Wittgenstein: What is the Philosophical Illusion?June 27, 2021
How can an intelligence in Wittgenstein’s age do such a detailed study and miss the essence of language so much? Wittgenstein thinks this is an illusion that goes much deeper than a simple mistake. Philosophers in particular are subject to this kind of illusion. How can philosophers fall into such an illusion?
One explanation for this has to do with what we do in the process of clearing up misunderstandings. If the other person does not understand what we are saying, we try to explain our statement in different ways, using other word groups, replacing one word or phrase with another. We also call what we do “analysis” (Philosophical Investigations, 90).
In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein seems to follow a similar path. Everyday language is misleading and hides the true logic of language. It is tried to reach a final form by analyzing the expressions. Modern logic helps us with this.
This is the road to illusion. We are trying to find something under the superficially obvious and find it by some kind of analysis.
“The Essence is hidden from us”. This is the form our problem now takes. We ask ourselves: “What is language?”, “What is proposition?” The answers to these questions are given once and for all, independently of any future experience (Philosophical Investigations, 92).
The method followed here is no different from Socrates’ questioning what the essence of the thing is, whatever it is in Plato’s dialogues. Just as this method seduced and dragged the followers of Socrates, it also led Wittgenstein to write the Tractatus.
Wittgenstein states that language has a “crystal-infested logic”, a picture that makes us think that language is a kind of calculus (Philosophical Investigations, 107).
In Wittgenstein’s words, we have looked at everything through it, like glasses on our nose, and have never thought of removing it (Philosophical Investigations, 103).
We are seized with the idea that language must have a logic, that propositions must have a logical form, that names must represent objects. Therefore, rather than trying to describe (describe) the language, we have tried to impose on the language what the language should be. That’s what’s wrong with the Tractatus. The only way to get rid of this illusion is to get rid of this imposition and return to description. (…) We must remove all explanations and only description should take its place. This description should take its light, that is, its purpose, from philosophical problems.
(…) Problems are solved not by introducing new information, but by organizing what we always already know. Philosophy is a battle against the fascination of our intelligence with language (Philosophical Investigations, 109).
The project presented here does not look very different from the one in the Tractatus. The work done is a rearrangement rather than new information. However, there is no essence we seek, no logic hidden from us. The colloquial language and the use of words in that language are relied upon. We need to be wary of philosophers breaking words out of context and making them meaningless.
When philosophers use a word – “knowledge”, “being”, “object”, “I”, “proposition”, “name” – and try to grasp the essence of the thing, it should always be asked: A word has never been in the language game from which it originated. Is it really used in this sense?
What we do is bring words back from their metaphysical use to their everyday use (Philosophical Investigations, 116).
Here we encounter a proposal that is somewhat similar and somewhat unlike the one proposed in the Tractatus. In the Tractatus, too, we were warned against frivolous or metaphysical uses. However, the field to which we were invited was limited to the language of natural sciences. Now the place we are advised to return to is the safe zone of everyday language. What then will be the function of philosophy?
Philosophy does not interfere in any way with the actual use of language. Ultimately, he can only describe it. Because it cannot provide any basis for it. He leaves things as they are (Philosophical Investigations, 124).
Philosophy does not have to deal with the usual problems of reality, God, immortality, good and evil. Because these issues and problems have already arisen from the wrong use of language. How should the philosopher deal with what?
The philosopher’s handling of a question is like curing a disease (Philosophical Investigations, 255).
Of course, it is the philosopher himself who makes himself sick here. Using language incorrectly produces paradoxes, confusions and ambiguities. Again, if philosophy is done in the way Wittgenstein suggested, it can cure this disease.
What is your purpose in philosophy? To get the fly out of the bottle (Philosophical Investigations, 309).
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM