Wittgenstein – The Limits of My Language Are the Limits of My World


Whereof one cannot speak,
thereof one must be silent. This is probably one of most
quoted adages of all time and it was written by this man. Ludwig Wittgenstein. A philosopher who, by many, is considered
the greatest of the 20th century. His role in the development of analytic
philosophy wasn’t just central, but also pivotal. For he devoted his life
in the examination of one of the most cognitively
demanding areas of human interest, that of language. Language constitutes the most
powerful tool we have invented in order to communicate
with each other, express ourselves, and
evolve our perception. But the essence of words and the use
of language can be quite perplexing and can lead to anomalies in the way
we operate within our social systems. Language is like a living organism. It changes, it evolves,
it has different forms, and it can be interpreted
in different ways. Wittgenstein was fascinated by that and he truly believed that
with the use of logic, language can become more
clear and more useful. This was his obsession, but also what
tormented him throughout his life. His ideas possessed a gravity that felt unprecedented to
almost all of his readers. Most didn’t understand him, but the ones that did, opened their minds to a world
full of clarity and reason. Wittgenstein was born in
1889 in Vienna, Austria. His family was one of
the richest in Europe and he inherited a fortune
after his father died in 1913. Money, however, wasn’t
of interest to him and he gave away most of it
to relatives and artists. Philosophy was according to him “the only work that gave
him real satisfaction.” He went to Cambridge in 1911 to study
logic with the great Bertrand Russel, who, after getting to know
him, realized his genius. His life was quite tumultuous, since his involvement with
logic almost drove him mad. His mental anguish led
him away from Cambridge. He went to Norway for a while and then he volunteered for
the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War. War changed him. He became more mystical
and more ascetic and this could be
identified in his behavior. In 1918, he took military leave and he
completed his first important work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The Tractatus was
published in 1922 in an attempt from Wittgenstein
to present a solution to the problems of philosophy that are connected with language,
thought, and representation. It is a short, mind-boggling,
and mind-bending work. Very few have managed
to understand it and even Wittgenstein himself
had trouble making sense of the purport of some of his
statements, later in his life. The way he writes
is quite austere, in that he uses small sentences
but with great intensity. Some of them are almost
incomprehensible for a reader not
accustomed with the topic: “The sense of a proposition is
its agreement and disagreement with the possibilities of the existence
and non-existence of the atomic facts.” “Empirical reality is limited
by the totality of objects. The boundary appears again in the
totality of elementary propositions.” Others, however, ooze
meaning and awe: “Whereof one cannot speak,
thereof one must be silent.” “We feel that even if all possible
scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still
not been touched at all.” “Ethics and aesthetics are one.” The main point that he
wants to address is what can really be
expressed through language and to what extent philosophical
problems have a reason to exist. World, thought, and
language are intertwined and Wittgenstein manages to
create a philosophical system that identifies how all
three are connected. Through the use of
logical propositions, he develops an advanced
technical framework that investigates the limits of
world, thought and language; in other words, distinguishes
between sense and nonsense. In a nutshell, he puts
forth a heroic attempt to explain that the way we
approach language is wrong and that especially talking philosophy
is bound to be a senseless procedure. Thoughts and utterances are true
when they map onto the world. Saying, “this is a pineapple on a
table,” makes sense, it is a fact. But saying “This is a very
pleasant pineapple” is senseless, since this proposition is open
to multiple interpretations. It is the use of the
word in our way of life that gives meaning to our words and
not how we feel inside about it. If a lion could speak we wouldn’t
be able to understand it because we can’t know
what its world is like. Wittgenstein’s point
is to show that misunderstanding of how language
works leads to pseudo-problems and that most problems of
philosophy are like that. Are you saying there are
no philosophical problems? There are linguistic mathematical ethical logistic and religious problems, but there are no genuine
philosophical problems. You’re trivializing philosophy? Philosophy is just a byproduct
of misunderstanding language. I have searched a lot for a meaningful
interpretation of Wittgenstein’s words. In my regard, the
philosopher provokes us in order to be more careful with
the accurate use of language, since its senseless use can lead to many interpersonal and
perceptual problems in our paradigms. Moreover, his last paragraphs
illuminate a sense of nihilism since he urges us to not take
seriously any of his words. “My propositions are
elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally
recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through
