[hist-analytic] Philosophy as Nonsense

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Wed Oct 5 16:54:22 EDT 2011

My recent posts have depended on whether you've read page so and so of so and so's book etc. Things go to pieces or die on the vine. Let me try a different approach by raising an issue common to many who engage "meta-philosophy." Consider some things that have been said about philosophy and nonsense. 


"...the chief proposition of philosophy is that philosophy is nonsense. And again we must then take seriously that it is nonsense , and not pretend, as Wittgenstein does, that it is important nonsense." (F. P. Ramsey _The Foundations of Mathematics_ p. 263) 


"Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical. Consequently we cannot give any answer to the question of this kind, but can only point out that they are nonsensical." (Wittgenstein _ Tractatus _, 4.003) 


On there being a fixed totality of objects; a fixed totality of predicates; a sharp line between properties we discover and those we "project"; a correspondence between fact and proposition, Putnam remarks, 

"I rejected those assumptions not as false assumptions, ultimately, *unintelligible* assumptions." (H. Putnam _The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body and World, Columbia University Press,1994, p. 183. 


For me philosophy at its best must be nonsense; but I do think it is important nonsense. No great philosopher can speak sensibly. Much depends on where one starts in making one's philosophical quest. If we begin with common sense we cannot remain with common sense. Why? Because of the nature of the task. But what is the task of philosophy and how do we know we have asked a philosophical question if philosophy is nonsense. 

For me, philosophy begins with what for want of a better description is phenomenology; it proceeds to common sense and then science. Logic is one thing; proof theory is another; mathematics yet another. We begin with something given; to begin with nothing is stay put. A " presuppositionless " philosophy is one where something MUST be given. This something must be given up. What is mystical is not given; it is taken from the given as sublime. 


Steve Bayne 
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