7.15.2002

I guess reductionism is a quality of reality; but it is only one constitutive quality of reality. If we start with words and their relation to things, then we miss a first step. Words are things. They are tools that express and transform other things. You offer the same image of a unity in your interpretation of Urizon. As you describe this presentation of imagination and reason I think of Blake himself. His wife complained that she had to share much of his time with the angels with whom he was in near-constant communication. He led that sort of hermetic existence with imagination that I associate with the Greek mythology that comes from a time before the cosmic rupture, depicted in Homer, that separated humans from the gods. The idea that words too are things sounds trite, but it eliminates the distance implied in a word to object relation. Sure, the word rock is different than the solid object I pick up and skip across a surface of water, but it too is an object. How do we classify these differences? The tendency is to talk about an external reality and how we can know it. The assumption here is that our language is part of our internal reality and we use it to apprehend externals. But Wittgenstein's radical move is to say something to the effect that it is all external. When we get to his use of "criterion" in a while we will appreciate the importance of this term for the larger, anti-Cartesian point.

Your closing sentence on science's tendency is something I have thought about in ethical terms. That sort of exclusive reductionism translates into a sort of ruthlessness that is on exhibit in big scientific projects like the A-Bomb and the race for the moon and in smaller relations like that of doctor to patient.

Here is a quotation from Wittgenstein. I think it come from Culture and Value, but I could be wrong. What it reveals is that there can be a reductive element to generalizations. Here the generalization is about language. "Our language primarily describes a picture. What is to be done with the picture, how it is to be used, remains obscure. Quite clearly, however, it must be explored if we want to understand the sense of what we are saying. But the picture seems to spare us this work: it already points to a particular use. This is how it takes us in."

I like your criticism of Russell's notion of acquaintance. It is not rigorous. Moreover, it is ethnocentric and ahistorical and not the key to some underlying universal logic.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home