The primary theme of the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein is the nature of the relationship between thought and reality. The structure of language is an objective constituent of the thought processes. The analysis of language exposes properties of logic and perception. Wittgenstein initially describes an isomorphic association in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. He states that properties of consciousness are illustrated by the necessary fundamental similarities that enable language to represent reality. Wittgenstein explains that relative functionality is the source of objective significance. The perception of an object is dependent on dynamic interactions. The features of relativity are the common structure that connects subjective ideas to actual substance. Meaningful propositions of logic are constructed from truth function expressions that refer to existentially essential object relationships. The accuracy of a statement is equivalent to conformity with material quantification. However, in the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein states that the continuous variation of objects negates the possibility of exact ostensive definitions. Logical operations involve the systemic application of simple principles to the variability present within reality. The practical function of language is the economically effective depiction of innumerable items within finite expressive forms. The connotation of a sentence corresponds to the cooperative interrelation of component words. The meaning of a representation is a product of circumstantial context. Wittgenstein’s two theories are not exclusive. Rather, each represents a distinct property of language. Words are artificial representations of phenomena. While practical language must have some objective connection in order to represent reality, all logical associations are subjective definitions. The act of definition is the creation of metaphorical meaning in relation to reality. The vague essence of an established metaphor facilitates the extension of knowledge. The dynamic significance of a word increases the extant of symbolic function.
The distinction between subject and object has been an enduring theme of philosophical investigation. The subject and the object are defined in their relationship to one another. The subject is the observer, and the object is the thing observed. Objectivity is experienced by the subject as the phenomena of sensation. Objectivity includes all things that are empirically quantifiable. Objects are the measurable realm of science. Objective value contains universal significance that applies to all reality. Subjectivity is the interpretation of objective sensation. The function of the subject is the conscious perception of existence. Subjectivity is beyond empirical analysis. However, this abstract intangible nature does not necessarily prevent all understanding of subjective properties.
The initial statement of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is that “The world is all that is the case.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 141) The fundamental character of reality is existence. “The world is the totality of facts, not of things.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 141) “…The totality of facts determines what is the case…” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) Presence within the physical realm is the essence of consistence. Objectivity must be divided into distinct constituents for practical purposes. “The world divides into facts.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) The splitting of objectivity into separate phenomenal perceptions is a necessary function of representation. “What is the case, a fact, is the existence of states of affairs.”(Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) Subjective division of reality enables the manipulation of localized properties. Peculiar distinguishing characteristics are then attributed to particular components.
“A state of affairs… is a combination of objects... It is essential to things that they should be possible constituents of states of affairs.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) Objective material is perceived through reference. The significance of a distinct body is a necessary relationship with other beings. This relationship is the perceived character of reality. A real item must be relative to all other matter. “…There is no object that we can imagine excluded from the possibility of such combinations.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) The empirical definition of existence is the possibility of detection. Detection is ultimately dependent on the sensory experience of the subject. This experience is the effect of a process initiated in objectivity. However, the subjective experience does not directly represent the nature of reality. Rather, experience is the perception of the relationship between the subject and the object.
What of hallucination and delusion? Sensations are not always universally accurate. Distorted perception may not correctly represent objectivity. However, the erroneous nature of an impression does not negate the objective origin of sensory information. Illusions are affected by the physical properties of sensation and cognition. The error in these aberrations is the manipulation of cognizance by physiological mechanisms.
The mind is incapable of perfect perception. Complete knowledge cannot include subjective injections. The objective state of combination is an external property. The circumstantial orientation of an object is the means of knowledge achievement. “If I am to know an object, though, I need not know its external properties, I must know all its internal properties.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) Perception is the interpretation of sensations. The properties of a sensation are dependent on the characteristics of the interaction between subject and object. The influential projection of information by the subject obscures the experience of reality. Purely objective comprehension must be independent of subjective manipulation of information. The very idea of absolute consciousness necessarily negates the subject. Sensation alone does not yield meaning. Significance is inferred through the consciousness of relative connections.
