Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Major Works

Wittgenstein, Ludwig.  Major Works. New York: Harper Perennial, [reprint] 2009.

This collection doesn’t have Phil. Investigations, but it does contain Tractatus, the Blue and Brown Books, and On Certainty.

Even though LW later criticized Tractatus, it’s my favorite of his works.  The way of analysis in it is near perfect and it is much easier to follow than Brown and Blue Books.


By correlating language and world, Wittgenstein is saying I can’t step outside my world.  What is the world? It is the totality of existent atomic facts (2.04).

Metaphysics: objects from the substance of the world.  Substance is form + content (7-8).

He advances the bold thesis that everything is decided by logic (81).

Language and Pictures:  we see pictures of facts, where the picture is a model of reality (2.12; 4.01).

Representation: the picture is like a scale applied to reality (2.1512).  The relation which makes it a picture also belongs to that picture.  Yet, the picture cannot represent its form of representation.  It can only show it.

States of affairs

Signs: a simple sign in a proposition is a “name” (3.202).

A proposition cannot say anything about itself, for the propositional sign cannot be contained in itself (3.332). I think what he means by this is in his next line: “a function cannot be its own argument.”   I think Wittgenstein sees propositions as similar to functions. If the function F(fx) could be its own argument, then there would be the proposition F(F(fx)), and so on.

Blue Book

Key argument: the sign gets its significance from the system of signs, from the language to which it belongs (90).  As he says later on, “Language games are the forms of language with which a child begins to make use of words” (105).

Thoughts on intention: he denies that intention is a particular mental process (125).  Well, true if by it we mean that intentionality isn’t located in the mind. It is a movement of the mind to the object.

Conclusion: it is the particular use of a word that gives it its meaning (171).


1) What is the difference between a sign and the meaning of a sign (127)?

The Brown Book

Augustine learned to speak by learning the names of things (179).  LW then introduces his famous “brick” illustration. A guy points and says “brick.”  What he means is throw him the next brick. We know this because the “language-game” background is construction.

As James K. A. Smith helpfully notes, “Community precedes correspondence” (Smith, Who’s Afraid of Relativism? 53).  In other words, meaning isn’t just “the object for which the word stands.”

A language game is a system of communication. They are “complete in themselves, as complete systems of information” (185).  From that we can say that a sentence is a sign within a language game.

LW resists the idea of universals.  Let’s take his example. You have an array of red objects.  What is common to each of them? You would naturally say “red.” We would call that the universal “redness.”  So far, so good. He suggests it doesn’t work like that. “Let’s take a language (and that means again a culture) in which there existed no common expression for light blue and dark blue, in which the former, say, was called Cambridge, the latter Oxford.  If you asked a man of this tribe what Cambridge and Oxford have in common, he would be inclined to say “Nothing”” (252).

Hmm.  Okay. I suppose that works on colors.  I don’t think his rebuttal works on other types of universals.

That’s the essence of the book and I think it is fairly on point.  Wittgenstein’s genius is in very clear illustrations. I do feel this book could have been 100 pages shorter.

On Certainty

Take the question “How do you know?” The answer to that question presupposes “This can be known in that way.”  The original question was GE Moore’s “How can I know this is my hand?” The answer is to show it (sec. 40).

Wittgenstein wants to remove “this transcendent certainty, which is connected with your concept of spirit” (sec. 47). How do you know mathematical rules?  You know them by doing them. Full stop. He is pushing back against the idea of a relation between term A and term B.

LW does allow for a correspondence “between rule and meaning” (sec. 62).

Summary of argument: when language games change, there is a change in concepts, and with concepts the meaning of words change (65).

Moving on, if everything is now a language-game, then logic becomes a description of a language-game. If something’s being correct depends upon its place in a language game, and logic is usually one of the ways we can tell that, then logic, too, must be within a language-game.

This means that “all testing, all confirmation….takes place already within a system” (sec. 105). A system isn’t a point of departure.  It is the field in which our arguments have life. When we first believe something, we believe the whole system of propositions (141).

This totality of judgment is a “world-picture.” It is the “substratum of all my enquiring and asserting” (162).

