1. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    20 Feb '08 13:28
    "Ethics, if it is anything, is supernatural and our words will only express facts; as a teacup will only hold a teacup full of water and if I were to pour out a gallon over it."

    http://www.galilean-library.org/witt_ethics.html

    Please respond generously.
  2. Standard memberPalynka
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    20 Feb '08 13:46
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    our words will only express facts
    I'll abstain from this, for now. Sorry if this is not a generous reply.
  3. Cape Town
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    20 Feb '08 13:53
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    "Ethics, if it is anything, is supernatural and our words will only express facts; as a teacup will only hold a teacup full of water and if I were to pour out a gallon over it."

    http://www.galilean-library.org/witt_ethics.html

    Please respond generously.
    Though I haven't had time to read the full article, I see no reason why ethics can not be relative - and therefore neither supernatural nor nothing as implied by the quote.
  4. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    20 Feb '08 14:15
    Originally posted by Palynka
    I'll abstain from this, for now. Sorry if this is not a generous reply.
    You're excused.
  5. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    20 Feb '08 14:17
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Though I haven't had time to read the full article, I see no reason why ethics can not be relative - and therefore neither supernatural nor nothing as implied by the quote.
    Well, why not read it and see what you have to say then.
  6. Pale Blue Dot
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    22 Feb '08 21:031 edit
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    "Ethics, if it is anything, is supernatural and our words will only express facts; as a teacup will only hold a teacup full of water and if I were to pour out a gallon over it."

    http://www.galilean-library.org/witt_ethics.html

    Please respond generously.
    "In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH (I AM HE WHO IS, I AM WHO AM or I AM WHO I AM), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is - infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the "hidden God", his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_am_that_I_am

    I think Wittgenstein's argument sounds a bit like the one above. Does this mean he is trying to equate morality with God, or perhaps replace religion with morality? Maybe he sees the utility of religion but believes language/thought is unable to define it adequately. What do you think?
  7. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    22 Feb '08 23:49
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    "Ethics, if it is anything, is supernatural and our words will only express facts; as a teacup will only hold a teacup full of water and if I were to pour out a gallon over it."

    http://www.galilean-library.org/witt_ethics.html

    Please respond generously.
    Surely words can do more than do more than express facts.
  8. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    25 Feb '08 06:22
    Originally posted by Green Paladin

    I think Wittgenstein's argument sounds a bit like the one above. Does this mean he is trying to equate morality with God, or perhaps replace religion with morality? Maybe he sees the utility of religion but believes language/thought is unable to define it adequately. What do you think?
    I'll need to read the essay again closely, but basically it seems W. is saying that ethics is a leap of faith. I don't think that means he's trying to replace religion with morality. More like trying to point out the pitfalls of working from a code. Perhaps he's a covert advocate of electro-shock.
  9. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    25 Feb '08 06:24
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Surely words can do more than do more than express facts.
    Yes, words can even intimate, perhaps invoke, the inexpressible. But...?
  10. Hmmm . . .
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    25 Feb '08 15:101 edit
    I really don’t want to target ethics per se, but what I see as the underlying point. I think W is saying (in other words) that any sign either has a factual referent, or becomes (a) metaphorical* or (b) nonsense.

    Example: the sign “goat”. The sign consists of a signifier and a signified. The signifier is the letters g-o-a-t (or their phonetic equivalent). The signified is what the signifier means—what it signifies and describes—e.g., “a mammal with certain physical characteristics, etc., etc.”

    The referent for the sign “goat” is—that critter over there (to which I now point).

    Example: the sign “unicorn”. The signified is a particular mythological animal with certain “physical” characteristics. However, there is no real-world, factual, referent. (One might say that the referent is, say, this mental image, or that picture in a book; but I think W would say that such things are simply alternative—e.g., pictorial rather than verbal—signifieds.)

    Absent an actual referent, any talk about the unicorn becomes (a) metaphorical—e.g., “a unicorn is like [simile] a horse, but with a horn like...” with respect to some factual referent(s); or (b) nonsensical—“a unicorn is a nonexistent existent”, or “a unicorn is a dardyvart”.

    It does not matter how far one extends the chain of terms, nor what modifiers one applies to any of the terms, eventually one either ends up with a referent or one does not.

    ______________________________________________

    Now, the question you have raised is (in my words): “Can there be a (factual) referent that is both (1) inexpressible by language—except metaphorically (by simile, or allegory)—and (2) not subject to ostensive definition (e.g., by observation, by pointing)?”

    This is where I think we get into W’s claim about “absolutes”.

    Consider the sign: “whole” (as a noun). Now, I might say, by way of attempting a signified, that by “the whole” I mean: “everything that is the case” (Wittgenstein), or “the all-of-all-of-all-of-it”, or “the totality that has no edge” (scottishinnz). But— if I do not understand “the whole”, do any of these alternative statements really add anything? Do not they, in turn, need explanation?

    How does one describe “the whole”, considered as an absolute—i.e., as the all without any other? Does “the whole” have any proper analogy? If so, where from? Does not any attempt at analogy draw us back into the domain of the relative (as W puts it)? Does not any analogy—or simile or allegory, etc.—come from the domain of the relative?

    In the area of religious philosophy, the great divide seems to be between non-dualism (which speaks in terms of the Whole) and dualism (which speaks in terms of the (i) world** and (ii) another—e.g., God). Now, I do not think that non-dualistic language is any less subject to the considerations raised by W, than is dualistic language. I do think that dualism raises a whole host of additional issues that are similarly problematic: What is the nature of this “other”? What is the relationship between the “other” and the world? What is it about that relationship that requires their ultimate (“absolute” ) separability? Etc., etc.

    Consider the sign: “God”—

    _____________________________________________

    Bbarr has mentioned another use of language that is neither propositional nor descriptive. The term he used was elicitive. Elicitive language includes metaphorical speech, as well as paradox and plain nonsense—aimed at eliciting in the listener an experience of that aspect of our existential condition that is non-conceptual and ineffable. Whatever we say (after) about that is subject to the limitations laid out by Wittgenstein.

    _______________________________________________

    In the following post, I simply list some statements by W from the article that pertain to religion. And in the post after that, a brief commentary of ethics.

    ______________________________________________

    * He uses the terms “simile” and “allegory”, but both are kinds of metaphorical speech.

    ** W’s “everything that is the case” (from the Tractatus).
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    25 Feb '08 15:11
    Some Wittgenstein selections on religious speech (from the referenced article)—


    Now all religious terms seem in this sense to be used as similes or allegorically. For when we speak of God and that he sees everything and when we kneel and pray to him all our terms and actions seem to be parts of a great and elaborate allegory which represents him as a human being of great power whose grace we try to win etc.
    . . .

    Thus in ethical and religious language we seem constantly to be using similes. But a simile must be the simile for something. And if I can describe a fact by means of a simile I must also be able to drop the simile and to describe the facts without it. Now in our case as soon as we try to drop the simile and simply to state the facts which stand behind it, we find that there are no such facts. And so, what at first appeared to be simile now seems to be mere nonsense.
    . . .

    It is the paradox that an experience, a fact, should seem to have supernatural value.

    . . .

    For we see now that we have been using it to describe the experience of wondering at the existence of the world by saying: it is the experience of seeing the world as a miracle.
  12. Hmmm . . .
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    25 Feb '08 15:21
    I am not an ethicist, so my comments are limited—

    The extent to which all of this applies to ethics would seem to depend on whether one can identify “ethical facts” as referents for one’s ethical speech. W initially defines ethics by quoting G.E. Moore: “Ethics is the general enquiry into what is good.”

    He further says: “I said that so far as facts and propositions are concerned there is only relative value and relative good, right, etc.”

    And: “Now what I wish to contend is that, although all judgments of relative value can be shown to be mere statement of facts, no statement of fact can ever be, or imply, a judgment of absolute value.”

    However, in the course of his discussion, W essentially redefines ethics as something like (my words): “Ethics is the general enquiry into what is absolutely good (or of absolute value).” Thus, he seems to simply define away any concept of an ethical fact of any sort.

    He really doesn’t seem to treat at all such questions as:

    (1) What would define an ethical fact?

    (2) What would define an absolute ethical fact?

    (3) What would be necessary to derive an ethical fact (whether absolute or not)?

    (4) Must an ethical fact be absolute (and in what sense)?

    (5) ...

    Hopefully, some ethicist on here can shed some light on such questions (and, perhaps, W’s view—dottewell is the resident Wittgenstein expert).
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