Logic, Truth and Meaning


Logic, Truth and Meaning
By G.E.M. Anscombe
Imprint Academic – £19.95

Logic, Truth and Meaning, now there’s a thought, now there’s a title.

I can think of a great many people I’d like to alert and address those words to: The Islamic State for one; along with Donald Trump, Cameron’s (entire) Cabinet, Sir Philip Greene, scum-bag people traffickers, varying oiks amid Portsmouth’s council estates, Jeremy Kyle and of course, Donald Trump.

Or have I already mentioned him?

Edited into three distinct sections (Part 1: Wittgenstein and the Tractatus, Part 2: Thought and Belief and Part 3: Meaning Truth and Existence), there’s no denying that editors Mary Geach and Luke Gormally have in these 312 pages, covered a wide terrain of idiosyncratic intellectual thought – the sort of which will compel many an inquisitive soul to ponder way beyond the parameters of ones’ comfort zone.

Amid such chapter titles as ‘Elementary Propositions,’ ”Mysticism’ and Solipsism,’ ‘Thought and Existent Objects,’ ‘Grammar, Structure and Essence’ and Existence and the Existential Quantifier,’ it has to be said that much of the writing throughout Logic, Truth and Meaning will no doubt trigger a process of (perhaps inadvertent) questioning. The sort of questioning which will in turn, induce a philosophical snow-ball effect whereby all stands to be gleaned by way of pronounced investigation.

After all, wasn’t it the American writer Glenway Westcott who wrote: Language is a god, sex is a god, time is a god./Fate is a convocation or combination of gods, an entire Olympus?

This fourth (and final) volume of writings by Elizabeth Anscombe essentially reprints her Introduction to Wittgentein’s Tractatus, along with a number of other essays in which she confronts thought and language. The fundamental essence of the essays traversing such in depth issues as truth and existence, reason and representation. So in all, pretty big stuff – of which the following from the fifth chapter of part two of the book is as good an example as any: ”Wittgenstein once answered a question of mine by saying that a lot of the works of philosophy of the recent centuries had titles which either referred to the mind in some fashion, or contained the word ‘principles.’ This very much characterised the philosophies, and that gathered – for in this sentence I have not been quoting his actual words, but only the gist of them […]. However it is not important for me to elucidate Wittgenstein’s earlier or later opinions on experimental psychology. I have said what I have in order to avoid inaccuracy. My main aim is to point to the very great importance of the Tractatus thought that theory of knowledge is philosophy of psychology” (‘Knowledge and Essence’).

As mentioned earlier, the final sentence ”theory of knowledge is philosophy of psychology,” triggers a further process of questioning: Is the theory of knowledge the philosophy of psychology?

As Roger Scruton has written (whose own book, Conversations With Roger Scruton I shall soon be reviewing): ”Elizabeth Anscombe was the most important of Wittgenstein’s pupils, with an intellect as great and wide-ranging as her teacher’s. She thought deeply, wrote beautifully, and was never taken in by pretence.”

That Anscombe was ”never taken in by pretence,” is a truth induced testament to that of not only her work, but her legacy. And for that alone, her philosophy and her writing(s) warrant investigation.

David Marx

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