1.31.2003

Yes. I felt a bit stale too. Sometimes it makes sense to back away & then come back refreshed, or at least with a different set of preoccupations. Interesting that you should begin by bringing up aesthetic & ethical concerns. I just have a moment this morning & will say more later, but some of my students & I have been struggling with what happens once one recognizes the freedom of rhetoric. That is, language can be played so many way, but language is amoral. That is, there is nothing "in language" that prevents one from going on television & erecting a structure of monstrous lies. But at the same time, the rhetorical art allows us to not be bamboozled. More anon.

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.

1.27.2003

Josh blog: someone else interested in Wittgenstein & Bob Dylan--who knew?

1.13.2003

Part II? Well, Chris, we have taken a fairly long break from our investigations of the Investigations. Perhaps it is time to start up again. I was moved by the description of your friend Larry DeCamp & of the philosopher's life. Poetry & philosophy are sometimes said to be at war with each other, but from another viewpoint, I think that both poetry & philosophy are about justice. Not in the narrow sense of "the justice system," though that's part of it--justice, rather, as akin to temperament in music: an adjustment toward the human & particular, away from the abstract.

So, if you'll put something in this space re: Wittgenstein, I will respond & we can try to build some momentum.