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Thread: The Limits of Language

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    The Limits of Language

    "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

    Translated: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

    Quoted above is one of the most famous (perhaps also infamous) propositions to come out of twentieth-century philosophy, written by one of the most renowned philosophers of the twentieth century .

    What do you think this proposition means?
    What does it say to you?
    Do you find its meaning congenial to your philosophical view of the world?
    If true, what implications does this proposition hold for philosophical discussion?
    <a href=http://i.imgur.com/u68aMie.jpg target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://i.imgur.com/u68aMie.jpg</a>
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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

    Translated: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

    Quoted above is one of the most famous (perhaps also infamous) propositions to come out of twentieth-century philosophy, written by one of the most renowned philosophers of the twentieth century .

    What do you think this proposition means?
    What does it say to you?
    Do you find its meaning congenial to your philosophical view of the world?
    If true, what implications does this proposition hold for philosophical discussion?
    To me it means "don't speak about something you have no knowledge of"...which I don't Angel, so I googled...


    As with any Wittgenstein quote, it’s difficult to work out exactly what he meant. All we know is that he found all his enigmatic epigrams so completely obvious that asking him for direction sometimes drove him into a rage. And, while he refused to explain much of what he said, he had a zero tolerance policy for anyone who misconstrued his words.

    His stated aim in this little book (you’ll have it read inside an hour if you want to) is to take down philosophy as a discipline forever. He’s not joking about that. He really felt that if everyone took these ideas on board, philosophy would stop.

    As all comprehensive philosophy should, he starts at the very start, as you can see from the opening line. But even then, he says that “this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it”, which at that stage, of course, was only Wittgenstein.

    If you doubt it, a quick skim through the renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell’s introduction will reveal that he seems to have missed the point entirely. He wasn’t alone. A tragic but understandable misreading of the Tractatus led to the establishment of one of the most influential schools of thought of the 20th century, the Vienna Circle.

    The last line of the Tractatus is: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” The Vienna Circle misinterpreted this as Wittgenstein’s intention to nail down philosophy to only things which can be measured, catalogued, or “spoken about” in some observable way, such that discussions about [god, love, poetry etc.] were avoided as irrelevant and meaningless. Wittgenstein himself was horrified by their interpretation, as he had meant something entirely different: that [god, love and poetry etc.] were the only things worth a damn in the human animal, but that due to their profoundly subjective significance, it would be impossible for any discussion to illuminate anything about them. In fact, attempts to discuss them could only degrade our intuitive understanding of them. Which is a curious position for a philosopher to adopt (“let’s not talk about it”), but Wittgenstein was no ordinary philosopher.

    Further, after stating that no one who isn’t living inside his head will understand it, Wittgenstein claims that “the second thing … this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these problem are solved.” In other words, even a discussion of why philosophy is worthless is worthless.

    In later years (or immediately after publication, depending on your mileage), he would completely denounce this book in favour of the ideas he outlined in his Philosophical Investigations, which is more hard philosophy than the Tractatus, but doesn’t suffer for it.

    In both books, his main concern is to work out what it means to “mean” something, how we put meaning into the words we throw into the air from our heads, how we take symbols and make them mean things, and how we engage with others using these symbols. As with much of Wittgenstein’s output, it sounds very complicated, but it’s not.

    Much of the time, the only sensible solution he can come upon is a variation on “It is what it is,” which is a depressing sort of conclusion for any philosopher to read, but, you know, it is what it is.

    https://www.quora.com/Whereof-one-ca...-by-this-quote
    "But as for me, drawing near to God is good for me. I have made the Sovereign Lord Jehovah my refuge, To declare all your works." Psalm 73:28

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Elvira View Post
    To me it means "don't speak about something you have no knowledge of"...which I don't Angel, so I googled...
    nevertheless avoiding the question posed in the OP.

    Which reads

    What do you think this proposition means?
    What does it say to you?
    Do you find its meaning congenial to your philosophical view of the world?

    "You" and "your" bolded for emphasis and clearly not implying that anyone wants to know what a Philosophy student on Quora makes of it.

    With your interpretation that you utter in your first sentence here being of course as much off the mark as could be.
    Last edited by Chagos; 01-29-18 at 01:49 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by coldjoint View Post
    ~......................... I fully expect you to disappear ............~

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    "Whereof one cannot speak" does not imply being ignorant of what one otherwise would speak upon, were it not for the imperative that follows.

    Although shutting the hell up over something one is totally clueless over is a popular interpretation of this axiom and not without merit.

    As can be seen here already.

    Thus, without further arguing the validity of Witgenstein's "command", I shall hereby follow it on the pretext of holding myself to be able to speak not equating to the concept that I can.
    Quote Originally Posted by coldjoint View Post
    ~......................... I fully expect you to disappear ............~

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Elvira View Post
    To me it means "don't speak about something you have no knowledge of"...which I don't Angel, so I googled...


