An Ode to the Sentence: A Vehicle to Express Thought

It might sound a bit pompous, but we do like the elegance of the Commanding Sentences quotes/notes on this site. Also, we’d like to say that the notes section is a part of the site that probably does not get as much attention as it deserves. In fact, the collected quotes/notes is where everything started in the first place.  

In relation to Commanding Sentences, Wittgenstein exudes a respect for the sentence (or proposition), particularly in his early work. There is a respect for the ability of a sentence to capture, express and shape meaning. In fact, there is also a respect for the time and care that one takes to reconstruct experiences and ideas for re-examination. 

PI 280: Someone paints a picture in order to show how he imagines a theatre scene. And now I say: “This picture has a double function: it informs others, as pictures or words inform — but for one who gives the information it is a representation (or piece of information?) of another kind: for him it is the picture of his image.

However, the time necessary to attend to our words can be lacking in the stream of language and living. Even though we speak regularly and often, it is important to draw a distinction between sentences and proposition. We speak lots of sentences, but not every sentence proposes a state of affairs worthy of reflection.

TLP 3.141: A proposition is not a blend of words. — (Just as a theme of music is not a blend of notes.) A proposition is articulate.

There is something admirable about the time one takes to arrange  sentences in such a way that they represent the inter-relationships amongst ideas, events, actors, and more. 

If you have the chance, please visit the Commanding Sentences notes/quote section. To help guide you, the following represents the logical sequence of the categorised quotes:

  • Introduction: We start with the recognition that a sentence has the capacity to “communicates a situation to us”;
  • Picture Theory: That in a proposition “a situation is, as it were, constructed by way of experiment”;
  • Decoding/Projecting/Processing: However, a proposition stands in need of decoding and processing, since “a sentence is given [to] me in code together with the key”;
  • Reasoning: Every sensical sentence expresses a sense but it is up to us to determine “its truth or falsity” and to decipher its purpose/intention;
  • Making Meaning: It is up to use to determine the meaning of a sentence, and “some sentences have to be read several times to be understood”;
  • Discussing & Discourse: To understand a sentence, we must also appeal to the conversation it is part of, because if you are to “understand anything in language, you must understand what the dialogue is, and you must see how understanding grows as the dialogue grow.”
  • Linguistic & Intellectual Turns: We come to develop a rich set of grammatical forms that allow us to make intellectual moves, since a “discipline in form is a discipline in thought” (also see Building knowledge through discussion); and
  • Action: We apply these sentences to get things done, since “*speaking* of language is part of an activity, or of a life-form”. Therefore, “reading and writing in any domain … are not just ways of decoding print, they are also caught up with and in social practices.”

I welcome you to explore and enjoy!

Why Wittgenstein? Why not simply a site about literacy and learning?

Why did I create a website about Wittgenstein and learning? Wouldn't it have been smarter to create a direct site about language, literacy, numeracy and learning? And refer to curriculum outcomes rather than a philosopher's axioms? Clearly, a more general site would allow for more flexibility. I must admit that Wittgenstein's philosophy can appear obscure at the best of times. That said, I don't feel it will take too much time to explain myself, and I will do so in reference to three of the major texts.

As a result, we gain insights into three dimensions of language: language as structure and form; language as diverse practices; language used to convey knowledge. In each of these perspectives, both communities and individuals must use their imaginative and cognitive capacities to use, deploy and think through language in the great hurly burly of life.

"Doesn’t understanding start with a proposition, with a whole proposition? Can you understand half a proposition?" (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar)

The above applies to all three dimensions. Understanding comes from a full command of the forms, uses and knowledge inherent in our utterances.

Read More

Google is always influencd by context

From "Google and the future of search: Amit Singhal and the Knowledge Graph" in The Guardian (19 Jan 2013)


"We may think we are learning all the time from Google, but by virtue of this ongoing trillion-click analysis, it is learning far more from us.

"In this way, as far back as 2002, Singhal introduced a refinement based on Ludwig Wittgenstein's theory on how the meaning of words is always influenced by context. Searches for ambiguous terms began to look beyond the search terms for other related words. So a phrase such as 'hot dog' would be understood in relation to mustard and baseball games, not overheated canines. 'Nuance,' he says now, 'is what makes us human.'"