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A Reflection on Analytical and Language Philosophies

 

By Sharam Kohan

Ways in which much of twentieth century philosophy in Britain and in recent decades in the United States has been dominant is analytical with a focus on language which analyzes expression of concepts.   Although Australia and Scandinavian countries have a share in the development of this philosophical movement, their roles have been less substantial.  Despite this tradition of unity, individual philosophers and the following movements have disagreed, often sternly, with each other concerning the objectives and methodology of philosophy. For example, Ludwig Wittgenstein (Cambridge, U.K., philosopher of Austrian origin), is unique in the history of philosophy as he was, for more than half of the twentieth century, one of the main figures of this tradition. He established two different philosophical systems over two courses of philosophical creativity. The main theme of the second system “denial and coherent argument” was the opposite of the first. Nevertheless the core of Wittgenstein’s first term (logical philosophical treatise, 1922) and the main effect of his second term (Philosophical Research, 1953) from among the outstanding examples are analytic philosophy. Nevertheless the core of Wittgenstein’s first term (logical philosophical treatise, 1922) and the main effect of his second term (Philosophical Research, 1953) are among the outstanding examples of analytic philosophy.

Moreover, often different objectives have given cause for the study of philosophy of language.  Some philosophers, including Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein’s first term, have been on the implicit structure (underlying structure) reflecting the structure of the language of the world. Accordingly, a philosopher by analyzing the language can reach important facts about reality. Despite its influence, the picture theory of language of analytical philosophy is generally considered to be void.

Another major controversy is whether everyday language is incomplete, ambiguous, misleading, and even if sometimes inconsistent. Hence some analytic philosophers considered the establishment of an “ideal” language: an unambiguous and accurate language with transparent structure. Often the general pattern of such language is the symbolic logic that was developed in the twentieth century and played a central role in analytic philosophy. It was believed that founding such language could end many of the conflicts in traditional philosophy; conflicts that originated from misleading natural languages. But at the opposite end, some philosophers believed that many philosophical problems stem from inattention to what people routinely express in different situations.

Despite this disagreement, in many cases analytical philosophers are unanimous. For example, most philosophers focused on specific philosophical problems such as directed induction, or the meaning of certain concepts such memory or personal identity, without establishing comprehensive metaphysical systems. This approach dates back to the Socratic Method, which was embodied in Plato’s treatise.

Plato always began his work with specific questions like “What is knowledge?” Or “What is justice?” He pursued these questions in a manner that could be easily understood as examples of philosophical analysis of new concept of the word.

Principally, philosophical analysis should clarify important concepts and find answers for philosophical questions that include those concepts.  Such analysis can be exemplified in Russell’s theory of definite descriptions. According to Russell any simple subject predicate sentence like “Socrates is wise” apparently has two components: one [predicate or] the subject (Socrates), another [or complement] what is the issue (being wise Socrates). But if the noun is replaced by a specific attribute, such as the “President of the United States is wise,” apparently, we also mentioned something about it and expressed it.  A problem occurs if there is no word intended to describe the intention– such as the following sentence: “The present king of France is wise.”[i] Although this sentence is apparently about nothing nevertheless, its theme is understandable. Because of this, A. Meinong (one of the leading philosophers of the First World War area), who is known for the “theory of objects», was pressured to explain the actual existence of such instances between objects with which are distinguishable from other types of objects. He believed that such sentences cannot be understood unless they are focused on something.

In Russell’s opinion a philosopher such as Meinong incorrectly credits from apparent grammatical form of sentence and assumed that a simple subject predicating sentences are merely illustrative of such sentences.[ii] In fact, there are compound sentences because the analysis as described above reveals that given “the present king of France” does not constitute any independent part of the sentence. Linguistic analysis shows the complex conjunction of a sentence: (1) “Who is now the king of France” (2) “Up to now, France has a king” (3) “If someone is the king France now, he is wise.”[iii] But more important point is that the overall judgment for each of these three components alone is not directed to anyone or anything special. The above numbered three sentences are complete analysis of the sentence “the present king of France”, and no part is equal to this sentence. This shows that no part of the above sentence can be considered as a wording such as nouns that signify something special. Apparently something is the subject of the whole sentence. Therefore, Meinong’s distinction between objects with real existence and other kind of objects is incorrect.

