josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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4 Apr '14 12:05:01 PM

'How do you thank someone for giving you a gift like house music?'

4 Apr '14 11:16:07 AM

'I carefully guard myself against making the law. Rather, I concern myself with determining problems, unleashing them, revealing them within the framework of such complexity as to shut the mouths of prophets and legislators: all those who speak for others and above others. It is that moment that the complexity of the problem will be able to appear in its connection with people's lives; and consequently, the legitimacy of a common enterprise will be able to appear through concrete questions, difficult cases, revolutionary movements, reflections, and evidence.'

3 Apr '14 05:39:14 PM

Except big old burnt turkeys, hams. For some reason I believed those.

3 Apr '14 04:48:06 PM

But I never believed on TV when people were always burning dinner. Who burns that much dinner?!

3 Apr '14 02:30:15 PM

I like it when people in movies are complimented on their cooking and they say, 'it was nothing, just burned a few eggs'.

3 Apr '14 10:02:54 AM

When I burn things I try to burn them evenly on all sides, if they have sides.

3 Apr '14 09:21:05 AM

—Run aground again, on §87. Wittgenstein talks about explanations of what (or who) one means; about 'doubts' about the words used in the explanation ('aber was meinst du…?'). But how are those doubts?

He proposes a somewhat counter-intuitive sequence of terms open to doubt, given that the example is about 'Moses': 'Israelites', 'Egyptians', sure: but then (eventually) 'red', 'dark', 'sweet'? At the very least, the direction there, and the character of the latter terms, suggests a drive toward something like a tractarian way of resolving doubts: if these words (i.e. these words' meanings) are unclear, there will be nothing to do but find the framework in which the most fundamental attributions of reality or unreality can be made, and the meanings of words like these reconstructed.

Were that possible, would it be a removal of (something we could call) doubt? Wittgenstein dismisses skepticism quite late in the Tractatus, actually in the last set of remarks (under 6.5) before the final one, 7. And after the (other?) remarks on ethics (and the world). Skepticism is obvious nonsense (6.51) when it doubts where nothing can be questioned (because nothing can be said); this is a region in which 'unsere Lebensprobleme' live untouched by any possible answers to scientific questions (6.52), and thus show their character as (a curious sort of) disappearing problems (6.521). This little analysis of skepticism is juxtaposed to a second assertion (6.53) about philosophy being something that is done (the first was at 4.112: 'not a doctrine, rather an activity': the logical clarification of thoughts effected by providing elucidations): it describes an unsatisfying, but correct, method of doing philosophy with another person. Or 'to'. And, juxtaposed to this, a rare (lone?) remark (6.54) about the import of the other remarks and the book as a whole (save for the tricky 5.6's), which simultaneously claims a way in which they elucidate while implying that they somehow fail to observe the correct method in philosophy: something which readers will discover 'eventually', 'am Ende'. (Will they then be the ones who, per the preface, are afforded pleasure by understanding the book?)

When, on this picture, is philosophy done? Over with? If skepticism is 'obvious nonsense' ('when…'), what would be the source of a wish to 'say something metaphysical' (like? 'the world exists'? 'there are objects'?)? Not just a failure to understand the logic of our language (4.003)? (Not if 'Alle Sätze unserer Umgangssprache sind tatsächlich, so wie sie sind, logisch vollkommen geordnet' [5.5563]?)

There are two points here I don't understand well at all. Why is the picture one of doing philosophy with, to, for, on, another—who wishes to 'say something metaphysical'? And in what sense is the activity of philosophy completable (for a person), or, say, guaranteed to be (in principle)? (So that the solution promised to the 'Lebensprobleme' is one that can be found?)

—In contrast to the uses to which language-games are put in the early sections of the Investigations, the context of use for many of Wittgenstein's examples drawn from our language (the place where, I think, issues of doubt and removal of doubt are being addressed) is not so often made clear.

1 Apr '14 07:21:39 PM

The comparison between rules and signposts in §85 can seem unnecessary somehow, perhaps like the succession of comparisons in §§11–12: handles, then tools. Why not just proceed to the language-game? At the very least, the comparison serves to reinforce the sense of a rule 'standing there', or lying there, like a thing, so that in §86 when rules are embodied in things, the most immediate doubt is likely to be something like: how can this thing tell me what to do?

If a rule tells us what to do, and we embody a rule telling us how to apply that rule in a thing which will thus seem to challenge us with the question, how can this thing tell you what to do?, then maybe we are getting to the point of a paradox: if applying a rule is something we do, and we do things by applying rules, then how do we manage to do anything at all??

With table in the left hand and schema in the right, the need to 'do' something with each is made concrete. (And so the sense of impossibility comes in where?)

1 Apr '14 06:54:12 PM

In §86, the schemata for reading a table different ways are 'introduced', one of them 'attached' to such a table. Nowhere is it said that the training in how to read tables, drawing those left-to-right arrows, has been abolished, or anything of the sort (diversified?). The schemata, rules for rules (specifically, for the table), are not situated within the training–institutionalized rules–praxis scheme in use earlier in the Investigations. But the language suggestive of their being fully operationalized, 'instruments for the use of the language' just as the tables are, exerts a great deal of pressure on the reader to think of the table and its schema as being exactly on the same level, as if the Chart Operator were standing there with a table in his left hand and a schema in his right, the thing in his right hand to be used so as to use the thing in his left hand, with that relationship forcing him to cast the thing in his right hand as if it could not be used without another of the things somehow like one of the ones he's holding, in a third hand.

In his concluding questions Wittgenstein refers to the potential further rules explaining the schema, explaining how to use it. To whom, by whom? With the giving of orders or the instruction in the language far from the scene all these two paragraphs later, no one may come to mind. Nor what would need to be explained. But, following the pattern Wittgenstein often uses when entertaining the need of or use for an explanation, we might say that the introduction of different ways of reading tables itself provides a context in which explanations may be needed, and given—'to prevent misunderstandings'. (And this may be against a context in which pupils were earlier trained in the normal way of reading a table, the way in which they draw a series of arrows with their fingers.) And there, with established ways for reading a table provided, an explanation could consist in, say, pointing to one schema rather than the other. So that attaching a schema to a table is itself an explanation of how the table is to be read. And in the same way, the people giving and in need of explanations can be imagined. The boss, to the new employee. The manager, in light of new table-reading regulations recently passed. The friendly co-worker, correcting an innocent mistake liable to be punished by termination. (And how many of these, if they needed some kind of further explanation, would not quickly be explained by resort to arrow-drawing with the finger?)