Misunderstanding gödel: New arguments about Wittgenstein and new remarks by Wittgenstein

Dialectica 57 (3):279–313 (2003)


The long‐standing issue of Wittgenstein's controversial remarks on Gödel's Theorem has recently heated up in a number of different and interesting directions [, , ]. In their , Juliet Floyd and Hilary Putnam purport to argue that Wittgenstein's‘notorious’ “Contains a philosophical claim of great interest,” namely, “if one assumed. that →P is provable in Russell's system one should… give up the “translation” of P by the English sentence ‘P is not provable’,” because if ωP is provable in PM, PM is ω ‐inconsistent, and if PM is ω‐inconsistent, we cannot translate ‘P’as ’P is not provable in PM’because the predicate‘NaturalNo.’in ‘P’“cannot be…interpreted” as “x is a natural number.” Though Floyd and Putnam do not clearly distinguish the two tasks, they also argue for “The Floyd‐Putnam Thesis,” namely, that in the 1930's Wittgenstein had a particular understanding of Gödel's First Incompleteness Theorem. In this paper, I endeavour to show, first, that the most natural and most defensible interpretation of Wittgenstein's and the rest of is incompatible with the Floyd‐Putnam attribution and, second, that evidence from Wittgenstein's Nachla strongly indicates that the Floyd‐ Putnam attribution and the Floyd‐Putnam Thesis are false. By way of this examination, we shall see that despite a failure to properly understand Gödel's proof—perhaps because, as Kreisel says, Wittgenstein did not read Gödel's 1931 paper prior to 1942‐Wittgenstein's 1937–38, 1941 and 1944 remarks indicate that Gödel's result makes no sense from Wittgenstein's own perspective

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Victor Rodych
University of Lethbridge

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