    As with any Wittgenstein quote, it’s difficult to work out exactly what he meant. All we know is that he found all his enigmatic epigrams so completely obvious that asking him for direction sometimes drove him into a rage. And, while he refused to explain much of what he said, he had a zero tolerance policy for anyone who misconstrued his words.

    His stated aim in this little book (you’ll have it read inside an hour if you want to) is to take down philosophy as a discipline forever. He’s not joking about that. He really felt that if everyone took these ideas on board, philosophy would stop.

    As all comprehensive philosophy should, he starts at the very start, as you can see from the opening line. But even then, he says that “this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it”, which at that stage, of course, was only Wittgenstein.

    If you doubt it, a quick skim through the renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell’s introduction will reveal that he seems to have missed the point entirely. He wasn’t alone. A tragic but understandable misreading of the Tractatus led to the establishment of one of the most influential schools of thought of the 20th century, the Vienna Circle.

    The last line of the Tractatus is: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” The Vienna Circle misinterpreted this as Wittgenstein’s intention to nail down philosophy to only things which can be measured, catalogued, or “spoken about” in some observable way, such that discussions about [god, love, poetry etc.] were avoided as irrelevant and meaningless. Wittgenstein himself was horrified by their interpretation, as he had meant something entirely different: that [god, love and poetry etc.] were the only things worth a damn in the human animal, but that due to their profoundly subjective significance, it would be impossible for any discussion to illuminate anything about them. In fact, attempts to discuss them could only degrade our intuitive understanding of them. Which is a curious position for a philosopher to adopt (“let’s not talk about it”), but Wittgenstein was no ordinary philosopher.

    Further, after stating that no one who isn’t living inside his head will understand it, Wittgenstein claims that “the second thing … this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these problem are solved.” In other words, even a discussion of why philosophy is worthless is worthless.

    In later years (or immediately after publication, depending on your mileage), he would completely denounce this book in favour of the ideas he outlined in his Philosophical Investigations, which is more hard philosophy than the Tractatus, but doesn’t suffer for it.

    In both books, his main concern is to work out what it means to “mean” something, how we put meaning into the words we throw into the air from our heads, how we take symbols and make them mean things, and how we engage with others using these symbols. As with much of Wittgenstein’s output, it sounds very complicated, but it’s not.

    Much of the time, the only sensible solution he can come upon is a variation on “It is what it is,” which is a depressing sort of conclusion for any philosopher to read, but, you know, it is what it is.

    https://www.quora.com/Whereof-one-ca...-by-this-quote
    Elvira kudos. If someone wants a discussion on a quote, at least include the name the quote is accredited to.

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

    Translated: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

    Quoted above is one of the most famous (perhaps also infamous) propositions to come out of twentieth-century philosophy, written by one of the most renowned philosophers of the twentieth century .

    What do you think this proposition means?
    What does it say to you?
    Do you find its meaning congenial to your philosophical view of the world?
    If true, what implications does this proposition hold for philosophical discussion?
    It says 'if you don't know what you're talking about, don't say anything'.

    Good advice.

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

    Translated: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

    Quoted above is one of the most famous (perhaps also infamous) propositions to come out of twentieth-century philosophy, written by one of the most renowned philosophers of the twentieth century .

    What do you think this proposition means?
    What does it say to you?
    Do you find its meaning congenial to your philosophical view of the world?
    If true, what implications does this proposition hold for philosophical discussion?
    Honestly what came to my mind from this quote and the title of this thread was that there are certain things that you feel or know that you can't put into words. Maybe you just don't know the word or maybe the word doesn't exist in your language. Or maybe the knowledge you have is such an experiential one that language is impossible to describe it.

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Yeah, I think it means:

    IF SOMETHING CANNOT BE PUT INTO WORDS WE MUST SHUT UP ABOUT IT


    As you can readily see, this dictum runs counter to everything IT chat culture is about!


    Namaste.
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    "I'm not 100% sure that you and I exist, but I'm surer that God exists than that you exist, and I'm as sure God exists as I am that I exist."
    Angel Trismegistus

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Standard recipe for the modern philosopher/con artist;

    Say stuff that is almost meaningless but sounds profound in a big way but when challenged do 2 things 1: act like they have been utterly foolish to need it explained to them and then say it was the lesser meaning of it which is utterly obvious so why do they need it explained, the fools!

    Just drivel rapped up in pretention.

  10. #10
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    Re: The Limits of Language

    ^^^^^case in point
    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    ...
    As you can readily see, this dictum runs counter to everything IT chat culture is about!
    Namaste.
    <a href=http://i.imgur.com/u68aMie.jpg target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://i.imgur.com/u68aMie.jpg</a>
    "I'm not 100% sure that you and I exist, but I'm surer that God exists than that you exist, and I'm as sure God exists as I am that I exist."
    Angel Trismegistus

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