An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

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An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Sam266 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:10 pm

I was thinking about doing an analysis of On Certainty, but it would depend on whether there is enough interest. I have been studying Wittgenstein for quite some time, so this would not be from a beginners perspective. Some of the analysis would be in exegetical form, and some of it would be on what seems to follow from Wittgenstein's response to G. E. Moore's propositions.

I would be interested to hear what some of you think about starting this thread.

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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Sam266 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:59 pm

On Certainty was written in response to G. E. Moore’s paper’s, Proof of an External World and A Defense of Common Sense in which Moore lists several propositions that he claims to know with certainty. Propositions such as the following: “Here is one hand” and “There exists at present a living human body, which is my body” – Moore continues to enumerate other propositions that he claims to know, with certainty, to be true. These propositions provide for Moore a proof of the external world, and as such, they supposedly form a buttress against the skeptic. However, as we shall see, it is not only Moore’s claim to knowledge that Wittgenstein criticizes, but he also criticizes the skeptic’s response to Moore, and their use of the word doubt.

Wittgenstein’s response to Moore is not entirely unsympathetic, although he argues that Moore’s propositions do not accomplish what Moore thinks they do, namely, to provide a proof of the external world; which in turn is supposed to undermine the doubts of the skeptic.
On Certainty begins with the following statement:

“If you do know that here is one hand, we’ll grant you all the rest (OC 1).”

So, Wittgenstein grants that if Moore knows what he claims to know, then Moore’s conclusion follows. Nevertheless, Wittgenstein argues throughout the book that Moore does not know what he thinks he knows. However, I think we are inclined to agree with Moore. After all, if we do not know this is a hand, then what do we know? It is this inclination to use the word know as Moore uses it that causes Wittgenstein’s response.

“Now, can one enumerate what one knows (like Moore)? Straight off like that, I believe not.-For otherwise the expression “I know” gets misused (OC 6).”

The disputes with Moore’s propositions are not only problematic, but they are also very subtle disputes, which means they are difficult to flesh out. One of the problems is that we sometimes fail to see the connection between the use of the word know, and the use of the word doubt, and the logic behind that use. It is the kind of logical link that is also seen between rule-following and making a mistake - one cannot happen without the other.

In the following quote from Wittgenstein we can see some slight differences in the use of the word know, and how it accomplishes the purpose of thwarting the misgivings of another.

“’I know what kind of tree that is.—It is a chestnut.’ ’I know what kind of tree that is.—I know it’s a chestnut.’ The first statement sounds more natural than the second. One will only say ‘I know’ a second time if one wants especially to emphasize certainty; perhaps to anticipate being contradicted. The first ‘I know’ means roughly: I can say.

“But in the other case one might begin with the observation ’that’s a …’, and then, when this is contradicted, counter by saying: ‘I know what sort of a tree it is’, and by this means lay emphasis on being sure (OC 591).”

One use of the word know is to alleviate doubt, or even to eliminate doubt as we participate in our everyday interactions. For instance, if I say that “I know that George is guilty,” then I am simply saying that I have the proper grounds for my knowledge. Hence, if you agree, you too will acknowledge that “I know that George is guilty.” If you acknowledge that I know what I claim to know, then presumably this lets the air out of the proverbial balloon of doubt; and if you disagree with my claim, then the doubt remains. So, if I make a claim to know what DNA is, and I have never studied biology, then it makes sense to have a question about my claim to knowledge. If on the other hand, you know that I have a PhD in biology from MIT, then it is very unlikely that you will doubt my claim to knowledge as it pertains to biology. Is not Moore trying to accomplish this very thing when he makes his claim to knowledge, that is, Moore is trying to negate the doubt of the skeptic by saying that he does have proof of the existence of his hands, which in turn leads to his conclusion that there is an external world. He is claiming to be in a position to know, and of course it is this assertion that Wittgenstein disputes.

Moore’s proof is supposed to show that the conclusion follows necessarily, and if it does, then the skeptic’s doubts are supposed to vanish. The proof would look something like the following:

1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.
2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.
3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Sam266 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:24 pm

Wittgenstein is challenging the first premise in the above argument; more specifically, he is challenging Moore’s claim that he has knowledge of his two hands. Having knowledge of something presupposes that there are good reasons or good evidence to believe it, but exactly what is it that Moore has knowledge of? He claims to have knowledge of the existence of his hands, but what would count as evidence for such a claim? Do I know that I have hands because I check to see if they are there every morning? Do I make a study of my hands, and thereby conclude that I do indeed have hands? I have knowledge of chemistry, physics, history, epistemology, and other subjects, and there are ways to confirm my knowledge. However, in our everyday lives do we need to confirm that we have hands? And do we normally doubt such things?

