30 December 2006
08 November 2006
Wittgenstein responds to the challenge posed most strongly by Descartes’ Meditations: having been deceived in the past, how is it that humans can know anything for certain, secure objective knowledge? In order for philosophy and science to proceed, it seems as if this challenge must be satisfied—Cartesian knowledge must be grounded on something immovable. Therefore, Descartes situates the source of knowledge in the uniformity of nature and a priori truths, all of which fall under the concept of the Cartesian rational God. If there is a God who isn’t a deceiver, then humans can know things with certainty. Descartes metaphysical presupposition is that there is a rational God; this God is the ground for the possibility of objective knowledge, and this ground falls before all experience. Only by supposing the existence of God can humans have certainty, and therefore knowledge.
Wittgenstein doesn’t take direct aim at Descartes, though. Rather, he finds a similar type of metaphysical presupposition in a most unlikely place, G. E. Moore’s philosophy. In his attempt to prove the existence of an external world, Moore makes a metaphysical presupposition when he says, “I certainly did at the moment know that which I expressed,” by holding up two hands. He presupposes that he can say meaningfully, and with certainty, the he knows a fact of the type “I have two hands.” Wittgenstein’s criticism is not that such knowledge is impossible, but rather that an utterance like “I know I have two hands” is probably nonsense. That is, Moore presupposes that he can merely, unproblematically say, “I know I have two hands.”
When philosophers use “I know…” Wittgenstein says, “I want to reply ‘you don’t know anything!’—and yet I would not say that to anyone who was speaking without philosophical intention.” This asymmetric response to different utterances of “I know…” gives a demonstration of Wittgenstein’s notion of knowledge and its attendant utterances: knowledge is heavily dependent on a context, and the sense or meaning of the utterance “I know…” depends on the context in which it is used. Moore’s use of “I know…” lacks an appropriate context, and it therefore rests on the same type of metaphysical presupposition that Descartes makes in his Meditations. Moore’s utterance lacks a context within which it would make sense; and Moore’s thinking that it does make sense presupposes a transcendent sense of meaning that must be “further back” from the beginning. For Moore, the meaning of “I know I have two hands” is pre-given and predetermined. The role of context is supposed to replace meaning’s reliance on pre-givenness and predetermination.
The major criticism that Wittgenstein levels against Moore is that he tries to refute the claim that one cannot know things about the world with the claim that he can know; and the way in which Moore makes this claim is by saying things like “I know I have two hands.” The problem with skepticism—and the realism that Moore attempts to prove in order to refute skepticism—is that the meaning of both the skeptic and the realist seems to hang in mid-air. But this is not to say that Wittgenstein’s aim is to ground knowledge. The attempt to ground knowledge is precisely what Wittgenstein tries to end. His aim seems paradoxical: he both tries to point out the groundlessness of our knowledge, and to point out the objectivity of our knowledge. Therefore, Wittgenstein’s project in On Certainty is to remove the desire for a ground to objectivity.
However, I forgot how good is Interpol. Man. This is like my second or third favorite video ever maybe.
I think I saw that the director, Italian whats-her-name, directed a film or a music video or something. She's the one that's dancing.
07 November 2006
It's midterm election time. Just go out and vote. Of course, I read in Good Magazine last month that your vote doesn't matter.
Midterm elections are so uninteresting that political scientists have been able to write an equation for them:
Y1= B0+B1P1+B2 (âˆ†E1)+u1
Edward Tufte's 1975 Economic Theory of Midterm Elections states that people vote for or against the president's party based solely on his approval ratings and their disposable income. Those lawn signs, local ads, and even the candidates themselves are irrelevant. The equation is more accurate than pre-election Gallup polls. And an easy way to outwonk your dorkiest friends. You want to end an argument with a poli-sci major, just start doing math.
So, uh. Yeah. I'm listening to that Fugazi album, smoking some cloves, editing a book about politics for a local writer, and I've got, like, three TVs strapped to my head to catch all the election day results as soon as they're frickin' available.
I'm not at work work today! (I work as a tutor at some local schools.) Every kid in Santa Fe gets the day off because it's election day. How sweet is that? Growing up in upstate NY, I'd never get such a frivolous day off because administrators knew that we needed our bullshit days to use as snow days. And if we didn't use all our snow days, well, we'd get out of school early.
I swear to god, these kids go to school less and less. That sounds like what my parents used to say. But when I say it it's true. But it's only cause the kids do go to school less and less--they always "ditch." The word "ditch" means to skip school. I don't know why they don't just say "skip," but "ditch" sounds OK. Anyway, they always ditching. Or, as they say, "deetcheeeeeeng."
