2.23.2002

aporia: or 'apory' in English, is the cognitive perplexity posed by a group of individually plausible but collectively inconsistent propositions. For example, in Pre-Socratic times, philosophers were involved with the following incompatible beliefs: (1) Physical change occurs. (2) Something persists unaffected throughout physical change. (3) Matter does not persist unaffected through change. (4) Matter (in its various guises) is all there is. There are four ways out of this inconsistency: (1-denial) Change is a mere illusion (Zeno and Parmenides). (2-denial) Nothing whatever persists unaffected through physical change (Heraclitus). (3-denial) Matter does persist unaffected throughout physical change, albeit only in the small - in its 'atoms' (the Atomists). (4-denial) Matter is not all there is; there is also form by way of geometric structure (Pythagoras), or arithmetical proportion (Anaxagoras), or abstract form (Plato). To overcome aporetic inconsistency, we must give up at least one of the theses involved in the inconsistency. There will always be different alternatives here and logic as such can enforce no resolution. The pervasiveness of apories throughout human inquiry has led sceptics ancient and modern to propose abandoning the entire cognitive enterprise, preferring cognitive vacuity to risk of error.

I realize this definition is very basic stuff for a philosopher, but I want to consider it here in light of Lois Shawver's description of two of W's voices as, first, the "aporetic voice" & second, the "clarifying voice." The Investigations, I think we will agree, is a difficult text: any descriptions of its literary qualities (including voice) ought to be welcomed by the reader. To be honest, I had only a vague notion of what aporetic means & had to look it up. (The definition I found is above.) At least I know what "slab" means. Oh, wait. Suddenly, that is problematic too. In your office this afternoon you said (& it made sense to me) that you hear an "above" voice in the Investigations, but also an "inside" voice. Inside the flow of the text? Tonight, I'm trying to map your two voices onto Shawver's. Your "above" voice would be her "clarifying" voice, right? And your "inside" voice would be her aporetic or Augustinian voice--her problematizing voice. Clearly, W is setting himself problems, thinking "out loud" about them & then offering his own hard-won clarifications. The metaphor that comes to mind is one of whittling away at something until one has a perfectly exposed bit of twig, a tiny flute that can play one important note. W's philosophy then becomes a chorus of such flutes. Different pure notes, not all in the same system of tuning. W famously said that philosophy ought to be written like poetry, so it is important to consider the literary qualities of his language.

1 Comments:

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