them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the
ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly. Whereof one cannot speak,
thereof one must be silent.” A great exegesis to that aphorism
was one from the great Alan Watts in which he suggests that the
whole task of philosophy is to really get rid of itself. The whole task of philosophy is
really to get rid of itself. I mean in rather the same way the task of a doctor is to
put himself out of business because he never succeeds because
people keep getting sick, but if he was 100% successful, he would lose all his patients because
they wouldn’t be ill anymore. And so in the same
way a philosopher of this kind is very
rarely out of business because there are
still always people with what we might call
intellectual sicknesses bothered by fantastic and
non-existent problems. Philosophical investigations The years passed and
Wittgenstein changed. He abandoned philosophy for a while and he occupied himself
with other activities like teaching at an elementary
school in rural Austria and designing the famous
Wittgenstein house. None of this made him happy. He eventually returned
to his original calling and started teaching philosophy
in Cambridge, in 1929. Abandoning philosophy for a while seemed to have had a huge
impact on Wittgenstein, since most of his
former views changed. A lot of people refer to the
period before the change as “early Wittgenstein period” and the one after as
“later Wittgenstein period.” What marks the transition of
the one period to the other is the total rejection
of dogmatism. Wittgenstein himself referred
to his early work as dogmatic and worked hard so that he
could be better understood. The culmination of this change
is reflected on his magnus opus, titled “Philosophical Investigations.” In it, he concerns himself with the
concepts of meaning, understanding, propositions, logic, mathematics, states
of consciousness and other things. Still, language occupies a very
central role in his adumbrations, but he abandoned the idea that language is used to
describe a picture of the world. The relationship between language
and the world is quite untidy. There are many different things
we can do with language, many different language games as
Wittgenstein liked to call them. The meaning of a word is relative
to the language game that we play. The real task of the philosopher is
to sort out these language games in a close analysis of the
language in which it were posed. Philosophical puzzles
arise because we tend to mix up one language
game with another. For example people puzzle, over the nature of something
they called the soul, but this may just be because
they’re thinking of the soul along the lines of
a physical object. They’re confusing one way
of talking with another. The job of philosophy is to
sort out these language games? Exactly. Well, they’re all perfectly
in order as they are. Philosophy in no sense
can question them. Philosophy leaves everything
exactly as it is. Every explanation is
after all a hypothesis. Posing grandiose
philosophical questions produce in us a mental cramp. A philosopher cannot cure
the cramp completely but his or her role can
definitely prove therapeutic. In closing Wittgenstein died in 1951 and Philosophical Investigations
was published posthumously. Before dying, he uttered: “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life.” His main issue and the one
that agonized him the most was the importance
of clarity in thought. “Don’t for heaven’s sake, be
afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your
nonsense,” as he used to say. There is a lot of mental
dirt in this world, enough to disorient our
already disoriented mind and he viewed clarity
as the only antidote. Despite his genius, he was
doubtful of most of his ideas and he states that explicitly
in all of his works. He knew that what he wrote
was difficult to understand, but what he actually wanted was to stimulate someone
to thoughts of his own. Wittgenstein’s work was
a plea for reason, a plea for better communication,
a plea for more clarity. Few could see that. After all, most of us find it hard to
see what is right in front of our eyes. Hi everyone, I won’t lie to you. Wittgenstein always constituted
an enigmatic personality for me. When I first laid my hands on
the Tractatus, I was shocked. I couldn’t understand
a single word and I thought that he was probably
an overrated philosopher. But then I delved deep into
content produced about him and when I finally managed to peer into
his mind, his world mesmerized me. I consider language and
its proper use one of the most critical
issues of our time. Wittgenstein was
obsessed with that, and, even though his
ideas are hard to grasp, when explained properly can
prove incredibly useful. Today’s giveaway will be the legendary
“Philosophical Investigations.” Since many of you don’t
have an Instagram account, we will experiment with
different rules today. If you want to take
part in the giveaway, please like this video,
subscribe, get notifications and comment below why
you want the book, or suggest a topic
for a future video, or to be honest any
insightful comment will do. I will message the winner and I will announce him or
her in my Instagram account, in a week from now, so if you are using Instagram
please follow me there and mention your Instagram
user id in your comment below. Good luck to all of you. Take care.
See you soon.




