clearly be disguised as non-contradictory first-level predicables.
Alternatively, if these sentences expressed the form "ξ is ζ" and "ξ is not ζ", they would be singular and relational in form, for the reasons outlined above (and below). In which case, "Brutus is not Caesar" would become (colloquially) "Brutus is other than Caesar", as we have seen.
If, however, "ξ is not Caesar" is to be viewed as a predicate, after all -- and is meant to be the contradictory of "ξ is Caesar" --, it could not function as a name (because it is incomplete). If, on the other hand, "ξ is not Caesar" could function as a name, it would appear natural to use it in contexts such as "ξ is not Caesar is over five feet tall" -- to which it is impossible to give a sense (that is, not without the gap marker being interpreted in a way that made "ξ is not Caesar" a first-level predicate once more, and not a name).
At this point, it could be objected that this sort of analysis is out of place in a discussion of DM in that it begs all the questions DM-theorists raise against the limitations of FL.
However, we have already seen that the criticisms DM-apologists make of FL are themselves as ill-informed as they are woefully misguided (on that, see here) -- that is, even where on the rare occasion they manage to get FL right, or where what they say about FL is so much as comprehensible.
Nevertheless, ignoring FL for the present, as far as ordinary language is concerned it would be very difficult to make sense of the idea that, say, "Notsusan" (or even "Not Susan") was a name. Joking aside, it's a pretty safe bet that nobody has ever tried to attach a genuinely negative particle to a name so as to form another name from it. Not even pop stars do that to their children.
[Even so, a joke in Private Eye, (1092, 31/10/03, p.20) has a spoof of Gordon Brown naming his child "Not Tony". For those who do not know the background to this, in 2004/5 Gordon Brown was widely rumoured to be in line to take over from Tony Blair as UK Prime Minister and that there was no love lost between the two.]
Furthermore, in the vernacular, sentences like:
N5: Rebecca is not Susan.
would be understood relationally. In practice we would all interpret N5 as a relational expression (that is, as "Rebecca is other than Susan", or "Rebecca is not identical to Susan"). Only someone desperately trying hard to misconstrue N5 would interpret it to be a sentence informing us of Rebecca's other name: viz., "Not Susan" -- or even asserting 'non-Susanhood' of her (but even then "Not Susan" would not be a name, still less a 'negative' name), that is, using N5 predicatively.
If this were not so, and N5 was interpreted as informing us of Rebecca's other name (i.e., "not Susan") then it would have to be read as one of the following:
N6: Rebecca is the same person as Not Susan.
N7: Rebecca's other name is not Susan".
N7a: Rebecca's other name is "Not Susan".
No ordinary speaker could make sense of N6. And N7 might be recording the uninspiring truth that although Rebecca has other names, "Susan" is not one of them. In that case, N7 would prompt the response:
N8: Well, if her other name is not Susan, what is it?
Of course N6 and N7a amount to the same thing (no pun intended).
Naturally, how we interpret sentences like these depends on whether we view them as pertaining either to the individual so named or to their names. Either way, we have ways of making it clear in the vernacular which option is intended (as the above asides show). Of course, this complex facet of language (and the misunderstandings it can create) underlies the humour in many jokes -- as in: "I've got Parkinson's disease, and he's got mine." Indeed, many of the jokes found in the Alice books by Lewis Carroll rely on just this sort of potential confusion.
To be sure, Terry Eagleton and John Rees were both trying to make a point about the 'objectivity' of Marxism, not about the 'object-like nature of truth'. In which case, the above discussion seems to leave the following questions unresolved: Is Marxism objective? How is it possible for class-specific, historically-conditioned ideas to be 'objective'? How can individuals or groups rise above their social circumstances to construct non-conditioned (or even un-conditioned) theories about the world?
These rather confused questions were considered in more detail in an earlier Essay dealing with Epistemology (Essay Three, Part Three -- as yet unpublished); however, the vague term "objective" will be subjected to destructive criticism in Essay Thirteen Part One. Hence, no more will be said about that topic here.
Now, those who think that the following sentences:
N9: Cicero is Tully.
N10: Cicero is dead.
should be analysed in the same way -- i.e., as expressing a relation between two named individuals (or between a named individual and a named abstract concept in N10, say), reading both as identity or class inclusion statements (when, of course, only N9 is the former) -- will have no trouble accepting the idea that the same could be said of the following:
N11: Lenin's theory of Imperialism is true.
That is, they ought to accept that N11 expresses an identity (etc.) relation between two named entities -- presumably that between two abstract ideas, concepts or objects (or, at least that between a phenomenal object (i.e., a collection of words) and an abstract object (Truth?)), namely "Lenin's theory of Imperialism" and "truth". Putting to one side the serious problems that the "identity theory of predication" faces (outlined here, here and here), if this analysis were correct (that is, if truth were an object of some sort and ascriptions of truth were disguised identity statements about the relation between two named particulars, etc.), then we should be able to make sense of the following:
N12: Bognor Regis is true.
N13: Cucumbers are true.
N14: Courage is true.
N15: The set of non-singular matrices is true.
The "identity theory of predication" seems to commit its adherents to the idea that truth attaches to names (but not to sentences (and/or clauses) in the indicative mood). [We will examine legitimate uses of the word true in such circumstances later -- for example, the use of "true friend", or "true socialist".]
But, in that case, if all predications were disguised identity statements, then we would be able to comprehend ascriptions of identity between the above named individuals (or sets of them) and the named entity "true" ("The True", or "Truth"). And if we could make sense of these, then whenever anyone uttered the word "Bognor Regis" (and only that word, and in no special circumstances, such as, part of a response to a question), we should be prepared say "true" or "false" in reply, before we knew what it was they wanted to say about the place --, just as we would do if someone said "London is a huge city".
Of course, neutral onlookers would then want to know what evidence could substantiate the claim: 'Bognor Regis is true', just as they might want to know what could possibly show that Bognor Regis was false (if it could be false). What for example would constitute the falsehood of Bognor Regis? If it were wiped from the map, perhaps?
But, what evidence could anyone who thought that Bognor Regis is (or could be) true produce in support of this claim? Would anyone be able to comprehend what would even count as evidence either way in such circumstances, should they ever emerge? And yet, if named individuals (like Bognor Regis) could in fact be true, we would all know the answer to such questions, and there would be no mystery at all, here. Plainly, since "Bognor Regis is true" is not a proposition (neither is "Bognor Regis"), it is not surprising that no supporter of the "identity theory of predication" (if they held these views) would be able to specify what could count as just such evidence. To be sure: if no claims are being made by this set of words (i.e., "Bognor Regis is true"), nothing could count as evidence for or against it.
