Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ludwig Changes His Mind

I had this as a draft post before the discussion on this over at Max's place.
"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
(I'm quoting second-hand.)

By the way, Pierangelo Garegnani has been permitting scholars to quote Sraffa's unpublished notes for a number of years. For example, Luigi Pasinetti has examined them and reported on them. Why shouldn't Sraffa have chosen a literary executor who is as slow to publish as he was? I am looking forward to their publication, though.
  • Luigi L. Pasinetti (2001). "Continuity and Change in Sraffa's Thought: An Archival Excursus", in Piero Sraffa's Political Economy: A Centenary Estimate (edited by Terenzio Cozzi and Roberto Marchionatti), Routledge


YouNotSneaky! said...

I vagule recall a discussion among historians of thought - maybe on - some years ago about whether it really was the Neopolitan gesture, or the Sicillian gesture.
Everything hangs on that distinction.

Gabriel Mihalache said...

I knew the story from the Wittgenstein literature/obsessive fanboys club... but back then I didn't knew who Sraffa was.

John Ryskamp said...

And yet it appears you still haven't read Garciadiego. Very lazy. Here is a comment on recent work in the history of set theory, and the implications it has for Sraffa. You should educate yourself, because you know nothing now:

You should find out more about the history of set theory, and Sraffa's use of natural mathematics. Here is a brief comment on recent work:

Ryskamp, John Henry, "Paradox, Natural Mathematics, Relativity and Twentieth-Century Ideas" (May 19, 2007). Available at SSRN: