6.06.2002

Wittgenstein is not a nominalist. He avoids this position that holds that every situation, event, or context is unique and incomparable, by arguing for family resemblances between commensurable activities. Moreover, we become the loci of comparison and commensurability. That is, our individuality is a product of the language-games we have traveled. Not only am I a product of a unique combination of language-games, but I put those experiences to use when I confront new situations. When I speak of past experiences, I think there are two types: the existential and the imaginative. The existential refer to concrete social situations, pains I have suffered, pains I caused others, and so on. The imaginative are the running scenarios I adduce, usually in response to something I have read or music I have heard. These scenarios function like defensive driving techniques. There are "What if?" situations where, in my imagination, I respond as a hero (usually). Language-games and imaginative scenarios, then, are two sources of practical ethics.

Of course there is accuracy in the nominalist's incomparability thesis. Whenever a relationship went south and I had my heart broken (I hate to admit how often this occurred), there was solace in the thought that I would learn something from this breakup and some future partner would benefit from my enlightenment. It was never the case. Each relationship was different, as was their demise. The lessons of the past could not be applied. My four years in seminary were something of a relief.

Blake's visions are certainly valued. Both his etchings and his poetry are recognized as possessing some sort of religious validity. Here, validity refers to personal resonance. When I read "The Everlasting Gospel," I experience the faith I knew as a child and lost as an adult. It resonates within as a form of longing.

As a security guard, I worked nights. I was always sleep deprived, headachy, and in a fog. I would drift between consciousness and light, disturbed sleep. Hallucinations were very much part of this life. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large rat walking by. The long leathery tail was close enough to touch. What value is there in this hallucination? It acts like a thought experiment and it reminds me that my relation to reality is colorful (can there be a colorless vision?) and therefore phantasmagoric.

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