Alternatively, if "true" and "false") only seems to attach to indicative sentences (or clauses) -- as supporters of the "identity theory of predication" must believe -- they would do so only because indicative sentences (and clauses) were being viewed as disguised names, or could be re-parsed as names; in this case, perhaps, as the names of The True or The False, or, indeed, of the alleged individuals involved (as was clearly the case with "Bognor Regis is true").
That being so, the logical and grammatical distinction between names and sentences would be untenable, as would that between naming and asserting. In that eventuality, we could interchange the two at will. Thus, when launching a ship the dignitaries involved could say "I assert this ship the 'SS Metaphysics'"; parents could look through books of assertions to attach to their children; the press could make up all manner of wild names about the peccadilloes of politicians, pop stars and "celebrities"; in court a defence lawyer would be able to name that the accused had been framed by the Police; misbehaving children would be able to call each other assertions in the playground; telephone directories would list the phone numbers, assertions and addresses of each and every subscriber.
But, what exactly could a sentence name? It is not easy to say -- especially if indicative sentences can sometimes be true, sometimes false -- and sometimes only false. For example, what could any of the following name?
N16: Trotsky is alive and well, and living in Bognor Regis.
N17: Engels wrote Vanity Fair.
N18: Tony Blair is a genuine socialist.
N19: The lights are red.
In asserting or denying any of these are we really naming and/or refusing to name something/anything in particular? [But, what could N17, for example name?]
Furthermore, if any of these are false, as most are, would we thus be un-naming something? Or, maybe, naming the wrong thing?
And in a sentence like N19 -- which is now true, now false --, would we be using it as a sort of 'oscillating name'?
Furthermore, do all true sentences name the same thing? But, the "identity theory of predication", applied in this way, surely commits its adherents to all of these absurdities. In that case, "p is true" would identify "p" with an object (The True), just as "q is true" would do the same with respect to "q", and just as any other ascription of truth would do the same for each relevant proposition. If so, it is not easy to see how "truth", or "true", could be names at all. And if they aren't names then clearly they can't name anything.
In that case, it would not be possible to stand 'outside' or 'inside' the truth (or, indeed, sit 'on' it, chase 'after' it --, or even 'lean' your bike up against it).
[Hegel himself made much of the fact that the word "true" can attach to all manner of things; his claims will be examined in Essay Twelve.]
Some of the ideas briefly sketched in previous paragraphs are worked out in more detail in Geach (1980). The tradition in philosophical logic underlying this view of names (etc.) was referenced more fully in Essay Three Part One. On why sentences are not names, see Geach (1972).
Some of the complex ways that the word "true" can function in language are outlined in Austin (1979), pp.117-33; and White (1970). See also Wolfram (1989). The logical distinction between two-place linguistic functions and relational expressions is detailed in Kenny (2003), pp.106-19.
Several of the issues raised here are outlined with admirable clarity in Gibson (2004).
11. This does not mean that every example of Analytic Philosophy has conformed to all of these ideals, any more than it is true that all supposed Marxists have been consistent revolutionary socialists. These attributes do, however, distinguish the best from the rest. The best examples of the latter include the following authors: Frege, Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, Austin, Ryle, Quine, Davidson, Sellars, Black, Malcolm, Winch, Cavell, Geach, Kripke, Anscombe, Dummett, and Putnam, among many others.
[I am well aware that Quine would have objected to being called an 'Analytic Philosopher'!]
To be sure, the last of the items mentioned in the impromptu list given in the text (involving a reliance on the vernacular) is found almost exclusively in Wittgenstein's work (and that of those philosophers who situate themselves in the Wittgensteinian or, alternatively, 'Ordinary Language' tradition).
Of course, it has become controversial of late exactly what it is that constitutes Analytic Philosophy; nevertheless, the result of that controversy (should it ever emerge) does not materially affect anything contained in this Essay.
On this see: Baker (1988), Biletzki and Matar (1998), Dummett (1993), Floyd and Shieh (2001), French et al (1981), Glock (1997), Hacker (1996), Hylton (1990), Irvine and Wedeking (1993), Martinich and Sosa (2005), Monk and Palmer (1996), Passmore (1966, 1988), Reck (2002), Shanker (1996), Soames (2003a, 2003b), Stroll (2000), and Tait (1997).
12. Which is why many prefer this style of thought: it seems to deliver profound truths/guidance/solace, which comfort Analytic Philosophy eschews. I have lost count of the number of articles and letters in the press that make this point, or ones like it. [For example, here, here, here, and here.] What these 'profound truths' are, however, is somewhat unclear -- except perhaps to those who love impenetrable jargon.
[Analytic Philosophy is also avoided, it seems, by some who cannot be bothered to learn any modern logic.]
Unfortunately, over the last generation or so, the traditional approach to Metaphysics has returned to haunt Analytic Philosophy with the recent revival of dogmatic metaphysics in 'Anglophone' theory. On this, see Hacker (1996, 2001). [I explore the political reasons for this in Essay Nine, Parts One and Two.]
13. I do not intend to substantiate these highly prejudicial (but easily confirmed) comments here; on this general tendency, however, see Essay Twelve Part One.
14. Particularly the comments found on pp.298-301 of Rees (1998).
15. For example, the present author holds Gerry Cohen's book [Cohen (1978) -- but this is less true of Cohen (2000)] in far higher esteem than it seems does the author of TAR. [See also Rogers (1981).] Despite Cohen's unwise advocacy of a version of "technological determinism", his reliance on functionalism (for no good reason) and the occasional logical howlers his book contains, his work is a model of clarity -- and one that DM-fans would do well to emulate.
[TAR = The Algebra of Revolution; i.e., Rees (1998).]
Wittgenstein And Revolutionaries
In the text above, it was acknowledged that there are serious problems facing anyone who attempts to combine Marxist and Wittgensteinian ideas. Naturally, while this does not mean that such a synthesis cannot be achieved, it does mean that if this is to happen, it will require a much more profound understanding of both thinkers than has hitherto been apparent.16
Having said this, there is still a high level of distrust of -- if not resistance and hostility to -- Wittgensteinian ideas among revolutionaries. This surfaces in TAR, for example, in the following passage:
"The social root of these [postmodernist] ideas has been identified as the new middle class in retreat from the values of the 1960's. But the narrower intellectual source of [such] views is the intellectual climate in which postmodernist notions such as the idea that '"reality" is a purely discursive phenomena, a product of various codes, conventions, language games or signifying systems…'." [Rees (1998), p.297.]
