Wittgenstein’s overlooked insight

Sometimes it seems there can no longer be any low-hanging fruit in the Wittgenstein scholarship. After so many extensive commentaries on his work by prominent philosophers, can we still hope to discover in his opus easily derivable but new and striking insights?

Yes. The demonstration follows.

  1. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (Tractatus, 7)
  2. If a lion could speak, we could not understand him. (Philosophical Investigations)
  3. If we could understand a lion, he could not speak. (2, CONTRAPOSITION)
  4. a is a lion (ASSUMPTION)
  5. Whereof a cannot speak, thereof a must be silent. (1, UNIVERSAL ELIMINATION)
  6. If a is a lion, then whereof a cannot speak, thereof a must be silent. (4-5, CONDITIONAL PROOF)
  7. If a is a lion and a cannot speak of something, thereof a must be silent. (6, EXPORTATION)
  8. Whereof a lion cannot speak, thereof it must be silent. (7, UNIVERSAL INTRODUCTION)
  9. If we could understand a lion, he would have to remain silent. (3,8, HYPOTHETICAL SYLLOGISM)

Isn’t it amazing that such an interesting and easily deducible consequence, as proposition 9, has never before been derived from Wittgenstein’s oeuvre? The only remaining question is whether this wonderful insight should be classified as a contribution to general philosophy, philosophy of mind, or perhaps (given the key role of lions) to philosophy of biology.


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