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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, Issue 4, 2018

Friedrich Waismann
Pages 219-230

The Many-Level-Structure of Language

The author attempts to sketch a new picture of language: language is stratified into layers, each layer having a logic of its own and being separated from the others by gaps over which one may jump but which cannot be bridged by logical processes. Philosophers try to bridge the gaps and become entangled in pseudo-problems. Law statements exemplify one stratum, thing statements another, sense-datum statements another, ethical statements another, and so on. The different subject-matters are to be characterized by reference to the different strata, rather than conversely; a sense impression is something that is describable in a language of such-and-such structure; a material object is something which can be described in such-and-such language; and so on. A consequence of the theory is said to be that logic loses its universal validity: logic can only be applied to statements that are homogeneous. However, relations between the layers do claim the attention of the logician.

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