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Meredith Williams (Johns Hopkins University) is presenting "Wittgenstein and the Paradox of Thought." The two invited commentators for her paper are Hans-Johann Glock (University of Zurich), and David Stern (University of Iowa).
Posted by tnadelhoffer on May 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM in Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language | Permalink
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Thanks for this paper; I'm always up for some talk about the builders. I'm up to p.8, where it says [middle]: "This, as we can see, involves embedding force operators—asserting and operating—unless [...]" Should that be "asserting and entertaining"?
Dave Maier |
May 14, 2007 at 03:16 PM
This is my 3. attempt to post this comment!
I share Dave Maier's question about the way in which Meredith describes P4, both in the summary p. 7 (see p. 5 of my comments, note that line 4 from bottom should read 'not' instead of 'no') and on p. 8.
I would also like to respond to David Stern's comments. As luck would have it, whereas my comments concentrate on Part I of Meredith's paper, David focuses on Part III. On p. 3 he helpfully points out that the idea of 'subliming logic' first occurs in §38. But I don't see the contrast he draws between the 'non-Pyrrhonian' reading exemplified by Meredith and his own 'Pyrrhonian' reading. According to David §38 warns against 'cutting off our actual use of language from the activities in which they are embedded'. But even if he were right, why is this would be just as much a 'methodological critique of certain philosophical techniques', notably the technique of setting exclusive store by the form of a linguistic expression at the expense of taking note of its use (see e.g. PI §§10-14, Z§462 and Lectures and Conversations 2).
Furthermore, while David is right in what he says about §38, that passage is just as much connected to the ideas invoked in Meredith’s account of the subliming of logic. The complaint against subliming logic is raised against the tendency of logical atomism to regard ordinary proper names as names only in an 'imprecise, approximate sense'. This is at least related to the idea of language as a calculus of precise rules, one which, supposedly, must display certain features, such as containing logically proper names immune to referential failure.
Finally a word about ordinary use as 'a dogmatic point of departure' (p. 3 of David's comments). I would agree with David that Wittgensteinians have often been torn between regarding ordinary use as a gold standard and regarding it as a raw-material for philosophical investigation. But wherever the truth may lie, §116 leaves no room for manoeuvre: 'bringing x back from y to z' is 3-place predicate. So you can't bring words simply back from their metaphysical use, without bringing them back to something else. That something or somewhere, §108 clearly states, is ordinary use.
Hans-Johann Glock |
May 18, 2007 at 02:13 AM
Hanjo is of course correct when he writes that “'bringing x back from y to z' is 3-place predicate.” He is also correct to point out that it does follow that you can't just bring words back from their metaphysical use, without bringing them back to something else. And we don’t even need to look as far off as §108; §116 itself clearly states that “What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.”
However, pace Hanjo, I would argue that this reminder of the logic of “bringing back” does leave considerable room for manouvre, precisely because one of the principal issues which Wittgensteinians are most deeply divided over is how to understand those slippery terms, “metaphysical use” and “everyday use”. When I wrote, no doubt much too telegraphically, that the disagreement over method that separates Meredith’s reading of Wittgenstein from my own can be seen as a disagreement over how to understand §116, I didn’t mean to say anything that amounted to a denial of the logic of three-place predicates. My proposal was that we might see our disagreement as a matter of stressing different *aspects* of the three-place relation in question. Meredith, like Peter Hacker, (and the early Gordon Baker), I suggested, takes Wittgenstein to be “emphasizing the aspect of bringing “words back…to their everyday use” (§116)”, while I, like the later Gordon Baker, would argue that it is “the aspect of bringing “words back from their metaphysical…use” (§116) that should take priority.
After Baker’s collaboration with Hacker on their analytical commentary came to an end, Baker came to have serious doubts about the methods they had attributed to Wittgenstein. As Baker put it, making use of a colourful expression of JL Austin’s, ‘metaphysical’ and ‘everyday’ are a pair of “trouser words”: they belong together, but everything depends on which half of the pair wears the trousers. In a recent article on different ways of understanding the contrast between “everyday” and “metaphysical” uses of words in the Philosophical Investigations, Baker argued that the very textual sources that once seemed to establish the “ordinary language” interpretation should be read quite differently (“Wittgenstein on Metaphysical/Everyday Use.” Philosophical Quarterly 2002 v52 #208 289-302.) Baker sums up the prevalent reading as one on which “in the contrast ‘metaphysical’/’everyday’, the term ‘everyday’ wears the trousers. We are assumed to understand what counts as ‘everyday use’ and how to establish what this is from case to case.” In other words, this non-Pyrrhonian reading takes “everyday use” as its privileged and unproblematic point of departure. “Metaphysical use” is then construed as a matter of transgressing against these rules, misusing ordinary language by breaking its grammatical rules.
Baker responds that a closer examination of Wittgenstein’s use of the term “metaphysical” makes it clear that he is not invoking “what we ordinarily do” as underwriting a rulebook summing up publicly accepted criteria of correct usage, but rather as summing up Wittgenstein’s opposition to quite specific problems, problems that have to do with the internal incoherence of particular philosophical strategies. I would follow Baker’s lead here, in advocating a reading of this material that does not see Wittgenstein as appealing to general principles concerning the structure of everyday use, but rather as pointing to particular problems that arise with certain metaphysical uses that philosophers propose. But that is a project that must be left for other occasions.
David Stern |
May 20, 2007 at 03:09 PM
I hope that I now see better what David was driving at. There are two issues here. One is whether LW invokes ordinary use at all. Here there seems to be rough agreement between Pyrrhonians and non-Pyrrhonians that he does. The other is what form this invocation takes. Let's take the 'middle' LW (I know david doesn't like this deparmentalization, and for some good reasons,but it can't be avoided here). He clearly adopted the view that we remind philosophers of the everyday use in the fashion of a rule-book (see, e.g. BT 424-5)
He later steered a less robust course (though, I would add, not one in which the idea of grammatical rules vanishes). But even in his most ruly phase he clearly thought that invoking rules takes place in the context of adressing specific philosophical problem, theses or argument. On this score he was in agreement with Ryle, and, as regards interpretation, I am in agreement with David and Baker, even though Gordon was too fond of portraying Ryle as the dogmatic counterpart of LW to recongnize this.
Hans-Johann Glock |
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