27 Jul 2016

Priest (12.0) Beyond the Limits of Thought, ‘Introduction [to chapter 12],’ summary


by Corry Shores


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Graham Priest


Beyond the Limits of Thought


Part 4 Language and Its Limits


Ch.12 The Unity of Thought


12.0 Introduction



Brief summary:

There are contradictions that lie at the limits of thought, and in this chapter we look at such contradictions as they manifest in Frege’s and (early) Wittgenstein’s theories of meaning.





Priest notes that the main issue of this book is the limits of thought. He recalls that “We have seen how contradictions at the limits of thought that we have been concerned with take a very sharp form in the inclosure contradictions of self-reference” (197). We saw in the book’s second part that for Kant it was a matter of the limits of reason. But in the twentieth century, language takes the center stage in philosophical debates. So we look now at how the problem of the limits of thought has manifested in twentieth century philosophy in terms of language (197).


Priest says that “It is natural for a theory of language to have implications about what can and what cannot be expressed” (Priest 197). Priest says that in fact modern theories of language are somehow able to “render some very important things – usually themselves – beyond the limit of expression” (197). [I am not sure, but perhaps the “usually themselves” part means that these very theories or systems themselves are somehow self-referentially able to express themselves within themselves.] Priest says that the “contradictions at the limits of thought” will “appear in a new guise” in this context. So now we will examine some modern accounts of meaning, looking for these contradictions at the limits of thought. Priest will not try to evaluate the theories; rather, he will “examine their consequences” (197).


Priest will begin with Frege then move to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, all the while focusing on the unity of thought (197).





Graham Priest. Beyond the Limits of Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1995.



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