Monday, March 15, 2010

Piero Sraffa’s Gesticulation.



The following quote relays an anecdote with regards to Piero Sraffa and his influence upon Ludwig Wittgenstein. I’ve hear of a similar story in which Wittgenstein was supposedly sent into a tailspin over a cyclist’s contemptuous gesture that he felt belied his work in the “Tractatus Logico Philosophicus”. Anyways, here it is:

“Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same 'logical form', the same 'logical multiplicity', Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: 'What is the logical form of that?'”
-Norman Malcolm. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. pp. 58–59.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but Sraffa’s gesture to Wittgenstein is not a proposition. By definition, a proposition is a statement that functions as a truth-claim. Sraffa’s gesture is more akin to a negation and therefore a classic Wittgensteinian logical constant. No?

3 comments:

Mathew Toll said...

I was looking through Robert Vienneau's blog "Thoughts on Economics" in which he has a post on he same issue. Though, like me, his quote is second hand, he offers more of it.

"Wittgenstein and P. Sraffa, a lecturer in economics at Cambridge, argued together a great deal over the ideas of the Tractatus. One day (they were riding, I think, on a train) when Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same 'logical form', the same 'logical multiplicity', Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: 'What is the logical form of that?' Sraffa's example produced in Wittgenstein the feeling that there was an absurdity in the insistence that a proposition and what it describes must have the same 'form'. This broke the hold on him of the conception that a proposition must literally be a 'picture' of the reality it describes." --Norman Malcolm (1966). Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. Oxford University Press: 69

Anyways, it seems as if it wasn't the logical form or lack of in Sraffa's gesture but an idea that it sparked.

M. Carbajal said...

Nicely put...

Iacopo said...

Sraffa's gesticulation proves that we can express meaningful sentences even without using a logical form.

That was the end of the "analitic" utopia: there is no way to formalize human language in one complete logical system.

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