Anda di halaman 1dari 15

DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0378.2009.00359.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations


Marie McGinn

Abstract: Interpretations of the Tractatus divide into what might be called a metaphysical and an anti-metaphysical approach to the work. The central issue between the two interpretative approaches has generally been characterised in terms of the question whether the Tractatus is committed to the idea of things that cannot be said in language, and thus to the idea of a distinctive kind of nonsense: nonsense that is an attempt to say what can only be shown. In this paper, I look at this dispute from a different perspective, by focusing on the treatment of the concept of internal relations. By reference to the work of Peter Hacker, Hide Ishiguro and Cora Diamond, I show how this concept is understood quite differently in each of the two interpretative traditions. I focus particularly on how Wittgensteins idea of the internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world (Tractatus 4.014) might be understood within the two interpretative approaches. I offer some reasons in support of the antimetaphysical treatment of the concept.

1. At least two, and possibly three, different approaches to interpreting Wittgensteins Tractatus (TLP) are currently on offer. First, there is a metaphysical approach which claims that Wittgenstein puts forward, or intends to convey, an account of the relation between language and the world in which, as Pears puts it, the world is the dominant partner (Pears 2006: 1). The logical structure of our language is, as Hacker says, ineffably answerable to the logical form of the world (Hacker 2001: 170), understood as the language independent-de re possibilities (Hacker 2001: 171) for objects to combine in states of affairs. Second, there is what I will call an anti-metaphysical approach, which denies that Wittgenstein intended to offer any form of explanation of how language connects with the world, but is, rather, engaged in a logical investigation whose aim is to lay bare how the expressions of our language function. There is no attempt, on this understanding, either to ground the logic of our language in features of the world, or to infer features of the world from the nature of our symbolism. This anti-metaphysical approach represents a well-established interpretative tradition, which includes the work of Ishiguro, McGuinness, Rhees and Winch, and to which my own recent book on the Tractatus was intended to be a contribution.
European Journal of Philosophy 18:4 ISSN 0966-8373 pp. 495509 r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

496

Marie McGinn

The opposition to the metaphysical reading of the Tractatus was re-invigorated in the 1990s, by the work of Cora Diamond, James Conant, Tom Ricketts, Warren Goldfarb, Michael Kramer, and others. It is a moot question whether this reinvigorationthe so-called resolute readingconstitutes a third approach, distinct from that of Ishiguro et al., or whether it is better seen as putting forward a distinctive way of defending an anti-metaphysical approach to an understanding of Wittgensteins early work. Certainly, one effect of this re-invigoration of the opposition to the metaphysical reading has been to focus the dispute concerning the correct interpretative strategy on the question whether the Tractatus is committed to the idea of things that cannot be said in languagethings such that, in trying to say them, we are forced to speak nonsenseand thus to the idea of a distinctive category of nonsense: nonsense that is an attempt to say what can only be shown. Against this, resolute readers have argued that Wittgenstein does not recognize kinds of nonsense. A string of signs is nonsense if we have failed to give a meaning to at least one of the signs occurring in it; the idea of a sentences being nonsense because what it is trying to say lies beyond the limits of what can be said is a mirage, and, the resolute readers claim, is actually the principal target of the Tractatus. In this paper I want to approach the dispute between the various interpretative strategies from a slightly different, though closely related, direction, by focusing on the concept of internal relations. This is a concept that appears to be handled quite differently by these interpretative traditions; my hope is that by focusing on it, the nature of the dispute between them may be further illuminated.

2. Let me begin by presenting the understanding of the concept of internal relations that has emerged within the metaphysical approach. I will take the work of Peter Hacker as my basis, simply because he has worked the view out in more detail, and defended it more vigorously, than anyone else in this interpretative tradition. Wittgensteins use of the concept of an internal relation that Ill focus on in my discussion is the following: the . . . internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world (TLP 4.014). According to Hacker, this internal relation is to be understood as a substantial relation of isomorphism which must hold between language and the world, if the former is to represent the latter. On this understanding, the logical syntax of our language is held to be ineffably answerable to the logical form of the world. The logical form of the world is constituted by the combinatorial possibilities of the simple objects that make up the substance of the world. Thus, if a sign occurring in a proposition is a name, then it must admit of the very same range of combinatorial possibilities within the symbolism as the object which is its meaning has in reality. Similarly, a proposition must have the same logical form as the state of affairs the existence of which makes it true, and which it affirms to exist. The logical forms of both objects and states of affairs are
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations

497

language independent: they are constituted by possibilities that are independent of our system for representing states of affairs in language. This isomorphism between language and the world is a condition of the possibility of representation; it is in this sense that the logical form of language is answerable to the logical form of the world. However, the features of the world that are isomorphically mirrored in a language which represents it cannot be described in language. These features are not contingent and a description of them would fail to accord with the bi-polarity requirement, which Wittgenstein places on propositions with sense. The features of the world that are essentially mirrored in language are necessary and therefore ineffable: they cannot be described in senseful propositions. The logical form of reality does, however, show itself in the logical features of well-formed propositions. In the same way, the internal relation of mirroring that is a condition of representation is itself something that cannot be expressed in senseful propositions, but shows itself in our expressing propositions with sense. Thus, according to the metaphysical approach, the internal relation of depicting is a genuine or substantial relation: expressions that have this relation to the world express a sense; those that lack this relation, do not. The holding of this internal relation between signs and the objects they stand for is a substantial condition on representation, which gives content to the idea that the logical syntax of language is answerable to the world. There is a requirement that language fit the world, and the internal relation of depicting is the holding of this relation of fit. The fit that is required is between the possibilities for signs to occur in propositions and the de re possibilities for objects to combine in facts. What makes the relation internal rather than external is that it cannot be expressed in language: it is necessary and ineffable. On this understanding, the internal relation between language and the world is, like an external relation, properly or genuinely relational in nature, but, unlike an external relation, it cannot be represented in, but is rather presupposed by, propositions with sense. The connection between this interpretation of Wittgensteins use of the concept of an internal relation and the conception of nonsense which is criticized by Diamond and Conant is clear. The logical form of language is taken to show features of reality that cannot be described in language; the internal relation which constitutes the relation of depiction is one that exists between language and the world, but cannot be described in senseful propositions. The attempt to describe either the logical form of the world, or the relation of depiction, results in nonsense sentences that fail to express a sense: the things that we are attempting to say cannot be expressed in senseful propositions. Thus, this interpretation of the concept of an internal relation commits Wittgenstein to the idea that there is a kind of nonsense which is the result of our attempting to say what can only be shown. However, what I want to focus on is what I will call this interpretations relational understanding of Wittgensteins concept of the internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world.
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

498

Marie McGinn 3.

A quite different understanding of the concept of internal relations can be discerned in the anti-metaphysical approach to the Tractatus. Although Hide Ishiguro does not use the term internal relation in her paper, Wittgenstein and the Theory of Types (Ishiguro 1981), in it she clearly repudiates the idea that Wittgenstein held that the logical syntax of our language is answerable to anything outside language. For Wittgenstein, she writes, being a propositional function or being an object are correlates of certain logical categories of our language (Ishiguro 1981: 45). She argues that a theory of logical types is, for Wittgenstein, equivalent to providing a philosophical grammar or logical syntax that makes the logical form of the constituents of propositions perspicuous. It is essentially concerned with how symbols of our language symbolize, and not with what they mean. Wittgenstein, unlike Russell and Frege, resists the temptation to think of the theory of types[or logical syntax]as a general classification of things (Ishiguro 1981: 48), or to make the obscure claim that the reference of names and references of predicates are different kinds of entities, the later being unsaturated (Frege) or indefinite (Russell) (Ishiguro 1981: 51). Thus, we might read Ishiguro as rejecting the idea that Wittgenstein held that the logical form of a proposition stands in a substantial relation of fitting to the logical form of the state of affairs that makes it true. Rather, the logical form of a proposition is seen as the structure which makes us understand propositions as pieces of language; [t]he logical form of a proposition is something we must grasp in order to understand that the words in the proposition say anything at all (Ishiguro 1981: 47). Thus, Ishiguro sees Wittgenstein as distinguish[ing] between what we say or express by means of our language, and the categorical understanding we have; the latter, she argues, reflect[s] our grasp of logical syntax or our grasp of the logical form of our language (Ishiguro 1981: 54). On this understanding, the distinction between saying and showing is not to be understood as a distinction between the contingent/expressible and the necessary/ineffable features of reality. Being an object, or being a property, is not to be understood as an attribute that is possessed (ineffably) by the entities that signs stand for; it is rather to be understood as the correlate of a formal concept that characterizes a way of symbolizing, something that is made fully manifest in the employment of signs in propositions with sense. There is no sense here that there are things that are necessarily true of objects, but which cannot be said, only shown, by the signs that represent them. On this interpretation, the logical syntax of a symbol, in virtue of which it is the symbol it is, is not an attribute of what the symbol stands for, but is a feature of the symbol that is manifest in its role in the symbolism. The fit between a sign and what it signifies is no longer understood as a substantial relation of isomorphism, but as a reflection of the fact that what kind of symbol a symbol ishow a symbol signifiesis fixed by the nature of the symbolism, and is not answerable to anything outside language. The internal relation between the logical form of a sign and the logical form of what it signifies does not, on this
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations

499

view, have anything genuinely relational about it; rather, the logical form of a symbol and of what it signifies is settled in a single stroke, by how the sign is used with a sense. The point of Wittgensteins critique of Russells theory of types, according to Ishiguro, is that logical distinctions are distinctions between the logico-syntactic properties of symbols, which are made manifest in the employment of signs in propositions with sense. A symbols way of symbolizing is something internal to the symbolism and is made evident in its logico-syntactic employment. The logico-syntactic properties of a symbol are presented by means of a variable, which is equivalent to a rule for the construction of a class of propositions. The rule that a variable expresses does not need to concern itself with what signs mean, but only with how signs signify: with their logico-syntactic properties. Variables present what a class of symbols have in common, and no variable can show what is common to two symbols that symbolize in different ways: and that is the whole of the theory of types (TLP 3.332). Russells vicious circle principle is not only incoherent, but also unnecessary. The meaning of a sign does not have to be mentioned in order to rule out a functions occurring as its own argument; the difference in the mode of signification between a propositional function and its argument already rules out a functions being applied to itself; no function can be the value of the variable that presents the prototype of its argument. Thus, the fit between signs that combine to form propositions that represent possible states of affairs is understood as something that concerns, or is grounded in, the nature of symbols, and not in the nature of things. On this interpretation, one might see it as the great achievement of Wittgensteins early work that it makes clear that logic does not belong to the level of facts, that the logic of our language does not represent and is not answerable to anything outside language: the logical syntax of our language concerns how symbols symbolize, something that is shown in the use of expressions in propositions. If this is our model for the understanding of internal relations, then it suggests that the internal relation of depiction is itself one that needs to be understood in a way that does not involve anything genuinely relational, or imply any substantial relation of fit. I will return to this topic in section 5. 4. In a different context, and in a rather different fashion, Cora Diamond has also argued against the possibility of interpreting the notion of an internal relation as involving anything genuinely relational. In Truth Before Tarski (Diamond 2002), she argues against Hans Slugas claim that Wittgenstein is committed to a version of the correspondence theory of truth, which Sluga describes as follows: The world . . . consists of facts, and a fact is the existence of a state of affairs which in turn are combinations of objects. The combination of names that makes up a sentence is also a fact, and a sentence is true if it
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

500

Marie McGinn stands in a strict mapping or picturing relation to a fact in the world. (Sluga 2002: 90)

Diamond argues that Wittgensteins putting forward what looks like a correspondence theory of truth is properly understood as an attempt to get us to see that what we usually think of as correspondence theories of truth are attempts to treat as theory what is actually a reflection of certain ways we operate with sentences, dependent on their logical character (Diamond 2002: 256). The understanding at which Wittgenstein ultimately aims does not in the end rely on the structure of relations (Diamond 2002: 259). Were concerned here with the idea that there is a relation of correspondence, or fitting, between a proposition and the fact that makes it true. Diamond concedes that Wittgenstein does indeed talk of a propositions agreeing or disagreeing with reality, but she argues that we need to be attentive to the way in which he tries to get us to recognize what such talk actually amounts to. Rather than focusing, as Sluga does, on the idea of a relation between language and the world, Diamond holds that Wittgensteins intention is to redirect our attention toward logical features of the use of ordinary sentences (Diamond 2002: 259). Talk of the relation of agreeing or disagreeing with reality is, she argues, prompted by the following kinds of inference pattern, which characterize our ordinary use of propositions: Group 1 p So p is true and not-p is false not-p So p is false and not-p is true Group 2 A believes p p So As belief is correct A believes p not-p So As belief is incorrect A believes p As belief is correct So p These patterns record logical features of our use of sentences. In the case of the Group 1 pattern, we might try to express the significance of this inference pattern by saying that a proposition and its negation correspond to a single fact: a single reality determines the truth or falsity of both propositions. However, Diamond
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations

501

argues that Wittgensteins ultimate aim is to show us that the relational talk, which this inference pattern prompts us to engage in, is incoherent. In getting us to see that the way propositions symbolize essentially involves directionalitya rule-governed kind of comparison with reality, which is [essentially] reversibleWittgenstein thereby clarifies the distinction between propositions and names, and brings us to recognize that propositions cannot be relata: nothing with directionality is a relatum (Diamond 2002: 269). Relational talk of correspondence between a proposition and a fact is now seen to collapse into incoherence: to talk of a relation between a proposition and a fact would essentially involve treating a proposition as equivalent to a name. Thus, all that is left of our relational talk is the inference pattern that prompted it in the first place, and from which all suggestion of anything genuinely relational is completely absent. Thus, whatever content the idea that a single reality determines the truth of both a proposition and its negation has, lies entirely in its alluding to inferences of the Group 1 pattern. In the same way, relational talk of a thoughts or a judgements agreeing or disagreeing with reality is to be seen as prompted by the Group 2 pattern of inference. Diamond argues that this relational talk of agreement also collapses into incoherence, and for the same reason: nothing with directionality is a relatum. What we are left with is our ordinary use of propositions both to say what is the case and to give the contents of judgements, and our moving from a statement about what A believes and a statement about what is the case to a statement as to whether As belief is correct or incorrect. Again, whatever content the idea that thought is answerable to reality has lies entirely in its alluding to these inference patterns, from which, once again, all sense of anything genuinely relational is absent. Diamond, in accordance with the precepts of the resolute reading, is inclined to see all this as a matter of showing that the concept of an internal relation explodes from within, and reveals itself to be incoherent. However, it seems equally possible to construe Wittgensteins talk of an internal relation between a proposition and the fact that makes it true as a rejection of the idea of a substantial, but ineffable, relation of correspondence or fitting, and to see Diamonds explication of talk of a propositions agreeing or disagreeing with reality as a working out of the kind of interpretation of the notion of an internal relation that Wittgenstein intends us to give. On this understanding, talk of an internal relation is to be understood as alluding to features of the symbolism that are internal to it and evident in our ordinary employment of expressions: we employ propositions to say how things are. Recognizing these features does not issue in an explanation of what the relation of truth consists in, but altogether dispenses with the idea of truth as a relation between a proposition and something that fits it. In the same way, talk of the internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world is intended to draw our attention to features of our ordinary use of expression, so that what we initially picture as genuinely relational comes to be seen as no more than a reflection of how we actually employ expressions.
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