While it is true that Rees is quoting Christopher Norris here, his reference to "language games" is (intentionally or not) clearly directed at Wittgenstein.17
Nevertheless, the puzzled reader might wonder why there is no explicit mention in TAR of arguably the 20th century's greatest philosopher, when numerous second- and third-rate thinkers receive inordinate attention. And this in a book seeking to make the dialectic relevant! This would be rather like, say, writing a history of modern Physics but forgetting to mention Einstein, Dirac or Bohr.
As noted above, revolutionaries in general have displayed a certain level of hostility toward Wittgenstein's work, one that has not always been matched by a serious attempt to come to grips with his method -- or even summarise it accurately!
For example, Cornforth [in Cornforth (1965)] openly misrepresents Wittgenstein's work solely in order to rubbish it. This is rather surprising since Cornforth had once been a personal friend of Wittgenstein.
However, as is plain to anyone who bothers to check, Cornforth has confused parts of Wittgenstein's early work with that of Russell and/or Carnap, asserting that he adopted a "verificationist" stance to "elementary propositions" in the Tractatus, for example. This interpretation muddles Russell's empiricist approach to such propositions with the anti-metaphysical aim of that book. Verificationism is, however, completely foreign to the Tractatus. The simple objects of the Tractatus are not objects of possible experience, but logical objects, as Wittgenstein himself clearly indicates. [Cf., 2.01-2.0211, 2.023, 2.024-2.031, 4.1272. (These refer to numbered sections of the Tractatus.)]17a
Cornforth must have known this, which perhaps explains why he offered no evidence to substantiate his wild allegation. Little wonder, since there is none; neither the word nor any of its synonyms occurs in the Tractatus, and the entire idea is completely at odds with Wittgenstein's own stated aims.18
Cornforth's depiction of Wittgenstein's Tractatus is thus a catalogue of errors and misrepresentations, to such an extent that it is doubtful whether Cornforth actually read it! On the contrary, it is abundantly clear that he merely relied on second- or third-hand comments written by positivists (such as Moritz Schlick) and others. In fact, Cornforth only quotes the Tractatus once in his five page 'summary', and even then this reference is brief and relates only to its Preface.
Cornforth's discussion of Wittgenstein's later work is, however, less unreliable. Although he manages to get a few things right, he ends up confusing the method adopted in the Philosophical Investigations with that found in Oxford "Ordinary Language Philosophy". [On that, see here.]
Several detailed comments on Cornforth's work will appear here at a later date.
Philosophy Goes To The Dogs
A more recent swipe at Wittgenstein comes from my old friend Ben Watson (in a book that is openly contemptuous of academic standards -- an approach, of course, that Marx himself would have deprecated):
"Take Ludwig Wittgenstein. Deprived of the benefit of Trotsky's optical materialism, his commitment to Aristotelian formal logic drives him into madness…. Wittgenstein's 'play of the imagination' is incipient schizophrenia, the confusion of reality with symbolic systems used to represent it…. The 'logical' analytic philosophers, whose attempt to live in the flatland of symbolic representation, drove themselves crazy." [Watson (1998), p.121.]
To be fair, the first set of dots in the above passage conceals the omission of a long quotation from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations -- which Watson then, unfortunately, proceeded to misrepresent, as we will see.
The reference to Trotsky's "optical materialism" is no less unfortunate. As demonstrated in Essay Six, if we are more accurate, Trotsky's "optical materialism" rather more closely resembles 'Dialectical Myopia'.
Even so, the presence of these relatively minor errors should not be allowed to detract from the following more serious flaws:
First, as far as logic was concerned, Wittgenstein was a Fregean (even if he adopted a critical but deferential stance toward the latter's work).19 In fact, Watson is invited to try to find a single reference in Wittgenstein's entire corpus (of over to five million words) that commits him to AFL.20
Second, far from confusing symbols with reality, Wittgenstein was in fact one of the few leading Philosophers in the entire history of the subject consistently to strive to do the opposite, arguing that most of traditional Philosophy was guilty of this very failing (a point that has been reiterated throughout this site). Hence, it is a little rich of Watson to raise this particular point when he himself is an avid fan of dialectics, whose theorists constantly do just what he accuses Wittgenstein of doing (also substantiated throughout this site, but especially in Essay Three Part One, and Essay Twelve Part One).
[LOI = Law of Identity; AFL = Aristotelian Formal Logic.]
Finally, and with respect to the passage quoted above from the Philosophical Investigations (aimed at discussing the LOI), Watson has clearly missed the point. On the very same page, Wittgenstein himself admits the following about his earlier approach:
"My symbolic expression [in the Tractatus] was really a mythological description of the use of a rule." [Wittgenstein (1958), p.85, §221.]
Now, even the most superficial reading of the Philosophical Investigations will reveal that Wittgenstein is arguing against the mythology surrounding our use of symbols -- including his own earlier misdemeanours in that regard --, that is, against what I have here called the "fetishisation of language".21
This is one reason why Wittgenstein himself took the LOI to task in both his earlier and later periods. On this issue, he argued that those who regard that 'law' as a particularly deep sort of truth misconstrue a rule for the use of certain words as if it were a scientific or metaphysical truth about reality. Indeed, and as we have seen, this is precisely how Trotsky misinterpreted the LOI, even if, following Hegel, he declared it is always false -- or, perhaps, both false and true, or, at least, not always unconditionally true. It is this tradition that Wittgenstein sought to undermine: a pattern of thought that Hegel, Trotsky and other DM-theorists share with card-carrying defenders of ruling-class views of the world.
One of the main aims of Wittgenstein's method was to show that philosophical theses (like those based on a traditional reading of the LOI, the LOC, and the LEM) were little more than a set of mythological re-configurations of rules of language. Although Wittgenstein would not have concurred with the following observation, such rules become fetishised when alienated forms-of-thought encourage theorists to misconstrue contingent features of the linguistic tools we use to communicate with one another with necessary features of reality (i.e., with underlying, invisible "essences").
[LOC = Law of Non-Contradiction; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle.]
