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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5 Apr '14 03:38:48 AM

—The interrupted new material in the 80s is complemented by material awkward in its own way at §§134–142. And doubt is again a theme in §142: 'It is only in normal cases that the use of a word is clearly laid out in advance for us; we know, are in no doubt, what we have to say in this or that case…'. Then, from §143 on, we're off: series continuation, 'reading', rule-following, private language, the diarist…

Why the interruption? Not just a side trip to lodge some criticism of the Tractatus (criticism of unclear substance, at that). To make direct contact with skepticism, with the existence or removal of doubt, Wittgenstein has to be in the vicinity of ideas about assertion, truth. But, curiously, these ideas track passages from the Tractatus about 'logic and its application' (just after, significantly, 'Alle Sätze unserer Umgangssprache sind tatsächlich, so wie sie sind, logisch vollkommen geordnet…', 5.5563):

5.557: 'Die Logik darf mit ihrer Anwendung nicht kollidieren.'

§141: 'Können nun Bild und Anwendung kollidieren? Nun, sie können kollidieren, als uns das Bild eine andere Verwendung erwarten läßt; weil die Menschen im allgemeinen von diesem Bild diese Anwendung machen.'

There were some references before (e.g. §87c) to normality, but it seems like this bit from §141 twists things decisively in that direction—makes the right terms available.

And acknowledging the possibility of conflicting applications seems like it has to be part of that.

5 Apr '14 01:59:36 AM

'… you understood him, and he understood something real about you.'

4 Apr '14 09:05:01 PM

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

4 Apr '14 08:16:07 PM

'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.'

4 Apr '14 02:39:14 AM

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

4 Apr '14 01:48:06 AM

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

3 Apr '14 11:30:15 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 07:02:54 PM

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

3 Apr '14 06:21:05 PM

—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.