Sunday, August 28, 2011

A lil' convo…

I want to reproduce a discussion I recently had with a friend at That Other Place. You've read some of our interactions before, perhaps, so this might be a prized cameo for some readers.

Then again, I know how eye-meltingly vapid it can be to read online debates online, like eating reprocessed leftovers. But I think the discussion contains some interesting points and reveals some noteworthy dialectic haps and mishaps. Plus, I just want to keep it for my own reference.

I posted the following on my wall at That Other Place:

If language is utterance, what is Utterance attempting to do/convey? If language is use, what is Language using? Words, presumably. But then, why words and not something else? What do words possess--or access--that Language needs with them? What is language ABOUT?

Comments ensued:

C The question is not what language is using but how language is used. If every human being were dead, (silence)

E So there is no world apart from human language? I think even Wittgenstein knew there was a world outside Vienna.

C Is there? I think not.

E Thanks, Descartes. Amazing how little distance analytic philosophy has come, despite its trappings. Is there being apart from language? Any attempt at a reply assumes the affirmation of being. "Is" there? etc. At bottom, why use language?

C It's a question.

E‎ "'It' 'is' 'a' question." Alterity, existence, unity--these are all contained in your reply... because they preempt all replies.

C Any statement that an attempt at a reply assumes the affirmation of being is an assumption that any attempt at a reply assumes the affirmation of being.

E‎ "is"

C‎ ""'It' 'is' 'a' question." Alterity, existence, unity--these are all contained in your reply... because they preempt all replies." Dude, c'mon, really?

C I have no idea what you are saying? What's your point?

E As I've realized for years, Wittgensteinism (the mode of living, not the tenets of his doctrines) is the cure for people beleaguered and pestered by actual philosophizing. Ha, a fan of Witt complains about inscrutability in prose! ;) My point: the tactic of subsuming all reality to language because all expression of language involves language is as fallacious as the attempt to reduce all time to the present.

C And how is that?

E Repeat the cycle. Read my opening post.

C Ironically, the beleaguering, nonsensical and the ambiguous are actually considered by earlier philosophers as philosophizing. Misleading, that's all i can say of of the post.

E Ah, nothing so sweet as some anachronistic patronizing. Point to the moon and remember your fingertip is not that satellite. Call in some of your allies …, and they can have their way with this issue. Perhaps I'm suffering Anemia Jargonensis! Let's look at "ambiguous". Do you suggest there is possibly a one-to-one formulation of a perfect correlation between words and objects? If not, then ambiguity is ineluctable. Cue Gödel.

C Do you suggest otherwise?

E Of course. Reality is not reducible to language. That's my entire point!

E But if ambiguity is all you want, have fun in the monad with Leibniz.

C Has Wittgenstein ever said that reality is reducible to language?

C Hence the stance that metaphysics makes no sense.

E‎ "Die Grenzen meiner Welt sind auch die Grenzen meiner Sprache." On some readings, this was precisely Witt's goal: to leave a space for the mystical and real world, beyond our own 'mere' worlds.

C You don't just like pick a statement from his notes of a trillion words. One really has to finish the whole thing just to get an idea of what he was actually trying to say.

E Ahhh, yes. One must be a disciple before one can utter any kind of critique. Good to know! Why do you think Witt's Investigations is one of [D.'s] most intellectually significant books?

E Now you're sounding like an inerrantist about Holy Witt, when once you might have been zealous about Holy Writ. By what rule or canon or authority or inspiration can I cull Witt's essential dogmas? After all, 1,000,000,000 notes is a lot of notes to cull.

C Ha, yeah right, maybe the answers to your "challenge" are in these notes he wrote.

E Now you have a worthy goal. Refute my Wittgensteinian maxim with a greater Wittgensteinian maxim. Naskh away!

C Inerrantist? Holy Witt? Dude, you are smoking way too much religions, man. Look at your choice of words for sarcasm. In this case, you are like a creationist who screams at the biologists for their failure to understand biological science. I'm actually hoping that there is something I could learn outa this. But seriously the irony ensues with these attempts to write Wittgenstein off.