Hence, what had once been the product of the social relations between human beings (i.e., language) becomes inverted and then systematically mistaken for the real relations between things -- and, in the case of the LOI, the real relation between "a thing and itself" -- or, between two or more events/states of affairs, respectively.
Of course, because this misidentification had been taken seriously by traditional thinkers, it was easy for them to project the results of this error back onto nature to give spurious 'objectivity' to their theories. In the 'ideal' world they had constructed, the socially-sanctioned relationship between words was misconstrued as a real relation between things. The material world was now read through an idealised view of language, in such a way that contingent features of discourse were regarded as objective features of reality. By such means, distorted linguistic forms came to determine the nature of reality, which was now simply a reflection of fetishised discourse.
Even though dialecticians have tried to distance themselves from Idealist moves like this by the invention of scientific-sounding 'reasons' -- by means of which they have attempted to argue that the LOI, the LEM and the LOC are empirically false while being ideally true -- this manoeuvre merely reduplicates the problems they started with, as we saw (in Essays Four, Five, Six and Eight Part Three).
If, for example, the usual interpretation of the LOI as a 'necessary truth' does in fact result from a confusion over the use of certain symbols, then the standard DM-critique of that 'Law' can only be self-defeating. This is because the latter critique is directed against a mythological representation of a rule of language, and not against an empirical falsehood (or even an 'ideal truth'). Indeed, as we saw in Essay Six, such an 'attack' on the LOI cannot succeed because it is aimed at a mirage; hence that 'attack' can only ever backfire on those held in the grip of this mythological picture. In this way, such individuals merely undermine the meaning words like "same", "equal", "exact", "identical", and "different", and in so doing they vitiate their own use of these words.
And this is precisely what we witnessed earlier in connection with Trotsky's (and derivatively, Hegel's) 'analysis' of the LOI; any attempt to undermine that 'law' cannot fail to undercut the application of the words used in that very 'attack'!
Hence, a misplaced assault on the LOI is forced to employ linguistic symbols whose own identities are simultaneously both called into question and not called into question. In that case, the argument is entirely misconceived, since, if it were valid, all the words used by an erstwhile critic in such an argument would (as phenomenal objects) cease to be identical from moment to moment, otherwise the hackneyed DM-criticism, for example, of the equality of two letter "A"s would fall flat. If two such letters are "never equal" to one another, then complex sentences stand no chance.
In practice this means that no one, not even Trotsky or Hegel, would have access to identically the same message that they (Trotsky and Hegel) had committed to paper seventy or one hundred and eighty years ago, since there would, on this account, be no such thing.
But, critics who have arrived at the same conclusion as Trotsky (or Hegel) about the LOI must clearly have done just that; they must have access to the exact message one or both of these two had committed to paper -- which message now tells them there can be no such thing!
Clearly, this undermines the conclusions drawn by such critics -- but not the LOI, which 'law' had just been used by them in this charade to derive that self-defeating result. Hence, their own implicit (or explicit) use of identity -- in this instance, involving the identity of symbols, meanings and use of language over many generations -- to criticise this 'law' counts as a practical refutation of their own critique. With that, this criticism of the LOI self-destructs, which is why their arguments so readily collapsed into incoherence, as we saw in Essay Six. [The "relatively stable" defence is defused here.]
As Wittgenstein noted, we can't get outside language in order to state 'philosophical verities' (which masquerade as particularly deep empirical truths) about discourse, or about 'reality'. [This does not threaten 'objectivity', as will be demonstrated in a later Essay.]
And, by implication, this cannot be done either with the more radical aim of undermining the application of fundamental features of language (such as the rules supposedly encapsulated in the LOI); anyone attempting to do this will find that they first have to employ these self same features in order to undermine them, which naturally fatally damages that attack. Hence, theorists cannot even try to challenge such aspects of language. [This is a summary of three long arguments found here, here and here.]
Nevertheless, in a later part of the same book Watson offered his readers these thoughts:
"The radical democracy of Voloshinov's linguistics is a model for any theory of the superstructure. It stems from the fact that he does not abstract speech from its actual use in society. This is the very opposite of philosophers who build a system by wondering what it means to stare at their desk. It is a slap in the face for cretins who think it is clever to read Wittgenstein." [Ibid., p.334. Bold emphasis added.]
However, if these so-called "cretins" have read their Wittgenstein with the same careful attention to detail that certain comrades have devoted to the task then this epithet is no doubt well-deserved. To hammer the point home, Watson very helpfully provided his readers with an example of Voloshinov's careful use of ordinary speech in this further quotation from his book:
"The separation of word meaning from evaluation inevitably deprives meaning of its place in the living social process (where meaning is always permeated with value judgement), to its being ontologized and transformed into ideal Being divorced from the historical process of Becoming….
"Meaning -- an abstract self-identical element -- is subsumed under theme and torn apart by theme's living contradictions so as to return in the shape of a new meaning with a fixity and self-identity only for the while, just as it had before." [Voloshinov (1973), pp.105-06, quoted in ibid., pp.334-35.]
Now, I'm sure Watson can clearly recall the last time he heard ordinary folk talking like this at work, down the pub or even on the picket line, discussing how the bosses are always "ontologizing" their jobs, or downsizing them so that the number of operatives is no longer "self-identical" with whatever it once had been. In fact, observers of everyday conversation regularly note how it is nigh on impossible to stop working people constantly talking about "ideal Being", "theme" and "Becoming".
Indeed, and on a personal note, I can vividly recall selling revolutionary papers alongside Ben in XXXX in the 1980s -- how we shouted catchy slogans about "Being", "Becoming" and "theme". Needless to say, we sold a record number of copies as a result.
Cheap debating points? Perhaps so. But, Watson will need to research his work a little more carefully if he hopes to substantiate the allegations he levelled against Wittgenstein -- or, indeed, if he wants to establish his claim that Wittgenstein is at all representative of twentieth century Analytic Philosophy.
In fact, Wittgenstein's method was and still is largely ignored by the vast majority of Analytic Philosophers (and by practically all professional Philosophers).22 Even when his approach was more 'in vogue', as it were, only a minority of Analytic Philosophers ever fully embraced it. One reason for this is that in his later work Wittgenstein insisted on using the vernacular wherever possible -- unlike, one might add, Voloshinov or Hegel -- and, dare I say it, Watson. Another reason is that his method reveals how confused and useless traditional Philosophy is -- which approach would bring the entire subject to a long overdue end.
