THE FATE OF ANALYSIS, #18–Propositions Again, Language, & Thought.

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.9 Propositions Again

(i) the semantic content of judgments, assertions, beliefs, and statements,

(ii) bipolar essential truth-bearers,

(iii) logical pictures of atomic facts, and

(iv) vehicles of sense.

But propositions have several other crucial features as well.

First, propositions are the proper objects of logical analysis, in that they are essentially decomposable into their simple symbols, or names, and the way in which those names are configured into a propositional structure.

Each proposition has a unique complete decomposition (3.25), and logical “elucidation” is the activity of decomposing a proposition uniquely into its simple constituent symbols (3.263).

Second, in the reverse direction, propositions are essentially compositional, in that each propositional symbol is a function of its component simple symbols or expressions.

This compositionality of the proposition entails what Chomskyans call the “creative” or “productive” aspect of language: namely, that an infinitely large number of new propositions can be constructed from a finite set of simple symbols plus rules for construction (4.03).

Also anticipating Chomsky, Wittgenstein regards our human compositional capacity for language as an innate endowment (4.002).

Third, propositions are essentially generalizable, in that each meaningful part of the proposition can be replaced by a variable while other parts are held constant, thus producing a class of propositions of that form.

E.g., the proposition

Frege is taller than Wittgenstein

can be generalized as

x is taller than Wittgenstein

and then there will be a class of propositions determined by substituting different individual constants for the variable ‘x’.

Or it could be generalized as

Frege is taller than y


Frege bears R to Wittgenstein


x bears R to Wittgenstein


x bears R to y

and so-on.

The absolutely general form of a proposition is the propositional variable ‘P’, which simply means such and such is the case (4.5).

Fourth, propositions are the primary or primitive units of meaning, in that all other symbols, including names (3.3), have meaning (i.e., either sense or reference/Meaning) only in the context of whole propositions.

This, of course, is Frege’s context principle.

Fifth, propositions are semantically self-intimating, in that they convey sense and are the vehicles of sense, but propositional senses cannot described or named: they can only be shown (4.022).

Q: What’s showing?

A: I think that the best overall characterization of “showing” is that it covers all the basic types of linguistic meaning other than describing facts, i.e., what Wittgenstein calls “saying.”

So showing includes, at the very least,

(i) intensional discourse, i.e., discourse about meanings,

(ii) reflexive discourse, i.e., self-referring discourse,

(iii) speech-act-expressing discourse, i.e., discourse that communicates different types of language-use, e.g., imperatives, questions, subjunctives, etc.,

(iv) emotive discourse, e.g., discourse expressing approval or disapproval,

(v) non-literal discourse, e.g., jokes or metaphors,

and, crucially,

(vi) transcendental discourse, i.e., logico-philosophical discourse, i.e., Tractarian discourse.

Notice, moreover, that in this non-descriptive, non-fact-stating respect, even

(vii) directly referential discourse, i.e., naming objects or things,

is also a kind of showing.

So whereas saying is a rather narrowly constrained and defined, and also — except for those who prefer “the icy slopes of logic” — a somewhat philosophically boring sort of thing, nevertheless showing, like love, is a many-splendored thing.

Sixth, propositions are semantically non-reflexive, in that they cannot be about themselves (3.332).

Correspondingly, functions also cannot contain themselves as arguments (3.333).

Together, these two forms of Tractarian non-reflexivity automatically rule out the possibility of the Liar paradox and other semantic paradoxes, as well as the set-theoretic paradoxes.

Seventh, propositions are essentially first-order, in that when we take the fifth and sixth features of propositions together, it follows that although complex or molecular propositions are possible, no higher-order propositions are logically possible.

That is: there are no senses of senses (hence no hierarchy of senses), and there are no propositions about propositions (hence no hierarchy of propositions).

Wittgenstein‘s implicit rationale here seems to be that such hierarchies are in themselves irrational and lead to vicious impredicativity.

On the other hand, however, by logically banning senses of senses and propositions about propositions, at least prima facie, he puts his own Tractarian discourse in jeopardy.

So how can the author of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung meaningfully talk about propositions?

(As I’ve indicated already, the neo-Kantian and correct Tractarian answer is that such discourse is transcendental showing, not saying.

This Tractarian meta-philosophical insight, like so many others, is simply overlooked by the “resolute” reading of the Tractatus.

Though this be nonsense, yet there is neo-Kantian method in’t.)

VI.10 Language and Thought

Among other things, this shows us that in the context of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein is providing a logico-philosophical theory of language only insofar as language is an information-carrying means ir medium, i.e., only insofar as it’s a means or medium for saying, and not insofar as it’s a means or medium for showing.

In the context of the Tractatus, language as a means or medium for showing is only shown, not said.

(In the context of the Philosophical Investigations, by contrast, language as a means or medium for showing is not only shown, but also said: but that’s another story for later in this book.)

The totality of true propositions is complete natural science (4.11).

Among other things, this shows us that Wittgenstein is treating positive atomic facts or the truth-makers as ultimately reducible to the natural facts (explanatory and ontological naturalism).

Language, however, for Wittgenstein is not merely the set of outer or public inscriptions or utterances or texts: it also includes any proposition-constructing activity, whether inner or outer.

This is what Wittgenstein calls “thought” or “thinking” (3.1–3.11).

So all thinking is essentially linguistic in character.

This has two important consequences.

First, all thinking, whether or not accompanied by utterance, occurs in a private language of thought.

Thinking is inner propositional activity.

Second, natural language and cognition are both essentially propositional and thought-based in character, even though they may not appear to be such.

The surface structure of either inner or outer natural language (i.e., its psychological syntax or surface grammar) thoroughly disguises its real structure (its depth grammar or logical syntax) (4.002).

Only logical analysis can reveal this underlying structure.

But on the other hand this logical analysis should not be regarded as a reform of language (i.e., a prescriptive depth grammar, or prescriptive logical syntax); on the contrary, everything in natural language is logico-grammatically perfectly in order, just as it is (5.5563).

In this respect, Wittgenstein‘s approach to logical analysis is sharply different from that of the logical positivists or empiricists, who were explicitly logico-grammatical prescriptivists and reformers — e.g., Carnap took a strong interest in the Esperanto movement.

On the contrary, for Wittgenstein, logical analysis is there merely to clarify what we already implicitly fully understand.

It follows that almost all of our propositional thinking is in fact “tacit” or non-self-conscious cognizing.

It is only philosophers of logic, language, and thought who can adequately recover the nature of this nonconscious cognizing.

But this recovery is not psychological in character (4.1121): instead it’s the result of transcendental reflection in the Kantian sense (6.13).


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Saturday 1 August 2020

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