'For the person or persons that hold dominion, can no more combine with the keeping up of majesty the running with harlots drunk or naked about the streets, or the performances of a stage player, or the open violation or contempt of laws passed by themselves than they can combine existence with non-existence'.

- Benedict de Spinoza. Political Treatise. 1677.

Friday, August 19, 2016


The work previously published in this blog on Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Grammar' is being reviewed and edited.

The finished work will be published in book form by killer press in 2017.

It will also be published in the killer press blog:
'Wittgenstein's Philosophical grammar'


(c) greg t. charlton. 2016

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

propositional realities

‘The sign ( the sentence) gets its signification from the system of signs, from the language to which it belongs. Roughly: understanding a sentence means understanding a language.

As part of the system of language, one my say the sentence has life. But one is tempted to imagine that that which gives the sentence life as something in an occult sphere, accompanying the sentence. But whatever accompanied it would for us just be another sign.'

- Wittgenstein: The Blue Book.

when we make statements – about the world –

in general – we operate within accepted propositional practise –

in terms of propositional categories that are in use –

that it is assumed are understood

you may ask –

well surely our propositions refer to a non-propositional reality?

i.e. – a world of objects –

the notion of an ‘objective reality’ – is a proposal –

a proposal that is virtually universally accepted –

which is to say – in just about all contexts of use –

it has proved to be very useful

still it is – when all is said and done – a proposal –

subjective reality – is in the same boat

what we have with such propositional use –

is not non-propositional realities –

but rather propositional constructs

constructs upon constructs –

and constructs within constructs

the object of all propositional action –

of all propositional construct –

is the unknown

in response to the unknown we propose –

and in response to what is proposed – we propose

and so it goes – we make – we construct –

and any propositional action we take –

any construct we make – or operate within –

is open to question –

open to doubt

© greg t. charlton. 2014.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spinoza: reflection and argument

substance or reality – independent of description is unknown

there are any number of ways reality can be conceived – can be described – an infinity of ways –

for Spinoza there are two fundamental descriptions – physical – extension –
or ideational – mind

we can order our ‘experience’ – in physical terms – or in terms of ideas

question: is not physics an idea?

can we talk of extension as separate from the mind?

well for Spinoza – yes – for an idea must have an object – and the object of an idea is a body

I take the view that the ‘body’ – is just an ideational description

and that the ‘mind’ is too

that the fundamental is – unknown

that the object of knowledge is the unknown

which is to say that the reality that we experience – is the reality – we describe – in whatever way

this is not to say that we start with nothing

the world that we come into is described

we are in the world and of it –

descriptions – in description

what is given – is given – but without description – is unknown

now as to extension and mind

these are possible descriptions

how do we describe ourselves?

Spinoza says – in terms of body and mind

and what are we – without these descriptions – without description?


© greg t. charlton. 2013.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Spinoza: The Strength of the Emotions: Definitions


that which we certainly know to be  useful to us

we have no certain knowledge –

all knowledge is  open to question – open to doubt –


‘good’ – is an unknown –

we expect will resolve our doubts

however any such result –

will be open to question –

open to doubt –



that which we certainly know will prevent us partaking any good

we have no certain knowledge –

‘bad’ is an unknown

regarding that which will prevent us from resolving our doubts –

we  will have an expectation

whatever the result –

it will be open to question –

open to doubt –



individual things as contingent

in so far as we  regard their essence alone –

we find no necessity

what exists is a function of description –

to be is to be described

any description –

is open to question –

open to doubt –



individual things –

as to the causes by which they must be produced –

we know not whether they are determined to produce them

yes – we don’t know what is possible

any statement of what is possible –

is speculation

what is contingent –

is a statement of what is

what is possible –

is a statement of what could be

any statement is open to question –

open to doubt –

is uncertain

contrary emotions

those which draw a man in different directions

this is uncertainty

short of pretence and delusion –

we are always –

in a state of uncertainty

emotion towards a thing future past or present

from PROP. XVIII Proof –

that is the disposition of the body or emotion is the same whether the image of the thing be present past or future

perhaps there is what Wittgenstein called a ‘family resemblance’ –

but the same? – that is a stretch –

is anyone going to seriously suggest –

 that the disposition of the body –

remains the same through time?

the real point is –

what meaning we give to an image –

regardless of time and place –

will be open to question –

open to doubt –



by end with which we do anything I understand a desire


virtue and power

the same thing

virtue in so far as it has reference to man is his essence or nature –

in so far as he has the power of effecting something which can only be understood by the laws of his nature

in the words of Paul Feyerabend –

‘anything goes’

© greg t. charlton. 2013.

Spinoza: Origin and Nature of Emotions: Definitions

adequate / inadequate cause

adequate: whose effect can be clearly and distinctly be perceived through it

inadequate: whose effect cannot be perceived through it

‘perception’ for Spinoza – is what is given to the mind –

as distinct from the action of the mind

that which is given to the mind – independent of interpretation – is undefined –

is unknown

any interpretation is open to question – open to doubt – is uncertain –

whether ‘clear and distinct’ – or not

an inadequate cause –

as that which is not given

that is to say – unknown

any so called cause of an effect –

is an hypothesis

active / passive


when something takes place within us or outside of us –

whose adequate cause we are –

when from our nature follows in us or outside us which can be clearly and distinctly understood through that alone

any such ‘understanding’ –

is open to question – open to doubt –

is uncertain


we suffer or are passive –

when something takes place in us or follows from our nature of which we are the partial cause

any ‘cause’ – partial or not –

is an hypothesis –

open to question open to doubt –


suffering then is the interpretation

that we are the partial cause

this is hardly an adequate account of suffering

the reality is –

we can and will suffer –

however we interpret the world


modifications of the body by which the power or action in the body is increased or diminished

and at the same time the ideas of these modifications

if we can be the adequate cause of these modifications –

then the emotion is action –

otherwise a passion

we can make this interpretation – active / passive – action / emotion (effect)

Spinoza here puts this as an interpretative model –

and it may indeed be a useful model –

yes – we may imagine we are the ‘adequate cause’ of our actions –

or that we are not

whatever the case –

we are always in the realm of interpretation –

my own view is –

an action is a reaching out to the word in whatever way

an emotion is a sense of oneself in relation to the world

there is no action without emotion

a passionate response to the world –

is an intense engagement of the self with the world –

passion is active

© greg t. charlton. 2013.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spinoza: Nature and Origin of the Mind: Definitions


the conception of extension


that without which a thing can neither exist or be conceived –

a conception

a thing exists –

in terms of its conception –

in terms of a description


a conception

adequate idea

the idea of idea


the conception of continuation

reality and perfection

the unknown

all knowledge is imperfect –

and therefore perfection is –

the absence of knowledge

individual thing

finite and determinate existence

a thing exists –

in terms of its description

© greg t. charlton. 2013.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Spinoza: Concerning God: Definitions

cause of itself

‘that which cannot be conceived without existing’

is that for which no account can be given

finite in its kind

conceived as a ‘kind of thing’

and as such – limited by  its kind


as that which is conceived through itself

‘conceived through itself’?

a conception – conceiving – conception –

a pure conception –

it is the logical place

for conception


that which the intellect perceives as constituting the essence of a substance

attribute –

a perception of essence –

‘perceives’ for Spinoza –

is passive –

i.e. – what is ‘given’ –

however what is perceived –

without being conceived

is unknown

that is to say the unknown –

is given description –

i.e. as ‘extension’ or ‘mind’ – or whatever


modifications – effects of a substance – of conception –

through which it may be further conceived

(mode and attribute – the difference?

both are conceptions of substance –

conceptions of conception

the attribute is a more general conception)                                              


God = substance –

or the fact – the logical fact –

of conception

(substance – is the logical place for conception

attribute – a conception –

mode – a modification – of a conception

‘God’ – substance)


the necessity of its own nature?

that which exists independent of conception –

of account – of explanation –

that which is unknown


existence itself

that for which no conception

can be given –

or is required

© greg t. charlton. 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Spinoza & mind - a quick thought

the mind as one conception of a thing –

the body as another

goes to –

the mind as one description of a thing –

the body as another

the thing independent of description is?