I don't know why, but I get a lot more hits on my blog now that I don't write very often. Over the summer I would write every day. No one read it. Except for that one time I fucked with Ilm. Good times.
06 November 2006
Largehearted Boy linked to this top-33 Canadian musicians list that reminded me that I really like the Diableros. I even learned that the song of theirs that I most like has a video.
The other day I was in Borders, where I like to pick up (literally) books. I like to leaf or flip through them. I picked up this Robert Creeley book b/c I heard he was, like, in tight with Robert Lowell. Yeah, about that. Creeley does something totally diff. from Lowell; but they're both awesome. (I go to school with a writer who used to hang out with Creeley. I have to remember to ask him about the one eye thing.)
Since I picked up (figuratively) the book, I'm only a few pages into it. I noticed that the first volume, The Charm, has a lot to do with being lonely and one's relation to the interior and exterior, and how this is mediated by streets and doors. I really like this 'un.
Quiet as is proper for such places;
The street, subdued, half-snow, half-rain,
Endless, but ending in the darkened doors.
Inside, they who will be there always,
Quiet as is proper for such people--
Enough for now to be here, and
To know my door is one of these.
Notice the similarities to Ben Jonson's succinct, well-punctuated verse. Artifice through good old hard work.
Ghostface is rumored to be working on a new album, More Fish. I really like Ghostface, and I really really like this song that is supposed to be on the new album.
01 November 2006
Oh yeah I wish I could be like this guy. [Gawker]
Brian, a 26-year-old M.F.A. candidate in fiction, earns a modest living from teaching, assisting professors, and writing magazine articles. His parents pay his tuition as well as a $140-a-month gym membership at Equinox. The rent for his half of a West Village two-bedroom is $1,800 a month, most of it covered by his parents. Each month, Brian pays $125 for cable and Internet access,$59.31 on his Verizon cell-phone bill, and $96.67 for a shared desk at Paragraph, a writing space.I thought that, like, Starbucks was a "writing space." There're about eight things wrong with this character(ization).
I probably constituted this meaning a little askew, though, through a vaseline-smeared lens of schadenfreude. How I wish I were one of the few, the proud: the (rich) parent-supported. I'm sitting here looking at two ppl, a guy and a girl, eating some sandwiches at the counter. They're dressed in fatigues, and the guy has a little nick on the back of his buzzcut head. And a weak chin. The guy just got up to grab a napkin and I saw his name sewn on his uniform. "Fike." I bet MFA Brian has nice features, and his $1,680/annum gym membership probably keeps him in better shape than military training. His heart, I'm sure, is stronger for not having to fear the fall of a mortarshell, shrapnel and rubble flying, and the immanent loss of limb that should follow. I'd give anything not to have to support myself; I'd join the army too if I didn't think it would fuck me up, which would thereby negate or render useless the whole end behind not having to support myself.
23 October 2006
I discovered this social networking site called MOG. Shit's fucking sweet.
15 October 2006
I'm just saying, but this Girl Talk is pure synergy. Big Music should buy this dude so that he can make crazy, legal tracks and just destroy. Eh. About T.I., he sez,
T.I.: "What You Know"
This was pretty much the rap anthem of 2006. I really like the synths on it.
which is quite the understatement. (Ironic, coming from the most recent king of overstatement, if such a title could be said to exist.) Buzzsaw synths, faux-choir synths, string section synths--fucking Christ. I've loved this song since I first heard it driving around Albuquerque over the past summer. Even though my car doesn't have a CD player, moments like these make me realize I'm never wanting for music. I'd never have heard this song otherwise.
07 October 2006
28 September 2006
27 September 2006
So I got a shitload of albums last night: The first two Eric B. & Rakim; Low End Theory; Raising Hell; The Chronic; Hard to Earn; By All Means Necessary; Straight Outa Compton; Doe or Die; Let's Get Free; Dr. Octagonecologyst; It Takes a Nation; E 1999 Eternal; A Book of Human Language; The Infamous; Masters of the Universe; and Funcrusher Plus. I loaded up only hip-hop albums on my ipod. I really can't connect w/Tupac; I only have that one song with the jacked Bruce Hornsby piano hook. So fuck all y'all haters: Tupac sucks. Just one man's opinion.
I do things like this project of trying to get really into hip-hop all the time. I don't know why. I still listen to non-hip-hop at home. I got Slint's Spiderland last night, which is fabulous. Will Oldham even took the picture on the front cover! What an awesome album. I'm listening to the Killers' new album, Sam's Town. It's OK so far: This is my first listen. There aren't any immediately horrible-sounding songs (c.f., that song on Hot Fuss with the chorus: "I got soul but I'm not a soldier"). Eh.