General View of Analytic Philosophy

The Nature and Analysis of Role

The goal of analytic philosophy is to carefully study and to break down the concepts.[iv]

Empiricism is ingrained in spirit and style of analytic philosophy, a tradition that emphasizes on the data driven from senses. In recent centuries, except for short periods, the character of philosophy has been British. This dominant character is separate and distinguishable from the philosophy of rationalism in the continental Europe. It is comes as no surprise that analytical philosophy is rooted mainly in Anglo-Saxon countries. Generally, beginning of the new analytic philosophy dates back to two leading figures of this tradition, Russell and G.E. Moore (both Cambridge, U.K., philosophers), who rebelled against empiricist philosophy that had temporarily oriented the field of philosophy in England. Most famous empiricists of Great Britain John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume and John Stuart Mill – shared many interests and teaching methods with contemporary analytic philosophers. Although many specific teachings of these famous philosophers are attacked today by analytical philosophers, it seems that this outcome is the result of both groups differing on certain philosophical issues rather than general view philosophy.

Most empiricists, despite accepting the inability of senses to acquire knowledge, have held that justified beliefs about the world is feasible only through observation and testing, ie, a priori reasoning based on obvious premises cannot reveal the reality of the world to us. This view clearly led to the schism between the sciences: the difference between the physical sciences, which ultimately should confirm their theories visually, and deductive or a priori sciences, for example, mathematics and logic, that derive theorems from axioms.  Deductive science cannot offer justified beliefs, or even knowledge, about the world to us. This outcome laid the foundation for two important movements in the context of analytical philosophy: logical atomism and logical positivism. For example, from the positivist point of view, purely mathematical theorems are only the result of fault finding consequential to principles of situations or contracts that have been developed to determine the application of mathematical symbols.

Now the question is whether philosophy should be considered as part of the experimental sciences or a priori science? Early empiricists considered philosophy as part of the experimental sciences. In comparison to their contemporary analytic philosophers early empiricists were not so eager to reflect on the nature of philosophical method. More problems in the early empiricist epistemology (theory of knowledge) and the philosophy of mind, believing that the basic facts in this debate through introspection to achieve from this kind of psychology into their work prospective (introspective psychology) were considered. The empiricists were more leaning toward epistemology and the philosophy of mind, believing that they could attain the fundamental truths through introspection in these debates. Hence they considered their work a sort of introspective psychology. Meanwhile, the analytic philosophers of the twentieth century were reluctant to accept immediate introspection as the ultimate basis of evidencing matters. Additionally, it appeared that development of accurate methods in formal logic could help with solving philosophical problems, and undoubtedly logic is a priori science. Thus, the idea that philosophy should be classified with logic and mathematics gained currency.

Conceptual analysis, linguistic analysis, scientific analysis. Nevertheless, there still remains the question: what is the role and method of philosophy? In the opinion of many analytical philosophers who favor Moor’s sophisticated and accurate philosophical method, and especially the group that have made Oxford University a center of analytic philosophy, the philosophy is the analysis of concepts. This group believes that philosophy is a priori discussion, because the specific meaning of the concept of the philosopher is trying to analyze without the need to observe any experiment.

Philosophy can be called as the conceptual or linguistic analysis. For example, a philosopher in the sense of “seeing” does not express a purely linguistic considerations such as the verb “see” it helps to review what action can be said for the results of his analysis is irrelevant because concepts are not tied to any particular language, the concept is common to all languages that are able to express it. Thus, philosophers who believe that their work is to analyze concepts have always been attempting to dismiss the charge that problems and their solutions have been limited to rhetoric.

On the other hand, other analytic philosophers have turned their attention to analyzing how every phrase is used in non-technical everyday language. Hence, some critics called it “ordinary language philosophy”. The influential book of Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, is a clear example of research that some critics believe the main basis of it focuses on how to speak English language and that it is somewhat overlooked. However, the so-called analytic philosophers who view terms of ordinary language with panic have made reasoning similar to Ryle’s.

The senses issue shows that analytic philosophers adhere to the conceptual analysis of goal and differentiate the ultimate philosophy from science yet complementing science. Also, physiologists, psychologists and physicists through experiments, observations and testable theories have been expanding our understanding perception. Nevertheless, it seems that science always tend to evolve and leaves behind previous scientific positions, a trend that is apparently lacking in philosophy. For example, in the realm of philosophy, an explanation of senses provided by Moore or a positivist such as A.J. Ayer in the Twentieth Century is closely linked to John Locke’s explanation from the seventeenth century.

The disagreement between science and philosophy is that a scientist researches real events, while a philosopher studies concepts independent of any empirical exploration. If scientists began with the assumption that they can recognize examples of seeing concept by applying that concept, philosophers want to know what guaranteed matters are there, or in other words, what provisions can be applied for the classification of those cases. Creating particular situations in which a variety of physical objects that do not cause any visual experience, to demonstrate the invisibility of these objects, would be futile. If this theory is correct, these laboratory experiments will not result in seeing the invisible object; but if this theory is incorrect, a hypothetical description of the situation should suffice. The main issue is how to classify positions and for this purpose hypothetical situations are just as good in real situations.