Genuine information is only a property of objective beings. “Objects contain the possibility of all situations. The possibility of occurring in states of affairs is the form of an object.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 142) “Objects are what is unalterable and subsistent; their configuration is what is changing and unstable.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143) It is not the internal properties of the object itself that are observed. Rather, perception is the apprehension of the external dynamic interactions between objects. “In a state of affairs, objects stand in a determinate relation to one another.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143)
A person who currently perceives an item is experiencing the sensory information emanating from the external object. The action of sight is the sensation of visible wavelengths of light that are being reflected by the surface of the entity. However, this perception experience has little to do with the object itself. The features of consciousness are derived from the operation of objective processes.
The diffusion of light is a mechanism of object relativity fundamental to visual perception. Light does not originate from the majority of objects. Light is a form of energy. All forms of energy involve the excitation of particles. Energy is released in exothermic reactions that convert potential forms of energy, contained in the structure and relative positions of particles, into mechanical motion. This kinetic form of energy is dissipated, with decrement, throughout the universe.
Should light strike a mass before it fades into uniformity, the mass will either absorb or reflect the light. This action is the function of the relationship between the structure of the mass and the frequency of the radiation. It is in this relationship that the object alters the information. This alteration is the differential characteristic property that enables the visual perception. All absorbed wavelengths of light will transfer kinetic energy between particles that are distinct from the item to those that are included in constitution. Reflected frequencies have been reduced to a specific nature by the properties of the object. The attributes of this interaction are the most definitive objective external features that constitute the visual function of the object.
The specific reflected wavelengths of light will transfer the remaining energy to another body that is excitable by the prevailing frequency. Photoreceptors are neural cells that are excited by specific wavelengths of light. A specific frequency of energy will induce chemical structure inter-conversion within certain neuron sensory cells. The process of signal transduction converts the information present in the energy of particle motion into a form contained in voltage across a membrane. This electrical potential is then propagated to the central nervous system. The frequency of electrical signals is proportional to the magnitude of stimulatory energy. The central nervous system interprets this information as color perception. This interpretation of electrical signals is the relationship between the subject and objective sensation.
This perceptual process demonstrates complexity of the relationship between subject and object. Visual perception of the object is a function of many processes. Perfect knowledge of the object requires information about all of these processes, including many more than those that are described here. However, all of these processes are in theory scientifically describable except for one.
“In a manner of speaking, objects are colorless.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143) Color perception is a necessarily subjective action. Everyone may agree on what frequencies of light a color represents. The objects that induce the sensation of a specific color may be recognized. However, it is not possible to describe the properties of a color in itself. The nature of subjective perception is beyond empirical criteria. To say that the color green represents wavelengths of light around five-hundred nanometers is a definitive statement. Such a statement only indicates what level of energy will induce a green experience. This definition says nothing about the characteristics of green perception. To say that the color green represents specific neural activity of photoreceptors is also a definitive statement. This sentence only defines green as the result of certain objective actions. However, the resulting subjective consciousness of green is something else entirely.
The object contains no meaning. The significance of an object is a relationship within reality. This relativity is the defining essence of objectivity. An item is perceived only in activity. The activity can be described. Knowledge is comprehension of the affiliation between objects. It is not possible to be conscious of a body independent of relation. Perception is an activity of interaction between the subject and the object. “For it is by means of propositions that material properties are represented, only by the configuration of objects that they are produced.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143) Strict empirical criteria deny the reality of the independent object. “The configuration of objects produces states of affairs.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143) An object with no relationship within reality does not exist. Object independence includes all items that are not possibly perceived. Objective independence is not equivalent to a present human limitation. Rather, things that do not exist are, by definition, fundamentally beyond all perception.
Subjectivity is the dead end of this relationship. It is possible to quantify all events leading to a perception, but the perception in itself cannot be described. This is the necessary imperfection of subjective consciousness. Quantification of subjectivity is impossible. Introspection is not a scientific discipline. Empirical analysis of psychology can only proceed through objectification of beings. The practice of behaviorism ignores the phenomenon of consciousness and attends exclusively to measurable responses to stimulation. Scientific psychology must approximate subjectivity through the observation of behavior and physiology. Studies of this type do not produce objective knowledge of perceptual properties. The color green can be named. The antecedence of green can defined. The response to green stimulation can be observed. However, none of these actions describes the subjective experience of green.