“When Moore says he knows such and such, he is really enumerating a lot of empirical propositions which we affirm without special testing; propositions, that is, which have a peculiar role in the system of our empirical propositions.

“Even if the most trustworthy of men assures me that he knows things are thus and so, this by itself cannot satisfy me that he does know. Only that he believes he knows. That is why Moore’s assurance that he knows…does not interest us. The propositions, however, which Moore retails as examples of such known truths are indeed interesting. Not because anyone knows their truth, or believes he knows them, but because they all have a similar role in the system of our empirical judgments.

“We don’t, for example, arrive at any of them as a result of investigation (OC 136-138).”

Wittgenstein’s argument is not only with Moore’s use of the word know, but also with the use of the word doubt by the skeptic. I believe Wittgenstein is not only saying that Moore’s use of the word know is senseless, but also that the skeptic’s use of the word doubt is senseless. The first question we need to ask ourselves is - “Does it make sense to doubt?” For example, does it make sense to doubt whether the earth is more than 100 years old? What would a doubt here look like? Do we question whether our desks still exist when we are not looking? Do people who have known us for years question whether our name really is what we say it is? If one is to doubt, then one needs good reasons to doubt, just as one needs good reasons for knowledge claims. We could understand the doubt of the skeptic if occasionally there were reasons to doubt that we lived on the earth, or that occasionally my hands actually turned out to be someone else’s hands, but we do not observe anything of the kind. And even in cases where we can understand doubting such propositions, the circumstances that give rise to such doubts tend to be very unusual. The point is that we recognize the difference. Both of these activities (knowing and doubting) are rule-governed, and take place within a practice of making empirical judgments. Our system of doubt and knowledge are formed because the world stands fast for us. If it did not, then we would not be able to form a coherent system of knowledge and doubt. One wonders if language would even get off the ground.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Sam266 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:38 pm

For purposes of this thread, what is meant by a belief, are states-of-mind, and states-of-mind are reflected in our actions (prelinguistic, nonlinguistic, or linguistic actions). There are beliefs that originate apart from language (prelinguistic beliefs, i.e., states-of-mind shown in our actions), and those that arise linguistically (states-of-mind reflected in both our actions and statements). Wittgenstein seems to suggest that there are prelinguistic beliefs in the following quote:

“People have killed animals since the earliest times, use the fur, bones etc. etc. for various purposes; they have counted definitely on finding similar parts in any similar beast.

“They have always learnt from experience; and we can see from their actions that they believe certain things definitely [my emphasis], whether they express this belief or not. By this I naturally do not want to say that men should behave like this, but only that they do behave like this.

“If someone is looking for something and perhaps roots around in a certain place, he shows [my emphasis] that he believes that what he is looking for is there (OC 284, 285).”

We can show our beliefs with or without language. Moreover, we do not have to be primitive man to show what we believe. For example, “My life shews that I know or am certain that there is a chair over there, or a door, and so on.—I tell a friend e.g. ‘Take that chair over there’., ‘Shut the door’, etc. etc (OC 7).” Thus, our actions, apart from words, show that we believe many things apart from having to say we do. In fact, actions can conflict with what we say, which is why we often say the following, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Part of the problem with many interpretations of On Certainty is that people fail to take (linguistic and prelinguistic beliefs) into account how both kinds of beliefs can be hinges. This will be explained in more detail later.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby iambiguous » Sat Jul 27, 2019 12:25 am

In a nutshell, my own philosophical uncertainty about certainty has been encompassed over the years here at ILP in the following manner:

1] How can anyone be certain about anything until what they think they are certain about is able to be situated in an ontological understanding of existence itself?
2] How can anyone be certain that what think they are certain about is not but an inherent, necessary manifestation of nature unfolding in a wholly determined universe?
3] How can anyone be certain that what they think they are certain about is not just a manifestation of a sim world, or a dream world, a matrix world or a world embedded in some metaphysical reality we are not even able to grapple with and grasp at all?

On the other hand, putting aside the part about the nature of existence itself [because we have no choice in the matter], if we do assume some level of autonomy in a world that does exist as we perceive it, there appear to be things and relationships that we are able to feel reasonably certain about.

