9.06.2003

[115] "A picture held us captive." What pictures hold us captive? Wittgenstein was referring to the picture of language as following the logic of propositional form that was the foundation of his Tractatus. I think of the role that pyramids or hierarchies play in the way we organize reality. There are pyramids for class structure, for the organizations of phyla, for decision-making processes, and so on. They are there to justify a claim, usually, by whomever sees themselves at the apex. Think of those who bastardize Darwinism by talking of survival of the fittest and the domination of humans as the top predator.

Another picture was been dissembled by Wittgenstein through his Investigations: the picture of binary oppositions from mind/body, subject/ object, inner/outer to word/object, signifier/signified.

Let me a take a moment here to note the passing of Donald Davidson. Davidson's work on the relations between language, others, and reality constitutes one of the great contributions to philosophy in the contemporary era. He has been called the most important philosopher in the world by Richard Rorty among others. There is accuracy here, but it is a little like being called the most important opera singer in Arkansas.

Back to the pictures that hold us captive: In this elegant little remark, Wittgenstein offers a clear program of study for aspiring philosophers.

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