7.26.2003

[102,103] Our perception of the world is shaped by a belief that truth, perfection, certitude, and unity lie beneath the surface. If we look through the messiness of the surface, then we will be able to uncover perfection. We see this belief in everything from Platonic forms to Habermas's ideal speech situation. This belief, or habit, or convenience, writes Wittgenstein in 102 and 103 is ingrained in the culture. We cannot even see the habit to acknowledge it and break it. "It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off."
How liberating would this be? We think we must step outside our form of life in order to criticize it. Wittgenstein claims that this is not an option. Criticism arises from within. I think here of Stephen Toulmin's distinction between formal logic and the logic-in-use of arguments. Our tendency is to accept formal logic as somehow refined. Because it is expressed mathematically or symbolically, formal logic escapes the limits and prejudices of ordinary logic in use. Toulmin shows that logic-in-use is basic, irreducible, and inescapable. Formal logic is merely an extrapolation of argumentative logic. To tie this into remarks 102 and 103, if you were to cut through the surface perfection of formal logic, what lies beneath it is the messiness of logic in use. And this is the point where you hit bedrock.

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