Seminar with Yrsa Neuman

Yrsa Neuman (Department of Philosophy, Åbo Akademi) visits the Wittgenstein Archives in the period 5.1.-15.2.2009. In this context, a seminar is organized:

"Moore's paradox and nonsensical sentences"

Thursday, 12 February 2009, 12.15-13.45, Philosophy Department

A "Moorean sentence" is a sentence like "I believe it's raining, but it is not raining". It is not a contradiction, but it is "something like a contradiction" Wittgenstein wrote to G. E. Moore. According to Moore the paradoxical feature is that it would be absurd to use the sentence in an assertive way, even though "the sentence is perfectly in order". I cannot express the same proposition about myself as someone else could about me. Someone else could say about me "She believes it is raining and it is not raining" and it could be true. Wittgenstein discusses Moore's paradox at length in PI part IIx and it has been discussed, although not extensively since the 40s when Moore first took it up.

Moore's paradox functions as a focal point for questions within philosophy of mind (belief as an inner state, the relation between the first and the third person), philosophy of logic (the idea of logical form, the possibility of other forms of contradiction or functions which create a short-circuit in communication), and the philosophy of language.

In my presentation, I will discuss some elements of what could be called a therapeutic approach to the paradox. One central issue here is what one takes a proposition to be, and I suggest that Wittgenstein's treatment of propositions along with Cora Diamond's idea of 'austere nonsense' may be illuminating to the conceptions of language and language use which are required for the paradox to arise in the first place. In this light, the paradox turns out to be best described as a tension arisen from philosophical methodology.

Yrsa Neuman is the editor-in-chief of the Swedish part of the portal (while simultaneously working on a PhD in philosophy at Åbo Akademi University).