502

Marie McGinn

For example, the fact that we use the proposition p to describe the fact that obtains if p is true; that we use the proposition p to say what is not the case if p is false; that we use the proposition p to say what is the case in reality if As belief that p is correct; and so on. Establishing the truth of a proposition, or the correctness of a belief, is not a matter of establishing that a relation holds between a bit of language and a bit of the world, but of using the rule that constitutes the sense of a proposition to determine whether p or p is the case. The idea of a propositions answerability to the world is simply equivalent to its having a sense that determines the conditions under which we call p true and p false and, by the same stroke, the conditions under which we call p false and p true. Although it explains nothing, recognizing the features of the symbolism, which the idea of an internal relation between a proposition and the state of affairs that exists if it is true alludes to, may bring about the satisfaction that it was wrongly supposed could only be achieved by means of a substantial account of what the relation of truth or correspondence consists in. What we come to see is that the idea of thoughts answerability to the world does not invoke a substantial relation of isomorphic mapping between propositions and facts, conceived as ontological items, but rather invokes the rules internal to our normatively governed practice of saying what is the case. A factsomething that is the case is essentially something that can be said to be the case by a true proposition of our language Diamond herself seems willing to acknowledge this when, in the final paragraph of her paper, she concedes that Juliet Floyd may be right in holding that Wittgensteins aim is to lead us to acknowledge something as what we had wanted to say, as what we had in some sense wanted all along, or as what we really had in mind, even though we had never thought of it that way at all (Diamond 2002: 273). In this case, we might, she agrees, be willing to say: Yes, Wittgenstein, the Tractatus gives me what I was really after with my talk of correspondence, although what [we] would thereby have accepted would certainly not have been the kind of thing [we] had earlier described as what we wanted, when [we] had laid down the conditions for an adequate account of truth (Diamond 2002: 2734). However, this does not incline her to give the notion of an internal relation a clean bill of health. She argues that [c]onfidence that we can distinguish logical [i.e. internal] relations from relations is part of what stops us from throwing away the ladder (Diamond 2002: 26970). She suggests that [w]hen we talk about logical relations, we tell ourselves that we mean a special sort of relation-that-is-not-really-a-relation, a relation not expressible by ordinary propositions, and the implication is that what this shows is that we havent got to the top of the ladder and completely thrown away the inherently incoherent idea of a relation that holds between language and the world. However, there is nothing in the idea of an anti-metaphysical approach to interpreting the Tractatus that imposes this view of the fate of the notion of an internal relation on us. One could see it as a term that Wittgenstein employs in transitional remarks designed to bring the reader to a clarified view of the logic of c c c
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations

503

our language. In this case, what, in any particular case, talk of an internal relation amounts to is something that is shown by the features of the symbolism, or of our ordinary use of expressions, which Wittgensteins remarks draw our attention to and serve to clarify. The fact that an internal relation is not intended to be understood as a substantial or genuine relation between a proposition and the situation it depicts, and which exists if it is true, or between a sign and what it signifiesthe fact that it does not, in the end, amount to anything genuinely relationalis precisely what permits it to play this purely transitional role. Insofar as the notion is always an implicit allusion to the structure of the symbolism, or to our actual employment of expressions, a perspicuous view of that structure, or that employment, is all that the notion is, ultimately, intended to leave us with. The notion is implicitly a rejection of any explanatory intent, and implicitly a recognition that perspicuous representation of what our employment of the symbolism itself makes clear, rather than explanation, is what an expression of philosophical puzzlement, concerning, say, the nature of truth or the nature of representation, calls for. This, I want to argue, does not involve, as Diamond claims that failure to recognize the incoherence of talk of internal relations inevitably must, thinking of propositions as items going into a relation as its terms, that is, not as genuinely directional, not as genuinely capable of propositional sense (Diamond 2002: 270).

5. We have already seen what sort of account of the relation of depicting that holds between language and the world the metaphysical interpretation finds in the Tractatus, and the sort of understanding of the concept of an internal relation that is implicit in it. Ive now suggested that a fully resolute reading is one that rejects both the idea of a substantial relation of depicting, and the notion of an internal relation between language and the world, as incoherent. However, I have so far said very little about how an anti-metaphysical, but non-resolute, reading might interpret the phrase the . . . internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world (TLP 4.014). What understanding does a nonrelational interpretation of the concept of an internal relation, one that sees it as concerned with the nature of the symbolism itself, provide of Wittgensteins remark? To say that the relation between a proposition and the situation it represents is internal is, on this interpretation, to say that it is not genuinely relational and thus does not depend upon, or upon a propositions having any relation to, anything outside the symbolism. One way to understand this is to see it as saying that the relation between a proposition and the situation it represents does not depend upon anything other than the rules of projection whereby we derive from the propositioni.e. from these words as they are used in this combination on a particular occasionan understanding of how things stand in reality if the proposition is true. A proposition represents a possible state of affairs insofar as it
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

504

Marie McGinn

expresses a sense that is equivalent to a rule that lays down the conditions under which we call it true, and by the same stroke, the conditions under which we call it false. Wittgenstein sees it as one of the fundamental insights of the Tractatus that a proposition expresses a sense only insofar as it is a logical picture of a state of affairs. A proposition is a logical picture of a state of affairs insofar as it combines elements that are representatives of objects in a way that portrays how those objects are combined if the proposition is true. Thus, the rules of projection, in virtue of which a proposition has the internal relation of depicting to a possible state of affairs, includes the correlation of the propositional constituents with objects that are the constituents of the state of affairs it represents. One of the fundamental ideas of the anti-metaphysical reading is that Wittgenstein does not intend to prioritize the relation of correlation between propositional constituents and objects, or in any way use it to explain how a proposition represents what it does. Rather, the correlation between propositional constituents and objects, which constitutes the pictorial relationship (TLP 2.1514), is understood to be dependent upon the occurrence of the constituents in propositions that can be compared with reality for truth or falsity. A propositional constituent is essentially anything that a class of propositions have in common, and to understand a propositional constituent is to understand the contribution it makes to determining the sense of propositions in which it occurs. In this way, the meaning of the propositional constituents is itself something that is determined within the system of representation insofar as it stands in a projective relation to the world, that is, insofar as it is used to express thoughts that are assessed for truth or falsity. On this reading, talk of the . . . internal relation of depicting is to be understood as part of an overall attempt to get us to see that what were concerned with is not a substantial relation between language and the world, which could be characterized only from a position external to language, but the rules of projection in virtue of which we understand a propositional sign in its projective relation to the world. The notion of an internal relation does not explain how language connects with the world; all idea of a genuine relation has completely disappeared; the notion of an internal relation simply alludes to our employment of propositions within a practice of saying how things are in reality. The fit between language and the world lies in the rules for the use of the expressions of our language, in virtue of which we can use them, on particular occasions, to say how things are in reality. Thus, the internal relation of depicting amounts to this: p says p. This is something that is grasped and understood only within the perspective of our ordinary use of language, that is, only from within the perspective of a mastery of the rules whereby language is projected onto the world, and in virtue of which a speaker is able to say what is the case, or understand a proposition. The central project of the Tractatus is to clarify what is essential to a propositional signs expressing a sense in the way that it does, but this is something that can essentially be discerned in the way that propositions symbolize within the system
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations

505

of representation to which they essentially belong. No doubt Wittgenstein is led by a number of presuppositions, including the tautological nature of all logical inference and the determinacy of sense, into making dogmatic claims about the essence of a proposition. However, none of this, the claim is, involves him committing himself to the idea that the logical form of our languagei.e. everything that is essential to our symbols symbolizing in the way that they do is answerable to something that exists independently of language. Language is essentially appliedthat is to say, used to express judgements that are true or falsebut there is nothing outside the rules by which language is projected onto the world, and which determine the method for comparing language with reality, that conditions whether the propositions we take ourselves to understand make sense, or which explains why they have the sense they do. Thus, the idea that the possibilities for signs to combine in propositions fits the possibilities for objects to combine in states of affairs is revealed as amounting to no more than this: our conception of what is possible, of what can be the case, is mirrored in our understanding of the propositions of our language.

6. Are there reasons for preferring one of these interpretations of the concept of an internal relation and its role in Wittgensteins early thought over another? I will end by making a few gestures in favour an anti-metaphysical approach. First of all, the metaphysical interpretation of the relation of depicting is internally incoherent. For example, the notion of answerability is being employed in a context in which the idea of a method of comparison makes no sense. It makes sense to talk of a propositions being answerable to the world just insofar as our understanding of a proposition is essentially constituted by grasp of a rule that determines whether we can correctly assert it or its negation. Clearly, no such rule is available in the case of the logical form in virtue of which we recognize a proposition as the proposition that it is. What sense is to be made, then, of the idea that the logical form of a proposition is answerable to the world? The concepts of answerability and the concept of fit, as they are employed within the metaphysical account, appear to be completely empty. Furthermore, the idea that the logical form of our language is answerable to something outside language suggests that it is not the logical syntax of our language that determines what constitutes a proposition with sense. The conditions of sense lie outside language: it is only if the logical form of our language mirrors the independently constituted logical form of the world that what we take to be propositions are expressions with sense. This makes it look as if an experience is needed, prior to our determining whether a particular proposition is true or false, that fixes whether the propositions of our language make sense. And this, of course, is something that Wittgenstein rejects outright as
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