In other words, the either/or world reflected in the laws of nature, in mathematical proofs, in empirical facts and [in regard to language] the rules of logic.

Certainty exists here because we are able to demonstrate to others why rational men and women are obligated to believe any number of things that unfold out in the world that we live in.

It is in the is/ought world of conflicted value judgments, revolving around moral narratives and political agendas, that certainty becomes increasingly more problematic. Here, in my view, the subjective and subjunctive point of view prevails.

Revolving in turn in my view around the arguments that I make here:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=176529
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=194382
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
And here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=194382
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:54 am

Sam266 wrote:For purposes of this thread...
I would suggest you ignore the previous post. You will have noticed he does not engage with a single idea you present, and which you put a lot of work into presenting, but rather used one word from it to draw attention to his own threads and his ideas. If you engage with him, the purposes of the thread will become his purposes. I reported his post, since it is part of a long standing pattern of hijacking threads and discussions within threads.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:40 am

Sam266 wrote:
“Now, can one enumerate what one knows (like Moore)? Straight off like that, I believe not.-For otherwise the expression “I know” gets misused (OC 6).”
This seems context dependent. In many contexts I think going forward with something as apriori clear is fine. In other contexts, no so fine.

The disputes with Moore’s propositions are not only problematic, but they are also very subtle disputes, which means they are difficult to flesh out. One of the problems is that we sometimes fail to see the connection between the use of the word know, and the use of the word doubt, and the logic behind that use. It is the kind of logical link that is also seen between rule-following and making a mistake - one cannot happen without the other.
I do not think the sentence 'I occasionally doubt what I know about ____________' is necessarily nonsensical. IOW I think one can doubt what one knows, but continue, in general to say you know it. Again in many contexts. We are not robotic or binary and I don't think know, in most situations, should be considered mathematically perfect and infallible. Or then we can't use it except expressively. (though I suppose I think language should offer be treated as expressive and/or eliciting rather than as a container of truths or falsehoods.)


So, if I make a claim to know what DNA is, and I have never studied biology, then it makes sense to have a question about my claim to knowledge. If on the other hand, you know that I have a PhD in biology from MIT, then it is very unlikely that you will doubt my claim to knowledge as it pertains to biology.
Though a PHD, of course, might turn out to be wrong. A neuroscient a couple of decades ago might have thought that mind states had to do with patterns in neurons (period), but now we know that mind is also created by ganglia also - in that paradigm. So the PHDs would not quite have known, they would have been partially right, as todays are likely partially right. Or perhaps even fundamentally wrong.

1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.
2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.
3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.
Why not start from the world and go to the hands, which is more likely the way we actually came to understand that 'these are my hands'. Babies probably focus more on the external world, with their hands as a tiny subset of phenomena, and then begin to identify with own experience something like ownership of the hands.

And in any case, it seems kind of like cheating. Much along the lines of I know there are tables so there are chairs.

I think hands and external world are in very much the same category: world. I am not arguing that my hands are not me. Just that either one presumes a realism, since one always experiences hands as one part of the world.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Meno_ » Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:14 pm

Now, contrast that with Sartre's understanding of the mallebility( not exact words) of hands, where he is unsure of whether it is his. How does that square existentialism with Wittgenstein? In order to add some perspective? (Perspective in terms of phenomenology? ) And how are phenomenological questions handled by the positivist in terms of mean ing?

There are innumerable questions of the background that arise out of the foreground of meaning. What does the phenomenological reduced sense data have to do with it.
Sense data was the sticker which has been contentious along the way with both: Russel and Ayer.



Prmethean 75


Hope You take backward look and thanx in very appropriate use of vernacular of my point. I couldn't get away from conceptual language even as I try .
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby MagsJ » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:09 pm

iambiguous wrote:In a nutshell, my own philosophical uncertainty about certainty has been encompassed over the years here at ILP in the following manner:

Iam, please stay on-topic please, with regard to the op.
The possibility of anything we can imagine existing is endless and infinite

I haven't got the time to spend the time reading something that is telling me nothing, as I will never be able to get that time back, and I may need it for something at some point in time. Wait! What?

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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby iambiguous » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:20 pm

Note to Sam:

Decide for yourself if my points have any relevance to your points regarding the extent to which we can be certain about...anything?

Or, for that matter, the extent to which Wittgenstein could have been certain himself.

I read your posts and I'm always interested in intelligent reactions to my own fierce exasperation in regards to certainty.

Or, sure, you can be more certain instead that others here are more in sync with the "whole truth". About me for example.