I was thinking last night that Aristotle necessarily begs in the Metaphysics the question of Intelligence's being the first cause and first substance. Using something like a primitive hypothetic-deductive form of reasoning, Aristotle simply posits the existence of a surprisingly large number of things, of which he proves a surprisingly little number. I feel I could modus tollens his modus ponens and end the argument with as much ambiguity and doubt as his reasonings (at times). I admit it's deeply unsatisfying for there to be no cause as such; but it should be incumbent on Aristotle to prove such a claim. Kant, I think, does a better job of proving his metaphysics. Well, I'm still working on that. I haven't read nearly enough Aristotle. He's in no way a source of my opprobrium. I'm merely skeptical as to how convincing Aristotle makes his argument.
25 September 2006
I was in London when the Strokes' second album dropped. I bought it. (Two U.K.-versions, sweet!) Well, not so sweet. But that one song that sounds like the soundtrack to a prom, Under Control, well. That one's pretty much the best song they did. OK. (Side note [one that I think I've made before--but goddamn it's important]: This Ryan Dombal from Pfork wrote a track review of some stupid shit the Strokes did recently and he and I agree, the Strokes are better at these slow, dancy soul-ish songs.)
I was in Santa Fe when the Strokes' last album leaked to the Internets. I got it and I deleted it in the same sitting. Fuck the Strokes, fuck David Cross, fuck expensive music videos--fuck Juicebox.
So when I was taking a shower this morning (got to wrap this up, time to go to an eye exam) I was thinking and singing and I was thinking about why the Strokes suck now.
1) They don't tell stories anymore (c.f., New York City Cops, Soma, Modern Age, Barely Legal [basically all of Is This It].)
2) They don't sound lo-fi anymore. Not that they ever sounded like Bob Pollard, but the albums get more and more clearer and less and less awesome-sounding.
But I still think they were the most important band of the aughts.
24 September 2006
I'm drinking this white tea that I got and it's good. All teas that one's likely to buy in a regular-type (i.e., non-Whole Foods) supermarket are made from the same tea leaves (for the most part). The color of the tea--black, green, (red?), white--is determinable by the duration of time in which a tea is roasted. The process is like that in processing coffee. White tea is roasted least.
I got Kaplan's 2007 GRE book, and I've got to say that I feel a lot better about taking the GRE now. I'm not certain that I want anymore to study Wittgenstein. (This path, which takes the form of a, say, Hegelian dialectic, is familiar; something seems awesome, but once I'm sufficiently immersed I realize it's not so awesome.) I'll figure something out.
I'm glad to see Matt Hasselbeck decided to throw the fucking ball. I still started McNabb and that's going pretty well for me. Have to play next week by ear. Well, actually. It seems now like I'm going to some guy's house to watch the Bears play Seattle and the Bears are home; so I think McNabb will be my starter for the time being. My fantasy team was all kind of injured, and I totally forgot I had Clinton Portis. This week was going great until I looked at the Washington box score and then realizations and questions and screaming and all that shit ensued. Why didn't I start Portis>!~>#?! I didn't even know he was still alive, though.
This blog thing isn't so fun anymore. But as things turned out, I had to take off from life this week. I might be more apt to write now that we're resuming our normal viewing schedule.
13 September 2006
12 September 2006
When we talk about things like knowledge and belief, we tend to use vertical-spatial metaphors: foundation; base; grounded; at the bottom. Wittgenstein’s spatial metaphors tend to subvert such vertical-spatial images. He’s fond of using the house as a metaphor for these epistemological concerns. Instead of the foundation holding up the rest of the house, he says “these foundation-walls are carried by the whole house” (248). Wittgenstein’s imagery follows from his desire to question continually the human impulse to speaks as if belief and certainty really were grounded, founded upon, based etc. For belief, he gives a stunning image that reorients this desire to ground, saying,
We believe, so to speak, that this great building exists, and then we see, now here, now there, one or another small corner of it. (276)
which is drawn to contrast with the notion that we build up our beliefs from some foundation, and upon these beliefs we pile more and more until we have some sort of certainty-orienting edifice. This image of Wittgenstein’s gives the lie to such a notion, though, in a remarkable way. When we’re fit to question them, our beliefs already exist. That is, there already exists “this great building”, our beliefs. The idea that we consciously build up our system of beliefs one piece at a time, always going by means of logical entailment from one to the other is shown false by a simple thought experiment. If someone asks you if you believe you’ve descended from great-great-great-grandparents; or if someone asks you if you believe you haven’t, say, descended from felines; or some such other strange-sounding—yet obviously true—notion, you would say, “Yes, I believe…”. Just by being human in a human society one’s larder of belief comes well-stocked. Such beliefs (e.g., “I believe I descended from great-great-great-grandparents
There is a reason why it seems like we have an infinite supply of beliefs about which we’ve never thought; and this reason also underlies Wittgenstein’s main point that beliefs actually resist vertical-spatial metaphors: We don’t acquire single beliefs—i.e., single propositions—but, rather, we acquire whole systems of beliefs, whole systems of propositions (141). Prefiguring the “great building” metaphor, Wittgenstein says, “Light dawns gradually over the whole” (141). A person cannot believe one belief in isolation, that is, exclusively. Even the simplest sort of belief, such as “I believe I live here” relies on other beliefs: the belief that my language itself makes sense; the belief that I haven’t fallen prey to a deceptive plot; etc. More well-developed beliefs rely on an even wider net of beliefs. The belief that the Cardinals will win the World Series relies on beliefs about the Cardinals’ personnel; beliefs about the game of baseball; beliefs about the efficacy of baseball’s officiating; beliefs about the fairness and uniformity of the game’s rules; and so on.
