Wittgenstein: The Relationship between Rule Following and Precision

Wittgenstein: The Relationship between Rule Following and Precision

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Finally, it would be useful to mention Wittgenstein’s discussions around the concept of certainty. The question is actually simple: What do you do when you come across a signpost? The answer seems pretty simple.

If you want to go to the place written on the sign, you go in the direction the arrow shows? Witgenstein here asks the question “Why”. You can give different explanations for this. You could say that the tip of the arrow points in that direction. However, it may be asked why the tip of the arrow points in the desired direction. Again, you can try to give some explanations. But in the end, some conventions come and go. You have been instructed to act in accordance with certain conventions. However, since the conventions in question are based on some customs, traditions and customs, it is seen that they cannot be done alone. We find ourselves in a community assuming certain things to be true and following certain rules. Rule-following is a practice learned within a community. Therefore, when we follow the rules and other rules we use while using the language, an inquiry as to the reason is ultimately based on the fact that “we simply live like this” (Philosophical Investigations, p. Behind these rules and many of our other beliefs are our “lifestyles”. Language games are played within these lifestyles.

Wittgenstein develops his views along these lines in his posthumously published work On Certainty. If we find ourselves in these life-forms and involuntarily assume certain things, can’t we doubt them? Wittgenstein says that even to be able to doubt, we must believe in certain things. The views we have of the world are not what we empirically test and therefore know. We begin with a whole that we inherited, in a way.

Wittgenstein calls the propositions constituting this heritage in question as a kind of mythology because we do not test, investigate and decide on their correctness. It is possible because of the very different worldviews that are subject to different mythologies. In this sense, two people who believe in different mythologies can discuss a certain topic. It is also possible for one of them to accept the opinion of the other. On the other hand, this acceptance is not based on an argument based on objective facts. It would be more like changing a belief system, a religion.

When we begin to believe in something, what we believe is not a single proposition, it is a whole system of propositions (Light spreads gradually over the whole) (On Certainty, p.141).

I reach the bottom of my wings. One can almost express this situation as follows: the foundation walls are supported by the whole house (On Certainty, p.248).

Now, at this point, Wittgenstein has reached the opposite point of the Tractatus. Atomism has been completely abandoned. Well-founded beliefs are based on ill-founded beliefs (On Certainty, p.253).

We have certain beliefs on which our way of life is based and whose existence we do not doubt, but these beliefs are unfounded. An effort to seek a foundation is futile.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook