philosophy is for everyone
philosophers should know lots
by Henk Tuten
In 1922, the both famous and politically rejected Ludwig Wittgenstein published his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. A brilliant piece of work as far as I can judge. My problem is that the used language is dated, that this essay is very long, and that many years after the death of this philosopher it is impossible to penetrate his thoughts without his help.
Any summary risks being called presumptuous, and therefore 80 years after the original I wrote my own much shorter version. It helped that like obviously Wittgenstein I too have a mathematically skilled mind, and his work gave me a great start. Let's consider my piece as a kind of 10 commandments for my language-religion. It is constructed around the following pair of two concepts: [mind-world, language].
I can vividly imagine the aggression of Wittgenstein against the bulk of formal philosophers, but this was useless, and in these circles only hindered his acceptance.
1. A mind-world is a logical space containing only statements or propositions. All these statements are based on independent basic statements.
2. Every mind-world can split into two or more adjacent mind-worlds around any of its statements.
3. A statement (in any language) is only meaningful for members of some mind-worlds, as a comprehensible mix of adjectives and nouns fit together by verbs.
4. Every statement can be denied.
5. The totality of statements in some mind-world is called language.
6. Humans can construct languages capable of expressing every statement.
7. A society or super-culture is a group of mind-worlds in which people agree on a set of basic statements (basic commandments or basic constitution).
8. Two adjacent societies can be joined, by agreeing upon a bargaining-language and then on changing the definition of basic words in the two basic constitutions in that language (slightly changing the meaning in order to reach consensus).
9. All real philosophy is 'critique of language', and is aiming at combining two or more closely related societies.
10. "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence" (Wittgenstein).
Ad1) To make things a lot easier, unlike Wittgenstein I don't differentiate between facts and propositions. The result is that it becomes impossible to distinguish fiction and reality, but that peculiarity doesn't bother me. So statements are either caused by facts or by other statements, and facts might be real or just something appearing in the mirror of one's mind.
Ad2) In the original mind-world this spitting statement is considered true and in the others it is denied. Everything else remains the same.
Ad3 a) Even if members of other mind-worlds 'understand' this language, they might give this statement in their own language a slightly or completely different explanation. But be careful in destroying languages, they represent cultures that may have strong sides.
Ad3 b) If I know an adjective or noun in a certain language, then I also know how to use it in millions of sentences (so this must be inherent in its definition). Mind that you almost never use really elementary words. Maybe the word 'cat' to you seems quite elementary, but in fact it refers to thousands of other propositions. It shows that language became very complex. In practice we made new propositions that act as elementary ones, but in fact are made up of many other ones.
Ad3 c) An 'elementary' proposition is saying that some statement using basic words is true or false. Any proposition is in theory a combination of 'elementary' propositions. Think of statements like: "all stones are grey".
Ad3 d) A proposition is a truth-function of 'elementary' propositions. (An 'elementary' proposition is a truth-function of itself.) A statement nobody will deny in this and related mind-worlds, like: "Most stones are grey".
Ad3 e) Statements are either true or false. Many of them are similar. Both situations always occur, so there is at least one mind-world in which this combination is called true and vice versa (in the related mind-worlds an essentially different proposition is called true. "Most stones are white" or "Most stones are black").
Ad3 f) A mental picture of a statement is a thought.
Ad4) Even this one, but better don't do if you want to prevent getting a headache.
Ad5 a) Language must be seen as mind-culture. So mind-culture1 and mind-world1 are identical. But because there are limitless mind-worlds based on the same basic language is more comfortable to distinguish both language and mind-world.
Ad5 b) A combination of statements is thinkable if there is somebody who finds that it's true (who is in a mind-world where this is considered to be true).
Ad5 c) The totality of thoughts that you consider being true forms your mind-world.
Ad7 a) As the word says any society can consists of many cultures. Mass media are for the mind what pesticides are for the physical body. They 'kill' part of mind-worlds, by not paying attention to them. It is the vast diversity in mind-worlds and physic that always was the strength of humanity.
Ad7 b) Lawyers work what basic commandments mean in daily life.
Ad8 a) Let's take the hypothetical case that you want to combine two almost identical societies. They are similar except that in society1 some statement is considered true and in the other false. Then it seems that you have a problem, however this is not the case. Remember that the split originated in language. For instance something is called 'terrorism' in one way of thought and in the other 'struggle for survival'. This may result in proposition1 saying that some conduct is terrorism ('conduct = terrorism' is true) and in proposition2 that this conduct is 'struggle for survival ('conduct = terrorism' is false). Then it is clear you have to go back to the language used, to focus on the definition of the word 'terrorism'. That was cause of the split because in society1 'terrorism' is possibly seen as every brute force aimed at itself, while in society2 one makes the distinction between force necessary for defending oneself and unnecessary force. Similar exercises can be done using the words: euthanasia, abortion and so on. Such differences in thought can easily become very complex, especially if the two societies use very different languages. But it doesn't take something as difficult as time-travel to explore these adjacent super-cultures, just study of language.
Ad8 b) Criminal law decides if somebody is living mostly in his or her own mind-world (and deserves treatment) or in the dominant super-culture (and deserves punishment).
Ad9 a) I.e. proposing something as true that is called false in the present dominating society. If not then it is just making a 'shortcut' within a language. I.e. this 'philosophy' only expresses in a simpler way an existing proposition. Making things easier of course is a duty of philosophers, but not the main one.
Ad9 b) A real changing of the basic statements is a paradigm shift (Kuhn). The present pace of an accelerating evolution seems to be having 2 or 3 such mind-breakers in a century. That is what Nietzsche meant by saying that evolution until then only created 5 or 6 great minds.
© Henk Tuten 2002