Philosophical Superlatives: Machines as Symbols. – In this paper, my chief aim is to present a close reading of parts of a central sequence of remarks from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (191 – 197, cf. Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, I, 121 – 130). The apparent theme of this sequence is the idea of a ‘machine as a symbol of its mode of operation’. Obviously, this idea requires a good deal of clarification, and the present paper attempts to elucidate relevant passages which, in their turn, are discussed in the hope of succeeding in spelling out some of the points Wittgenstein has in mind in appealing to the picture of a machine as a symbol of its mode of operation. What will serve as a kind of framework of these elucidations is the notion of a philosophical superlative appealed to by Wittgenstein in a number of remarks that can be seen as particularly characteristic of his later thought. In the course of developing the idea of a philosophical superlative six aspects, or types, of superlatives are distinguished, and the last of these is found to shade into the image of a machine as symbol in a way that allows us to draw on various superlatives in striving to clarify the train of thought underpinning the sequence PI 191 – 197 and related passages.
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