Skepticism of the transcendence of language

I view the transcendent concept as the ultimate armchair philosopher’s method of condescending to natural sciences and history and it began with Kant’s conditions of possibility. Whereas physics & history find conditions for the existence of entities by locating temporally prior entities, philosophy achieves such autonomy only as long it escapes time.

Kant’s secret strategy of escaping time took the replacement of an atemporal deity with an atemporal subject. this “possible experience” was smaller than the logical possibility of Wolff’s onto-theology but it was good enough for Kant because it included history and science.

Then the linguistic turn was the next attempt to condescend to other sciences. This became necessary because in the 19th century evolutionary biology and empirical psychology naturalized the mind, consciousness & experience. That left language to the clutches of philosophers, all too happy to have a substitute for experience. Language was broad enough to include the entire realm of human inquiry & topics available for human study. Moreover language & meaning seemed immune and beyond the all-devouring Charybdis of naturalism. And Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus became th model for analytic philosophy and the preface to that book promoted a doctrine that claimed philosophy of language is Philosophy Proper.

Now language, according to Frege, should yield the conditions of describability, much like Kant’s dream of the conditions of experiencability. Describability, like experienceability should exemplify all studies — other than philosophy. Language couldn’t be relativized by history because description was supposed to be a single & indissoluble activity. To determine the a priori conditions of the activity of description was to offer apodeictic truths.

For Husserl & Frege, Brentano’s thesis of the irreducibility of intentional would guarantee that the Kantian distinction between the a priori & apodeictic and the a posteriori & relative would be secure. The irreducibility of the intentional seems to guarantee philosophy’s autonomy.

But much like any transcendent truths there’s a price. Wittgenstein realized something that Frege & Russell didn’t: every search for non-empirical truth about the condition of possibility of describability always invokes self-reference: its own possibility. Much like how Kant struggled with the problem of rendering the possibility of transcendental philosophy consistent with the limits of inquiry that philosophy supposed discovered.

Both Frege & Russell had a hell of a time explaining how knowledge of their logic was possible. It seems that logic is an exception to the conditions it established — until Russell stumbled over that niggardly Barber’s paradox. Russell tried to escape this problem by recasting the Platonic Forms as logical objects & a faculty of intellectual intuition that grasps them. Wittgenstein shrewdly saw this as repeating the classic third man problem from Plato’s Parmenides. Therefore, Russell’s logical objects, the Kantian categories & Platonic Forms were supposed to describe or make another set of objects knowable (things or Kantian intuitions or material particulars). In other words the latter objects need to be related by the former objects before they are available for experience or description.

In Tractatus 3.221 Wittgenstein is saying if there were no objects, or if the world lacked substance, or there were no unalterable form of the world, then sense would not be determinate & we wouldn’t be able to make pictures of the world & consequently, description becomes impossible. Therefore the conditions of possibility must be ineffable. Plato pulled off the same stunt that the conditions of the possibility of the material world must be immaterial and for Kant, the conditions of the phenomenal world must be non-phenomenal.

Where I see Cioran coming in is the same place the later Wittgenstein ended up when he gave up the idea of seeing the edge of language and the idea of language as a bounded whole in which the conditions were its outer edge. This entire project of transcendental semantics, i.e., the search for non-empirical conditions for the possibility of linguistic description. Wittgenstein started to see whether a sentence had sense depends on whether another sentence was true. That led him to the idea that there’s nothing ineffable and philosophy, much like language was just an expansible social practice, not a bounded one in which the periphery may be shown.

By the time he wrote Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein rejected the possibility of a systematic theory of meaning for a language. By giving up the ambitions of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein gave up the distinction between scheme & content. By giving up this convenient distinction of scheme & content we resort to thorough-going holism of Donald Davidson. Thinkers like Dummett & Nagel refused to go down this path because they wanted to keep philosophy possible.

It is the same claim that Charles Newman made of Cioran in his introduction to The Fall in Time. Newman says Cioran has not reached that Archimedean point, a privileged position outside of language. It seems the case that either we side with both Pascal & Rousseau that we are trapped within language, or fall with Nietzsche & James and celebrate the malleability of life and its metalinguistic potential. But Cioran choses both: “To realize oneself is to dedicate oneself to the intoxication of multiplicity.” Basically language only exacerbates our endless analogies for experience, and ends as a vicious circle that signifies nothing other than itself – what Nietzsche perfected, and Wittgenstein realized in his return to philosophy. At the same time Cioran is also clearly is in favor for Rousseau’s silence.

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...a philosophisticator who utters heresies, thinks theothanatologically and draws like Kirby on steroids.

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