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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19 Jun '13 03:50:16 AM

H. writes from Dubai, sez the Doritos in the airport are refrigerated.

I don't know what to say about that.

16 Jun '13 02:04:35 AM

'It is finished can never be said of us'

14 Jun '13 09:06:07 AM

'For now, we need only consider a thoroughgoing position that any ingredient or constituent could be describable in terms of properties. Only a philosopher could want to say that an omelet has the property of being made of eggs. Why?'

13 Jun '13 11:23:07 PM

When you buy a bike, they don't tell you that you're basically going to bleed a lot more often, if you didn't much before. All over the place! It's like your body is a pump or something.

13 Jun '13 06:41:03 AM

Convention (formula) as compact: '… no matter how bad things get, the story will end'.

13 Jun '13 05:37:06 AM

'… assembling', making, originating…

13 Jun '13 03:47:31 AM

I wrote the entry below about Investigations remarks ca. §300 a year or two ago while trying to sort out some of the things Cavell (in Claim Part Four) and Mulhall (in Wittgenstein's Private Language) say about the given passages.

It was a typical bit of writing, for me: with an idea in mind (that time, from Cavell and Mulhall; other times, arising from my own reading), I returned to the text, found a suitable place to start, and just tried to read up through §300 and far enough beyond it to know how to break off for interpretation. I'm preoccupied by wholes, by the integrity of the texts I read (and their proper parts), by the job of giving sustained readings. On the practical side, that means doing sustained readings, actually holding together some worthwhile sense of the text as it develops so that this sense might uncover the most useful anchors within the text to place or communicate a more articulate interpretation of it. You know, usual hermeneutic stuff.

One reason the privacy remarks in the Investigations are so maddening is that they can pretty much elude, from section to section, any grasp of the overall course of the discussion you might be beginning to sustain. But there are too many pieces, too many turns and lateral shifts and changes of subject and role and point of view and purpose, to be able simply to work piece-by-piece and accumulate an interpretation that shows you the sense of the whole after the fact.

I was reminded of this lately because I reread the Investigations from §134 ('This is how things are') onward when some of Philip Cartwright's remarks on that passage put the text in a new light for me. I haven't been reading much Wittgenstein since finishing my Ph.D., except for what I needed to read to teach, so I've been doubly confined to the beginning of the text (§§1–133). First, because writing a dissertation on Wittgenstein and teaching him to undergraduates are pretty distinct undertakings, and I found that I needed a much more substantial idea of the beginning of the text than I had privately been working with. Second, because the argument about the structure of the Investigations I made in my dissertation gave me reasons not to have to understand, yet, the course the text takes after §§1–133, to which I confined most of my interpretative energies.

I don't want to be confined! But when I first started looking ahead at the parts of the text less-charted by me, after my first year of teaching (and after a Wittgenstein course I had been scheduled to teach was cancelled, which stirred up thoughts about how to teach the rest of the book anyway), I was unhappy with my (already limited) understanding of Wittgenstein's remarks about 'logic' in the big methodological sequence §§89–133. I didn't have much to say about what he had in mind there, but I was bothered by his apparent unconcern (more than usual!) for detailed engagement with his target. Besides, though I was well aware that the proper thing to do would be to read those passages against the Tractatus, and that he already had a kind of funny conception of logic (or of philosophical consideration of it) in the Tractatus, I sort of felt: given the affinities with ordinary language that Wittgenstein declares in the Investigations, and given how little he says about logic there, shouldn't (this is where the really obscure transition in my thinking took place, more of a stubbornness than an inference) I be able to say something, myself, about what is wrong, and how, with a standard introduction to symbolic logic, the kind almost everyone who teaches it still teaches to undergraduates, more or less a relative of Wittgenstein's, and Russell's, and Peano's, version of logic? Or to say something about how fraught the standard treatment is of the relation between that course's content, and 'language', or 'thinking', or 'reasoning'?

