[hist-analytic] Philosophy as Nonsense

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Oct 10 22:49:55 EDT 2011

We are exploring the implicatures  of:

"[T]he chief proposition of philosophy is that philosophy is  nonsense.  

again we must then take seriously that it is  nonsense, and not  pretend, 

Wittgenstein does, that it is  important nonsense."  
Ramsey, Foundations of Mathematics,  p.263.

--- cited by Bayne, original post in this thread.

Now, in a  message dated 10/10/2011 6:46:28 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,   
Baynesr at comcast.net adds:

"First Speranza.
If we take 'nonsense'  to be 'meaninglessness' then the  Fregean notion of 
sense becomes an  issue, but if by 'nonsense' you mean a  coherent idea 
is  inconsistent with common SENSE then Fregean senses are not  of 

Good point. I would not introduce "common sense" so easily,  as it were. In 
the Second Part of Grice's Studies in the Way of Words,  for example, we 
find a  few essays which are representative of that  interest, back in the 
due to G.  E. Moore and Malcolm, about the  connection, say, between




Grice's point is to defend, say,  the idea that

common sense =df ordinary language.

This sort of  gives a rationale to his enterprise, linguistic philosophy. I 
do not  think he changed his main views on this along the lines. But it's  
never  clear how the identification can proceed along more analytic  lines.

---- I would rather identify 'nonsense' (and 'sense') not so much  with  
'common' sense then, or meaninglessness alla Frege, but with  'sense' as in 
"sense data". I think it is Peacocke, the Oxford  philosopher (also at NYU) 
has dealt seriously with the idea of  _sense_ in this 'sense'. As when we  

"He is sensing it"  (sensing that p).

If I am not mistaken, the essay by Grice that Bayne has  uploaded in his  
site, "Causal Theory of Perception" (Bayne uses the  excellent Aristotelian 
Society original) was reprinted for example in  a book by R. Swartz, on 
_Sensing_  and perceiving. This type of 'sense'  seems to be what Ramsey 
and Witters 
are  about when they distinguish  between important or unimportant nonsense?

Recall too that Ramsey is a  logicist -- a more serious logicist than  
Russell and Witters ever were  --, so Ramsey must be thinking that logic is 
IMPORTANT nonsense (in  the sense that sensation is otiose when it comes to 
logical  postulates) and that important nonsense is the basis for this 
important nonsense that mathematics (whose foundations Ramsey is attempting 
provide) is. 


Bayne continues:

"My  thinking here is that the nonsense at issue may inhabit territory   
between these two. Plato often uses metaphor and parables. The cave and  
line being good examples as well as the two horses of the  Phadrus, etc. I 
think  Plato is trying to say a great deal, but finds  it difficult to 
all the  content he has in mind in the space of  philosophical remarks in 
the context of  combination and division. Let  me use an analogy or 
metaphor of 
my own. When you  are working on small  engines or tiny tools you make 
use of the "precision  grip"  (typically). The best way to deal with 
delicate things manually is  this  way, most often. But when you work with 
large objects the  precision grip  gives way to more awkward means, and as 
tool gets  larger you sometimes need  a tool to work the tool. Now let's 
take a  
look at language. When I am dealing  with "delicate" subject matters I  
employ the "precision grip"; that is, I make  use of logic in a careful  
Such delicate matters as providing an alternative  to Ramsey  sentences 
Craig) in dealing with theory terms. Another example   is modeling of 
causative constructions using, say, Montagovian grammar.  Very  delicate 
etc. But 
when my subject matter is indelicate, or when I  cannot proceed  in the 
delicate way as in modeling, I make use of  more imaginative and,  
wild constructions. Thus the larger a  philosophical issue (in the  sense 
generality) the more I rely on  vagueness and metaphor. I cannot graspo  
world in a "precision  grip"; this requires tools for large tools. Metaphor 
a large  tool."

I agree, in parts. What's the good of agreeing _wholly_.  Grice  mentions 
metaphor and trope and analogy as the issue of what he  calls  
ESCHATOLOGY: the theory of category barriers. I  agree that analogy  and 
metaphor are philosophical in nature. Analogy  perhaps more so. I think 
there  is a 
book on the study of ANALOGY in  Greek earliest philosophical thought. 

a/b = c/d 

As opposed  to



Both analogical and  metaphorical predications diverge from, say, the  
predications in the  realm of _sense_, or even in logical and mathematics. 
I'm less  sure that it's a matter of the _scope_ of the inquiry.

Metaphor and  Analogy seem to be just as useful in political science, say.  
And  perhaps even in microbiology. I recall one great analogy that always  
stuck  with me:

"One single cell is more complex than the subway  lines of New York City" 
think it read).

---- I agree about the  importance of Plato in this, and that his  
diagrammes, which are  metaphorical or analogical in nature intend to 
portray  what he 
regards  as greater truths.

