7.17.2003

[93.94] Inquiries into the essence of language led to a privileging of the proposition and its logical form by analytic philosophers. Of course, this is another instance of Wittgenstein engaging in some self-criticism of his own tribute to the logical perfection of the propositional form in his Tractatus. In these remarks Wittgenstein returns again to the relation between words and things that marked so many of the early remarks in the Philosophical Investigations.
Remark 93 opens with the observation that analytic philosophers (the Vienna Circle, Russell, Moore, etc.) attribute mysterious properties and processes to the proposition. Wittgenstein agrees that propositions are indeed important, but he contends that "a misunderstanding makes it look to us as if a proposition did something queer." This misunderstanding rests on a belief that there is an underlying "logic of language." But this logic is instantiated by analytic philosophers by extrapolating the proposition from the larger context of language use. What Wittgenstein is leading to is the idea (revisited) that propositions are one linguistic tool among many.
More importantly, Wittgenstein continues in remark 94, the misunderstanding described above concerns the relation of words or signs to things. Where there is complexity in ordinary expressions there is philosophical mystery. The tendency among philosophers is to try to reform language in order to eliminate linguistic complexity. Wittgenstein describes this tendency of professional philosophy as "the tendency to assume a pure intermediary between the propositional signsand facts."

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