E I'm not writing him off. I love Witt, as far as I know him. But if it comes to a standoff between me and him about language and reality, you know where my feet are. And honestly, I think I know where Witt's instincts were, despite everything else.

C I guess, at the end of the day, the goal stills remains that a philosopher must find a way to make sense of all this, yeah?

E I agree, but I still think THAT conclusion itself contains pointers to something beyond what a lot of people make of philosophy, not to mention of Witt.

C Are you that philosopher? Do you have the same goal in mind? Or are you just interested in attacking non-religious, demoralized and metaphysics-rejecting philosophers who jeopardize the path for scholastic philosophy to go on?

E Yeah. That's me all over. Have a look at my blog. I sure hope I make the cut, sir.

C P[hilosophical] I[investigations] is good even without Witt. He himself realized that. That's why he considered philosophy "dead".

E Which is why you are really more a historian than a philosopher.

C I understand why you say such a thing, and again, ironically that historically philosophers who stick to that age-old tradition have always enjoyed emasculating Russell and Witt.

E As if they were one and the same!!?? For shame.

C They have often done a good job at discrediting them as non-philosophers but never really good at solving any problems.

E I mean: AS IF Russell and Wittgenstein were one package to "discredit", and that the facile implication of their unity is for shame.

C You think there are no challenges to the kinda philosophy you cling onto? You ever thought about why back in the US there are more analytic schools than scholastic ones or whatever?

C Do you believe it is possible for non-believers to universally accept that kinda philosophy?

E Tell me more about this /fallacia ad populum/.

C Do you honestly and genuinely believe that people can just all stop questioning things and start to accept eveything once they have entered the realm of scholastic philosophy?

E The Faith is not a philosophy. No one is asked to accept a philosophy. There are oodles of non-Thomist, non-Scotistic, non-Etc., Catholics.

E If you think scholastic philosophy is about dogma, I owe you a hot poker up the bum.

C No, I don't think it's just about dogma. However, you and I both know clearly that it is derived from it.

E Caricature after caricature. But that stands to reason, since Medieval though, and St Thomas, if no one else, is enormous, and can only be painted over by innumerable such caricatures.

C Without it, it cannot survive.

E I'll leave you to your artistry.

C How come in other parts of the world there were no other Aquinas?

C Look into Indian philosophy, perhaps you should be surprised by it.

C I'm not doubting your ability to understand Witt as much as the hidden purpose behind all this challenging. As I've noticed over the years, it has always been driven by an absolutist's attempt to show that nothing else is right except for his own version of philosophical absolutism.

E Thus Spake Wisdom Absolute.

C School me more on this when we meet again, yeah? Let me know if you are free tomorrow.

E I'm a professional educator, so I never intend to "school" people unless I'm being paid. ;)

C Exactly, conveying ideas, namely, communication. And again ironically [you are] the person who has do all the pointing to this "God" and how logic, language, science and ethics can only make sense with the God reasoning while attempting to remind others that it is the fingertip which does the all pointing. Let's see how metaphysics is going to survive after all with all this "you-can't-understand-my-nonsense-because-this-is-genuine-philosophizing". :)

E Make yourself more egregious, please. I thought you were all done.

C I thought you were all done with attacking Witt until last night...

E Thin skin, dude. So now engaging equals attacking? Hmmm... maybe I hould throw in lots of curse words and sexual innuendoes to make it more intellectual in your eyes?

C And that is how you see me? It's a shame. What? 'Cause I don't cling onto tradition like you do?

E I don't "see" you any how.

C And perhaps to you philosophy is all about the tenebrous, the mysterious and problematic linguistic confusion. In this case, I'm not that "philosopher" at whom most scientists laugh at resulting from the stereotype that philosophy is nothing but a bunch of horsecrap.

C Same problems for almost a thousand year. Tell me that Thomas Aquinas has the solution.

E Dude, I don't want this to be about "you" and "me". That's why I joked about the word "schooling" you. That's a completely improper way of loading the discussion. Why does everything have to be adversarial? I posted a thought about what I think is a fundamentally weak argument for linguistic determinism (and Quinean constructivism altogether): Now the Middle Ages is being smeared. Stick to the topic or just drop, please?

C I am not smearing but probing all possibilities to find solutions.

E‎ 'Kay.

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