Streams of life: Another metaphor I like is that of play. Mechanical devices require a certain amount of "play" between their parts in order to function. It's a metaphor that Wittgenstein, trained as an engineer, would appreciate, I think. Machinists also speak of "tolerances" for the amount of allowable variation in the size of a component. Those words--play & tolerance--resonate with me. I think there is a relationship here, too, to my transformations of W's color table the other day. W's original table is meant to demonstrate correspondences, but he goes on, as you note, to demonstrate that correspondences in a particular language game do not inevitably lead to a theory of correspondences, however comforting such a theory might be. My two variations on the table are meant to illustrate what is a perhaps obvious truth: We can change the conventions in a language game & adapt to calling green red & red green--you just have to be introduced to the conventions. But a totally randomized table leads to a break from the collaborative / imaginative reality of the language game--it leads to psychosis, I'd argue. Personal or political psychosis. This little exercise of the color tables also helps us deal with the issues we dealt with earlier about cross-cultural understanding. For me, Vietnam was like the second table, in which green had been switched with red; I had to learn a large number of such transformations, but the practice of organizing reality with language games remained intact.

Since Wittgenstein has by the time of the Philosophical Investigations clearly cast himself as a "therapeutic" philosopher, it is worth noting that this attack on the metaphysics of correspondence between word & world is part of a state of mind that rejects what we would now call essentialism. Essentialism is very attractive in some respects, especially in aesthetic theory & poetics. We'll have to return to this. (The history of philosophy & politics, of course, has been the story of one attempt after another to create all-encompassing, ultimately true, final "language games." But of course such totalizing systems are anathema to Wittgenstein. (Afterthought: correspondence theories & essentialism are so attractive in aesthetics & poetics precisely because that is where they have least application.)


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