Incipit language. “Logical pictures can depict the world.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 145) Language is a type of representation. Linguistic function is the practical connection between subjectivity and the objective reality. The logical structure of language is isomorphic with the relativity of objectivity. “What any picture… must have in common with reality, in order to depict it… in any way at all, is logical form, i.e. the form of reality.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 145) This isomorphism enables the portrayal of a myriad of things by a limited number of associations. “A picture is a model of reality… What constitutes a picture is that its elements are related to one another in a determinate way.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143)
Words, like objects, only contain meaning in relation. Definition is the establishment of this relative association. The significance of a word may be an affiliation with other words. A word may also have a direct artificial reference to objectivity. A single word by itself contains no meaning. “Pictorial form is the possibility that things are related to one another in the same way as the elements of the picture. That is how a picture is attached to reality…” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 143) The utterance of a single word may induce particular thoughts. However, this capacity of the word in itself is a property of previously established relativity. “The pictorial relationship consists of the correlations of the picture’s elements with things.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 145)
For example, without previous definition, a string of letters does not contain meaning. The sequence of characters ‘esitcos’ does not have any significance in itself. However, meaning is established if a relationship is attached to ‘esitcos’. If one understands ‘ esitcos’ as an acronym for ‘empirical significance is the criteria of science’ then the character string gains meaning through connection to this idea.
The truth of a proposition is determined in objectivity. “What a picture represents is its sense. The agreement or disagreement of its sense with reality constitutes its truth of falsity. In order to tell whether a picture is true or false we must compare it with reality.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 145-146) A representation of truth must maintain the relationship between real objects. This contingency allows language to depict numerous complex phenomena with simple structural regulations.
Sentences may be constructed that do not exhibit this requirement of truth. Statements of this type are demonstrably false. Falsification is the function of objective contrast. The statement ‘all cats are black’ can be discredited with the observation of a white cat. This contrast with reality is the method of scientific knowledge accumulation. Inductions are only able to yield a probability of correlation. To verify a statement of induction, all possible applications of the principle must be observed. To ensure that all cats are black, one must view all cats including those of the past and future. This is obviously impossible. After observing one hundred black cats, one could say that one hundred percent of cats observed are black. However, the qualifier, 'one hundred percent of observations', is not equivalent to a universal 'all'. The principle of scientific falsification enables disproval of universal statements. Observation of a single white cat proves that not all cats are black. Universal statements can never be proven. The scientific method only approximates the truth through the elimination of the false.
Truth is not an applicable attribute of a sentence without possible authentication in reality. “There are no pictures that are true a priori.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 146) Valuations are subjective projections of reference. Wittgenstein states that “It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is transcendental.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 147) The sentence ‘altruism is morality’ does not satisfy the necessary objective standard of truth. Morality is an opinion of the subject. There is no absolute real measure of the truth in morality, because morality is a definitive word. The function of a definition is the injection of meaning. Subjective injections of significance do not describe objective phenomena. The truth of the statement ‘altruism is morality’ can only be inferred through definition. The statement can possibly be made true if moral action is defined as ‘that which promotes the greatest quantity of happiness.’ However, the statement can also be made false if moral action is defined as ‘that which promotes development through competition.’ The truth of these two statements is contingent on the distinct definitions that relate the subjective ideal of morality to objective criteria. “A proposition can be true or false only in virtue of being a picture of reality.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 147)
Science is the systematic verification of objective relationships. The scientific method consists in forming a hypothetical proposition and then seeking contrary evidence. The advancement of empirical knowledge requires the relativity of reality. The null hypothesis is always that there is no relationship between two objective phenomena. The alternative hypothesis is that a mechanism of interaction influences an object. Science utilizes the properties of relativity to authenticate the truth of a statement. A statement like ‘all cats are black’ is scientific because it is falsifiable in principle. The sentence ‘altruism is morality’ is not scientific because no observation could prove such a valuation to be false. However, the statement ‘altruism is that which promotes development through competition’ is demonstrably false and therefore scientific. Morality in itself is not a scientific concept because of the variability of possible subjective definitions. 'Development through competition' is a scientific concept because the changes induced by differential nonrandom rates of survival can be quantified in measurement.