In that case, naturally, the fact that professional Philosophers almost en masse ignore Wittgenstein's method is no more surprising than the fact that members of the UK Royal Family are not arch Republicans.
An apposite quotation from Larry Laudan (in fact aimed at French Philosophers) springs to mind, here:
"Foucault has benefited from that curious Anglo-American view that if a Frenchman talks nonsense it must rest on a profundity which is too deep for a speaker of English to comprehend." [Laudan (1977), p.241. I owe this reference to Kitcher (1998), p.55.]
If Foucault's name and the phrase "a Frenchman" are replaced by "Voloshinov" and "a sort-of-Bolshevik" respectively, then this might help explain what prompted Watson to write a 400-page book eulogising similar "profundities", and worse.
Finally, this almost unseemly dismissal of a fellow comrade's work finds ample justification in the subtitle of Watson's book (Art, Class and Cleavage): viz.: Quantulumcunque Concerning Materialist Esthetix. A dog's dinner of a title, for sure -- but a genuine slap in the face for those who think it clever to confuse revolutionary socialism with the intellectual equivalent of rabies.
16. However, several articles published in a book that appeared after this passage was written (i.e., Kitching and Pleasants (2002)) suggest that this observation is now a little out of date.
17. Incidentally, in the many references to Wittgenstein's work found in the Essays posted at this site the reader will be hard pressed to find a single allusion to "language games" (saving the present one, of course).
Wittgenstein introduced this metaphor to assist in his comparison of the many uses of language there are (of differing degrees of complexity), and to help him draw an analogy between language and rule-governed social behaviour. It was not meant to suggest that language use is merely a game, simply for amusement or recreation, or that it is of little import -- or, indeed, that we play games when we use language -- or even that 'views of reality' are 'relative' to such games. [The last few words have been put 'scare quotes' partly because Wittgenstein himself would have questioned the meaning of such terms in these contexts.] He would have been as horrified as Christopher Norris clearly is (whom Rees quotes) at the studious over-use of this metaphor, and even more appalled at the way it has been employed to construct relativistic philosophical theses in the social sciences. On this, see Pleasants (1999), and Rhees (1999).
17a. There are no satisfactory articles on-line on the Tractatus, but this source at least runs through some of the main interpretations of the "objects" Wittgenstein introduces there -- although this author finally adopts an erroneous view of them (as point masses, similar to those found in Hertz's work). For Wittgenstein, it was impossible to suppose his "objects" not to exist, but it is easy to imagine Hertzian point masses not to exist. However, the best account of the Tractatus and its "objects" is to be found in White (2006).
18. Cf., Cornforth (1965), pp.111-30. Verification as a criterion of sense was something Wittgenstein toyed with briefly in the late 1920s and early 1930s, nearly ten years after the Tractatus was published. Even then, the slant he put on verification was entirely different to that subsequently adopted by members of the "Vienna Circle" (with whose work Cornforth largely confuses Wittgenstein's), who themselves conflated Wittgenstein's aims with those of Russell. On this, cf., Baker (1988), Hacker (1985, 1996, 2000), Hanfling (1981), and Medina (2001). See also Misak (1995). [However, cf., also the important qualifications in Diamond (1999).]
This attitude of Communist Party member Cornforth has not always been reflected in that of the CPSU. For example, A Textbook of Marxist Philosophy had this to say about Wittgenstein's anti-metaphysical stance:
"The 'logical-analytic' method of Wittgenstein and his followers is by no means the only modern philosophy that approximates in certain points to the new dialectic....
"It would appear, in fact, that not only are scientific discoveries confirming the standpoint of dialectical materialism but that Western philosophers are increasingly discarding metaphysical concepts...." [Shirokov (1937).]
Now, it may be that because this was written at the time of the Popular Front that the authors took a conciliatory stance toward Wittgenstein (whose work they clearly confuse with that of the Vienna Circle, once more), but this just underlines how vacillating Stalinist authors were between 1930 and 1956, Cornforth included.
19. A good example of Wittgenstein's commitment to Fregean FL can be found in Wittgenstein (1913); even though Frege is not named, his ideas dominate that short article. His respect for Frege can also be gauged from the many references he made to him in his published and non–published works -- they far out-number those made about any other philosopher --, and in the remarks recorded by many of his pupils, too. On that see Hallett (1977), pp.764-65, 791. On Wittgenstein's overall debt to Frege, see Reck (2002b).
Indeed, and on a personal note, I can recall Peter Geach (one of Wittgenstein's closest friends) commenting, when asked by me what attitude Wittgenstein adopted toward Frege, that to his mind Wittgenstein always spoke of Frege as he imagined Aristotle would have spoken of Plato.
20. On the contrary, those who bother to check will find several passages written by Wittgenstein that have in fact been misused by dialetheic logicians to support their view that contradictions can be 'true'! [Cf., Priest (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007).]
A more balanced view of this matter (and one that displays a rather more secure grasp of Wittgenstein's overall method) can be found in Goldstein (1986, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1999). Graham Priest's work will be reviewed in a later Essay; in the meantime the reader is encouraged to check this out, which is a review of one of Priest's recent books by a leading logician, Hartry Field. See also Slater (2004) -- now Slater (2007b) -- , Slater (2007c), and Field (2008), pp.361-92.
Anyway, it is clear that Wittgenstein was happy to question AFL in ways that alarmed less 'adventurous' classical logicians. ["Classical Logic" here refers to Fregean and Russellian logic, etc., not AFL as such.] In fact, one only has to look at the reception of Wittgenstein's work on the Philosophy of Mathematics to see the extent to which his ideas horrified classicists. On this see, for example, the first edition of Benacerraf and Putnam (the second edition has had all of this material removed): Benacerraf and Putnam (1964), i.e., Anderson (1958), Dummett (1959), and Bernays (1959). [Compare this with Benacerraf and Putnam (1983).]
On the controversy initiated by this aspect of Wittgenstein's work, see Monk (2007), and Shanker (1987).
Hence, with respect to Wittgenstein, at least, the picture is quite the reverse of that painted by Watson.
[AFL = Aristotelian Formal Logic.]
21. This is a term Wittgenstein, of course, did not use. However, it is important to note that even in his early work Wittgenstein was at pains to avoid the reification of language. In later writings, he acknowledged that in his earlier work he had not gone far enough in that direction; indeed, it became clear to him that he had badly neglected other important aspects of language, among which were its diversity and its origin in human practice and intercommunication. In short, he admitted he had ignored the "anthropological" nature of discourse. [This is reported in Monk (1990), p.261.]
