7.09.2003

[84,85] These remarks on rules have received extensive commentary by philosophers and theorists interested in bringing Wittgenstein's work to bear on the discourses of social and political theory. Because this ground has been covered so thoroughly I tend to move quickly through this material and turn, instead, to the fecund ground of Wittgenstein's remarks on perception. One reason why my work here has been so sporadic of late.
There is an elegance to Wittgenstein's discussions of rules and meaning that should not go unremarked. In 84, he asks if we can imagine the application of a word "that is everywhere bounded by rules." Would this remove all doubt? No. The name of God in some religious sects and worldviews come to mind. Is it possible to limit use to the experience of the sacred without conceiving a profane contrary? That is what is proscribed by rules constructed to engender hermeticism. The bounding produces temptation.
In 85, Wittgenstein displays his intellectual rigor (and this is an implied criticism for those who argue that Wittgenstein's philosophy is conservative). The idea of an application bounded everywhere by rules leads to further inquiry into rules themselves. This sort of critical reflection is strongly reminiscent of phenomenology. Wittgenstein describes rules as "sign-posts." A rule, he continues, "sometimes leaves room for doubt and sometimes not. And now this is no longer a philosophical proposition, but an emprical one." That is, this critical inquiry into our relation to rules demands that we traverse the parameters of the philosophy game, and enter into the game of social science. At least this is how Peter Winch understands it in The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy.

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