Subjective concepts, like morality, gain significance in association. The establishment of the relationship between morality and objectivity is the function of prescriptive definition. Subjectivity can only possess meaning in association with objectivity. Objective relativity is the source of significance. The utility of description is the reduction of an association to simple terms. Significance is intrinsic to objectivity. Descriptive language assigns names to relative associations.
All significant words contain an association. “What a picture must have in common with reality, in order to depict it…, is its pictorial form.” (Wittgenstein, 1921, 145) “…A word has no meaning if nothing corresponds to it.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 161) This association is necessarily loose. It is the dynamic adaptive nature of words that enables the practical function of language. If definition is strict, the word will lose both meaning and utility.
The word 'tree' may induce a specific representation in the mind of the subject. What is the essence of this image? The meaning of the word 'tree' may include a trunk, branches, and leaves. However, there are other objects with these morphological properties that may not be described as trees. The word 'tree' may also describe something that has nothing to do with the plant kingdom. A genealogical tree can be said to have branches, but only in a metaphorical sense. It is this metaphorical sense that associates the multiple objects and creates the meaning of a word.
The word 'tree' loses all meaning when used strictly to describe only a single tree. That tree may as well be named 'bob'. If 'bob' can only be defined as this specific item as it exists just now at this moment, 'bob' exists for only an infinitesimal temporal interval . Any object is in a state of constant change. The object can only be defined by relationships. It is the interaction of an object that makes it significant. The physical tree organism is in a condition of constant dynamic equilibrium maintenance. Just as the leaves perish and are regenerated with the seasons, so the constituent cells constantly perish and are replaced in metabolic processes. 'Tree' describes the result of these and other processes. 'Bob' serves no purpose but to represent a specific arrangement of molecules that exists for exceedingly transient period of time. The significance of 'bob' is inversely proportional to specificity of the definition. 'Tree' can mean a variety of things, each with great content. 'Tree' has numerous functional associations. 'Bob' means one thing with infinitesimal significance because of only a single association.
Wittgenstein explains in the Philosophical Investigations that the meaning of a word is a function of the context of application. “…The meaning of a word is its use in language.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 161) Words do not possess a single meaning. Rather, each word is capable of representing specific ideas in multiple circumstances. “…Phenomena have no one thing in common which makes us use the same word for all, but that they are related to one another in many different ways.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 163)
The dynamic utility of a word is the functional essence of family resemblances. The significance of a word is necessarily vague in practical applications of language. The great variability in objective circumstance prevents the operation of absolute definitions. “…An ostensive definition can be variously interpreted in every case.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 157) The ambiguous nature of associations is an economical adaptation of logic. “The ostensive definition explains… the meaning of the word when the overall role of the word in language is clear.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 157) A specific representation of each phenomenon would inhibit the actions of consciousness. The total quantity of words required to represent exact values would exceed the capacity of the subject. Absolute definitions would prevent learning. The accumulation of knowledge is facilitated by associations. “And we can prevent misunderstandings… by means of other words!” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 157)
The application of metaphor extends current understanding to novel objects. Metaphorical definition utilizes existing establishments of meaning in order to facilitate the acquisition of alien concepts. This application of language permits the subject to accumulate information without direct experience. Interpretations of phenomena often refer to previous knowledge. The statement 'a cat is morphologically similar to a dog' enables a subject to approximate numerous characteristic features without personal contact or observation of a cat.
Dynamic limitations of a definition are an advantage of vague meanings. Uncircumscribed significance facilitates both understanding and communication. Knowledge of multiple phenomena can accumulate in association. However, specificity can be invoked when necessary. “We do not know the boundaries because none have been drawn… We can draw a boundary for a special purpose.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 164)
Knowledge does not consist of an identical duplication of reality within the mind. Large quantities of objective information are lost in the storage of memory. Phenomena are reduced to significant values in perception. The subject does not attend to all attributes during introductory presentation. Only critical features are assessed and collected. The totality of objective sensation is decremented to a depiction of indicative characteristics in subjective perception.