Analysis of the Role

From the point of view of some analytical philosophers, especially those who have been influenced by Wittgenstein, conceptual analysis in addition to be per se enjoyable it has therapeutic value. Even scientists and lay people in their philosophical moments due to lack of understanding proper conceptual analysis that they use create philosophical issues. These people are tempted to formulate theories to explain these difficulties, the need to distinguish between the concepts of role, something that would prove to them that there is no problem. Thus, the inability to understand how the use of psychological concepts such as feelings, emotions and desires has focused the attention of philosophers to certain issues, such as knowledge of other minds or how emotions and desires can cause physical changes in the body and or vice versa. With that picture of philosophy, analysis of desired concepts instead of solving the problems will dissolve them, because philosophers by formulating the problem understand the errors of the concept.

Often this philosophical method has been criticized by questioning the reason for focusing philosophy on analysis of confusing philosophies of others and consequently rendering philosophy unproductive and futile. Of course the confusion need not be limited to other philosophers. For example, scientists can also establish philosophical theories on how they affect the design of their experiments. For this reason, their philosophical theories can also be treated philosophically. For example, behaviorism in psychology, namely the view that emotions, desires, mental attitudes and behavioral dispositions, apparently is a philosophical theory. Perhaps it is based on some confusion of analysis of psychological implications. Nevertheless behaviorism has been effectively guiding the psychologists with formation of the science. Thus, from this perspective, philosophy can be of value.

Philosophy, despite its abstract nature, has always been focused on human needs, and perhaps even therapeutic philosophical model is the realization of this ideal. For example, ordinary people similar to philosophers are faced with the question whether or not their actions are determined by a priori conditions. But this problem, conditional on the accuracy of the therapeutic view of philosophy, is a result of misunderstanding of concepts such as causation, responsibility and action, with each to be described and explained.

A Comparison of Formal and Ordinary Languages

In terms of methodological issues, the role of language has been one of the main considerations of analytical philosophers in all major disputes. Overall philosophers, outside of the analytic school of thought, are of the opinion that preoccupation of this philosophical tradition with language moves it away from philosophy in the classical sense.  While Plato and Aristotle, medieval philosophers, English empiricists and in fact most distinguished philosophers have all considered it essential to address the language.  However, there are fundamental disagreements as to what role language should play. One of these disagreements relates to the importance of formal languages (common concept in symbolic logic) in asking philosophical questions.

Transformation of Mathematical Logic[v]

From the time of Aristotle philosophy and logic have been allies. But until the late nineteenth century, logic had been mainly confined to the formulation of exact rules for simple form of proof: an analogy. And of course, during that period, logic, unlike the science of mathematics, did not developed on a regular and extended basis.

Practically from the beginning, mathematicians have been benefited from exact syntax of the two methods: (1) application of the subject (such as Euclidean geometry) in the development of mathematical topics, and (2) application of formal symbols or nominal variables for expression of general provisions (the same way we can say A + B = B + A, an equation in which any name or number can replace A and B and the result will still remain true).

Surprisingly, over the centuries logician could never understand the power of application of formal symbols. Finally, when they began to use such symbols and other mathematical methods they greatly expanded our understanding of this topic.

Most of the scientific developments in the nineteenth century were mainly accomplished through the works of mathematicians. Innovations of George Boole (Englishman), known for Boolean algebra, and Georg Cantor (German, Russian born), known for set theory, have special significance because these innovations heralded more logic and mathematics was near.

Gottlob Frege (1848 –1925), a mathematician and a philosopher, was one of the major figures who married logic (as a philosophical issue) to mathematical methods. Frege was a professor at the University of Jena in Germany and historically gained recognition for his intellectual influence on Bertrand Russell. Presently, Frege’s works have been appreciated on their credit.

Great work of Bertrand Russell, Principia Mathematica (1910 1913), which was written in collaboration with Alfred North Whitehead, along with Russell’s previous book called Principles of Mathematics (1903), made philosophers aware that the application of mathematical methods in logic can have importance in philosophical terms. The symbol logic had a close link with ordinary language and its rules could be formulated carefully. Symbolic logic had the advantage of being closely linked to ordinary language while its rules could be formulated carefully.   In addition, the progress that has occurred in the field of symbolic logic has produced many distinctions and methods that can also be used in the analysis of ordinary language.