as to the mind –

any account –

a description of – itself?

that would be –

a description – of a description

so what is the ‘object’ here?

a description

and the subject is –

a description

description of description

the body –

another description –

of that which –

independent of description –

is unknown

so basically we begin with description –

description of the unknown

and what we operate with – is description –

what we create –

is description

what we describe –

is description

‘knowing’ then –

is describing

the ‘mind’ – a noun –

for the verb

© greg t. charlton. 2013.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Notice: Wittgenstein's On Certainty

A single file version of the work on Wittgenstein's On Certainty is now available. Go to the following link:

Wittgenstein's On Certainty

Thursday, June 16, 2011

on certainty 677*

677. A proposition is a proposal. A proposal is open to question, open to doubt, is uncertain. A proposition is true if assented to. A proposition is false if dissented from. Assent and dissent are open to question, open to doubt. If you are certain there can be no mistake. In an uncertain reality there are no mistakes; what you face is uncertainties. The notion of the mistake has no role to play in epistemology. The  claim of knowledge is a claim to an authority for a proposition. The only authority is authorship. The authorship of a proposition is logically irrelevant. Any claim to an authority other than authorship is rhetorical.

*There is no 677 in Wittgenstein’s text. Wittgenstein ends with 676.

© greg t. charlton. 2011.

Friday, May 06, 2011

on certainty 676

676. “But even if such cases can’t be mistaken, isn’t it possible that I am drugged?” If I am and if the drug has taken away my consciousness, then I am not now really talking and thinking. I cannot seriously suppose that I am at this moment dreaming. Someone who, dreaming says “I am dreaming”, even if he speaks audibly in doing so, is no more right than if he said in his dream “it is raining”, while it was in fact raining. Even if his dream was actually connected with the noise of the rain.   

drugged or dreaming –

what you say –

is open to question –

open doubt –

whether you are –

or not                                                                                                                              

© greg t. charlton. 2011.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

on certainty 675

675. If someone believes that he has flown from America to England in the last few days, then, I believe, he cannot be making a mistake.

And just the same if someone says he is at this moment sitting at a table and writing.

if you think that because someone say says something – it’s therefore certain –

you’re a fool

© greg t. charlton. 2010.

on certainty 674

674. There are, however, certain types of cases in which I cannot be making a mistake, and Moore has given a few examples of such cases.

I can enumerate certain typical cases, but not give any common characteristic. (N.N. cannot be mistaken about having flown from America to England a few days ago.  Only if he is mad can he take anything else to be possible.)

Wittgenstein’s first statement is just unabashed rhetoric

‘certain typical cases’ – can’t give any common characteristic?

the common characteristic is pretence grounded in ignorance

the question is always – how is reality to be described?

what is clear is that there is no one description  –

the mad are those who think there is

© greg t. charlton. 2010.

on certainty 673

673. It is not difficult to distinguish between the case in which I cannot and those in which I can hardly be mistaken? Is it always clear to which a case belongs? I believe not.

if I cannot be mistaken = I am certain

‘hardly mistaken? – hardly certain

hardly certain is? – uncertain

if you are ‘certain’ –

you are either deluded –

or in the business of deception –

you play the rhetorical game

alternatively –

if you are uncertain –

you keep an open mind –

recognize the value of doubt –

and operate –

with logical integrity

© greg t.charlton. 2010.

on certainty 672

672. ‘If I don’t trust this evidence why should I trust any evidence?’

exactly –

‘evidence’ – of any kind –

is uncertain

by all means operate with 

whatever you think –

might be of use to you –

but don’t be conned –

into the false security –

of trust

© greg t.charlton. 2010.