Nota bene: my judgments characterize the way I judge. A proposition doesn’t always have to be “fixed” to be reliable.  They are like an axis. The axis is always moving but the moving body revolves around it (152).

LW has some excellent suggestions about the nature of doubt (115). Doubting always presupposes certainty. Doubt is parasitic upon certainty. In fact, I can doubt many things that are important, but that is irrelevant.  I can doubt its absolute truth but if it is working fine within my language game, then I don’t worry too much about the doubting. I think this is the clearest statement of pragmatism in LW.

Conclusion: a language-game is only possible if one trusts something (509).   Truth is doxastic.

Interpretive Lexicon of NT Greek (Beale)

Beale, G. K ed. An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek.

The authors intend for this to be an aid in discerning the logical relationships between clauses and phrases in NT syntax. The first chapter explains what these logical relationships are. On one hand, if you are competent in English and logic, you will already know this. On the other hand, most Americans, even seminarians, lack such competence.

To the meat of it

The references are indexed to the various editions of BDAG. In some ways, this booklet is more a commentary on how to use BDAG.

Methodology: clause relationships are merely signaled by words. Words by themselves do not create the semiotic relationships. It is like a sign post. Welcome to “X.” The sign itself isn’t the x but it represents the reality.

The rest of the book is a brief lexicon of how adverbs, prepositions, and the like are used in the Greek NT.


A word of caution. This isn’t the type of book to read online. If you are going to read this, then you need to have this. I read it online, which limited its utility for me.

On debates and dialogue

I’m fairly good on not blogging about the latest blow up on social media.  This post isn’t important in the grand scheme, though it may serve as the “Suburban Agrarian Manifesto.”  The other day some guy on Twitter asked about “Day Jyer” and should he debate him. I told him don’t worry about it.  Day Jyer has the same standard arguments against every position.  I said its better to focus on the original languages.   Day’s arguments don’t ever interact with the Hebrew or Greek in any real exegetical form.

Innocent enough, I suppose.  I didn’t think twice of it, so I logged off.  The next day Twitter exploded.  He then challenged me to a public debate.   I said no.  Let’s examine the terms of the word (good debating tip).  His view of “debate” means going to his (not yours) platform and “debating.”  What happens is that he talks over you, interrupts you, and insults you.  This, most gentle reader, is not a debate.

Please understand, in my criticisms of him I mean no disrespect to classic Eastern Orthodoxy.  I’ve learned much from them. They, for the most part, have disowned him. He even tried to get me to call Eastern Orthodox heretics.  I’m like, “Dude, I don’t even care.  Why are you so interested in me?”

When you think of a public debate, what do you think of?  Something like a Ciceronian forum, or the Bahnsen-Stein debate, or William Lane Craig.  Even the degenerate DNC debates look something like a real debating platform.

That’s not what Day Jyer has in mind.  He can’t yell over you in that format.  Case in point.  The Facebook Page Inspiring Philosophy was open to debating him.  They then asked him if he could promise not to insult people.  He got angry and started insulting them.  You can read it here.  Do read it. It’s hilarious.  Ask yourself: “Am I the kind of person that I simply cannot give a promise to not insult someone?”

That’s not the only reason for my turning him down. Another is I am an adult with adulting responsibilities.   I have a wife and a daughter.  They demand my full attention, and to them I gladly give it.  Why would I shove them aside to go get insulted by someone?

There is another reason, and this comes back to one of my earlier comments: languages.  I read Greek, Hebrew, and Latin every day.  I would link you to his comments, but he blocked me. He essentially acknowledged he didn’t know the languages and simply ridiculed us as “a group of sectarians and heretics who read the languages.” Gentle reader, would you really want to go “debate” someone like that?    Anyway, reading the languages demands much of my time.  Should I put these noble pursuits aside simply to entertain his howler monkeys at my expense?

That brings up another point: seeing that I am going to get insulted at the cost of my time and family, what exactly do I get out of it?  His disciples couldn’t answer that question.

Here are some of the screenshots.  I edited them for anonymity’s sake because I am a nice person or something.  Kind readers, are these not the remarks of someone is is unhinged?