22. On this see Hacker (1996), and the contributors to the special edition of Philosophical Investigations Volume 24, Number 2, April 2001: Stanley Cavell, James Conant, Cora Diamond, Ilham Dilman, Peter Hacker, Brian McGuinness, Anthony Palmer, Dewi Phillips, Rush Rhees, Joachim Schulte, Eike Von Savigny (the latter link leads to a page in German) and Peter Winch.
Ambrose, A. (1966a), 'Linguistic Approaches To Philosophical Problems', reprinted in Ambrose (1966b), pp.142-56, and in Rorty (1967), pp.147-55.
--------, (1966b), Essays In Analysis (George Allen & Unwin).
Anderson, A. (1958), 'Mathematics And The "Language Game"', Review of Metaphysics 11, pp.446-58, reprinted in Putnam and Benacerraf (1964), pp.481-90.
Austin, J. (1979), Philosophical Papers (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed.).
Baggini, J., and Stangroom, J. (2002) (eds.), New British Philosophy. The Interviews (Routledge).
Baker, G. (1988), Wittgenstein, Frege And The Vienna Circle (Blackwell).
--------, (2002), 'Wittgenstein On Metaphysical/Everyday Use', Philosophical Quarterly 52, pp.289-302, reprinted in Baker (2004), pp.92-107.
--------, (2004), Wittgenstein's Method. Neglected Aspects (Blackwell).
Baker, G., and Hacker, P. (1983a), 'The Nature Of Philosophy', in Baker and Hacker (1983b), pp.259-93.
--------, (1983b), Wittgenstein. Meaning And Understanding, Volume One, Part Two (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).
Benacerraf, P., and Putnam, H. (1964) (eds.), Philosophy Of Mathematics. Selected Readings (Blackwell).
--------, (1983), Philosophy Of Mathematics. Selected Readings (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed.).
Bernays, P. (1959), 'Comments On Ludwig Wittgenstein's Remarks On The Foundations Of Mathematics', Ratio 2, pp.1-22, translated and reprinted in Benacerraf and Putnam (1964), pp.510-28. [This link is to a PDF.]
Béziau, J-Y., Carnielli, W., and Gabbay, D. (2007) (eds.), Studies In Logic Volume Nine: Handbook Of Paraconsistency (College Publications).
Biletzki, A., and Matar, A. (1998) (eds.), The Story Of Analytic Philosophy (Routledge).
Brudney, D. (1998), Marx's Attempt To Leave Philosophy (Harvard University Press).
Callinicos, A. (1989) (ed.), Marxist Theory (Oxford University Press).
--------, (1996), 'Darwin, Materialism And Evolution', International Socialism Journal 71, pp.99-115.
Canfield, J., and Shanker, S. (1993) (eds.), Wittgenstein's Intentions (Garland Publishing).
Cavell, S., (1971a), 'Must We Mean What We Say?', in Lyas (1971), pp.131-65, and Cavell (1976), pp.1-43.
--------, (1971b), 'The Availability Of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy', in Lyas (1971), pp.166-89, and Cavell (1976), pp.44-72.
--------, (1976), Must We Mean What We Say? (Cambridge University Press).
--------, (1996), 'Notes And Afterthoughts On The Opening Of Wittgenstein's "Investigations"', in Sluga and Stern (1996), pp.261-95.
Cohen, G. (1978), Karl Marx's Theory Of History: A Defence (Oxford University Press).
--------, (2000), Karl Marx's Theory Of History: A Defence (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.).
Cook, D. (1984), 'Hegel, Marx And Wittgenstein', Philosophy And Social Criticism 10, pp.49-74.
Cook, J. (1980), 'The Fate Of Ordinary Language Philosophy', Philosophical Investigations 3, 2, pp.1-72.
--------, (1988), 'Wittgenstein And Religious Belief', Philosophy 63, pp.427-52.
--------, (1993), 'Religious Belief', in Canfield and Shanker (1993), pp.147-61.
--------, (1994), Wittgenstein's Metaphysics (Cambridge University Press).
--------, (1999), Wittgenstein, Empiricism And Language (Oxford University Press).
Cornforth, (1965), Marxism And Linguistic Philosophy (Lawrence & Wishart).
Cornish, K. (1999), The Jew Of Linz (Arrow Books).
Crary, A. (2000), 'Wittgenstein's Philosophy In Relation To Political Thought', in Crary and Read (2000), pp.118-45.
Crary, A., and Read, R. (2000) (eds.), The New Wittgenstein (Routledge).
Davis, J. (2002), 'A Marxist Influence On Wittgenstein Via Sraffa', in Kitching and Pleasants (2002), pp.131-43.
Diamond, C. (1991), The Realistic Spirit (MIT Press).
--------, (1999), 'How Old Are These Bones. Putnam, Wittgenstein And Verification', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 73, pp.99-134.
Dilman, I. (2002), Wittgenstein's Copernican Revolution. The Question Of Linguistic Idealism (Palgrave).
Dummett, M. (1959), 'Wittgenstein's Philosophy Of Mathematics', Philosophical Review 68, pp.324-48, reprinted in Benacerraf and Putnam (1964), pp.491-509, in Dummett (1978), pp.166-85, and in Pitcher (1968), pp.420-47.
--------, (1960), 'Oxford Philosophy', Blackfriars XLI, pp.74-80; reprinted in Dummett (1978), pp.431-36.
--------, (1978), Truth And Other Enigmas (Duckworth).
--------, (1993), Origins Of Analytic Philosophy (Duckworth).
Eagleton, T. (1982), 'Wittgenstein's Friends', New Left Review 135, pp.64-90.
Ebersole, F. (1967/2001), Things We Know (University of Oregon Press/2nd ed. Xlibris Corporation).
--------, (1979a/2002a), Meaning And Saying (Universities Press of America/2nd ed. Xlibris Corporation).
--------, (1979b/2002b), Language And Perception (Universities Press of America/2nd ed. Xlibris Corporation).
Field, H. (2008), Saving Truth From Paradox (Oxford University Press).
Floyd, J., and Shieh, S. (2001) (eds.), Future Pasts (Oxford University Press).