on certainty 671

671. I fly from here to a part of the world where the people have only indefinite information, or none at all, about the possibility of flying. I tell them I have just flown there from …They ask me if I might be mistaken. – They have obviously a false impression of how the thing happens. (If I were packed up in a box it would be possible for me to be mistaken about the way I travelled.) If I simply tell them that I can’t be mistaken, that won’t perhaps convince them: but it will if I describe the actual procedure to them. Then they will certainly not bring the possibility of a mistake into question. But for all that – even if they trust me – they might believe I had been dreaming or that magic had made me imagine it.

if you are certain –

there can be no mistake –

and if you are uncertain

what you deal with –

is uncertainties

the mistake –

is not in the logical picture –

this game –

‘you are mistaken’ –

‘no I’m not’ –

‘you are’ –

is just a rhetorical battle

any ‘information’ –

is indefinite

that is to say –

open to question –

open to doubt –


anyone who trusts –

is a victim of –

or engages in –

logical deception

© greg t. charlton. 2010.

Monday, September 20, 2010

on certainty 670

670. We might speak of fundamental principles of human enquiry.

any principle of enquiry –

is open to question –

open to doubt –

therefore uncertain

this concept of the ‘fundamental’ –

is a rhetorical rubbish

© greg t. charlton. 2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

on certainty 669

669. The sentence “I can’t be making a mistake” is certainly used in practice. But we may question whether it is then to be taken in a perfectly rigorous sense, or is it rather a kind of exaggeration which is used only with a view to persuasion.

yes – it’s only value is rhetorical

© greg t. charlton. 2010.

on certainty 668

668. What practical consequence has it if I give a piece of information and add that I can’t be making a mistake about it?

(I might also add instead: “I can no more be wrong about this than about my name’s being L.W.”)

The other person might doubt my statement nonetheless. But if he trusts me he will not only accept my information, he will also draw definite conclusions from my conviction, as to how I shall behave.

what practical consequence if I add –

I can’t be making a mistake –

or I can be no more wrong about this than about my name?

the answer to this question is –

whatever the practical consequence –

of deception might be

Wittgenstein says – ‘if he trusts me’ –

if you trust someone on the basis of their rhetoric –

you’ve been conned –

and what other basis is there for trust –

but rhetoric?

and if he draws definite conclusions –

from Wittgenstein’s ‘conviction’ as to how he will behave –

he is doubly a fool

© greg t.charlton. 2010.

on certainty 667

667. Even if I came to country where they believed that people were taken to the moon in their dreams, I couldn’t say to them: “I have never been on the moon. – Of course I may be mistaken”. And to their question “Mayn’t you be mistaken?” I should have to answer: No.

if you are certain –

there can be no mistake –

the point is though –

that the claim of certainty –

is either a delusion –

or a deception

a proposition is a proposal

open to question –

open to doubt –


© greg t. charlton. 2010.

on certainty 666

666. But how is it for example with anatomy (or a large part of it)? Isn’t what it describes, too, exempt from doubt?

anatomy is a description –

what it describes –

in the absence of any description –

is the unknown

any description – or any part of it –

is open to question –

open to doubt –


© greg t. charlton. 2010.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

on certainty 665

665. In the latter case I am adding something special to what is generally laid down.

the latter case is where in mathematics –

‘I myself say that I cannot be making a mistake’

what is ‘generally laid down’ –
is no more than what is practiced –

and we add something ‘special’ to this?

what is added here is the claim to certainty

Wittgenstein’s ‘something special’ –

is rhetoric

© greg t. charlton. 2010.

on certainty 664

664. It makes a difference: whether one is learning in school what is right and wrong in mathematics, or whether I myself say that I cannot be making a mistake.

what you learn in school –

is not what is right and wrong in mathematics –

though it may be presented to you that way –

what you actually learn is –

the rules of the game –

the game of mathematics

at school it is unlikely –

that you will be made aware –

that the rules of the game –

are uncertain –

and that they have emerged –

from question and doubt

you will simply be shown –

how to play the game

if you are certain –

there are no mistakes

and if you are uncertain –

what you face –

is uncertainties –

not mistakes

the ‘mistake’ is not in the picture

however if you say to yourself –

‘I cannot be making a mistake’ –

which is to say –

‘I am certain’ –

all you do is make a stand for –


© greg t.charlton. 2010.