THE FATE OF ANALYSIS, #17–Signs, Symbols, Sense, Truth, and Judgment.

By Robert Hanna

THE FATE OF ANALYSIS: Analytic Philosophy From Frege to The Ash-Heap of History



II. Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.1 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Is: Two Basic Theses

II.2 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Officially Isn’t: Its Conflicted Anti-Kantianism

II.3 Classical Analytic Philosophy Characterized in Simple, Subtler, and Subtlest Ways

II.4 Three Kinds of Analysis: Decompositional, Transformative, and Conceptual

II.5 Frege, The First Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.6 Frege’s Project of (Transformative or Reductive) Analysis

II.7 Frege’s Dead End

II.8 Frege’s Semantics of Sense and Reference, aka Meaning

II.9 Some Biggish Problems For Frege’s Semantics

II.10 Husserl, Logic, and Logical Psychologism, aka LP

II.11 What LP is, and its Three Cardinal Sins

II.12 Husserl’s Three Basic Arguments Against LP

II.13 Has Husserl Begged the Question Against LP? Enter The Logocentric Predicament, and a Husserlian Way Out

II. Moore, Brentano, Husserl, Judgment, Anti-Idealism, and Meinong’s World

III.1 G.E. Moore, the Second Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

III.2 Brentano on Phenomenology, Mental Phenomena, and Intentionality

III.3 Husserl on Phenomenology and Intentionality

III.4 Moore and the Nature of Judgment

III.5 Moore and the Refutation of Idealism

III.6 Meinong’s World

IV. Russell, Unlimited Logicism, Acquaintance, and Description

IV.1 Russell Beyond Brentano, Husserl, Moore, and Meinong

IV.2 Russell and Mathematical Logic versus Kant

IV.3 Russell’s Unlimited Logicist Project

IV.4 Pursued by Logical Furies: Russell’s Paradox Again

IV.5 Russell’s ‘Fido’-Fido Theory of Meaning

IV.6 Knowledge-by-Acquaintance and Knowledge-by-Description

IV.7 Russell’s Theory of Descriptions

IV.8 Russell’s Multiple-Relation Theory of Judgment

IV.9 Russellian Analysis, Early Wittgenstein, and Impredicativity Again

IV.10 Russell and The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

V. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 1: The Title, and Propositions 1–2.063

V.1 A Brief Synopsis of the Tractatus

V.2 The Tractatus in Context

V.3 The Basic Structure of the Tractatus: A Simple Picture

V.4 Tractarian Ontology

V.5 Reconstructing Wittgenstein’s Reasoning

V.6 What Are the Objects or Things?

V.7 The Role of Logic in Tractarian Ontology

V.8 Colorless Objects/Things

V.9 Tractarian Ontology, Necessity, and Contingency

V.10 Some Initial Worries, and Some Possible Wittgensteinian Counter-Moves

VI. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 2: Propositions 2.013–5.55

VI.1 What is Logical Space? What is Real Space?

VI.2 Atomic Facts Necessarily Are in Manifest or Phenomenal Space, But Objects or Things Themselves Necessarily Aren’t in Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.3 Logical Space is Essentially More Comprehensive than Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.4 Why There Can’t/Kant Be a Non-Logical World

VI.5 A Worry About Wittgenstein’s Conception of Logic: Non-Classical Logics

VI.6 What is a Tractarian Proposition?

VI.7 Naming Objects or Things, and Picturing Atomic Facts

VI.8 Signs, Symbols, Sense, Truth, and Judgment

VI.9 Propositions Again

VI.10 Language and Thought

VII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 3: Propositions 4–5.61

VII.1 The Logocentric Predicament, Version 3.0: Justifying Deduction

VII.2 The Logical Form of Deduction

VII.3 Logic Must Take Care of Itself

VII.4 Tautologies and Contradictions

VII.5 What is Logic?

VII.6 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Language

VII.7 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Thought

VII.8 Logic is the A Priori Essence of the World

VIII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 4: Propositions 5.62–7

VIII.1 Tractarian Solipsism and Tractarian Realism

VIII.2 Tractarian Solipsism

VIII.3 Tractarian Realism

VIII.4 Is the Tractatus’s Point an Ethical One?

VIII.5 The Meaning of Life

VIII.6 Three Basic Worries About the Tractatus

VIII.7 Natural Science and the Worry About the Simplicity of the Objects or Things

VIII.8 Natural Science and the Worry About the Logical Independence of Atomic Facts

VIII.9 Tractarian Mysticism and the Worry About Metaphilosophy

IX. Carnap, The Vienna Circle, Logical Empiricism, and The Great Divide

IX.1 Carnap Before and After the Tractatus

IX.2 Carnap, The Vienna Circle, and The Elimination of Metaphysics

IX.3 The Verifiability Principle and Its Fate

IX.4 The Davos Conference and The Great Divide

X. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 1: Preface, and §§1–27

X.1 From the Tractatus to the Investigations

X.2 The Thesis That Meaning Is Use

X.3 A Map of the Investigations

X.4 The Critique of Pure Reference: What the Builders Did

XI. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 2: §§28–242

XI.1 The Picture Theory and the Vices of Simplicity

XI.2 Wittgenstein’s Argument Against The Picture Theory: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.3 Understanding and Rule-Following

XI.4 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: The Basic Rationale

XI.5 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.6 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: Why Read Kripke Too?

