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We continue picking at Ludwig Wittgenstein's On Certainty (written 1951), with Mark, Wes, Dylan and Seth now supplemented by guest Chris Heath, who is a guy who's very into philosophy of science who runs a Discord philosophy server.
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This is really the fourth discussion in this series; we recommend you start with ep. 307 on G.E. Moore, or at least ep. 309 where we started discussing this book.
What is Wittgenstein's philosophy of science as it's reflected in this book? The term in this book analogous to "paradigm" for Kuhn or "research program" for Lakatos is "Weltbild," i.e. world-picture, which he contrasts with world-view (Weltanschauung), as in the Marxist or the Daoist world-view. In a Weltbild, there are foundations that W. argues are too basic to even be considered propositions (claims); they are foundations for actions, like the assumption that physical objects exist, that we know our own names, and that simple perceptions ("this is my hand") are veridical. These are the Moorean propositions we've been discussing in our past three episodes.
A foundation of a Weltanschauung, on the other hand, is something that can be coherently questioned, like maybe the Marxist labor theory of value is foundational for Marxism, or the Daoist's claim that the Dao that can be spoken of is not the ultimate, eternal Dao. Those claims are central for understanding those world-views, and if refuted, perhaps undermine the whole view, but they are (arguably) not methodologically foundational in the same way.
The Kuhnian paradigm of Newtonian physics (for example) seems to involve both kinds of claims. On the one hand, there are Newton's three laws of motion and other central claims about time and space (which quantum physicists have disputed), but there are also methodological assumptions about how one's observations of measuring equipment must in general be reliable, how the figures you've just written down in your lab notebook won't magically change themselves, how we can perform mathematical calculations and always get the same answers, etc. So Wittgenstein's account might not be a full-blown philosophy of science, but it concerns these basic epistemic approaches which are not necessarily consistent across all scientific approaches. For instance, one methodological assumption of Newtonian science is that observed data doesn't tend to change just because an observation has taken place, but this is something that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle challenges.
I would say also that the Daoist claim that ultimate philosophy cannot be verbalized also challenges our everyday conception that the way the world is can be put into words, or insofar as it can't, that's because some truths are truths about qualia (how the world looks or feels or sounds to us), and we don't have agreed-upon names for all possible experiences. For a Daoist (and for Wittgenstein himself, famously), some truths are too deep to articulate. So this line between Weltbild and Weltanschauung is not very firm, more a matter of whether of which type of foundationalism you're emphasizing in describing a set of beliefs. A Weltbild is not a set of claims that we can (from within the picture) evaluate as to their truth or falsity, but a background picture that we use to make such evaluations.
So we try to figure out how these new-to-this-episode terms relate to language games, relativism, testing, testimony, and more. What if we as a society are just playing the wrong language games?
Image by Solomon Grundy. Audio editing by Tyler Hislop.
Larry Young says