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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1 Apr '14 03:28:33 PM

Snow, funny.

31 Mar '14 08:14:25 PM

'For me, style—which does not exclude simplicity, quite the opposite—is above all a way of saying three or four things in one.'

31 Mar '14 01:13:02 AM

In a way, 'a rule stands there' is the whole content of §85: that phrase alone achieves enough distance from another—'a rule tells us what to do'—for us to be able to think both that we have our part to play, and that the rule says nothing—nothing without us.

31 Mar '14 12:42:35 AM

'Eine Regel steht da', says §85, 'wie ein Wegweiser'. Most of the remark appears to be about signposts. Rules tell us what to do: signposts tell us which way to go. Does a signpost leave no doubt about which way to go? It does leave room for doubt, Wittgenstein answers. Rather: sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But what is he calling 'doubt' here? It's odd: in each case, he asks a question. He answers his questions with questions. Does a signpost leave no doubt about the way I have to go? Well, does it show which direction I should go when I've passed it? Along the highway (say), or the dirt road, or through the fields? The next question, perhaps, contains the best hint as to how his questions about signposts could bear on the issue of doubts about applying rules: 'Aber wo steht', but where does it say, which way I'm to follow it—thinking now of a sign styled like a hand, pointing the way—in the direction of its finger, or in the opposite direction? 'Eine Regel steht da… Aber wo steht…?': rules tell us what to do, but do they tell us how to follow rules? If a rule says which way we should do something, where does it say which way we should apply the rule? If these are the right sorts of analogues to Wittgenstein's questions about signposts—and I'm not all that confident that they are—then do they show anything about how he could be conceiving of doubt in the case of the signposts (and thus of rules)? It is hard to imagine anyone—at least, anyone who knew about signs—asking these questions, ever being in doubt in these ways or giving voice to something we would call doubt with questions like these. Wittgenstein's last assessment seems soundest: the signpost sometimes leaves room for doubt, and sometimes not. Because we can imagine, say, signs twisted the wrong ways, knocked off their posts, markings effaced or blacked out, ambiguously positioned. But those would be signs about which it's normal, natural, to have doubts: signs which are broken, which can't serve their intended function (Heideggerian examples, there). The doubts Wittgenstein asks about, and affirms the possibility of, are not about those signs. They're about signs signs: normal ones, encountered the usual way. For those signs, how does 'which direction should I go once I've passed it?' express something we would call doubt? A doubt which remains open, or, we could say, unexcluded? One for which there is room? One to which the sign remains open, exposed?

The signpost stands there; Wittgenstein's questions about it are about what I am to do.

30 Mar '14 07:58:30 PM

The state exchange asks you to type in a 'shared secret' when setting up an account—'something that only you would know'. I'm going to make mine a juicy one!

30 Mar '14 06:47:57 PM

'Let's start over!'

30 Mar '14 02:12:23 AM

To ask and to try to answer a question like 'why is this exactly as it is?', you have to see and say what it is almost as if it were not what it is.

30 Mar '14 02:07:22 AM

Some days, between trying to get it right, trying too hard to make it come out right, and not being able to wait for it to strike me in the right way, interpretation wearies me, even sickens me, and I feel as if all real interpretation is just seeing and saying, and what I occupy myself with daily is instead nothing but saying I see, seeing if I can say, reading without seeing, seeing more than I can say, saying what should just be seen, reading instead of saying, saying instead of being. —Little knots of thinking and willing and wishing.

30 Mar '14 01:29:32 AM

(In §83, the philosopher stands apart from the group at play, claiming to know more than Wittgenstein has just said to be the case about them. As in §82 the possibilities attractive for, or vexing to, the philosopher are the first and third, where he distances himself from the other or must take the other at no more than his word.)