French, P., Uehling, T., and Wettstein, H. (1981) (eds.), The Foundations Of Analytic Philosophy, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 6 (University of Minnesota Press).
Geach, P. (1972), 'Why Sentences Are Not Names', Studia Semiotyczna 3, pp.13-21.
--------, (1980), Reference And Generality (Cornell University Press, 3rd ed.).
Gibson, M. (2004), From Naming To Saying. The Unity Of The Proposition (Blackwell).
Glock, H-J. (1997) (ed.), The Rise Of Analytic Philosophy (Blackwell).
--------, (2001) (ed.), Wittgenstein. A Critical Reader (Blackwell).
Goldstein, L. (1986), 'The Development Of Wittgenstein's Views On Contradiction', History and Philosophy of Logic 7, pp.43-56.
--------, (1988), 'Wittgenstein's Late Views On Belief, Paradox And Contradiction', Philosophical Investigations 11, pp.49-73.
--------, (1989), 'Wittgenstein And Paraconsistency', in Priest, et al. (1989), pp.540-62.
--------, (1992), 'Smooth And Rough Logic', Philosophical Investigations 15, pp.93-110.
--------, (1999), Clear And Queer Thinking (Duckworth).
Forster, M. (2004), Wittgenstein On The Arbitrariness Of Grammar (Princeton University Press).
Hacker, P. (1985), 'Wittgenstein And The Vienna Circle. The Exaltation And Deposition Of Ostensive Definition', Teoria, 5, pp.5-33 (co-authored by G. P. Baker), reprinted in Hacker "001), pp.242-67.
--------, (1996), Wittgenstein's Place In Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy (Blackwell).
--------, (1997), Insight And Illusion (Thoemmes Press, 2nd ed.).
--------, (2000), 'On Carnap's Elimination Of Metaphysics', Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie (2000), pp.469-86. Reprinted in Hacker (2001), pp.324-44.
--------, (2001), 'Philosophy', in Glock (2001), pp.322-47.
Hallett, G. (1977), A Companion To Wittgenstein’s 'Philosophical Investigations' (Cornell University Press).
Hanfling, O, (1981), Logical Positivism (Blackwell).
--------, (1989), Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy (Macmillan).
--------, (2000), Philosophy And Ordinary Language (Routledge).
--------, (2002), Wittgenstein And The Human Form Of Life (Routledge).
Heal, J. (1995), 'Wittgenstein And Dialogue', in Smiley (1995), pp.63-83.
Hilmy, S. (1987), The Later Wittgenstein (Blackwell).
Hodges, A. (1983), Alan Turing: The Enigma (Vintage).
Hylton, P. (1990), Russell, Idealism And The Emergence Of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford University Press).
Iliescu, A. (2000), Why Philosophy Is Bound To Err (Peter Lang).
Irvine, A., and Wedeking, G. (1993) (eds.), Russell And Analytic Philosophy (University of Toronto Press).
Janik, A. (1985), Essays On Wittgenstein And Weininger (Rodolpi).
Kahane, G., Kanterian, E., and Kuusela, O. (2007) (eds.), Wittgenstein And His Interpreters (Blackwell).
Kenny, A. (1973), Wittgenstein (Penguin Books).
--------, (1998), 'Wittgenstein On The Nature Of Philosophy', in McGuiness (1998), pp.1-26.
--------, (2003), Action, Emotion And Will (Routledge, 2nd ed.).
Kitcher, P. (1998), 'A Plea For Science Studies', in Koertge (1998), pp.32-56.
Kitching, G. (1988), Karl Marx And The Philosophy Of Praxis (Routledge).
--------, (1994), Marxism And Science (Pennsylvania State University Press).
--------, (2003), Wittgenstein And Society. Essays In Conceptual Puzzlement (Ashgate Publishing).
Kitching, G., and Pleasants, N. (2002) (eds.), Marx And Wittgenstein. Knowledge, Morality And Politics (Routledge).
Kindi, V. (1998), 'Is Wittgenstein's Resort To Ordinary Language An Appeal To Empirical Facts?', Metaphilosophy 29, 4, pp.298-305.
Koertge, N. (1998) (ed.), A House Built On Sand (Oxford University Press).
Kölbel, M., and Weiss, B. (2004) (eds.), Wittgenstein's Lasting Significance (Routledge).
Kuusela, O. (2005), 'From Metaphysics And Philosophical Theses To Grammar: Wittgenstein's Turn', Philosophical investigations 28, 2, pp.95-133.
--------, (2006), 'Do Concepts Of Grammar And Use In Wittgenstein Articulate A Theory Of Language Or Meaning', Philosophical investigations 29, 4, pp.309-41.
Labica, G. (1980), Marxism And The Status Of Philosophy (Humanities Press).
Laudan, L. (1977), Progress And Its Problems (University of California Press).
Lazerowitz, M., and Ambrose, A. (1976), Philosophical Theories (Mouton).
--------, (1985), Necessity And Language (Croom Helm).
Lyas, C. (1971) (ed.), Philosophy And Linguistics (Macmillan).
Malcolm, N. (1958), Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (Oxford University Press).
Manser, A. (1973), 'The End Of Philosophy: Marx And Wittgenstein' (University of Southampton Press).
Martinich, A., and Sosa, D. (2005) (eds.), A Companion To Analytic Philosophy (Blackwell).
Marx, K. (1973), Grundrisse (Penguin Books).
--------, (1983), Mathematical Manuscripts (New Park).
Marx, K., and Engels, F. (1970), The German Ideology, Students Edition, edited by Chris Arthur (Lawrence & Wishart).
McGuiness, B. (1998) (ed.), Wittgenstein And His Times (Thoemmes Press).
Medina, J. (2001), 'Verificationalism And Inferentialism In Wittgenstein's Philosophy', Philosophical investigations 24, 4, pp.304-13.
Misak, C. (1995), Verificationism (Routledge).
Monk, R. (1990), Wittgenstein. The Duty Of Genius (Vintage).
--------, (1995), 'Full-blooded Bolshevism: Wittgenstein's Philosophy Of Mathematics', Wittgenstein Studies 1, 1995.
--------, (2007), 'Bourgeois, Bolshevist Or Anarchist? The Reception Of Wittgenstein's Philosophy Of Mathematics', in Kahane, Kanterian and Kuusela (2007), pp.269-94.
Monk, R., and Palmer, A. (1996) (eds.), Bertrand Russell And The Origins Of Analytic Philosophy (Thoemmes Press).