In the interim though I'm out of here.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby promethean75 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:29 pm

i haven't read all of OC but what i have read, i've chewed on for some time. i'd suggest that when W says it would be inappropriate to call awareness of one's hand 'knowledge', he draws attention to what characterizes reasoning in regards to the rule following involved in empirical propositions, and points out that no amount of 'steps' could bring one to certainty in the same way one arrives at certainty when, say, they perform a mathematical calculation or assemble something by following a set of instructions. in these cases, one can trace one's steps backward and identify where one went wrong (by violating a rule)... but in the case of arriving at certainty about such things as the existence of the external world, there is no proper rule-following involved with which to check the conclusion. so for example, one sets about producing a series of philosophical arguments in defense of realism, while another produces a series of arguments in defense of idealism. W might ask 'how would one know if they went wrong at any particular point in the argument', and this is a really profound question. of course, each set of empirical propositions do indeed conform to and follow the rules of logic, but logic tells us nothing about the world, and only reflects its (the world's) structure. so while we could say 'wait... what you just said is illogical and inconsistent', we couldn't necessarily say 'therefore something is wrong about the world which your propositions represent'. this is difficult to understand, yes. the certainty moore arrives at about his hand is not the result of 'more or less knowledge', because in regards to step-taking with empirical propositions, there is nothing beyond empirical propositions themselves with which to check the veracity of the entire set. in a sense, he's saying that a limit is reached here; how is one to know the prior step in reasoning is correct so that one can move on to the next? one therefore can't 'know' the hand exists in the same way one 'knows' one is certain about being correct in regards to a kind of explicit rule-following. in the event that one 'doubts' a conclusion reached in a mathematical calculation, they can trace their steps... and upon finding the error, admit that they didn't 'know' what they thought they knew before finding the error. but the hand... where is the step in the series of arguments which might show us we went wrong? see how the certainty is not at all based on 'figuring', but rather on the immediacy of the awareness itself.

really the point he's making is subtle, as you've said. this matter is about the precision of the meaning of certain words when they are used epistemologically (or philosophically in general). and an irony could be added as well in the spirit of W's comment - 'philosophy leaves everything untouched and precisely as it was' - alluding to the fact that philosophy does no real work. suppose the word 'know' continued to be used inappropriately in epistemology. what would be the consequences? in this case, none, because what is nonsense can't be wrong... and what can't be wrong can't have any precedence.

good thread, dude.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby promethean75 » Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:00 pm

biggus maximus:

i think your concern with having/not having certainty about the world - whether or not it's real or some kind of dream/simulation - is something that couldn't be addressed to your satisfaction in either case. our concern shouldn't ever be about what is 'real', but what one should do. let's look at it. really, how much more 'real' would this world be than a dream or sim world (and vice-versa) insofar as any possible world, and the experiences one has of it, are subject to the same kind of questioning? ah. in either world, you're still only concerned with what you should do, not how real or unreal the world is. so your emphasis on the problem of certainty in this context is not the same kind of problem W is demonstrating by questioning the use of the word 'know' and 'doubt' and 'certainty'. his question is 'what is the nature of certainty... what is it like... in any world', rather than 'can we be certain about the world we think we're in'.

you wake up one day and discover irrefutable evidence that this world isn't real. what does that even mean? what do you do now? how does this knowledge change your circumstances?

such theorectical 'problems' are precisely the kinds of meaningless problems W was trying to dissolve - metaphysical though experiments that seem profound on the surface.

consider what's been going on over at your old hang-out 'know thyself' (where you never blow your trip forever) between andy and satyr. how much different would the results of their quibbling be if andy were satisfied with satyr's use of certain words, and satyr conceded that there was such things as 'absolutes'? what would a solution to their conflict consist of? merely satisfaction and agreement between them, or something more important?

"I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again "I know that that's a tree", pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell them: "This fellow isn't insane. We are only doing philosophy." - W

there are very many philosophical discussions that by their very nature, don't have to be clear and concise to work, as long as you recognize what constitutes the kind of work philosophy is able, and unable, to do. it's a kind of work that wants to belong to the natural sciences, but has nothing to contribute to them. and this brings us back to what W means when he says the world isn't an epistemological problem, but an ethical problem. not 'what can i know', but 'what should i do'.

now if you happen to find that proof that this world isn't real, and that certainty about it is unwarranted, affects the problem you (we) have with 'what to do', then this fact becomes important. but how would the knowledge that you were seated in a perpetual dream and/or were a computer simulation, influence your decision to vote republican, support your sister's decision to have an abortion, or buy a new microwave?
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Sam266 » Sun Jul 28, 2019 3:18 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote: This seems context dependent. In many contexts I think going forward with something as apriori clear is fine. In other contexts, no so fine.


