Wittgenstein on Mind and Language

By David G. Stern | Go to book overview

5
The Description of Immediate Experience

5.1 Philosophical Analysis and Primary Language

To see how the changes I have just outlined came about, we must start with "Some Remarks on Logical Form," the only paper Wittgenstein ever published, and the last piece of his philosophical writing he saw to press. Written for the Aristotelian Society's annual meeting in summer 1929, it gives us a very clear idea of some of the main issues that occupied him at the time.1 In a few pages, the paper sets out a programmatic conception of philosophical analysis and the relationship between language and experience. It also gives Wittgenstein's initial response to the problem of the logic of colour: he tried to rescue the Tractatus ontology by giving an account of elementary propositions on which they do stand in logical relations with one another. These interconnected changes in Wittgenstein's outlook show him beginning to modify the doctrines of the Tractatus. These changes are part of a change in his conception of analysis, at a time when he still he thought of it as a matter of formulating a surveyable language for the description of immediate experience. The paper, which is quite short, must have been written soon after Wittgenstein's return to Cambridge, as the Proceedings are published before the summer meeting. According to G. E. M. Anscombe in an editorial footnote that appeared in the reprinted version in Essays on Wittgenstein's Tractatus, Wittgenstein later described it as "quite worthless" and "weak and uncharacteristic."2 As the letter has since been lost, we will probably never know Wittgenstein's reasons for this dismissive judgment. Despite her insistence that "little value can be set upon it as information about Wittgenstein's ideas,"3 the paper does contain ideas about the relationship between language and experience that are certainly not found in the Tractatus, ideas that are important precisely because Wittgenstein soon repudiated them, giving up this conception of philosophy for a study of the structure of everyday language.

Wittgenstein begins by distinguishing between the form and the content of a proposition. He says that the philosopher is interested in the form, the logical structure of the proposition, which can be found by substituting variables for every refer

____________________
1
Wittgenstein did not present the paper at the meeting, where he spoke about mathematical infinity instead.
2
Copi and Beard, Essays on Wittgenstein's Tractatus, p. 31.
3
Copi and Beard, Essays on Wittgenstein's Tractatus, p. 31.

-128-

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Wittgenstein on Mind and Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • I - WITTGENSTEIN'S EARLY PHILOSOPHY 33
  • 2 - Logic and Language 35
  • 3 - Subject and Object 53
  • II - WITGENSTEIN'S LATER PHILOSOPHY 89
  • 4 - From Logical Atomism to Practical Holism 91
  • 5 - The Description of Immediate Experience 128
  • 6 - The Flow of Life 160
  • Appendix: Passages from the Unpublished Wittgenstein Papers (Nachlass) 193
  • Bibliography 205
  • Index 211
  • Index of Quotations 223
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