XI.7 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.8 How to Solve The Paradox: Wittgenstein’s Way and Kripkenstein’s Way

XI.8.1 Wittgenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.8.2 Kripkenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 3: §§242–315

XII.1 What is a Private Language?

XII.2 The Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.3 Is Wittgenstein a Behaviorist? No.

XII.4 Wittgenstein on Meanings, Sensations, and Human Mindedness: A Rational Reconstruction

XIII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 4: §§316–693 & 174e-232e

XIII.1 Linguistic Phenomenology

XIII.2 Two Kinds of Seeing

XIII.3 Experiencing the Meaning of a Word

XIII.4 The Critique of Logical Analysis, and Logic-As-Grammar

XIV. Coda: Wittgenstein and Kantianism

XIV.1 World-Conformity 1: Kant, Transcendental Idealism, and Empirical Realism

XIV.2 World-Conformity 2: Wittgenstein, Transcendental Solipsism, and Pure Realism

XIV.3 World-Conformity 3: To Forms of Life

XIV.4 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 1: Kant’s Critical Metaphilosophy

XIV.5 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 2: Wittgensteinian Analysis as Critique

XV. From Quine to Kripke and Analytic Metaphysics: The Adventures of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XV.1 Two Urban Legends of Post-Empiricism

XV.2 A Very Brief History of The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XV.3 Why the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction Really Matters

XV.4 Quine’s Critique of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, and a Meta-Critique

XV.5 Three Dogmas of Post-Quineanism

XVI. Analytic Philosophy and The Ash-Heap of History

XVI.1 Husserl’s Crisis and Our Crisis

XVI.2 Why Hasn’t Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy Produced Any Important Ideas in the Last Thirty-Five Years?

XVI.3 On Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being, Or, It’s The End Of Analytic Philosophy As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

XVI.4 Thinking Inside and Outside the Fly-Bottle: The New Poverty of Philosophy and Its Second Copernican Revolution


But you can also read or download a .pdf version of the complete book HERE.


VI.8 Signs, Symbols, Sense, Truth, and Judgment

(The type-token distinction for letters can be easily conveyed by asking yourself:

How many letters are there in ‘aardvark’?

If you say “8” then you’re counting letters as tokens, but if you say “5” then you’re counting letters as types.)

Symbols, by contrast to signs, are signs with a meaning, whether this meaning is a sense (Sinn)or a reference/Meaning (Bedeutung).

In natural or ordinary language, it’s of course possible to have two or more different signs with the same meaning (synonymy); and it’s of course also possible that one sign has two or more different meanings (ambiguity).

And it’s also possible for signs to lack a meaning altogether, e.g., empty names like ‘Mr Nemo’ or sortally incorrect predicates like ‘is a procrastination-drinking cloud of quadruplicity’.

Hence two or more different signs can express the same symbol, the same sign can express different symbols, and some signs don‘t express symbols.

Ambiguity or semantic emptiness can lead to confusion, unsoundness in arguments, contradiction, or even paradox.

In a logically perspicuous language, however, aka a logically ideal language, every sign has a meaning, and each sign has one and only one meaning.

It’s crucial to recognize that signs do not have a meaning on their own: they have to be correctly used.

Otherwise put, signs without a use are semantically dead.

In order to be meaningful and get a semantic life, they must be vivified by a correct use of those signs.

More precisely, signs acquire a meaning only by being correctly used by some talking and thinking subject or ego, in the larger context of propositions.

Not just any old “mess of words” (Wörtergemisch) (3.141), or word-salad, will count as a propositional sign however: on the contrary, only sequences that obey logico-grammatical formation rules, aka rules of logical syntax, will be allowed to come to life as propositional signs.


Is and but not or doggy if spittoon Frege


Sweetly the sweetly Wittgenstein whereas whisky

are not propositional signs and therefore not permitted into the semiotic land of the living, as logographically amusing or poetically pleasant as they might otherwise be.

It should be noted that there are two different kinds of logico-grammatical formation constraints, hence two distinct levels of the logical syntax of language.

The first sort of constraint has merely to do with the ordering of names in atomic propositions, and of names together with logical constants in molecular propositions.

‘Frege is a philosopher’ is a well-ordered propositional sign, but ‘Sweetly the sweetly Wittgenstein whereas whisky’ isn‘t.

Such violations are nowadays called cases of ill-formedness and constitute logico-grammatical nonsense.

The second sort of constraint has to do with the logical types of names, and correspondingly with the logical forms of objects correlated with those names (e.g., real space, time, and color).