Differences between Ordinary Language and Formal Logic

It seems that the difference between ordinary language and artificial language of formal logic cannot be summed that the former was imposed to lack rules.[vi] What is evident at first glance is that apparently ordinary language often violates the rules of symbolic logic. For example take the following sentence:  ”If this is gold [symbol p], then is dissolved in acid [symbol q].” Such a sentence in the form of symbolic logic, is called logical conditional value function, pÝq (where Ý means “if … then …”). According to the rules of logic, if “this is gold” is false, the above sentence is true. While in the ordinary language this provision does not apply solely based on formal logical grounds, but its truth depends on real links in the world of chemical reactions; a link between being gold and the capability of being dissolved in the acid has nothing to do with symbolic logic.

Different interpretations of the language of logic

Many analytic philosophers believe that symbolic logic can provide an ideal or perfect framework for linguistic. This can be interpreted two different ways:

  1. At the first term Russell and Wittgenstein believed that logic can accurately reveal the actual structure of all languages. As a result any apparent deviation from the conventional structure of the language must be understood from the fact that the apparent (surface grammar) ordinary language can not reveal the actual structure and can therefore be quite misleading. Philosophers who have defended this view, with intention to supplement it, have often tried to rise to philosophical problems of language and been fascinated by their characteristics. For example, to show similarities between the sentences “Tigers bite”[vii] and ” tigers exist”, it may seem that the verb “exist”, like other verbs, carry predicate on the subject. It is thought that “exist” similar to “bite” is among the traits of tigers. But in symbolic logic the symbolic equations of the two sentences are quite different. In symbolic logic, “exist” is not shown with predicate symbol.
  2. Rudolf Carnap[viii], semantician of the twentieth century, expressed the second form of symbolic logic as the framework for the complete language. Carnap’s main goal was to discover that this is the best language, especially for scientific purposes.

One of the prominent characteristics of the formal language in Principia Mathematica[ix] is that with assistance of interpretation language can consist of true and false sentences. While the ordinary language is not confined to express true sentences; in the ordinary language commands, questions, oath, beliefs, and permissions can be driven into language. As a result, many philosophers have imposed a variety of non-standard logic that includes non-positive and negative (non-assertoric) specifications. Thus, different systems of logic have been formulated and have been studied.

On the other hand, many philosophers, especially Wittgenstein and his followers have been on the wall trying to distort the meaning of language in formal systems. The language includes a variety of tasks, and even the words that seem to resemble each other in terms of function. For example, those sentences that are perceived are used merely to describe facts – examining how they are used will reveal many differences. For instance, differences relating to factors that determine the true and false statements and differences relating to their correlation with other components of language. Thus, formal systems at best seem to oversimplify issues and in worst way lead to certain philosophical issues. Such as issues arising from the assumption that if a simple set of rules based on the exact language works, such as a theory assuming that language works exactly based on a simple set of rules. Consequently, it is claimed that formal systems instead of resolving philosophical disputes through misleading appearance of ordinary language, have increased our confusion.

Early History of Analytical Philosophy

Reaction to Idealism

During the last decades of the nineteenth century a type of absolute idealism oriented the philosophy in England that emanated from the works of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. This occurrence in the history of English Philosophy suggests an exceptional dissociation in the tradition of empiricism. The seeds of the new analytical philosophy were planted when two prominent figures of this tradition, Russell and Moore, about the twentieth century departed from idealism.

Absolute idealism had an explicitly metaphysical orientation, meaning that its followers considered their work as an explanation of fundamental truth about the world, beyond the ability of scientists. In fact, in the opinion of the followers of absolute idealism, whatever comes under the scientific truth does not deserve consideration as the truth, because scientists are forced to take the world as only visually distinct composition.

Idealists in reaching their conclusions, and more importantly in their methodology, by no means sided with the ordinary intuition and common sense. For example, Cambridge (UK) philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart argued that the concept of time is inconsistent and hence there cannot be real truth to it[x]. While the British empiricists from early on considered knowledge as their ally and science as the model for discovering the truth. In cases where empiricists held opinions contrary to common sense they generally tried to reconcile their views. But it can be difficult to claim that analytic philosophers considered themselves full hearted supporters of common sense, and certainly we cannot find any reference in their writings to metaphysics. However, in the history of analytic tradition, a significant anti-metaphysical streak is discernible, and the followers of this tradition have generally believed that scientific methods and common sense are the original ways to discovering truth.

