Sunday, July 01, 2012

39. The Outer Limits

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There is no denying that progress of mankind has been possible thanks to the inquisitive nature of Man (remember, capitalizing the word man gives it universal status).

Such are the depths the human spirit is capable of attaining that only looking back at the work of great thinkers can we hope to have the chance to make sense of our passage through life.

Now, I know what those of you who went through all the posts are thinking: ‘Oh no, philosophy – again?’ Yes, I’m afraid you’ll have to take it or leave it: the great adventure of words and their meanings hasn’t yet drawn to a close.

Now that editing is over, listen to the abridged version of the BBC radio programme on Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose full version you may listen to on In Our Time Philosophy (see link on the right side of the page).

While you listen, complete the gaps with a word or a short phrase.
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Ludwig Wittgenstein was a towering figure in 20th Century thought. In 1929, the economist John Maynard Keynes acknowledged him as – (0) God – having descended among men.

Considered the greatest philosopher of the Modern Age, Wittgenstein left some challenging statements for his - (1) - in philosophy. In his early work, he said, ‘the limits of my language - (2) - the limits of my world.’

His main philosophical purpose was liberating humanity from the neurotic questing over how - (3) - could solve all the problems of philosophy.

Wittgenstein (Vienna, 1889) was born and educated in Austria in a - (4 - 5) - family. Being this a(n) - (6) - period of Viennese cultural development, he grew up at the cutting edge of musical, literary and intellectual - (7) -.

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As he was interested in studying aeronautical - (8) - , he went to Manchester to specialise in designing a propeller, which required a deep knowledge of - (9) -.

His inquisitive mind made him enquire about the nature of the subject; that was how he came to read Bertrand Russell’s book ‘The Principles of Mathematics.’

He then presented himself to the renowned philosopher and mathematician whom he started to - (10) - around the Trinity College grounds, which convinced Russell that Wittgenstein was a - (11) -.

According to Russell’s own account, Wittgenstein went straight to him and asked him whether he thought he was an idiot. Russell asked for some - (12) - on philosophy and, after reading the first sentence of Wittgenstein’s text, he realized that he was a philosophical genius.

His interest in mathematics and logic took Wittgenstein to tackling Russell’s - (13) -. The outcome of their collaboration, the Tractatus, was published in 1921.

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One of the most puzzling things about the nature of mathematics is the discrepancy between how - (14) - mathematical propositions are, and the fact that we don’t actually know what Mathematics is about, since numbers don’t seem to be in the world, they are not under our - (15) - of volition.

At the time Russell thought, like the German philosopher Gottlob Frege, that it was possible to - (16-17-18) - of Mathematics and Arithmetic to truths of Logic. It was Frege’s belief that Logic represented the most general laws of thought there were, yet they belonged to an - (19) - Platonic realm, which Logic governs.

Albeit extravagant, the question arose as to whether a place can be found for logic in the world, whether it can be - (20) -. In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein rests convinced that propositions of logic are not - (21) - of the world.

Wittgenstein’s profound - (22) - in science pushed him towards studying the nature of language and the way it is used to describe the world.

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If that’s what language deals with, what about the propositions of Logic? Do these describe - (23 - 24 - 25) - in the world?

If truths of Logic - (26) - true, and since they are the boundaries of the world, then they might show the limits of intelligibility. Take all the possible - (27) - of the parts which that language allows: they will describe all the possible - (28) - the world could be: the limits of reality. 
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The limits of - (29) - coincide with the limits of reality. Therefore going beyond the boundaries of what is intelligible means then that you’re not - (30) -.