Comments
  1. Hi guys, if you want to take part in the "Philosophical Investigations" giveaway please do the following:
    1. Like.
    2. Subscribe & get notifications.
    3. Comment why you want the book, or what I should cover next, or something insightful (if you have an Instagram account please follow me there and also mention your Instagram user id here so I can contact you in case you win).
    I will announce the winner on my Instagram account -> https://www.instagram.com/thequintessentialmind/
    Good luck 🍀

  2. Language itself has been a lifelong fascination. I gleefully observe and play with the evolution of modern communication. I would love this book as a means to delve deeper into the broader concepts of language.

    My instagram handle is lilybellejingle

  3. Very interesting video! I loved your Ultralearning one too. This discussion about language reminds me of Jean Baudrillard's 'Simulacra and Simulation'. Sometimes we are so immersed in the use of language and symbols, that we often confuse the real world with the symbols and language itself. Could you please make a video about it? Also, the connections with the Matrix and Platos cave are excellent philosophical problems. In the book 1984, one of the forms that the government uses to manipulate the reality, is through the manipulation of symbols and the language, as this would shape people's conception of the real world. Thanks for your effort, and keep up with the high quality work! 😀

  4. Adrian, despite the competition, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all your work. You and so many other YouTubers are the unspoken intellectual heroes of our generation, promoting free thought and intelligent discourse to the many. Your dedication and hard work are truly inspiring, and I thank you for the many times your videos have opened my mind.

    Reading is quite possibly one of the greatest human resources and achievements. If I win the book, I hope to do it justice in my interpretation and application of its teachings.

    (My Instagram is northamericanbeaver)

  5. sorry if this is a little messy … english is not my main language and i don't use it in my daily life. also not a peoples person.

    We see the world and try to put it into words and that's how the language is created. but if someone else see something else in another part of the world or even look from another (emotional or life)perspective our lack of words will make us question the truth of said words, will sometimes make that person seem crazy even. If we cant say it how can we express it. than again our view on the life itself can be swayed by the language and people's inability to accept the another point of view. the hardest thing in for me so far was to accept that when talking with another person i am talking with someone who is looking at the same thing only from another perspective and i should not try to change his mind (and negate his own experience)but to listen to him and try to find out what he see and why and than to include that outlook in my own view. So in other words i am not responsible for someone else belief, i can only listen to him and share my own wievpoint and insight.

    Edit:

    Now that if read this it my not properly express the problem.
    I'v started my voyage with philosophy recently and have huge problem with having a proper Talk with another person about it
    It takes usually around an hour to express my thought and another hour to explain it. Even tho we both use the same language, same words hold different meaning.

  6. Awesome video, brother.

    I would like this book because I am interested in learning about as much human psychology and philosophy as I can.

    Watts' assertion is interesting. Yes, a doctor would lose 100% of his patients if the doctor were 100% successful, however, the doctor would continue to gain other patients once people begin to discover the doctor's ability to solve their problems, particular if the doctor lived in a highly populated area. In this sense, even if the doctor only treated one patient one time, the doctor would still have a line of patients due to the population, and would then face a constraint of time to treat patients rather than the ability to treat the patients.

    Perhaps the same is true with the philosophy analogy. It would take hundreds of years for a catch-all philosophical solution to be implemented. Similar to a doctor with a special set of skills, a philosopher with a special skill set has limited time on this earth to deliver the solution, even if the philosopher records everything they've ever discovered.

  7. I wait for your videos anxiously, What a clarity of thoughts you provide on subject. And I specially like background music when VIDEO ends. Good luck, bring one video on MEMETICS, One of my favourite topic. Girard is the developer of this theory.

  8. Great video! I've been meaning to read Philosophical Investigations. I'm really interested in learning more about Wittgenstein's Fideism.

  9. Η γλωσσα ειναι το σπουδαιοτερο εργαλειο μας αλλα και συναμα κατασκευασμα, αυτο που μας ξεχωριζει απο τα ζωα και αυτο με το οποιο μπορουμε να ξεχωρισουμε και απο τους αλλους ανθρωπους. Συνφωνο μαζι του στο οτι «με την χρηση της λογικης, η γλωσσα γινεται πιο ξεκαθαρη και πιο χρησημη». Αλλα θα ηθελα να προσθεσω οτι με την καλυτερη χρηση την γλωσσας η λογικη μας γινεται πιο ξεκαθαρη και πιο χρησημη.
    Μεσα απο την λογο εκφραζετε η λογικη.

    Οι ανθρωποι με δυσλεξια αντιμετωπιζουν την εξης δυσαναλογια: το ευρος και η ποιοτιτα των σκεψεων τους, δεν μπορει να εκφραστεί αναλόγος, απο το πολυ στενοτερο εύρος και ποιοτιτα του λεξιλογιου που κατεχουν.και αυτο βελτιωνεται με την μελετη λεξικων και την συνεχη χρηση της γλωσσας.
    Ισως ακομη και οι ιδιες οι σκεψεις μας περιοριζονται απο την γλωσσα μας.
    Με την γλωσσα μεταδιδουμε ή αλλιος περιγραφουμε τον «κοσμο» μας στους αλλους.