Heidegger: On the way to language

This book functions as a running commentary on Heidegger’s famous line: “Language is the house of being.”  It begins with a 50 page dialogue between himself and a Japanese student on the limits of language. Quite fascinating, actually. Heidegger talks about his studies with Husserl and how Being and Time was received.  It then examines some difficult (!) themes in Being and Time.

(It might help to read Dugin’s intro to Heidegger. He captures Heidegger’s philosophy of language far better than I can. ).

Some notes from Dugin:

  1. a) Heidegger wants to “clear” the field of language, to free it from any shackles that the older metaphysics might have placed on it.

The problem: language itself rests upon a metaphysical distinction between the sensuous and the suprasensuous.  There is sound and script and the signifier. How do the two relate? Heidegger offers tentative suggestions–nothing more–that words function more than simply signifiers.  They are hints. Maybe we need a word stronger than “hint.”

One of the problems with “the house of Being” is that the “being” of language isn’t itself linguistic (24).  Not yet, anyway. I think the Christian metaphysician has an angle on this: The Logos himself structures both being and language.

The two-fold of being.  This is “Being” and “beings.”

“Our thinking today is to think what the Greeks thought in an even more Greek manner” (39).  Is “to be present” the same thing as “appearance?” This is unconcealment, a clearing. Heidegger is trying to get beyond the subject-object duality into a manner of being that takes the objective back into the subjective.  So what could be that “object?” At this point Heidegger suggests the message. As Christians we could see echoes of the Word speaking to us.


What does “Being” mean?  There is a difference between “the Being of beings” and “Being” as “Being.”  The latter means the “clearing” of Truth.  

Heidegger never intended “nothingness” to function as a cipher for nihilism (19).

When Heidegger spoke of “overcoming metaphysics,” he wasn’t intending to do away with metaphysics.  He simply wanted to place it within its own limits (Heidegger 20).

Experience refers the object back to the subject (36).

We aren’t speaking about language; we are speaking from language. This makes the speaking a dialogue.  Here we bring back the connection of hermeneutics, of the Messenger with the message. The messenger comes from the message (actually a very good explanation of the Christian kerygma).

The Nature of Language

To undergo an experience with language is to submit to the claims of that language (57).  We must rid ourselves of the habit of always hearing what we already understand.

The older streams of analytic philosophy sought to make a technical super-language.  Whether that’s feasible or not (it isn’t), knowing all the details about a language still leaves with one unknown: the very experiencing of the language.  Yet this raises another question: can language give you everything about that language? It seems it cannot. It seems language is always holding back something.  This is what gives rise to poetry: the poet seeks to point beyond himself.

Heidegger has some remarks on his earlier essay “Building, Dwelling, Thinking.”  To understand this–if we ever do–we need to know what Heidegger means by “nearness.”  The World–the totality of things–has four regions: earth, sky, mortals, and “divinities” (not really gods, close to Platonic forms, but Heidegger wouldn’t dare say that). The “nearness” is a movement that holds the four regions together (104ff).

Nearness is a refusal for things to be “locked in” at “calculated distances.”  What does that mean? The best way is to illustrate the ancient and medieval architecture that “moved with nature and landscapes” compared with the grisly horrors of Bauhaus architecture today. We are resisting the “reign of quantity,” to borrow a phrase from Rene Guenon.


The opening dialogue was fascinating.  His essay “The Nature of Language” made interesting suggestions, but as is often the case with Heidegger, one wasn’t sure what his overall point was.  His essay “Words” repeated a lot from “The Nature of Language.”  


Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine

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Garr, Randall. Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine 1000-586 B.C.E. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, reprint 2004.

If languages are living things, then they might react like living creatures. Randall Garr surveys how languages in the Northwest Semitic family changed and stayed the same in different circumstances. Despite the flux inherent in the project, once the languages were written down, the changes slowed.

This book is written for the most extreme specialist (not I). It is designed for those whose dissertations are in Hebrew morphology (again, not I). However, there was one very interesting paragraph towards the end that illustrated the whole book. It was even from the Bible. In 2 Kings 18:26/Isaiah 36.11, it appeared that Hebrew and Old Aramaic were not mutually intelligible (circa 700 BC). However, three quarters of a century later, according to Jeremiah 27:3, Jeremiah’s speech was understood by people who knew standard Phoenecian, Ammonite, Edmoite, and Moabite (231).