Moran, J. (1972), 'Wittgenstein And Russia', New Left Review 73, pp.85-96.
Nyiri, J. (1998), 'Wittgenstein's Later Work In Relation To Conservatism', in McGuiness (1998), pp.44-68.
Passmore, J. (1966), A Hundred Years Of Philosophy (Penguin Books).
--------, (1988), Recent Philosophers (Duckworth).
Peterman, J. (1992), Philosophy As Therapy. An Interpretation And Defense Of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophical Project (State University of New York Press).
Pitcher, G. (1968) (ed.), Wittgenstein. The Philosophical Investigations (Macmillan).
Pleasants, N. (1996), 'A Wittgensteinian Social Theory? Introducing Reflexivity To Marxism', Philosophy of the Social Sciences 26, pp.397-416.
--------, (1999), Wittgenstein And The Idea Of A Critical Social Theory (Routledge).
Priest, G. (2002), Beyond The Limits Of Thought (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.).
--------, (2004), 'Wittgenstein's Remarks On Gödel's Theorem', in Kölbel and Weiss, pp.206-25.
--------, (2006), In Contradiction (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.).
--------, (2007), 'Reply To Slater', in Béziau, Carnielli and Gabbay (2007), pp.467-74.
Priest, G., Routley, R., and Norman, J. (1989) (eds.), Paraconsistent Logic (Philospohia Verlag).
Reck, E. (1997), 'Frege's Influence On Wittgenstein: Reversing Metaphysics Via The Context Principle', in Tait (1997), pp.123-85.
--------, (2002a) (ed.), From Frege To Wittgenstein. Perspectives On Early Analytic Philosophy (Oxford University Press).
--------, (2002b), 'Wittgenstein's "Great Debt" To Frege. Biographical Traces And Philosophical Themes', in Reck (2002a), pp.3-38.
Rees, J. (1998), The Algebra Of Revolution (Routledge).
Rhees, R. (1984) (ed.), Recollections Of Wittgenstein (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.).
--------, (1999), Wittgenstein And The Possibility of Discourse (Cambridge University Press).
Rogers, A. (1981), 'Review Of G. Cohen, Karl Marx's Theory Of History -- A Defence', International Socialism 12, pp.125-28.
Rorty, R. (1967) (ed.), The Linguistic Turn (University of Chicago Press).
--------, (1980), Philosophy And The Mirror Of Nature (Blackwell).
Rossi-Landi, F. (2002), 'Towards A Marxian Use Of Wittgenstein', in Kitching and Pleasants (2002), pp.185-212.
Rubinstein, D. (1981), Marx And Wittgenstein (Routledge).
Russell, B. (1962), The Practice And Theory Of Bolshevism (George Allen & Unwin).
Savickey, B. (1999), Wittgenstein's Art Of Investigation (Routledge).
Shanker, S. (1987), Wittgenstein And The Turning-Point In The Philosophy Of Mathematics (State University of New York Press).
--------, (1996) (ed.), Philosophy Of Science, Logic And Mathematics In The Twentieth Century. Routledge History Of Philosophy Volume Nine (Routledge).
--------, (1998), Wittgenstein's Remarks On The Foundations Of Artificial Intelligence (Routledge).
Sharpe, K. (2002), 'Sraffa's Influence On Wittgenstein: A Conjecture', in Kitching and Pleasants (2002), pp.113-30.
Sheehan, H. (1993), Marxism And The Philosophy Of Science (Humanities Press).
Shirokov, M., et al. (1937), A Textbook Of Marxist Philosophy (Victor Gollancz).
Slater, H. (2004), 'Dialetheias Are Mental Confusions' translated into Romanian by D. Gheorghiu, editor, with I. Lucica, Ex Falso Quodlibet, (Editura Tehnica, Bucharest); this is has now been re-published as Slater (2007b).
--------, (2007a), The De-Mathematisation Of Logic (Polimetrica).
--------, (2007b), 'Dialetheias Are Mental Confusions', in Slater (2007a), pp.233-46. This can also be found in Béziau, Carnielli and Gabbay (2007), pp.457-66.
--------, (2007c), 'Response To Priest', in Béziau, Carnelli and Gabbay (2007), pp.475-76.
Sluga, H., and Stern, D. (1996) (eds.), The Cambridge Companion To Wittgenstein (Cambridge University Press).
Smiley, T. (1995) (ed.), Philosophical Dialogues (Oxford University Press).
Soames, S. (2003a), Philosophical Analysis In The Twentieth Century. Volume One: The Dawn Of Analysis (Princeton University Press).
--------, (2003b), Philosophical Analysis In The Twentieth Century. Volume Two: The Age Of Meaning (Princeton University Press).
Stern, D. (1995), Wittgenstein On Mind And Language (Oxford University Press).
--------, (1996), 'The Availability Of Wittgenstein's Philosophy', in Sluga and Stern (1996), pp.442-76.
Stroll, A. (2000), Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy (Columbia University Press).
Suter, R. (1989), Interpreting Wittgenstein. A Cloud Of Philosophy, A Drop Of Grammar (Temple University Press).
Tait, W. (1997) (ed.), Early Analytic Philosophy (Open Court).
Voloshinov, V. (1973), Marxism And The Philosophy Of Language (Harvard University Press).
Von Wright, G. (ND), Wittgenstein (University of Minnesota Press).
Watson, B. (1998), Art, Class And Cleavage (Quartet Books).
White, A. (1970), Truth (Doubleday Anchor).
White, R. (2006), Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Continuum).
Wittgenstein, L. (1913), 'On Logic And How Not to Do It', Cambridge Review 34, p.351; reprinted in Wittgenstein (1993), pp.2-3.
--------, (1958), The Philosophical Investigations (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).
--------, (1972), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Routledge, 2nd ed.).
--------, (1976), Wittgenstein's Lectures On The Foundation Of Mathematics: Cambridge 1939, edited by Cora Diamond (Harvester Press).
--------, (1993), Philosophical Occasions, 1912-1951 (Hackett Publishing Company).
--------, (1998), Culture And Value (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).
Wolfram, S. (1989), Philosophical Logic (Routledge).
Yanovskaya, S. (1983), 'Preface' to Marx (1983), pp.vii-xxvi.
[ND = No Date.]
Word Count: 18,200
Latest Update: 22/01/09
Return To The Main Index
© Rosa Lichtenstein 2009
Hits since 05/04/07: