3.21.2002

I think philosophy and poetry share a similar division in approaches to the enterprise. There are philosophers like Hegel who come to epitomize the abstract character of philosophizing. Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein attack the "craving for generality" evident in metaphysics and other epic brands of philosophical activity. They tend to be called poetic for their critical efforts. And there are poets who convey abstraction with silence or minimalism. They tend to be called philosophical for their (tacit) critical tactics.

Deep irony today: I am working a paper pertaining to Wittgenstein and political theory. Today I managed to tie myself up into so many conceptual knots that I have lost the central tenet of my argument. Oh, it's in there somewhere, but I have coated it with a bunch of clever crap. Let me pop a couple of Advil, check my mail, and when I return with a hopefully clearer head, I would like to turn to 24 and 25.

[24,25] In a letter to his friend Maurice Drury, Wittgenstein said "Hegel seems to me to be wanting to say that things which look different are really the same. Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different. I was thinking of using as a motto for my book a quotation from King Lear : 'I'll teach you differences.' This goal is no more clear than in remark 24. The multiplicity of language-games offered in 23 serves to undermine the essentialist grammar of "What is..." questions. The answer always depends on how and where you are using whatever the "what" is. However there are boundaries around the forms of the various language-games that serve to distinguish them. Wittgenstein writes, although there are "many different kinds of thing ... called 'description,'"a description can never be transformed into a question. Alterations do not "bring the different language-games any closer together." A question cannot be a description, nor vice versa. A description can be transformed "into descriptions of my inner life," by placing "I think" or "I believe" at the beginning of a statement. Wittgenstein promises to develop the implications of this transformation at a later time when he takes up the question of Solipsism.

One way of thinking about 24 is, and here let me leave it open as a question, that it is not that there no logic to language; rather, it is that there are as many logics as there are language-games. This would be another way of seeing some connection between the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations.

25 is another shot at breaking the habit of thinking that thinking occurs prior to speaking. "Think before you speak!", is an expression you might use in the heat of an argument, but it betrays a deeper belief that there is an internal, editable argument that is simply made public. Thinking and speaking are united in the language we use. We can surmise, then, that animals may think and speak if they have a language. Cora Diamond sees this possibility of thought/language in animals as a basis for arguments against vivisection and meat eating.

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