Dialect geography: it traces individual linguistic features throughout a region (Garr 3). In other words, languages can slightly change due to human contact. More specifically, it maps local speech patterns (9).

Each chapter follows a very strict format, which makes for surprisingly easy reading (given the esoteric nature of the subject). For example, under “Phonology,” there is a section on the nun consonant. It lists how this was probably pronounced in Byblian, Standard Phoenecian, Aramaic, Samalian, Ammonite, Deir Alla, Moabite, Edomite, and Hebrew. It then summarizes the survey. In the case of the nun it usually assimilates to a following non-laryngeal consonant (43).

DKG Questions 3 (Language)

  1. While wanting to avoid “anti-abstractionism” in theology, theologians shouldmake use of one of the most important theological words there is–merely. While God is a God of mercy, he is also a God of justice. He is not merely a loving God, but also a just One.


  1. The dualism critique often becomes…a word-level rather than a sentence-level critique. Critiques of dualism usually are arbitrary critiques of terminology that an author does not himself employ. If the critique is engaged on the sentence-level and is forced to deal with the content of the propositions then the possibility of arbitrary critiques is lessened. In other words, it is a critique of the author’s vocabulary and not of his ideas.


  1. How are non-orthodox positions “systematically vague?” Can you give a example? Non-orthodox (and non-Christian, for that matter) positions cannot balance or account for truths or doctrines that do not fit their own paradigm. For example, non-orthodox positions cannot simultaneously account for transcendence/immanence and in honing in on one, they miss the other. Practically speaking, this means that if the positions takes an immanence view of God, for example, they will take a rationalistic view of the world. In doing so, they cannot account for patterns or facts that do not fit their own (usually arbitrary) paradigms.


  1. Discuss values, dangers in labeling. Labels allow one to state a position succinctly. Theologians do not always have the time to outline the uniqueness of x position. If we understand that labels are descriptive nouns then our very act of describing this theological position or that theologian’s beliefs is “labeling.” However, labeling can often degenerate into judging a theologian on the merits of what others in his “group” rather than in what he is saying. Furthermore, labeling often does not do justice to one’s position. One might be a “fundamentalist,” broadly defined, but there is more to the position that was not said, etc.


  1. Thus we may think we have a clear idea of the meaning of the term, when all we really have is a feeling.” Discuss, Try to think of an example. We often make judgments based on what we think a word or phrase means without knowing its proper biblical and historical context. Words and phrases, furthermore, have “fuzzy boundaries.” Placed in context a doctrine x certainly sounds wrong, but the doctrine x is not always wrong. Orthodox theologians wince at God repenting, but seen in the covenantal context at Sinai it is then biblically correct to say that in a way God did repent. We rightly feel that making this an absolute truth about God’s immutability is wrong, but if we see the biblical and covenantal context that it is in, then it is correct.


  1. What methods will help us to recognize ambiguities? Young theological students are encouraged to make theological lists of what a word or phrase can and cannot mean. This will help interpret the author fairly if one examines all that a phrase can mean and then decide, in the best light, what the author probably means by it. Then, one must point out what that language is not air-tight. As language is not air-tight, the systems that are made up of language are not air-tight, either. A sentence is not necessarily always true or false. Knowing this will keep the theologian from passing judgment until he has seen the best of what could be meant by a phrase.


  1. Why the linguistic turn in recent philosophy and theology? As philosophy continues to search the deep questions of life, it will (most likely) keep asking the same questions, with little progress. To counteract this weariness, philosophers have begun to wonder if their lack of progress is due to a lack of clarity in language. Many philosophers are seeing language as the key to reality. This is true, but it is not the only key. However, language does describe the world and the better the use of language, generally, the more useful one will be in describing reality.


  1. Language is an indispensable element of the image of God. Expound. God communicates to man by his word. God created the world by “word of his power.” Jesus is the Word of God. Man’s cultural mandate involves the use of language to describe and dominate reality. Conversely, sins of the tongue are sternly warned against in the Bible.