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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12 May '19 06:09:57 PM

('One of our responses to this plurality of definitions has been to rely on “Jamesian Confidence.” James’ (1890/1950) famous phrase: “Every one knows what attention is.” is implicitly (often explicitly) invoked whenever researchers report work on attention without supplying a concrete definition. The presumption is that the researcher’s sense of attention will be clear from context and that James’ exhortation can be taken to imply more than it says, that is that everyone knows what attention is, and they all think it is the same thing. In fact, communal practice reveals that we do not. Attention is subdivided by modality (visual versus auditory), level of analysis (feature versus object), and spatial extent (focal versus global). Attention is invoked as the label for a general preparedness to respond. Attention as vigilance has both a negative aspect (in that one may fail to detect a target) and a positive aspect (where one fails to inhibit a response when presented a non-target item). Attention is treated as a vector where there can be deficiencies in magnitude (implied by the phrase attention deficit) or direction (implied by a term like disengage deficit). Attention can also be given a temporal dimension when people speak of an attention span. None of these senses seem quite what James had in mind as the obvious one. ')

12 May '19 05:53:22 PM

('Benennen und Beschreiben stehen ja nicht auf einer Ebene: Das Benennen ist eine Vorbereitung zur Beschreibung. Das Benennen ist noch gar kein Zug im Sprachspiel, – so wenig, wie das Aufstellen einer Schachfigur ein Zug im Schachspiel. Man kann sagen: Mit dem Benennen eines Dings ist noch nichts getan. Es hat auch keinen Namen, außer im Spiel. Das war es auch, was Frege damit meinte: ein Wort habe nur im Satzzusammenhang Bedeutung.')

12 May '19 05:49:29 PM

('… things are not seen sharply "save those for which the mind has prepared itself."')

12 May '19 05:40:01 PM

(Hence, a natural ground for an idea of 'coming to terms', of discovering or choosing what to say (of things) when; and a natural attraction, in certain proceedings, to ad hoc attention to language.)

12 May '19 05:07:19 PM

It's not that the philosopher, as theorist, is too distant from the world of everyday experience; it's that he imagines he could get the sharpest focus while at the greatest remove from all objects, be at once furthest from, and nearest to, everything; each thing.

Looking around, getting a closer look, a glimpse—none of these sorts of operations form part of the recognized idea of what a philosopher will be up to.

To see more closely you have to get closer; go from here to there. So an account of where you are, and how you go, how you go about going, will form part of what you say about what's there.

12 May '19 04:49:16 PM

'It’s an image of collaboration—of the spectator who is no longer a spectator but is part of the penning of the story.'

11 May '19 10:09:06 PM

'True there was in nillohs dieybos as yet no lumpend papeer in the waste, and mightmountain Penn still groaned for the micies to let flee. All was of ancientry. You gave me a boot (signs on it!) and I ate the wind. I quizzed you a quid (with for what?) and you went to the quod. But the world, mind, is, was and will be writing its own wrunes for ever, man, on all matters that fall under the ban of our infrarational senses fore the last milch-camel, the heartvein throbbing between his eyebrowns, has still to moor before the tomb of his cousin charmian where his date is tethered by the palm that's hers. But the horn, the drinking, the day of dread are not now. A bone, a pebble, a ramskin; chip them, chap them, cut them up allways; leave them to terracook in the muttheringpot: and Gutenmorg with his cromagnom charter, tintingfast and great primer must once for omniboss step rub- rickredd out of the wordpress else is there no virtue more in al- cohoran. For that (the rapt one warns) is what papyr is meed of, made of, hides and hints and misses in prints. Till ye finally (though not yet endlike) meet with the acquaintance of Mister Typus, Mistress Tope and all the little typtopies. Fillstup. So you need hardly spell me how every word will be bound over to carry three score and ten toptypsical readings throughout the book of Doublends Jined (may his forehead be darkened with mud who would sunder!) till Daleth, mahomahouma, who oped it closeth thereof the. Dor.'

7 May '19 07:54:21 PM

'Communicating with the public is often seen, in the professionalized world of academic philosophy, as someone else's work.'

4 May '19 12:54:25 AM

One of Cavell's recurrent tactics is in use early in Part Four of Claim, in its second section. Having maneuvered a little bit to maintain that the Vorstellung of pain with which Wittgenstein contrasts various pictures (of behavior, of pain) in the passages of the Investigations around the parable of the boiling pot is being regarded there as part of a person's overall response to someone's expressions of pain, to their pain-behavior, to them, to their pain, Cavell comes to the point of contrasting his observations (a gathering of statements of the grammar of pain, let's say) with the words of the parable again. While 'seeing (or imagining) the steam' coming from the pot, or pictured pot, 'is enough', in the sense, he says, that 'we know what steam coming out of a pot means', he denies that the same is true with regard to 'the language-game with the word "pain"'. Rather, he withholds a full assertion that it is true:

'… there is a question whether, from time to time, we know what a piece of pain-behavior means. Not merely in the sense that this piece of behavior is, say, a wince, but that this wince is of suffering, means suffering. Whether, so to speak, we take in the fact that behavior gives (as words do) expression; whether we take in the fact that criteria are expressions' (p. 340)

It's not infrequently that at a key point in his discussions, Cavell will advert to some general lack of knowledge of some concept (equivalently, in his quasi-Austinian terms, [the reality of] some phenomenon), as if in justification of his subsequent treatment of us as yet in need of clarity about it. The tone of these references to our knowledge is generally skeptical, and invokes the kind of concrete failure to know that may or may not eventuate in a disastrous skeptical conclusion, but in the contexts in which Cavell makes the references it is not usually established that such a conclusion can even be well founded. The intended logic of the denials that we know, though, usually seems to involve a sidelong glance to Cavell's invocations of ideas like Investigations §371—'essence is expressed by grammar'—or §373—'grammar tells us what kind of object anything is', and along with those, the more Kantian (than Cartesian) sense that we may become entangled in perplexities with regard to our concepts (which to me recalls James Conant's analyses of the different forms of skepticism under investigation in Cavell's work).

As a license for subsequent discussions in Part Four, this particular denial can go a long way, as far apparently as Cavell will ever need. With the essential role of my own responsiveness already tucked into the discussion, a question about whether I know here and now that this behavior is 'of suffering, means suffering', is entangled with or inextricable from a question about how I respond to the suffering, how I show that I know, how I acknowledge the other; but then whether we 'take in the fact that behavior gives (as words do) expression', or 'take in the fact that criteria are expressions', is not just a matter of our knowing or affirming a truth of grammar, a principle, but also a matter of fully incorporating that fact, embodying it in how we respond, not just here and now, but here and there, over and over, in our lives. The way is open to suspecting or insisting that this is a fact that few 'take in' as perfectly or completely as they might. The way Cavell puts it soon after this point in the discussion is in terms of his programmatic reference to Investigations §283: 'Only of what behaves like a human being can one say that it has pains. For one has to say it of a body, or, if you like, of a soul which some body has'. Cavell's reformulation is reminiscent, to me, of the phrase from Spinoza that Deleuze likes to quote, about nobody knowing what a body can do: the knowledge of what pain-behavior means 'is only the knowledge that a body which exhibits pain(-behavior) is that of a live creature, a living being. Not to know this would be the same as not knowing what a body is' (p. 340). It will take him the rest of the book to find a way to state our (ordinary) condition with regard to that knowledge, I suppose one figured in the title of the final chapter: 'between acknowledgement and avoidance'.