The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

Wittgenstein Error and Its Faithful Participants

I neither want to understand your observation or contention, nor do I regard it as acceptable for consideration unless I see solid conclusive empirical underpinning; much as I hold for all the things I regard as true.  Until it is proved, I will allow no language of science to develop around the subject. Your terms and measures are all pseudo-science.
Wittgenstein says bullshit to the supposed objectivity of those who game process in this manner, and identifies three types of error to which the social epistemologist falls prey.

One of the principal developers of our modern framing of philosophy was Ludwig Wittgenstein (most often pronounced /vhit’-geng-shtiyne/). His Philosophy of Mathematics served as a means to bring into coherence his own contentions regarding the role and limitations of philosophy as it impacts our science. Indeed, Wittgenstein’s writings from 1929 through 1944 are heavily devoted to mathematics, a fact that Wittgenstein himself emphasized in 1944 by writing that his “chief contribution has been in the philosophy of mathematics.”¹ This focus on mathematics afforded Wittgenstein a frame of reference from which to understand the contast between a hard-boundary science such as maths, and in contrast a soft-boundary science, such as philosophy. Wittgenstein going even so far as to consider philosophy thusly: “philosophy is not a theory, or a doctrine, but rather an activity. It is an activity of clarification (of thoughts), and more so, of critique (of language).”²

The Wittgenstein Thresholds of Knowledge - Copy - CopyAs such philosophy does not lend itself to recitation in the Wittgenstein argument, aside from its basic dependence upon foundational elements, tautologies that are true based on their own essence (eg. 2+2=4, or I am alive). A philosophy can be nonsense (unsinnig) when it is devoid of any referenceable structure or meaning, or senseless (sinnlos), when possessing referenceable structure and meaning but contestable in terms of accuracy.¹ Most of mankinid’s contentions, are incorrectly ascribed to be nonsense by faking skeptics, when in fact, they are more accurately termed senseless under the Wittgensteinian philosophical framing. But for the most part, we forgive social skeptics this error. Employment of the pejorative ‘nonsense’ sounds more scientifically authoritative and conclusive. They are all about sounding authoritative and conclusive, so they would rather employ that term in error. Terminology and language as it turns out in the Wittgenstein sense, are not only crucial to the foundations of understanding and science, but also stand as one of the principle tools through which fake skepticism is leveraged.

Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.
     ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein is considered one of the key developers of thought regarding how we understand what is philosophy, sense, nonsense and knowledge.  Wittgenstein outlined a useful framework hinging around the all important role of language (#2 in the series), inside of which I have developed a series of litmus thresholds which define what is both knowable, and what is known. Elements of science, or what is considered to be added to the body of what is known, are dependent upon several channels of serviceability in order to possess even the remotest possibility of becoming a part of our body of knowledge. Each must sufficiently pass a litmus test of serviceability in terms of:

  1. Domain of Comprehensibility – a tenet of knowledge must be graspable by the mind of at least one person
  2. Domain of Descriptive Symbology (Language) – a tenet of knowledge must be describable in some kind of symbolism, both privately and commonly held
  3. Domain of Intelligibility – a tenet of knowledge must be framable in reference to previous foundation tenets of knowledge (Wittgenstein elements)
  4. Domain of Observability – a tenet of knowledge must possess a feature which is at least in part, observable
  5. Domain of Tolerability – a tenet of knowledge must not offend the sensibility of members of those who hear it
  6. Domain of Sustainability – a tenet of knowledge must both be teachable and teachable by others than its originator

Wittgenstein placed language and descriptive symbology as the foundational aspect which influences the intelligibility and more of an idea. These six screening mechanisms are the filters through which mankind develops what is considered the Body of That Which is Known (science). However, when this process is tampered with, or the methods of science are crafted in such a way as to corrupt and game this series of acceptances, two errors result, below.