Consciousness is not identical to a collection of all properties of an item. The perception of a tree does not necessarily include a map of each outgrowth. The subject may be aware of branches and roots, but this does not require the knowledge of their position and orientation. Not all traits are equally essential to subjective recognition. Branches and roots are vital to the existence of the tree. The subject would likely notice if either of these features was completely absent. The subject may also notice any special differentiation of structure. However, the subject would very rarely track the diameter of the stems or the angle of their growth. These latter qualities are only significant to one studying specific attributes of the tree. Such aspects are not necessary for a general perceptual awareness. The attended traits are those that are most principle to the subject. The perception of stems, leaves and roots induces the idea of a tree. Angles and diameters are values which are characteristic of numerous objects.
Traits that are most essential to subjective perception are not necessarily equivalent to the most significant properties of objective existence. The continuation of an object is a product of all environmental interactions. Perception is the result of a specific relationship between the subject and the object. The universal antecedence of reality is included in this relationship. However, only a small portion of these properties are evaluated by the subject.
Perception functions by comparison of resemblances. A definition may be assigned if a novel object contains properties in common with other previous experiences. “A definition surely serves to establish the meaning of a sign.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 165) This appointment is the action of naming. “…Naming something is like attaching a label to a thing.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 152) An indefinite word is applied to a continuously expanding collection of items. There may not be a definite form of the similarity between objects. “We see a complicated network of similarities… sometimes overall similarities and sometimes similarities of detail.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 163) An association does not necessitate a specific essential character. “That it is ambiguous is no argument against such a method of definition.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 157)
The variable meaning of words enables the formation of sentences with a variety of functions. “There are… countless kinds of use of what we call ‘symbols’, ‘words’, ‘sentences.’ And this multiplicity is not something fixed…” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 155) Numerous applications of language are used in communication. “In language we have different kinds of word… But how we group words into kinds will depend on the aim of the classification, and our own inclination.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 153) “…‘Interpretation’ may also consist in how he makes use of the word…” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 159)
The indefinite nature of definitions is obligatory in the connection between subjective knowledge and objective reality. However, practical functions require some common structure between perception and validity. “…In certain cases… there are characteristic experiences…” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 159) It is this application that unites Wittgenstein’s ideas. Subjective ideals are not identical to empirical sensations. This dissimilarity constrains definitions to an indistinct significance. “…Even if something… did recur in all cases, it would still depend on the circumstances…” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 159) Exact ostensive names cannot extend to multiple phenomena. Vague associations between objects are fundamental to the advancement of subjective knowledge. While essentialism is not the source of definitive significance, relativity is the essential source of all significance. Language must share the composite structure of real phenomena. Interactions of objects are the origin of objective meaning. Interactions of representations are the origin of logical meaning. The perception of an object is the sensation of a dynamic action. The comprehension of a sentence is the communication of a sense.
Imperfect definitions facilitate circumstantial interpretations. The meaning of a word is determined in context. The significance of the representation is a function of the situation. This capacity of adaptive value is the common structure of reality and logic. It is the relative nature of association that conditions order in both objectivity and subjectivity. Neither words, nor objects posses intrinsic content. “It is only in a language that I can mean something by something.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, 160) The function of an entity is interaction with the environment. The activity of an item is an extrinsic relationship. The intrinsic significance is universally common to all objectivity. Meaning is the result of the interacting external properties. Essence is not a property of an object itself. Rather, objective connotation is the product of operations. Without utility, existence is meaningless. Relativity is the structure of sense. All substance is reference.
Wittgenstein, L. (1921) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In Baird, F. Walter, K. (Eds.), Twentieth Century Philosophy. (p.141-149) Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc.
Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. In Baird, F. Walter, K. (Eds.), Twentieth Century Philosophy. (p.149-165) Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc.