Sunday, July 29, 2012

An interesting net

The discussion continues here as Maverick and others ask whether Meinong could have made an elementary mistake about logic. If ‘some things do not exist’ is a logical contradiction, how come he did not spot it?

I commented that all anti-metaphysical and positivistic theories need to explain how metaphysicians got it so wrong. It’s not like dispelling superstition, belief in which we can explain by mere ignorance or lack of education. Meinong was clever and obviously well-educated. Many clever and well-educated academics are still disciples of his theories. So the anti-metaphysical theory about the meaning of the verb ‘exist’, and generally any anti-metaphysical theory, needs to explain how clever people got an apparently simple matter so wrong.

Accordingly, Ockham puts it down to ignorance of true logic. This causes people to fall into many errors “by ignoring valid argument as though it were sophistry, and mistaking sophistry for valid argument”. Mill, following Ockham, says that metaphysics is a 'fertile field of delusion propagated by language', i.e. language has the habit of playing tricks on us, even clever people.

 Wittgenstein discusses the problem in many places. 'A clever man got caught in this net of language! So it must be an interesting net. ' ' Human beings are entangled all unknowing in the net of language.' ' In philosophy it's always a matter of the application of a series of utterly simple basic principles that any child knows, and the – enormous – difficulty is only one of applying these in the confusion our language generates.'

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