Because most things are innately comprehensible (1), intelligible (3), and can be observed (4) and taught (6); therefore, should I wish to constrain science in the Wittgensteinian/Ethical Skeptic sense, science which is headed in a direction I do not like, I must attack the two vulnerable thresholds of the knowledge development process (Numbers 2 and 5 above):

A.  Refuse to afford the subject an intelligible and professionally agreed set of concepts, questions or descriptive language, and

B.  Position a screen of intolerability as to its being sustained (taught).

Wittgenstein cautioned that what is ‘known’ can be as much an exercise in philosophy, as is philosophy itself. Unlike maths’ hard boundary science, much of what we know, is vulnerable to what we want to know, or our soft-boundary philosophy of both what we can comprehend, measure, communicate or desire to observe. Very often this knowledge is not in reality anchored existentially into both that which is known, or especially that which can be known. We pick and choose what eventually arrives as ‘truth’ based on our philosophy.

It is this refusal to observe that which can be known, which is the chief sinnloss on the part of the Social Skeptic. Both the desire to not know something, and the belief that all one’s knowledge is underpinned outside the framework of philosophy, stand as a grand fantasy on the part of the social skeptic. The nonsense arises in their inability to observe this in themselves.

More than simply an argument from ignorance, the Wittgenstein Error is the active construction of the ignorance itself. A gaming of what is observable by tampering with language and symbolism first. It is akin to attempting complex math while refusing to allow a mechanism for integration. All in order to shepherd to a priori ends, that which can be known.

This gives rise to two particular forms of error on the part of those who profess science as part of a social agenda. Errors which The Ethical Skeptic, is wise to avoid in their own thinking – and quietly identify in the thinking of others, in a non-pejorative context (we all are vulnerable to this human frailty).

Wittgenstein Error (Descriptive)

Describable: I cannot observe it because I refuse to describe it.

Corruptible: Science cannot observe it because I have crafted language and definition so as to preclude its description.

/philosophy : knowledge development : symbolism and language/ – the contention or assumption that science has no evidence for or ability to measure a proposition or contention, when in fact it is only a flawed crafting of language and definition, limitation of language itself or lack of a cogent question or (willful) ignorance on the part of the participants which has limited science and not in reality science’s domain of observability.

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” ~Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein Error (Contextual)

Situational: I can shift the meaning of words to my favor or disfavor by the context in which they are employed

/philosophy : knowledge development : symbolism and language/ – the philosophical conception of words bearing a meaning-as-use approach to definition, or the idea that the meanings of words, relative or not, cannot be defined abstract in isolation from the contexts in which they are employed.³ Semantics and locution abuse as it formulates the basis of rhetoric.

We are unable clearly to circumscribe the concepts we use; not because we don’t know their real definition, but because there is no real ‘definition’ to them.” ~Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein Error (Epistemological)

Tolerable: My science is an ontology dressed up as empiricism

/philosophy : knowledge development : fallacies/ – the contention that a proposition must be supported by empirical data or else it is meaningless, nonsense or useless, or that a contention which is supported by empirical data is therefore sensible, when in fact the proposition can be framed into meaninglessness, nonsense or uselessness based upon its underlying state or lacking of definition, structure, logical calculus or usefulness in addressing a logical critical path.

bedeutungslos – meaningless. A proposition or question which resides upon a lack of definition, or which contains no meaning in and of its self.

unsinnig – nonsense. A proposition of compromised coherency. Feynman ‘not even wrong.’

sinnlos – useless. A contention which does not follow from the evidence, is correct at face value but disinformative or is otherwise useless. (Note: Wittgenstein called this ‘senseless’, however for clarity here as distinct from nonsense, which overlaps confusingly with senseless inside the usage lexicon of English as opposed to German, I have selected the word ‘useless’ instead to more accurately portray this class of proposition error)

Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.” ~Wittgenstein

Our duty is to challenge pseudo-skepticism which employs these two error bases, institutional doctrine which is founded upon them and the resulting cultivation of ignorance which provides the fertile soil from which more of this type of error can be perpetuated.


¹  Rodych, Victor, “Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Mathematics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/wittgenstein-mathematics/>.

²  Biletzki, Anat and Matar, Anat, “Ludwig Wittgenstein”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/wittgenstein/>.

³  Auerbach, David, Slate, The Limits of Language: Wittgenstein explains why we always misunderstand one another on the Internet; Sep 1, 2015; http://www.slate.com/articles/life/classes/2015/09/take_a_wittgenstein_class_he_explains_the_problems_of_translating_language.single.html.

August 15, 2015 - Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies | , , , , ,

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