Wittgenstein is referring to a specific context in which Moore claims to know, i.e., Wittgenstein is referring to Moore's papers, and probably the context where Moore is standing before an audience holding up his hand and claiming to know he has a hand. So, yes it is context driven. Wittgenstein gives examples in OC where it's appropriate to say simply this is a hand, and where it's appropriate to claim that one knows this is a hand. In other words, these kinds of propositions, Moore's propositions, can be both hinge-propositions (occurring outside epistemology, and within our epistemology language-games), and regular everyday propositions. I will be expanding on this in later posts.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:I do not think the sentence 'I occasionally doubt what I know about ____________' is necessarily nonsensical. IOW I think one can doubt what one knows, but continue, in general to say you know it. Again in many contexts. We are not robotic or binary and I don't think know, in most situations, should be considered mathematically perfect and infallible. Or then we can't use it except expressively. (though I suppose I think language should offer be treated as expressive and/or eliciting rather than as a container of truths or falsehoods.)


Nowhere does Wittgenstein claim that Moore's propositions are necessarily nonsensical. They are nonsensical as Moore uses them. Again, I will expand on this as I go along.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:Though a PHD, of course, might turn out to be wrong. A neuroscient a couple of decades ago might have thought that mind states had to do with patterns in neurons (period), but now we know that mind is also created by ganglia also - in that paradigm. So the PHDs would not quite have known, they would have been partially right, as todays are likely partially right. Or perhaps even fundamentally wrong.


Of course a Ph. D can turn out to be wrong, that's not the point. The point is that generally we don't doubt the Ph.D in these kinds of situations, unless there are good reasons to doubt. Moreover, because someone has been wrong on occasion that doesn't give us good reasons to doubt everything they say. If that was the case, then most of us would be skeptics.

1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.
2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.
3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.


Karpel Tunnel wrote:Why not start from the world and go to the hands, which is more likely the way we actually came to understand that 'these are my hands'. Babies probably focus more on the external world, with their hands as a tiny subset of phenomena, and then begin to identify with own experience something like ownership of the hands.

And in any case, it seems kind of like cheating. Much along the lines of I know there are tables so there are chairs.

I think hands and external world are in very much the same category: world. I am not arguing that my hands are not me. Just that either one presumes a realism, since one always experiences hands as one part of the world.


It's true that we come to understand much about the world by starting with the world. Where else would we start? However, Moore is arguing a specific point with the skeptics, viz., that there are things that we do know about the external world that are common sense; and knowing we have hands is one such thing. The proof works if Moore truly does know he has hands, but Wittgenstein is questioning the use of the word know in Moore's presentation.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Meno_ » Sun Jul 28, 2019 7:34 pm

The reason being is that the hand is used metaphorically for disconnect between perception and sensible knowledge , and that may bring up another level of.confusion.
But it is a philosophical construct beneath the novel, "Nausea", and interpretation could be had both ways.
Maybe it was meant as such, for even Sartre could not make up his mind definitely.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Meno_ » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:47 pm

To prove Sartre's uncertainty , note an opinion to sceptics , such as Moore:

"So Moore's point is that you have better justification for believing that you have hands than you do for believing that you might be a brain in a vat (or whatever version you use). Since you're more justified in the hands belief, you should prefer that one to the belief that you don't have hands. If you have hands, then you're not a BIV (or otherwise deceived), so you're also justified in believing that there's an external world that matches up with your experiences".


In other words , at the level of certainty, it would be inaccurate to state one over the other. While uncertainty, dictated literal over metaphysically ambiguous metaphores of knowledge.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:19 pm

Sam266 wrote:Wittgenstein is referring to a specific context in which Moore claims to know, i.e., Wittgenstein is referring to Moore's papers, and probably the context where Moore is standing before an audience holding up his hand and claiming to know he has a hand. So, yes it is context driven.
Presumably a philosophical context, where Moore was in a professional role. It's a complicated situation since Moore is 'external reality' to the audience.