    «Αρχη σοφίας ονομάτων επισκεψις». Καθε φορα που φιλοσοφουμε για κατι πρεπει να οριζουμε την ενοιες της οπιες θα αναλυσουμε.(οπως το θεμα της ψυχης)
    Οστοσο οι ενοιες των λεξεων δυναται να αλαξουν με το περασμα των χρονων. Και οπος μια κοινονια δυναται να ειναι πιο υγειης απο μια αλλη, η αλλαγες τω ενοιων αντικατοπριζουν και εν μερη επηρεαζουν της αλλαγες της κοινονιας προς το καλυτερο η το χειροτερο (πχ η λεξη μαλακας ή αρετη).
    Αλλα επιδη οι ορισμοι των λεξεων δυησταντε και ανα τους ανθροπους, γιανα καταλαβουμε τον «κοσμο» τους τοτε θα πρεπει οπος ειπε να κατανοισουμε το πλαισιο.

    Καπιες σκεψεις και ερμηνιες μου.
    Μπορει να κανω λαθος.

    Θα ηταν ενδιαφερων να εκανες ενα βιντεο για της ξεχωριστες ιδιοτητες της Ελληνικης γλωσσας και την συνισφορα της στον «Ελληνικο»- λογικο τροπο σκεψης και κατεπεκταση στην αναπτυξη των επιστιμων ,τεχνων , φιλοσοφιας, λογικης, δικεου κα στην αρχεα Ελλάδα

    Συνχαρητιρια για την προσπαθεια που κανεις και το υλικο που φτιαχνεις!

    Παρακαλω συνχωρεσε την δυσορθογραφεια μου.

    Παυλός

  10. Hello Mr. Iliopoulos,

    I appreciate your series of lectures very much. I must admit that I studied Wittgenstein years ago in my first year Philosophy course and I didn't like him very much. However, I appreciate him more now with your analysis and I like the fact that the trap of the Pseudo-problem is ever present.

    In point of fact I can see why the simultaneous expansion and contraction of his thought could nearly drive him mad. Consider: If Language is by inference effectively limitless, then the expression of it to communicate will always be effectively limited. Ergo, I can see the Pseudo-problem lurking around every corner.

    Please keep up the good work.
    Peter Bellini

  11. Hey there, I have never heard of this gentleman before, thanks for introducing him to us!

    It's clear to me the words and language have power, a lot of power, but I didnt realize there was an individual who delved deep into this concept!

    I would love to have a chance to dig into this guy and get a new perspective on language, as I'm a writer myself.

    Looking forward to more content! Perhaps a video about intuition would be interesting?

  12. Language is a gateway for our psyche to see reality conceptually, to facilitate survival. How sublime it is to be aware, even of just some thing though, apart from any description, or value placement. What is it really :O We can feel what is true, to be alive, never to know, what we are…maybe just a weird, simple person (Whispers ubermensch?) But we know it's complicated and our brains are small #bluepillisbetter

    Haha but seriously, I think Wittgenstein brings up good points about the framing of things. Do you think there should be a frame that is good for everyone, something we can agree on, if there is it is out there already, waiting to be worded, cause fuck we have to publish a paper if we want to get anywhere. We will get somewhere in any case.
    Thanks for the great video brochacho. I do like books 🙂
    @oli_croft

  13. This is the best channel on YT. We eagerly wait for each new video, and share you with everyone. I speak on this topic often but never really had a label or name for it. Usually when speaking on any topic, say "aliens", i often stop myself, because every time I think, well first we have to understand each others perceptions of the word "aliens" so we can find a common ground, to communicate affectively. Great topic. Can't wait for the next video brother. Amen-Ra

    -Would absolutely love new literature on this topic. He seems very interesting, and I am new to hearing about him.

  14. Can there be anxiety without language? Can there be an ego? Can there be anger, regret, sorrow? Would we all be better off if we had never invented language? Can we think without it? Can we love without it?

  15. Understanding and acting with the dominion of language, even being able to sofisticate it, is extremely powerful.
    In a way it's right under our nose how, differently from other known species, humanity overcame certain natural weaknesses and devised many ways to interact with and modify reality.
    Largely interesting topic, indeed!
    Thanks for the video, very inspiring!

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