506

Marie McGinn

early as September 1914. Although Hacker is clearly right that attacks on the coherence of the views he attributes to Wittgenstein do not in themselves show that Wittgenstein did not hold them, it is also surely a prima facie reason against an interpretation that it finds an incoherent view in a text, especially if a coherent interpretation is available. James Conant describes the dialectic that the resolute reading finds in the Tractatus as follows: [F]irst I grasp that there is something that must be; then I see that it cannot be said; then I grasp that if it cannot be said it cannot be thought (that the limits of language are the limits of thought); and then, finally, when I have reached the top of the ladder, I grasp that there has been no it in my grasp all along (that that which I cannot think I cannot grasp either). (Conant 2002: 4212) According to Conant, the philosophical point of the work is that by the end of it the reader should have understood that Wittgensteins remarks fall apart when we try to give meaning to the signs that occur in them. The value of the lesson lies in the readers coming to see, by means of this recognition, that there is nothing that constitutes even so much as an attempt to get outside language and explain how it connects with the world; the very idea of such a perspective on language is an illusion. The outcome of the lesson is that we are no longer tempted to engage in this kind of nonsense: we say nothing except what can be said (TLP 6.53). One of the difficulties that critics have raised in response to this proposed way of reading the Tractatus is to ask how a series of remarks that give a mere illusion of sense can afford a reader the necessary insights to recognize them as nonsensical. How can nonsensical remarks do work in removing a philosophical illusion if they are themselves nothing more than an expression of that illusion? The problem is manifest in the way that would-be resolute readers frequently appear to fall away from the precepts of resoluteness and to articulate important insights concerning how language functions that they find in Wittgensteins early work. For example: The expressive capacity of a proposition . . . essentially involves directionality, and that directionality itself belongs to the proposition through a kind of use, a rule-governed kind of comparison with reality, which is reversible. (Diamond 2002: 269) The whole of logic is internal to the logical character of every referring expression. (Diamond 1995: 201) The truth-functional calculus, within which sentences have their identity as signs, is what goes with any referring expression. (Diamond 1995: 201) [O]ur understanding of possibility is not ontologically based in some realm of the possible, but arises simply from our understanding of and operating with the sensical sentences of our language. (Goldfarb 1997: 66)
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations There is no conception of a possible fact save as a situation in logical space representable by a sentence, [and] there is no conception of a constituent of a possible atomic fact, of an object, save as what is meant by the names that can occur in fully analyzed sentences. (Ricketts 1996: 923)

507

It is hard not to hear these as insights concerning the nature of our symbolism and its representational capacities, which Wittgenstein believes attention to the symbolism itself makes clear, and which he believes will make the philosophical problems concerning the nature of a proposition, or the nature and status of logic, which he discerned in Freges and Russells philosophical logic, completely disappear. The contention is that the notion of an internal relation, insofar as it is intended to invoke aspects of our employment of signs that are internal to our practice of using propositions to say how things are, plays a central role in this inescapable, core task of clarification and elimination of philosophical problems, and is not properly seen as expressive of philosophical illusion. An anti-metaphysical reading of the Tractatus separates out the illegitimate idea of explaining how language connects with the world from the legitimate idea of allowing language to reveal how it functions. The idea of clarification, as it were from inside language, does not involve a necessarily doomed attempt to take up a perspective on language from a point outside it. The distinction between what can be said in language and what shows itself does not, on this interpretation, concern thoughts that are expressible and thoughts that lie beyond our capacity to express them in language. Rather, it emerges, in the context of a logical investigation of how language functions, as a distinction between what a symbol signifies and the logico-syntactic properties in virtue of which it signifies what it does. What gets clarified is the logical order of a language in which thoughts are expressed, something that is shown in how signs are used with a sense, and which we grasp in virtue of being masters of the language. Insofar as the clarity we achieve, through the kind of investigation Wittgenstein is held to be engaged in, concerns what is essential to a signs expressing its sense, then it might be argued that the proper expression of what we thus see clearly is our simply using signs correctly, that is, in our saying nothing except what can be said. This allows us to acknowledge that, once Wittgensteins remarks have achieved what they are intended to achieve, they can be completely left behind. His remarks are, in this sense, entirely transitional; they do not express propositions with sense, and nor do they convey truths that cannot be expressed in propositions. They provide the liberating word which serves to bring about a clarified vision of the logical order whichWittgenstein believesis there in language insofar as it represents states of affairs. This clarified vision does not amount to a theory of depicting, but it provides a form of philosophical insight in which questions about how a proposition expresses its sense, how we can infer one proposition from another, why all the propositions of logic are given as soon as we have a language in which states of affairs are represented, and so on, completely disappear.
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