The founders of analytical philosophy: Moore and Russell

Bertrand Russell became the pioneer of those philosophers who were armed with tools of formal logic to face philosophical issues.  On the other hand, George E. Moore never did feel that the use of technical tools and philosophy into a scientific discipline is required. The main issues Moore considered were: (1) the defense of common sense ideas about the nature of the world (esoteric), skeptical and metaphysical; and (2) believing that the right way of dealing with philosophical riddles – before any attempt to solve the puzzle – discovering the question that created the puzzle. Moore believed that philosophical issues often become unsolvable because philosophers do not reflect carefully on formulating the discussed issues.

George Edward Moore. Moore’s attention to the two topics, stated above, gained him popularity from the 1930s onwards among the analytic philosophers who followed later works of Wittgenstein Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind, and John Austin’s works. These philosophers similar to Moore were not hopeful that the advanced formal logic could offer a way to solve the traditional philosophical issues.  They believed that philosophical doubt about the beliefs of common sense was wrong. Wittgenstein’s followers on this issue were on agreement with Moore that turning attention to questions that philosophers design often is more important than a addressing their solutions. 

Therefore, unlike Russell who gave importance to solutions in the discussions of formal logic and ideal language, what made Moore a prominent and influential philosopher was the spirit of his take on the nature of philosophy and enduring philosophical.

Moore believed that the idealist arguments lead to absurd positions. Hence, Moore’s article called “Defense of Common Sense” (1925) and other articles, made arguments aimed not only denying idealist theories, such as various forms of skepticism, but also various forms of skepticism. According to Moore’s, a skeptical philosopher offers strength to proofs that usually would support his conclusions. But Moore instead of measuring such proofs places elementary beliefs before skeptical philosophers, beliefs such as the fact that he has eaten breakfast in the morning the same day (the time can be very unrealistic), or that he in fact has a pen on his hand (then the world must be physical). His letter to the skeptical philosopher’s skeptical argument is that the introduction of the banal and everyday beliefs that form the basic argument that Moore is more certain. His response to the skeptical philosophers their proof is no more certain than his proof.

Bertrand Russell. One of the recurring themes in philosophy is the need for new methodology. Empiricists interpret this theme as philosophy should be more practical.

Unlike Moore, from the beginning Russell defended this theory and believed that the methods of symbolic logic to some extent ensure that philosophy can be based on new foundation. Accordingly, Russell did not consider a philosopher to be just a logician. He believed symbolic logic can provide an ideal language, but its content is another matter. Like Moore, Russell considered philosophy’s main work to be analysis, but they had somewhat different views on the goal of analysis.  In most of Russell’s work, the essential assumptions of the analysis are to describe the real world, especially the assumptions about the kinds of existence. Such a description is generally a scientific description and therefore factual. So, Russell’s views analysis in a manner to be explicitly metaphysical. Now, the question is how can we accept analytic philosophy – where its subject matter is the manner of speaking about the world- can produce answers about the physical world? Search for answer begins with the descriptive theory that is closely tied to linguistic considerations.  As mentioned above, Russell believed that certain descriptions such as “the author of the article implies” are not really words that are about the real world, but the presence of these phrases in sentences, transform them to general propositions about the world. Russell turned its attention to specific names, because it should be possible to speak directly about the visible world. For example, “Aristotle” as a noun, does not include any descriptive content. But Russell claimed that common names are in fact obscure. “Aristotle” may simply mean a disciple of Plato, tutor of Alexander, or an author of metaphysics. As Russell noted, certain ordinary names such as Russell, Homer, Aristotle, Saint Nicholas, are such that questioning their bearers is something meaningful. Thus, name in the exact concept of logical word is a rare phenomenon; in fact, Russell claimed that in English language the only possible candidates are the pronouns “this” and “that”.  Nevertheless, if people are supposed to speak directly about the real world issues, then existence of such referencing phrases within their language – at least in their private thoughts about the world – if not in their ordinary language, should be possible.

Logical Atomism: Russell and Wittgenstein

The next major change in the tradition of analytical philosophy occurred when series of Russell’s articles entitled “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism” (1918-19) were published. In these articles of religion, Russell acknowledged Wittgenstein who was his student before the First World War. Wittgenstein’s own book Logical-Philosophical Treatise (1922), that can rightfully be represented as a kind of logical atomism, had a major impact on developments in analytical philosophy.   Its text was so complex and profound that from the time of publishing in 1922 to the present time it has sparked growing scholarly interpretations.

The logical atomism words that Russell had chosen to describe his philosophical views in fact were appropriate words. Russell’s intention for choosing logical words were to establish this analytical method and particularly with support of the idealistic structure that symbolic logic provided, could discover fundamental truth about workings of any language.  And this development in time will show the fundamental structure of the subject that language is used to describe.

