7.29.2003

[105,106,107] Just a final thought on remark 105. I have been concerned with the relation of Wittgenstein to political theory for a number of years. Traditional political theory's main problem has been one of creating a correct or just political order. My argument has been that the problem of social order has been "solved" by bureaucratic means. Bureaucracy has supplanted politics as the mode of collective order. Political theory, in turn, has failed to see the displacement of politics by formalism because its capacity for perception has been shaped by traditional theory. What theory needs today is an orientation that can respond to bureaucracy with arguments for increased political liberty. This takes the form of dissent. I have thought Wittgenstein a theorist of liberty and remark 105 substantiates this claim.
106 and 107 mark the turn in Wittgenstein's thinking toward the philosopher's relation to the ordinary. Terry Eagleton describes this turn felicitously as a turn away from the ice world of logical forms and toward the world that lacks the perfect (mathematical) beauty of the logical realm, but has a beauty of its own. Wittgenstein puts it this way: "We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!" For Wittgenstein, this a call to philosophers to turn away from metaphysics and logical essentialism. For me, this is call to political theorists to renounce the panoramic perspective afforded by epic or heroic self-images of theorists of the past and accept the fleeting perspectives of the flaneur, the city walker.
In these remarks, Wittgenstein gives philosophy mobility -- legs for walking, bodily movement that permits glimpses around corners and other obstacles. Philosophy becomes a street scene.

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