--- (It may connect with his use of myth -- a tool  which preceded "logos"  
in Greek thought. Why is it that Plato has to  appeal to a _MYTH_ when he 
finds  the necessary-and-sufficient  conditional analysis alla Socrates is 
not good  enough for  rhetorical puposes?).

Bayne continues:

"Part of what  Wittgenstein is saying is that the more you try to  say the 
more you  are drawn into making "nonsensical" statements. The  propositions 
logic are not nonsense, but applied to they largest "spheres"  they all  
the same thing: nothing. Similarly, when I try to say something   very 
expansive about "being qua being" (Aristotle) I may be driven  towards  
"nonsense": e.g. matter as pure potentiality. Much is said,  but so much in 
fact  that 
we are in the business of saying something  "nonsensical." But this sort of 
thing is important: it is an  expression (or account) of the idea of wonder 
from  which springs  philosophy itself. So it is important nonsense: good 
evil;  being  vs. nonbeing; good and existence etc."

I agree. And I'm ALWAYS amused by  that causal remark by Grice in "Logic 
Conversation"  (WoW:I):

"Heidegger is the greatest living philosopher."

For Grice  was in the know about the old controversies he lived via Ayer.   
Heidegger saying things like

"Nothing noths" (Das Nichts  nichtet)

And the dictum being shred to pieces by Carnap. Carnap indeed  deals  with

Nonsense =df  Metaphsyics.

In "The  publications of H. P. Grice", in Grandy/Warner, 1986, there is a   
little gap. There is no reference to an essay by Grice, with Strawson and  
Pears,  in

"The nature of metaphysics" (1957). An early  co-co-publication by Grice as 
it were. You read it and you don't know  who's writing what. But you can 
the  spirit. The most paedagogical  remarks I ascribe to Pears. The more 
Kantian to  Strawson. I wouldn't  know where Grice fits in. But their 
entitled,  "Metaphysics", is  a tour-de-force into post-Kantian metaphysics 
to  Carnap.

I  have discussed this in some joint work with R. B. Jones, who is very   
interested in what Carnap calls "open" or external questions, which he  
and Jones -- Carnap Corner is Jones's blog for this) calls  'metaphysical'.


Bayne concludes his piece:

"A final  point, more linguistic, point.
What constraints are there on  what I can  INTEND to say. Can I say 'He 
likes him' with the INTENTION of saying   'He likes himself'? Not at the 
level of 
what Jerome Katz calls  'linguistic  meaning'. In other words the 
possibility of intention,  when intentions are  complex concepts, involves 
on our mode  of representation. Sense in  the Fregean sense circumscribe 
intentions  otherwise understood. This is not to  reject Grice. Not 
No  existential claim is essential to  understanding circumscription in 
sense. Grice was right about meaning but  the point is, primarily,  
psychological (in the good sense)."

Yes. I often wonder. I tend to  like this example by Grice (which he 
from Carnap):

Pirots  karulise elatically.

U (Utterer) meant that pirots karulise  elatically.

It may be said that what U meant is _nonsense_. Of course  it's not.  
uses this example in German early  enough.

Piroten karulizien elaticalich (or something like that). He wants  to say  
that the thing can be ascribed a _sense_, if we define  





By _sense_  we mean extension or intention. It is different from

"And Caesar if but  and and"

In this case, by uttering "And Caesar if but and and", U meant  that ...?  
Surely it does not make sense to say,

By uttering 'x'  U meant that and Caesar if but and and and.

I.e. in a oratio obliqua of  "meaning", what follows the 'that'-clause has  
to be a sentence in the  meta-language (English). 

It is still different with things  like

"Caesar is a prime number."

By uttering "Caesar is a prime  number" (alleged nonsense), U (Utterer)  
meant that Caesar is a prime  number.

There is some discussion on this in terms of implicature, but I'm  never  
convinced. In terms of immunity to negation, for  example.

It literally does make sense to say that the NEGATION of a  nonsensical  
utterance IS SENSICAL:

"Caesar is not a prime  number."

However, the implicatures triggered can be just as  nonsensical.

Not in vain, the ultimate criterion must be negation:  nonsense has to be  
the absolute negation of sense. Call me too much  influenced by Edward Lear 
(The  master of Nonsense), but compared with  the things by Lear that I 
read (I 
recall  a nonsense letter he wrote to  his favourite child -- an English 
aristocrat, who  later edited a book  on Lear), even Hegel makes a lot of 
even if  unimportant  one!




"[T]he chief proposition  of philosophy is that philosophy is nonsense.  

again we must  then take seriously that it is nonsense, and not  pretend, 

Wittgenstein does, that it is important nonsense." 
Ramsey,  Foundations of Mathematics, p.263. -- cited by Bayne, original 
in this  thread.  

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