Wittgenstein gives examples in OC where it's appropriate to say simply this is a hand, and where it's appropriate to claim that one knows this is a hand. In other words, these kinds of propositions, Moore's propositions, can be both hinge-propositions (occurring outside epistemology, and within our epistemology language-games), and regular everyday propositions. I will be expanding on this in later posts.
OK.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:I do not think the sentence 'I occasionally doubt what I know about ____________' is necessarily nonsensical. IOW I think one can doubt what one knows, but continue, in general to say you know it. Again in many contexts. We are not robotic or binary and I don't think know, in most situations, should be considered mathematically perfect and infallible. Or then we can't use it except expressively. (though I suppose I think language should offer be treated as expressive and/or eliciting rather than as a container of truths or falsehoods.)


Nowhere does Wittgenstein claim that Moore's propositions are necessarily nonsensical. They are nonsensical as Moore uses them. Again, I will expand on this as I go along.
I wasn't saying he said that. I was testing, for myself, what I thought about the presence of doubt on the assertion of 'I know X'. For me that means something useful. Which is a way of saying that in many contexts I think the statement 'If you doubt X is the case, you do not know X is the case.'
I'll wait and see where you go.

Of course a Ph. D can turn out to be wrong, that's not the point. The point is that generally we don't doubt the Ph.D in these kinds of situations, unless there are good reasons to doubt. Moreover, because someone has been wrong on occasion that doesn't give us good reasons to doubt everything they say. If that was the case, then most of us would be skeptics.
Sure. Though I doubt PHDs more often than others do and yet I wouldn't call myself a skeptic.

1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.
2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.
3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.


Karpel Tunnel wrote:Why not start from the world and go to the hands, which is more likely the way we actually came to understand that 'these are my hands'. Babies probably focus more on the external world, with their hands as a tiny subset of phenomena, and then begin to identify with own experience something like ownership of the hands.

And in any case, it seems kind of like cheating. Much along the lines of I know there are tables so there are chairs.

I think hands and external world are in very much the same category: world. I am not arguing that my hands are not me. Just that either one presumes a realism, since one always experiences hands as one part of the world.


It's true that we come to understand much about the world by starting with the world. Where else would we start?

Well, perhaps we would have a more introspective focus - though I just realized that some of the womb time might be that. As social mammals we head the 'the other' very fast and the external world is represented by the mother or other main caretaker. Babies know to go to the face of the caretaker with attention. It's the self that becomes almost deduced after a time, rather than the world.

However, Moore is arguing a specific point with the skeptics, viz., that there are things that we do know about the external world that are common sense; and knowing we have hands is one such thing. The proof works if Moore truly does know he has hands, but Wittgenstein is questioning the use of the word know in Moore's presentation.
For me in a philosophical context there is no proof there are hands, even if acting like and believing one has hands sure seems to work out fine. But I have no problem with someone saying he or she knows he or she has hands. To me knowledge is not infallible just well justified. But proof indicates infallibility.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty'

Postby Sam266 » Mon Jul 29, 2019 11:56 pm

"...'I know' gets misused. And through this misuse a queer and extremely important mental state is revealed (OC 6)."

Moore's propositions appear to be more the result of an inner feeling of certitude, or an inner conviction. For example, my subjective certainty that I have hands, or that I have a body is a certainty that is shown by the way I act, as opposed to having arguments that prove something. One can see this kind of certainty even in animals. For instance, an animal will express its belief or certainty that it is about to be fed by its actions - the wagging of its tail, or the action of jumping up and down as the food is prepared. What is going on is an outer expression (my actions or the dog's actions) of an inner state or belief. The problem is that we do not normally think of beliefs as state-of-mind reflected in our actions. However, even beliefs that are stated or expressed in writing, are actions of a certain kind, that is, they are linguistic acts.

The problem is that when we try to express our subjective beliefs with one another in the course of dialogue, the only way to do it is with statements or propositions. I am inclined to say "I know" because of an inner feeling of certainty, and herein lay the crux of the problem, namely, knowing and doubting in this context only occurs in language-games, and language-games only take place between people. The proposition that "I have hands" is not the result of my knowledge, but is the result of an inner certitude out of reach of any objective evidence.

"One says 'I know that he is in pain' although one can produce no convincing grounds for this.--Is this the same as 'I am sure that he...'?--No. 'I am sure' tells you my subjective certainty (OC 563)."

The further point is that we do not play the language-game of knowing and doubting by ourselves, because knowing and doubting is an activity that happens between people. It is not an activity that you can do alone: I believe this is similar to the idea that Wittgenstein put forward in The Philosophical Investigations, namely, that we cannot have a private language, which goes to the notion of making mistakes and rule-following. Compare this with knowing and doubting, which can only take place where there is resolution. One does not play the language-game of resolution (that is, resolving knowledge claims and doubts) with oneself.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Sam266 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:38 am

If Moore's propositions are not the kind of propositions that can be known or doubted - what are they? After all, the definition of a proposition is that it is a statement that either asserts something is the case, or it asserts something is not the case. Moore's propositions do not seem to fall into the category of being true or false (as Wittgenstein defines them), then they must be something else - but what? We are going to refer to these propositions as "hinge-propositions." Wittgenstein refers to "hinge-propositions" in his notes (OC 341,343, and 655), so we are borrowing the phrase from him. We are also referring to hinge-propositions as bedrock, basic, or foundational beliefs.

What are hinge-propositions? We already have a clue, because Moore has given us some examples of these kinds of propositions unknowingly. The following is a list taken in part from Wittgenstein's On Certainty:

1) I live on the Earth.
2) I am a person.
3) My name is Bill Smith.
4) This is a tree.
5) 2x2=4

According to Wittgenstein justification comes to an end. However, the point is to say that justification ends with hinge-propositions, which in turn brings us to what is bedrock, namely a bedrock belief. Hinge-propositions form part of what is bedrock to our epistemic system of knowing and doubting. The reason is that reality itself plays an important part in what is bedrock. So, there is a sense where what is bedrock is deeper that the belief itself, that is, the belief rests on something more fundamental, namely, our surroundings. For example, the rules of chess, in particular, say, the rule that bishops move diagonally, gets its life on the chess board. In the same way, bedrock beliefs, as in the belief that I have hands, gets its life through the actions of the body in the surrounding world.

We access the world through sensory experiences, and it is through this access that bedrock beliefs form. There seems to be a causal connection between the world, sensory experiences, and these bedrock beliefs (the mind). Note that these beliefs are not part of a reasoned process, and as such, they are arational beliefs. Such beliefs form the substratum of all epistemological processes, which are, strictly speaking, linguistic processes. So, when speaking of epistemology, we are speaking of particular kinds of language-games, that is, they arise, or are formed as part of a language.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Meno_ » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:51 am

One omitted source of language games besides actions and propositions is another dyad: perceptions and preceptions. The emotive part of expressions do consist on an existential mode, of gestures and metahors. This diad effects meaning through games sequentially and inductively as well, and even may become more determinative in the games. The embededness of the rules by which the games are played , subtract from both the behaviorist (Ayer) and the meanigfullness of the sense at which the games serve as a model, connecting both the purpose and the goal of meaningful assertion entailing the primary proposal.

Therefore , I dare think that the playfulness of the language games were for the most part derived of a naive prophetic post war belief in a hoped for stasis of peaceful existence, as opposed to Sartre's phenomenological reductive bracketing of a reduction into an absurd abyss, from which gaze one had to avert.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty'

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:19 am

Sam266 wrote:"...'I know' gets misused. And through this misuse a queer and extremely important mental state is revealed (OC 6)."

Moore's propositions appear to be more the result of an inner feeling of certitude, or an inner conviction. For example, my subjective certainty that I have hands, or that I have a body is a certainty that is shown by the way I act, as opposed to having arguments that prove something. One can see this kind of certainty even in animals. For instance, an animal will express its belief or certainty that it is about to be fed by its actions - the wagging of its tail, or the action of jumping up and down as the food is prepared. What is going on is an outer expression (my actions or the dog's actions) of an inner state or belief. The problem is that we do not normally think of beliefs as state-of-mind reflected in our actions. However, even beliefs that are stated or expressed in writing, are actions of a certain kind, that is, they are linguistic acts.
I do tend to think of actions as revealing beliefs. If a man behaves a certain way with women that contradicts, for example, his stated ideas about women - a feminist man, say, who when studied in videotapes meetings dismisses ideas presented by women, engages in mocking behavior, etc.- I think can have their expressed in language beliefs about women challenged. Of course one can hold different even opposing beliefs at the same time. So it is not that the behavior completely or need completely negate the other belief if the are opposed, but it might be that a person beleived they believe X, but in fact they are incorrect, in the main. I think this can be true about all sorts of ontological and metpahysical beliefs also. The ways people decribe their emotions, for example, over a period of time, can reveal wildly different ontologies of the self.