Importantly, violations of these rules can emerge even when the sequence of names obeys rules of well-ordering, e.g.,

Frege is nothing but a colourless green idea that’s always sleeping furiously when it should instead be thinking and writing about the foundations of logic and mathematics


Frege and quadruplicity both drink procrastination not wisely but too well.

These violations are nowadays called sortal incorrectness, and are logico-grammatical nonsense of a higher order than mere syntactical ill-formedness.

Such violations are also of great philosophical import, because according to Wittgenstein, virtually all philosophical errors consist in some or another kind of logico-philosophical sortal incorrectness.

Correspondingly, one profound difficulty about sortally incorrect nonsense is that it may superficially seem acceptable.

E.g., according to Wittgenstein, the well-formed sequences,

Two is a number

Frege is identical to Frege

Tully is identical to Cicero


Frege judges (asserts, believes, states, etc.) P

are all subtle cases of logico-philosophical sortal incorrectness, even though in fact they seemed perfectly sortally correct to Frege and Russell.

Among other things, this means that while our linguistic well-formedness intuitions are a generally reliable basis for theorizing about natural language syntax (as Chomsky later pointed out), by contrast our logico-philosophical sortal correctness intuitions are not generally reliable.

So the formation of propositional signs with a sense is necessarily constrained by a set of logico-grammatical rules, some of which, at the very least, aren’t self-evident, and might even be profoundly hidden from us due to fundamental philosophical confusions.

In any case, the essence of sense is the picturing relation as it occurs in atomic propositions.

Every complex sense of a complex or molecular proposition is systematically inherited from the senses of its constituent atomic propositions.

But what’s the “sense” of sense?

That is, what’s the rational purpose of sense?

The rational purpose of sense is to convey true or false information about facts.

An atomic proposition is true if and only if the fact that it pictures is a positive or actual fact, and otherwise it’s false.

And a molecular proposition is true if and only if the truth-function of its component atomic propositions assigns it the truth-value T or true; and otherwise it’s F or false.

Wittgenstein‘s theory of truth for atomic propositions can be regarded as the purest version of the correspondence theory of truth, since from the user’s grasp of the structure of the propositional sign it is possible literally to read off the structure of its correlated fact.

Also, Wittgenstein’s theory avoids the fundamental problem in the traditional correspondence theory of truth, which that the cognizer is required to justify or validate the similarity between sign and object or thing, which then requires a vicious regress of higher-order correspondence relations and justifications/validations.

On Wittgenstein‘s correspondence theory, the isomorphism between propositional symbol and fact is built right into the sense of the proposition: then truth is merely the question of whether that fact actually exists or not, which is external to the representing subject or ego.

This brings us to the way in which Wittgenstein’s theory of truth is a highly realistic theory of truth, aka a semantic conception of truth in Tarski’s sense.

Wittgenstein’s theory introduces no representational intermediary between language and truth-making fact, hence it is fully immediate or direct: the correct use of the sentence maps the representing subject onto the fact, then that fact either actually exists or not, and that’s it.

It should be noted in this connection that the very idea of realism has three importantly different senses that are not always carefully distinguished:

(i) mind-independence of the facts (metaphysical realism),

(ii) objective knowability of the facts (epistemic realism), and

(iii) direct or unmediated representation of the facts (semantic realism).

As a logicistic neo-Kantian theory, Wittgenstein’s theory of truth isn’t realistic in sense (i), but it is realistic in senses (ii) and (iii), and especially in sense (iii).

This point comes forward in two ways.

First, Wittgenstein‘s picture theory of meaning entails a truth-maker semantics.

That is, positive and negative facts are themselves the worldly truth-makers and falsity-makers of atomic propositions, and senses of atomic propositions are intrinsically bound up with the bipolarity of the proposition, i.e., its classical truth or classical falsity.

Given a sense of an atomic proposition, it completely divides the world into the atomic fact it pictures, its truth-maker, and everything else other than that atomic fact, its falsity maker.

Second, Wittgenstein‘s picture theory of meaning entails a transparency theory of judgment.

That is, for Wittgenstein the judger becomes nothing but a transparent cognitive conduit to the facts.

How does this work?

What I’ll call primitive sense or primary sense is how an atomic propositional sign in ordinary language or thought is used by a talking and thinking subject or ego as a symbol to picture an atomic fact with a view to truth.

On Wittgenstein‘s theory, then, there’s no need to add an act of judgment or belief to account for picturing, because when a propositional sign is used in the correct way, it just is a judgment or assertion or belief.

In this way, the correct use of a propositional sign and propositional activity in ordinary language (judgment, assertion, statement-making, belief, etc.) or thinking are the very same thing.

So, for Wittgenstein, to say that I judge or assert or believe P, is only to say:

‘P’ says P


‘P’ has a sense.

No psychological verbs are required, and in fact the explicit addition of psychological verbs produces logico-philosophical sortal incorrectness or unacceptable higher-level syntactic nonsense, rather like those nonsensical bumper-stickers that say, “If you can read this, thank a teacher,” whereas they should simply say, “Thank a teacher.”


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Saturday 18 July 2020

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Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

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