In linguistic, these atoms (particulates) are atomic propositions, the most simple sentences that can be issued about the world; and in signified language, these atoms are the simplest atomic facts that can be stated with the help of atomic propositions. In the next step, more complex propositions, called molecular propositions, can build with the help of atomic propositions and logical devices, such as “or … or … “, “also … and also…” and “not “. The true value of molecular propositions in each case is a true value of the function of atomic propositions of their maker.

Accordingly, in analyzing language should reach the ultimate elements so that smaller structural components are not dissoluble; and since language shines on the truth, the world must also be made up of real things which are all simple. But the atomic propositions (particulates) consist of chains of names that, as Russell had expressed, are understandable in exactly logical concept; and, atomic truths consist of simple compounds.

Details of Russell-Wittgenstein’s views have fascinated philosophers, because in addition to laying a coherent theory they followed the consequences of their main hypothesis inviolably. There was an important and influential theory in Russell’s works that generally was concerned about the link between language and the world. It was not completely clarified until later in the logical and philosophical treatise – the picture theory that says the structure of language is a reflection of the world’s structure.  The significance of this analysis is that ordinary language’s reliance on the molecular model of atomic propositions is not readily apparent.  Another view of Russell and Moore about the theme of the inductive sciences, mathematics and logic, is that using language does not reveal any facts about the world, even regarding a world  consisting of a phenomena called numbers. Finally, the theory of logical atomism, in the opinion of Wittgenstein, unlike Russell, is simultaneously a metaphysical theory – a metaphysical concept offering presentations about how the world was anti-metaphysical. Wittgenstein’s thesis is an unparalleled work in the history of empiricism. Because he accepts the fact that himself is a metaphysical proof and that part of his metaphysics is proving the impossibility of being metaphysical: the thesis says that it expresses about himself cannot be expressed in a coherent manner. Only empirical science can tell us about empirical reality. Nevertheless it seems that the thesis speaks to us about the relation between language and realities of the world. For Wittgenstein the solution for this apparent contradiction lies in the distinction between what can be said and what can be shown. The thesis could not speak about these matters in a straightforward way – in no language metaphysics can express a set of facts – but efforts to express these matters, if conducted in a correct manner, can show to its readers those matters that cannot be expressed in a coherent manner.

Logical positivism: Carnap and Schlick

Wittgenstein’s thesis in the history of contemporary analytic philosophy, were both the turning point of this philosophy and in a sense was its most exceptional case. This thesis was the most complex type of metaphysics, and at the same time had the greatest impact on anti-metaphysical stance on philosophy of analytical philosophers, the logical positivism position.  This school of thought was laid by a group of Vienna based philosophers, scientists and logicians which became known as Vienna Circle.

Although an English philosopher named A. J. Ayer was the first to introduce in England logical positivism with his widely read book titled Language, Truth and Logic (1936), but probably the most influence on Anglo-American philosophy is owed to two members of the Vienna Circle, Rudolf Carnap and Moritz Schlick, respectively. The analytic philosophers warmly welcomed the logical positivism.

At first, logical positivism was primarily an anti-metaphysical theory; according to this theory world cannot be known without was the practical sciences. The positivists were trying to establish a method to prove two points: (1) How could a theory that apparently is about the world is actually a metaphysical theory; and (2) such a theory is practically meaningless. They found the truth in the principles of verification.

Positive interpretation of this principle is that the meaning of any sentence that is truly about the world is only determined by verification of its truth and falsity. And of course, the only permissible method, ultimately, is the observation and testing.

The negative interpretation of this principle is that no sentence can be both – a sentence about the world and lack methods of verification of its truth and falsity. The negative interpretation by the principle of verification became a weapon against metaphysics and to establish science as the only possible source acquiring knowledge about the world. Thus, according to the principle many religious and philosophical theories that try to say something about the world, but do not provide a way to verify the truth of their sentences, are actually meaningless. For example, applying this principle in religious thoughts such as the sentence “God exists” would discredit it. As a metaphysical sentence, in the exact meaning of the word, it is meaningless.

Principle of verification almost immediately caused philosophers to face numerous issues, positivist raising most of them for the first time. Addressing these issues would fall outside of the scope of this article; however, it should suffice to mention that these issues made analytical philosophers of later periods to be cautious from directly relying on this principle.

Positivists thought that by having the principle of verification they could show the frivolity of many theories. However, there were several theoretical debates that could not stand the test of this principle but at the same time it was not possible to simply label them nonsensical. The most important of these issues were mathematics and the science of ethics. Mathematics (and logic) was not in any way to be counted as nonsensical. The theorems of mathematics and logic cannot be verified visually or experimentally; actually knowledge in these cases are merely the product of a priori reasoning. This was apparently the answer lies in Wittgenstein’s philosophical treatise on logic. The answer to this problem apparently lay in Wittgenstein’s philosophical-logical treatise.