The problem is that when we try to express our subjective beliefs with one another in the course of dialogue, the only way to do it is with statements or propositions. I am inclined to say "I know" because of an inner feeling of certainty, and herein lay the crux of the problem, namely, knowing and doubting in this context only occurs in language-games, and language-games only take place between people. The proposition that "I have hands" is not the result of my knowledge, but is the result of an inner certitude out of reach of any objective evidence.
Though Moore's belief he had hands was probably the result of several epistemological approaches.

The further point is that we do not play the language-game of knowing and doubting by ourselves, because knowing and doubting is an activity that happens between people.
Oh, I think we play all sorts of interpersonal games with just ourselves, since we are not unified.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty'

Postby Sam266 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:28 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:Oh, I think we play all sorts of interpersonal games with just ourselves, since we are not unified.


Wittgenstein's not talking about interpersonal games in the sense that you seem to mean. Wittgenstein uses the term language-game to describe a rule-following activity, which is what we do when we use language (language by definition is a rule-governed activity). He starts off the Philosophical Investigations by giving us an example of a primitive language-game. In Wittgenstein's example there is a builder and his assistant, when the builder calls out the word slab , the assistant either brings the right stone or he doesn't. By bringing the right stone the assistant shows that he understands the rules of the game, if not, then the assistant hasn't learned the proper response to the call. In other words, the assistant by bringing the wrong stone hasn't demonstrated a mastery of this particular language-game. A further example can be seen when thinking about how a child might learn to use the word cup, depending on how the child responds, this demonstrates their mastery of the language-game, namely, how they respond to the word/s.

A rule-following activity is not learned in isolation (see private language in the PI). We necessarily learn rule-following in conjunction with others. The logic of rule-following is necessarily connected with making mistakes; and correction only happens with others who know the game. Think of how you learned simple mathematics. If you learned it in complete isolation you would never know if you were making errors, because whatever would seem right to you, would be right.

Now, if we bring this back to the subject at hand, knowing and doubting are learned in the same manner, one cannot simply choose to use these words any way one likes. These words (knowing and doubting) are not learned in isolation, but are governed by the rules associated with their particular language-game.
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Re: An Analysis of 'On Certainty' by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Wed Jul 31, 2019 6:41 am

Sam266 wrote:
Karpel Tunnel wrote:Oh, I think we play all sorts of interpersonal games with just ourselves, since we are not unified.


Wittgenstein's not talking about interpersonal games in the sense that you seem to mean. Wittgenstein uses the term language-game to describe a rule-following activity, which is what we do when we use language (language by definition is a rule-governed activity).
He is saying that you cannot have private language games. I am saying that being with yourself is not private, which can be seen and then internally noticed that we treat ourselves as other people all the time. We are never alone.

He starts off the Philosophical Investigations by giving us an example of a primitive language-game. In Wittgenstein's example there is a builder and his assistant, when the builder calls out the word slab , the assistant either brings the right stone or he doesn't. By bringing the right stone the assistant shows that he understands the rules of the game, if not, then the assistant hasn't learned the proper response to the call. In other words, the assistant by bringing the wrong stone hasn't demonstrated a mastery of this particular language-game. A further example can be seen when thinking about how a child might learn to use the word cup, depending on how the child responds, this demonstrates their mastery of the language-game, namely, how they respond to the word/s.
Parts of me do this in relation to each other all the time. Of course the 'objects' are often more abstract. Like 'stand up for yourself' 'be more expressive'. And the dynamic is between parts of the self/brain/soul (depending on one's paradigm). One can track this introspectively, MRI wise, or in watching others, how they succeed or fail.

A rule-following activity is not learned in isolation (see private language in the PI). We necessarily learn rule-following in conjunction with others.
Yes, we model the intrapersonal activities and interpersonal ones, but we learn those real early. You can see even very young kids talking to themselves and reacting to their own speech. We are complicated.

And actually I have to think about this, because I don't think our brain regions necessarily get along or have the same approaches. It may be that neurosis/self-division is built in and not even cultural/empirically based. We may be a few people/personalities from the get go.


The logic of rule-following is necessarily connected with making mistakes; and correction only happens with others who know the game.
Which includes ourselves.


Now, if we bring this back to the subject at hand, knowing and doubting are learned in the same manner, one cannot simply choose to use these words any way one likes. These words (knowing and doubting) are not learned in isolation, but are governed by the rules associated with their particular language-game.
We may learn the words in isolation, but we will tweak them our own idiosyncratic ways and apply them uniquely, though this is not exactly related to what went above.
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