508

Marie McGinn

One further advantage of the anti-metaphysical reading is that it construes Wittgensteins early talk of internal relations, a concept he employs throughout his philosophical career, from Notes Dictated to Moore to Remarks on Colour, in a way that is at least harmonious with his employment of the concept in the later work. His early commitment to the idea of a logically perspicuous symbolism, to the idea that all logical inference is tautological, to the idea that the internal relations between propositions can be read off the symbols themselves, to the idea that if a proposition, q, is logically entailed by a proposition, p, then it must be shown, by means of an analysis of p, that q is part of the sense of p, and so on, means that the context in which talk of internal relations has its place changes. However, the anti-metaphysical understanding of such talk permits us to see this change as merely an evolution in Wittgensteins approach to allowing language to make clear how it functions. The essential idea remains the same: talk of internal relations is always a rejection of substantial philosophical theory, and an implicit expression of the conviction that the sort of understanding that philosophical questions call forthe kind of understanding we need to resolve philosophical paradoxes or problemsis one that concerns the role of expressions in our language. Thus, when he says, at TLP 4.15 The existence of an internal relation expresses itself in language by means of an internal relation between the propositions representing them (my italics), I want to hear this as saying that it is in language that internal relations or connections are made, and thus as an echo of PI 445, It is in language that an expectation and its fulfilment make contact. This contrasts sharply with the metaphysical interpretation of such talk, which is not only forced to claim that Wittgenstein uses a single expression to express fundamentally contrasting ideas, but that these ideas are, in both the early and the later philosophy, philosophically substantial. Thus, in the early philosophy, the idea is that the logic of our language is grounded in the indescribable nature of things; in the later philosophy, it is the idea that logic or grammar is arbitrary: grammar determines essence. Both of these ideas attempt to take a sideways-on view of the relation between language and the world, and as such neither equates with the anti-metaphysical understanding of Wittgensteins employment of the expression. The point of the anti-metaphysical reading is not to be expressed in terms of either a positive or a negative thesis about the relation between language and the world; its point is better understood as claiming that Wittgensteins central commitment is to a methodological principle concerning where to look if we want to understand the workings of our language. There is, on the other hand, no suggestion, as there is on the resolute reading, that there are questions we cannot ask, but rather a realization that the questions we raise call for a kind of investigation quite different from the one we had supposed: they dont call for an account of anything, but for a seeing, or recognizing, of connections that are internal to our practice of using language. Thus, the focus on the notion of internal relations, and thereby on our normative practice of employing
r

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Wittgenstein and Internal Relations

509

expressions that this notion is to be understood as alluding to, is not to embrace one of the options provided by realist/anti-realist readings of Wittgensteins work, but to recognize its essentially therapeutic purpose: description (i.e. clarification) of the employment of expressions takes the place of explanation. Marie McGinn Department of Philosophy University of East Anglia UK m.mcginn@uea.ac.uk REFERENCES
Conant, J. (2002), The Method of the Tractatus, in E. H. Reck (ed.), From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Diamond, C. (1995), Throwing Away the Ladder, in The Realistic Spirit. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. (2002), Truth before Tarski: After Sluga, after Ricketts, after Geach, after Goldfarb, Hylton, Floyd and Van Heijenoort, in E. H. Reck (ed.), From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldfarb, W. (1997), Metaphysics and Nonsense: On Cora Diamonds The Realistic Spirit, Journal of Philosophical Research, XXII: 5773. Hacker, P. M. S. (2001), Naming, Thinking and Meaning in the Tractatus, in Wittgenstein: Connection and Controversies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ishiguro, H. (1981), Wittgenstein and the Theory of Types, in I. Block (ed.), Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Pears, D. F. (2006), Paradox and Platitude in Wittgensteins Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ricketts, T. (1996), Pictures, Logic and the Limits of Sense in Wittgensteins Tractatus, in H. Sluga and D. Stern (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sluga, H. (2002), Frege on the Indefinability of Truth, in E. H. Reck (ed.), From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wittgenstein, L. (1958) [1998], Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (1971), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuiness. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.