10.10.2002

[73,74] With some philosophers it is possible to put your head down and just plow through the material. This is my experience in reading Hume and Kant. I do enjoy them, in a certain sense, but reading them is a matter of learning their technical vocabulary and seeing the way their arguments develop. You move from beginning to end; rarely do you turn back to find how you lost your way. Indeed, you do not lose your way. This sort of linearity culminating in an anticipatable conclusion is not in evidence in thinkers like Plato, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Adorno. Sometimes, however, Wittgenstein makes this latter group look like a children's primer. Why? I think it is because Wittgenstein was fighting battles on three fronts: in opposition to mentalism, to empiricism's reductionism, and to personal laziness. These opponents are never labeled clearly. Mentalism and atomism are usually distinguished from remark to remark, but the ethical stance is pervasive. To call Wittgenstein a dialectical thinker is to impose too much structure on his writing.

Remark 73 is a response to mentalism. We are shown a table of color samples or a leaf. Some explain our ability to see the green-ness of various shades of green or leaf-ness from various leaf samples as a proof for the existence of mental categories for these qualities. We look to the mind rather than "the way samples are used." Why do we do this? Wittgenstein does not answer it here, but we have seen various remarks that accuse philosophers of seeking occult sources certitude that lead to dualisms. Dualism keeps us from the hard work of describing what it is that we do when we, as an example, define something (a color or shape) ostensively.

The way we respond to an ostensive definition, Wittgenstein continues in remark 74, depends on the way we see it. The way you see it will be revealed in the way you use ostensive defining to teach someone else. Because of the variety of perceptual vantages we can take on an act of ostensive defining, the certitude philosophers seek in reductionism or mentalism proves elusive. Perfect clarity, pure presence, ideal speech acts where what I request is comprehended completely by the person I am speaking to, are defied by our capacity to see "in this way or that..."

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