Well, no. Aside from the problem of the Tractatus, what I found from poking around for a while in the philosophy of logic was that this was not easy to work out without studying a lot more of the philosophy of logic, and even then, didn't seem real workable given how unsympathetic most things in the philosophy of logic are to what Wittgenstein is up to in the Investigations (much less the Tractatus). The standard intro course in logic, and Wittgenstein's dismissal (?) of logic's enshrinement as the core of philosophy, are not readily to be brought into contact—with the result that the intro course must remain something like a technical adjunct to the discipline, one which is badly intellectually accounted for (rather, it's given thin pragmatic or institutional justifications: 'lots of certain kinds of philosophers use this notation to express themselves and insist that you do so as well'), and can only be approached philosophically after the fact if at all ('but they have to master the technical details first!'). And when it is approached philosophically, logic seems to me mostly to serve as the pretext for more of the kinds of philosophical work that the Investigations identifies as suspect—which should make us wonder whether there ought not to be a different approach to it, one that's slower from the very beginning.

One nice reorientation toward my questions that I'm drawing from Philip's remarks has to do with the connection he draws to the Tractatus, because it links up with some of my other intermittent concerns from the past few years. I have been reading the Tractatus, a little. But I haven't needed much. Mainly, the predominance in it of the concept of the world. I've read my Heidegger; and invested a lot of time in reading Schopenhauer for partly genuine, partly venal reasons (ill-researched, good bridge to my other concerns, kind of turgid and antiquated, but also kind of thrillingly embittered and pessimistic, and good for practicing long German sentence construction). And, especially, placing the Investigations alongside Nietzsche and Descartes in my intro course has made me sensitive to how useful the concept of 'world' is in teaching Descartes, and how painfully absent it seems to be in Wittgenstein, as well as in Nietzsche, who shares with the Investigations Wittgenstein a different emphasis on 'life'. So, in effect, knowing that I can get more of what I need of 'world' from the Tractatus, while also (and pretty much because of the way Wittgenstein's subject relates to 'world' in that book) addressing some of my questions about logic in the Investigations, has made much that was old look new to me.

This is just as true of that elusiveness I mentioned above. The other day, so much more about the remarks on privacy made sense to me, in a really sustained way, thanks to all my intervening reading, and this new way to think about the text. But! As I read, without stopping to get it down (itself a way to lose the sense of the text you're building up), I could feel it slipping away a bit, until I got back to—that fucking teapot.

Then, I was no longer sure I knew what I had been doing.

13 Jun '13 12:35:55 AM

The remarks on privacy in the Investigations can be pretty maddening to read.

11 Jun '13 11:23:59 PM

'300. It is, one would like to say, not merely the picture of the behaviour that belongs to the language-game with the words “he is in pain”, but also the picture of the pain. Or, not merely the paradigm of the behaviour, but also that of the pain. — It is a misunderstanding to say “The picture of pain enters into the language-game with the word ‘pain’”. Pain in the imagination is not a picture, and it is not replaceable in the language-game by anything that we’d call a picture. — Imagined pain certainly enters into the language-game in a sense, only not as a picture.'

The first remark immediately follows a section (§299) in which Wittgenstein cautions against taking an inclination to say something for a case of being forced into an assumption, or of having insight into some state of affairs. So presumably what one ‘would like to say’ here is put forward not as philosophy, but as raw material for philosophy (§254), to be treated (§255).

What wants saying? It is a matter of what ‘belongs’ to the language-game played with the words ‘he is in pain’. In §293 Wittgenstein spoke of things themselves, as opposed to ‘pictures’ of them, belonging to the (same) language-game (there, the beetles everyone could have in their boxes). Here, someone wants to say that elements of a picture themselves belong to the language-game. This carries the implication, for reasons perhaps unclear to us, that a certain way of picturing things is itself to be part of the language-game, or that the language-game is (here) to be played in a certain way, under the guidance of some picture. One element of the picture said to belong to the language-game seems as if it may be uncontroversial: ‘the picture of the behaviour’. The seemingly controversial element, the one which our tempted speaker wants also to say belongs to the language-game, is ‘the picture of the pain’ which the behavior shall be taken (or not taken) to express.

This insistence is given an alternative formulation: ‘paradigm’ rather than ‘picture’. One thing this formulation stresses is the attraction that the interlocutors have lately had for knowing other peoples’ pain on the model of one’s own pain, ‘only from one’s own case’. On such a line, perhaps pain must be part of the picture (of the whole situation: pain expressed in pain behavior and then known and responded to by another via comparison to one’s own model for what pain is) because it seems as if, without it, there would be no way of ‘knowing’, i.e. recognizing, pain behavior as expressive of pain.

In response, Wittgenstein labels it a ‘misunderstanding’ to say ‘The picture of pain enters into the language-game with the word “pain”’.

There are two initial obscurities in this response. First is the sense in which Wittgenstein is talking about pain ‘entering into’ the language-game. I believe comparison to a similar form of expression in §290 may help clarify what Wittgenstein means by ‘entering into’:

'290. It is not, of course, that I identify my sensation by means of criteria; it is, rather, that I use the same expression. But it is not as if the language-game ends with this; it begins with it.

But doesn’t it begin with the sensation — which I describe? — Perhaps the word ‘describe’ tricks us here. I say “I describe my state of mind” and “I describe my room”. One needs to call to mind the differences between the language-games.'

In §290a the game played ‘begins’ with my expression of my pain: anything else that is to happen or be done in the game shall be done after, and presumably with reference to, my expression of pain. The question of §290b commences a series of remarks concerned with one way of misunderstanding this state of affairs, namely, thinking that I cannot express pain without first being somehow cognizant of, then describing, my sensation of pain. I take these two paragraphs together to say, in effect: the game begins when I make the first move, by feeling and expressing pain—not when a pain sensation occurs in me, so that I make the first move by observing and describing my pain. Relative to the language-game with the word ‘pain’, I am a source of pain-behavior in the world, for the responses and pain talk of others to be about.

The second obscurity is simply what Wittgenstein means by his talk of ‘the word “pain”’. I take it that this is a metonym for the sufferer’s expression of pain: ‘[I am in…] pain’. This expression is itself a form of behavior; and the sufferer’s behavior, whatever else it may include, is just as much an expression of his pain. So ‘the word “pain”’ here is the verbal behavior expressing the sufferer’s pain. What Wittgenstein opposes is thinking that it is with this expression of pain that the picture, the paradigm, the model, of pain also enters the picture.

Why? Wittgenstein goes on immediately to say that ‘pain in the imagination is not a picture’, as if what he wanted to correct was a misidentification or a mixup, his interlocutor perhaps having wanted to say that with the expression of pain ‘the picture of pain’ entered rather than ‘pain in the imagination’. But Wittgenstein’s elaboration is stronger still: it is not just that it is some imagination of pain, rather than a picture of pain, which enters into the game, but that no picture (or ‘anything we would call a picture’) could replace that imagination of pain.

Reference to the picture, i.e. the paradigm, of pain, seems (as I said above) to point back to the idea of ‘one’s own case’, from which one would know what pain (in others, expressed by them in their words and behavior) is. So adverting from ‘the picture of pain’ to the imagination of pain appears to maintain focus on the observer, the spectator, on the one who may or may not respond to the sufferer’s expression of pain. It is his imagination which is active, or lies inactive, here; and indeed Wittgenstein goes on to say that ‘imagined pain certainly enters into the language-game in a sense’. The sufferer feels pain, expresses it in words and behavior; the respondent hears her, sees her behavior, takes it in, sees it as pain behavior—imagines her pain—and responds accordingly. Or his imagination is dull, his feelings of sympathy not easily aroused; he sees her behavior, hears her cry, and does little or nothing.

In §300 someone wants to say that the picture of the pain belongs to the language-game with the word ‘pain’, as well as the picture of the behavior. This is a way of saying: whatever is pictured, behavior and so on, the pain had better be in the picture too. Recall that §300 follows close on the heels of §296 and §297. §296 sees some interlocutor insisting on the presence of ‘a Something’. §297 transposes that interlocutor’s insistence into a parable about a boiling pot, and picture of same, and asks, ‘what if one insisted on saying that there must also be something boiling in the picture of the pot?’. This interlocutor has been an insistent presence for a while. He seems most exercised by the possibility that Wittgenstein might be denying this ‘Something’ entirely.