Positivist view about the science of ethics varies. From this perspective, value judgments, unlike mathematical truths are not necessary application and peripherals of science, but they cannot be considered nonsense; and, it is clear that this definition or the common linguistic judgments are not true.

The conventional positivist stance that authenticity of emotion, called emotivism, is what appears to be statement of facts in actuality is a manifestation of one’s feelings toward certain action. Thus, value judgments cannot really be considered true or false. It was a positivist position that mathematical and moral judgments can be dismissed as mere metaphysical precepts. So, both of these topics should be exempt from inclusion in the principles of verification. This work was done based on the argument that mathematical and ethical sentences are not simply relating to the world. Mathematical truths are contractual matters and ethical judgments are manifestation of emotions.

Later Era in the Analytic Movement

“Philosophical Research”: Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy

In 1929, a crucial turn that heralded sustainable development and profound influence on contemporary analytic philosophy occurred, when Wittgenstein, after several years of residence in Austria, returned to stay in Cambridge, England. At Cambridge, his thoughts quickly and profoundly moved away from his thesis and many of his ideas from various aspects became the opposite of logical atomism.  Although in this period he did not publish any papers, his influence spread on other English philosophers and eventually through his disciples on all who were associated with the tradition of analytical philosophy.

Language and Adherence to Rules. As stated earlier in this article, in the theory of logical atomism a qualified language’s underlying structure is considered essential and relatively simple. It is the philosopher’s job to reveal language’s structure. Wittgenstein attacked this hypothesis. Now he believed that language is like a tool that can be used for countless purposes. Consequently, any attempt to determine how to set the language to help a small number of rules is like saying that a tool like a screwdriver is to be used only to rotates screws and forget that it can be used as a pry lever, the handle can be used as a hammer, the flat blade can be a scraper and many other uses.

The concept of rule and the meaning of adherence to the rule are the most significant aspects of Wittgenstein’s later works. This point attracted Wittgenstein’s attention for many reasons. In mathematics and logic, every day more emphasis is placed on the rules applying on mathematical symbols.   As discussed earlier herein, the symbolic logic has been a model for discovering implicit structure of language. In addition to this emphasis two points should be noted: (1) Russell and Wittgenstein’s theory in the first term about reflection of this rule in language; (2) general effort by empiricist tradition showing language performance through individual adherence with rules and internal standards in the use of words. The tying of theses points produces a clear picture of a system that Wittgenstein in later period considered it to be erroneous. It also becomes clear that why he played a central role regarding the concept of rule and adherence to it.

But the natural languages major difference is that humans do not learn rules prior to usage of language.  In fact, before learning language no one knows what to do with the rules. In this sense, mathematics and logic are bad examples for language, because their aim is to set rules and principles prior to their application. It can spur them to believe that language must have a rigid and disciplined structure and that without rules no language would exist. Rules that can be reasonably discovered in usage of language, are not predetermined as rules and in a mysteriously way guide human words. They either are generalizations based on limited data and infinite about correct or incorrect applications, or they are rules that based on Wittgenstein’s metaphorical description – speakers will save them in their archives – in actuality rule is learned after application.

Yet, Wittgenstein believed that adherence to the rule had been incorrectly analyzed in the classical analysis of language.  As a result, he fundamentally questioned the popular theory[xi], because based on such a theory meaningful application of a phrase in a sentence is in form of a standard or rule for correct application in the mind. Wittgenstein’s insight in opposition of this concept was that the rule by itself was lifeless. It was like a ruler in the hands of someone who has never learned how to use it. For such a person the ruler is just a piece of wood. Rules cannot force or guide anyone, unless one would know how to use them. This is also true about mental images that often are viewed as the standard for the use of linguistic expressions. But if the rules do not give life to words, and need a showing about what gives life to them, then a useless sequence is achieved and the whole system of rules and standards of mind would lack any philosophical value.

Relationship between Mental and Physical Events. Some aspects of Wittgenstein’s ideas are dramatically far from the tradition of empiricism as to language and how to explain inductive science.  This is especially true about his opinion on the relativity of the connection between mental and physical events. An important starting point for empiricists have always been the assumption that the immediate recognition of each individual to his personal feelings, perceptions and desires are limited, and that these are generally mental not physical. Most importantly, one’s immediate knowledge of something is essentially private and inaccessible to others. Wittgenstein’s assault on what is known as the reasoning of private language is not a secret. He believed that there could not be private language sensation. Wittgenstein argued that the concept of a totally private sensation involves the following: (1) Whatever goes on inside the mind of a person is debatable with a language that only the person who owns it can understand; (2) such a private language is not a language at all; (3) that the popular theory about existence of events inside of the mind cannot be expressed in an understandable way.

The fact that Wittgenstein’s argument against private language is essentially based on the question “What is adherence to the rule?” shows the general characteristics of his works. This means that themes raised in a philosophical topic can continuously emerge anew in completely different philosophies. Wittgenstein’s extraordinary ability to identify a common source of philosophical problems that are seemingly unrelated to each other to some extent clarifies his writing style that at first glance seems more like a scattered body of thoughts.

On the other hand, analytic philosophy has always viewed mental phenomenon with behavioral approach. According to this theory, private events such as feelings of fear not only are not private but also they can be considered the same as observable behavioral models. Orientation to empirical science, with observation considered to be its basis, was unified with this empirical consideration, that our evidence of what occurs in the minds of others must be derived from observed behavior.  This orientation has often been at odds with other empiricism orientations. So the second orientation holds major starting point for any knowledge of any particular person is essentially and inherently a private and sensory experience. However, Wittgenstein left a deep impression by reference that these two extreme alternatives are not the only alternatives. Consequently, various attempts have been made to explain how could Wittgenstein deny the concept of private experience without following some form of behaviorism. These attempt have never been successful. Some commentators sympathetic to the concept of set forth “criterion” or “benchmarks”, the concept that Wittgenstein uses it without expanding it in detail.

Contrary to behaviorists’ opinion about mental states such as fear, externally visible behavior (eg flight, going pale) is not something that will determine the nature of such conditions. And yet, such behavior cannot be considered merely a testament to an event strictly private and internal. The main problem was to identify the relationship between behavior and mental states, in a way that they would not be considered the same or one to be the proof of the other, with consideration to accept that knowledge of each person’s particular behavior is fundamental for understanding the mental state.

Recent Trends in England. Philosophers who we can dare to refer to as “Wittgensteinians”, those who follow his later period, should be distinct from other philosophers who have been mainly, in an indirect way, influenced by the general trends and philosophical atmosphere.

Wittgensteinians. Researchers who have carefully studied Wittgenstein’s ideas generally have tended to work on specific concepts that lie at the heart of traditional philosophical issues. An outstanding example of this type of research is a monograph “Intention” (1957), written by G.E.M. Anscombe. This monograph is a detailed investigation concerning the intention of any person to perform a specific job and the relation between the intention and action. This work has central place among the growing number of research related to human actions, and these research efforts also in turn have been influential in formation of opinions about the nature of psychology, social sciences and ethics. Expansion of this British orientation to the United States can be noted in Norman Malcolm from Cornell University. He was one of Wittgenstein’s students and has studied concepts such as knowledge, certainty, memory and dream.

It appears from the above titles and topics that Wittgensteinians have been working more on Wittgenstein’s ideas about the nature of mental concepts and in the field of philosophical psychology. They usually begin their work with the classical philosophical theories and then attack them by laying out their reasoning that such theories, in an unintelligible manner, employ key concepts such as knowledge with its practical application in different circumstances. Their works are full of descriptions of hypothetical situations, although usually familiar, and questions such “What would this or that person say if…?” or “Can we call this related to X?”. This work shows that they follow Wittgenstein recommendation that a philosopher rather than attempting to capture the essence of each concept through abstract analysis should consider how to use the concept in different situations.

Oxford’s Philosophers. After the Second World War, Oxford University became the center of extraordinary philosophical activities. Although the overall vision and philosophy of Wittgenstein, for example, turning his back on formal methods in analytical philosophy, was an important factor, but we cannot consider many Oxford philosophers, in the exact meaning of the word, as Wittgensteinians.


[i] Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy, By Avrum Stroll.

[ii] Russell Vs. Meinong: The Legacy of “On Denoting”, By Nicholas Griffin, Dale Jacquette.

[iii] Logicism and the Philosophy of Language: Selections from Frege and Russell, By Arthur Sullivan, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell.

[iv] Analytic Philosophy: An Anthology, By Pedro Rosario.

[v] Plato’s Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of mathematics, By Jeremy Gray.

[vi] Formal Logic and Ordinary Language, By L. J. Russell.

[vii] Encyclopedia Britannica.

[viii] Rudolf Carnap, Encyclopedia Britannica.

[ix] Principia Mathematica, by Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell.

[x] Tense and Performance: An Essay on the uses of Tensed and tenseless Language, By Avron Polakow.

[xi] Perhaps the best example of this theory can be found in John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690).

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