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THREE LECTURES ON WITTGENSTEIN

From: 2016-04-18 To:2016-05-09

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  • Thematic Line


    Modern & Contemporary Philosophy
  • Research Group


    Mind, Language & Action
  • THREE LECTURES ON WITTGENSTEIN
    Charles Travis
     
    (King’s College London, MLAG – IF, UP)

    18 de abril, 2 e 9 de maio 2016
    17h30 – 19h30 | Sala do Departamento de Filosofia

     

    1ª sessão: 18 de abril 2016
    17h30 – 19h30 | Sala do Departamento de Filosofia

     

    Lecture 1: The first lecture will trace Wittgenstein’s career, painted in very broad brushstrokes. (This means that very little actual philosophy will be done.) A main concern will be to relate Wittgenstein to three other philosophers who had a great influence on his philosophy. These are: Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert, and Bertrand Russell.

    A. It begins in 1911, when Wittgenstein came to Cambridge to study with Russell (in several senses of ‘with’). These investigations, punctuated by the first world war, culminated, in 1922, with the publication of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. That work presented a picture of representation, and the place in that for philosophy itself. In those years, though young Wittgenstein was typically severely critical of (and harsh on) Russell, he, and the Tractatus, were both also heavily influenced by him. In particular, not so long before, Russell had been engaged in a debate with Frege, in which, among other things, Russell rejected the validity of (at least) two central notions of Frege’s: the notion Sinn, and, correlatively, the notion of a thought (Gedanke). The Tractatus is very much the work of a brash young man, brimming over with (as it proved) unjustified self-confidence. Which brings us to the next stage:

    B. The years 1929-1932. In 1929, Wittgenstein undertook to write an essay to be presented at a meeting of the Aristotelian Society in London. By the time he had finished writing it, he had come to realise that the Tractatus was a failure. Its picture of thought, and of representation, collapsed completely, so to speak, before his eyes. (In 1945 he spoke of the ‘grave errors’ he had come, in 1929, to see in his earlier work. By December 1931 he already spoke of the Tractatus’ ‘arrogance’ and ‘dogmatism’ (in thinking it could leave its loose ends as outstanding problems for future research). The essay was published. (Such was unavoidable.) But when it was time to deliver the talk to the society, he instead talked about something else. It was not immediately obvious to Wittgenstein how to repair the damage; in what direction to move to work towards the right, or at least a better, picture of representing. The years 1929-1931 were thus ones of ferment. We know something about them through conversations held in those years with Friedrich Waismann and Moritz Schlick. What we see happening there is, in one respect, a move from Russell in the direction of Frege. It is a move towards at least the outlines of the picture of representation (of ‘meaning, thinking and understanding’), correlatively of logic, which we get (in as finished a form as he ever got it into) in Philosophical Investigations, published after his death, in 1953.

    C. The years 1933-1950. By 1933, the outlines of Wittgenstein’s later picture of those central topics above, were in place. In those years he produced various manuscripts, at first experimenting with approaches to presenting his new ideas, and then continually refining them. These are, for the most part, new ways of treating issues mistreated in the Tractatus. Here, again, the move is away from Russell, towards Frege.


    2ª sessão: 2 de maio 2016
    17h30 – 19h30 | Sala do Departamento de Filosofia

     

    Lecture 2 (The relation to Russell and Frege): The main focus here will be on the way in which Wittgenstein’s (early) relation to these two philosophers shaped (and doomed) the Tractatus. The first thing to consider is the point of Frege’s notions Sinn and Gedanke. It is also worth noting what the ‘formal’ means in ‘formal logic’, and why Frege was interested in formalisation. Early Wittgenstein sided with Russell in not taking these Fregean notions seriously (or, perhaps, in taking them seriously as notions to be rejected). Such is reflected in the Tractatus picture of representation (largely in section 2). The result was that Frege’s argument against correspondence theories of truth applied to that picture, by virtue of which the Tractatus collapsed. Frege’s aims here were anti-reductionist (as opposed to his ‘psychologistic’ colleagues in philosophy at that time). It is important to appreciate what this means. The specifics of what first made the Tractatus collapse for Wittgenstein, though, concern the Tractatus notion of an atomic proposition. I will trace the general outlines of that issue, too. It presages one main theme in the Investigations. It has to do with the general shape thinking (at least of thinkers of our sort) takes. It is also a case against a certain form of philosophical hubris. Wittgenstein’s ‘logical atomism’ shared something with the logical atomism of Russell of 1917. One might note that such is the main object of Wittgenstein’s critique in the Investigations from about §37 to about §64.


    3ª sessão: 9 de maio 2016
    17h30 – 19h30 | Sala do Departamento de Filosofia

     

    Lecture 3 (The influence of Frege and Hilbert): In the years 1929-1932, one of Wittgenstein’s main interests lay in the philosophy of mathematics (as it had already in 1911). He was, for one thing, impressed by the recent work of David Hilbert, who (largely to Frege’s dismay) offered (to put it one way) a new conception of what mathematics might be. It was a conception opposed to that conception of arithmetic which Frege expounded, in Grundgesetze der Arithmetik, in attacking his (less able) superior, Johannes Thomae. Wittgenstein and Waismann found in this attack something Frege was right about and something which (in their view) he was not. In effect, they saw Frege as failing in his attack on what one might call ‘formalism’ (something distinct from formalisation), at least as this might be conceived in a Hilbertian spirit. I will say a bit about what the issues are here. But they are not our main concern. The main concern is with what Frege was right about (at least in their eyes, and I think full stop). This idea, I will suggest, developed into Wittgenstein’s later notion of a language game. I will try to say something about why that notion is so philosophically important (which is to say, first of all, just what the applications of this notion are). In effect, it vindicates Frege’s notion of a thought by giving it its proper place. If there is time, I will also begin to discuss Wittgenstein’s comments on Russell’s logical atomism.

     

    Organização: Sofia Miguens (MLAG-IF) e João Alberto Pinto (MLAG-IF)
    Research Group Mind Language and Action Group (MLAG)

    Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto - FIL/00502
    Financiamento: FCT

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