1.30.2003

[77] I began to feel stale when responding to Wittgenstein's often repetitive remarks in this section of the Philosophical Investigations and I know he deserves better. So let me pick about again after a break. It is interesting: I'm working on a conference paper comparing the political theory of Hannah Arendt and Herbert Marcuse. These are two very interesting thinkers. Both were emigres, students of Heidegger, and they engaged in idiosyncratic dialogues with Existentialism. I like reading both very much. However, after years of focusing on Wittgenstein, what is striking is that philosophers and theorists in the epic or metaphysical tradition --system-builders -- appear anemic. Their various claims to epistemological privilege come across as banal and fragile. Their relations to politics -- messy, dangerous, active -- lack courage.

In Remark 77, Wittgenstein considers the relation between a sharp image and a blurred image. The relation or contrast depends on "the latter's degree of vagueness." It can be so blurred that the sharp image appearing next to it cannot be said to correspond. "And this is the position you are in if you look for definitions corresponding to our concepts in aesthetics and ethics." On the one hand, this claim is reminiscent of the division in the Tractatus between what can be talked about philosophically, and what can be responded to only with silence. On the other hand, however, silence is not an option now that we are looking at our aesthetic and ethical concepts. Apparently, we can talk about these, but our lexical representations of these concepts are going to be blurry.

Can we achieve clarity. Wittgenstein does instruct us to think, when we are wondering about our ethical and aesthetic concept of "good," about the examples that were used to teach this concept to us. This is a way to proceed only. Apparently, for Wittgenstein, we need to accept the inevitability of conceptual blurriness and even thrill in the inexactitude.

Nice to be back.

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