On Wittgenstein and Paradox

Pears, David, Paradox and Platitude in Wittgenstein's Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2006

Book Information:
Hardback, 133 pages
ISBN: 0-19-924770-6

Brief Description
This is a penetrating and thought-provoking study of five interrelated themes that lie at the heart of Wittgenstein's philosophy: the pictorial character of language; the phenomenon of linguistic regularity; the 'private language argument'; logical necessity; ego and the self. Pears' critical and cynical analysis of these themes is informed by the notions of paradox and platitude which, as he applies them to various ideas in Wittgenstein's philosophy, keep the reader's own critical sense alert.

Goldstein, Laurence, 'The Barber, Russell’s Paradox, Catch-22, God and More: A Defence of a Wittgensteinian Conception of Contradiction', in G. Priest, JC Beall and B. Armour-Garb (eds), The Law of Non-Contradiction: New Philosophical Essays (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004), pp.295-313.

Brief Discussion
This paper defends Wittgenstein’s ‘cancellation’ view of contradiction. A contradiction lacks content, it says nothing and is hence not false (and, of course, not true either). This is offered as a defensible alternative and antidote to the dialetheist view, defended by several authors in this volume, that some contradictions are true (and false too). Boethius, Abelard, possibly Aristotle, certainly Wittgenstein took the view that contradictions lack content. A large number of apparently disparate paradoxes can be shown to be generated from stipulations of the form ‘p if and only if not-p’. For example, it is stipulated that the barber of Alcala, besides shaving all nonshavers in the village, shaves himself if and only if he does not. Now if, in conformity to the Wittgensteinian view defended in this paper, such biconditionals, like contradictions, are not false but—lacking content—are neither true nor false, then those paradoxes evaporate and do not re-emerge in strengthened forms.

Goldstein, Laurence, 'Moore's Paradox', in P. Engel (ed.), Believing and Accepting (North Holland, Kluwer, 2000), pp.65-92.

Brief Discussion
Wittgenstein held that, whereas ‘Pascal believes that p’ is a description of Pascal’s state of mind, specifically, his possessing the belief that p’, when, in most circumstances, I say ‘I believe that p’, I am not describing my own state of mind but avowing, perhaps hesitantly, perhaps emphatically, that p. Hence the absurdity of my utterance ‘I believe that p, but it is not the case that p’ is pretty much simply the absurdity of uttering a contradiction. Thus one version of Moore’s Paradox is solved. [Work done by John Williams subsequent to the publication of this paper convinces me that, with a bit of tweaking, Wittgenstein’s solution is correct.]

Goldstein, Laurence, 'Wittgenstein's Late Views on Belief, Paradox and Contradiction, Philosophical Investigations 11/1 (1988), pp.49-73.

Brief Discussion
In the last seven years of his life, Wittgenstein advocated a solution to the logico-semantical paradoxes quite different from the one he had staunchly defended since his youth. The solution, which is in line with his handling of the Moore paradox, involves the claim that certain uses of some sentences that are not contradictory in form nevertheless amount to a speaker contradicting himself, and that, under such circumstances, the question of the truth or falsity of the utterance is otiose.

Goldstein, Laurence, 'Wittgenstein and the Logico-Semantical Paradoxes', Ratio 25/2 (1983), pp.137-153, reprinted in J.V. Canfield (ed.), The Philosophy of Wittgenstein (New York, Garland Publishing Inc.,1986)

Brief Discussion
Wittgenstein’s approach to the Liar paradox is in the tradition of the mediaeval cassantes. He argues that, although paradoxical sentences, such as the Liar’s, are perfectly in order grammatically, they do not succeed in making statements, so that the question of their truth-value does not arise.

Goldstein, Laurence, 'Why the Liar Cannot be Said', in R. Haller (ed.), Language and Ontology (Vienna, Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1982), pp.162-165.

Brief Discussion
Wittgenstein’s early view was that there are certain sentences that we can mouth without thereby saying anything, i.e., without succeeding in making a statement. This is a position that Strawson was later to take in his attack on Russell’s theory of definite descriptions. It is argued here that the Liar sentence ‘This statement is false’ is an example of a sentence that cannot, in this sense, be said.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License