This picture of belief may seem like it could support a foundational-type notion of belief. But the picture does not if what one means by “foundational-type notion of belief” is that there will be a certain belief upon which all other beliefs rest. But this isn’t to say that there are no such things as well-founded beliefs. For example, when I say, “I believe I’m a human being”, I’m uttering a well-founded belief. Within my whole system of beliefs, this belief is heavily relied upon by many other beliefs. I have no beliefs that seem remotely to contradict this belief. It’s very firmly rooted within my system. As Wittgenstein says, a belief isn’t firmly rooted because it seems a priori true, but, “it is rather held fast by what lies around it” (144). It’s never occurred to me that I believe that I’m human, but as I write this, it’s as if a light shone upon this belief and exposed many other beliefs standing about it that could hardly fail me. Just as I believe I’m human, I also believe my name is Brian Payne; I believe I live in Santa Fe, NM; I believe I attended such and such a high school; and I believe that these are all normal human beliefs. But none of these beliefs ground another of them: They are all mutually dependent upon one another, like threads woven into a wall hanging. Certain threads could even be removed from the wall hanging and the picture would still be intelligible; but if too many were removed, the wall hanging would lose its coherence and it would cease to represent anything. However, no one thread is the most important thread, and no one thread serves as the foundation for the rest of them. Concerning beliefs we find that at the bottom of things there is, as it were, no bottom. That is, there is no foundation for well-founded beliefs (253).
This wall hanging is not a museum piece: It isn’t public. This isn’t to deny the notion of widely held beliefs; i.e., there are beliefs that are shared by many. Comparing “I believe” to “I know” best shows the idea at which I’m getting. If someone were to say, “I know there’s a God” one would have to ask how it is he knows. Does this person who knows there’s a God have a proof? Has he been privileged to divine revelation? Etc. But what could one say to the person who says, “I believe there’s a God”? Wittgenstein retorts, “If his opponents had asserted that one could not believe this and that, then he could have replied: ‘I believe it’” (520). A belief doesn’t pretend to assert a truth about a state of affairs. A belief asserts something about the believer, something about which the believer may be wrong; but the belief is not something that is open to public correction. (An utterance of the form “I know…” is open to public correction.) It seems possible that a people is persecuted for its religious beliefs precisely because of this feature of belief. Unlike something for which one needs to give an account—i.e., an “I know…” utterance—a belief requires no account. If there needs be no evidence for a belief, then there may be no evidence against a belief.
11 September 2006
07 September 2006
I finally get The Knife.
I finally got Joanna Newsom's Ys. (A great story: Pfork leaked the album. Great.)
Indietorrents is awesome.
I apologize for this being such a link-happy post; but I'm really wiped out and I need to save my strength for drinking lots of beer and dodging bullets.
06 September 2006
Keeping in mind Wittgenstein's view of language-game, it seems obvious that he shares something with Hegel, who said, "Philosophy is its own time raised to the level of thought."
For the man who said,
6.4311 Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.what signifance could death have? I don't have any more to say.
05 September 2006
An intelligent way of doing philosophy is to divide up the words we use and examine their usage, like a glossary. 'Natch.
Belief is something personal, and it's largely ungrounded. When the "I believe" is uttered, something is expressed, which one hardly wishes to give up. It's possible for the "I believe" to refer to something obviously false. The utterance doesn't open up itself to criticism, rather persuasion.
The "I know" is a public utterance; it raises the "I believe" to the level of community. By uttering the "I know", one opens herself up to criticism--but also praise. In this way does knowledge solidify. What interests me are different ways of transmitting knowledge, and the different circumstances surrounded the "I know". It seems to me that knowledge is acknowledgement. When the "I know" is uttered, it may then be rejected. For it to gain purchase it must be accepted. The "I know" is uttered; and acknowledgment is sought. When another acknowledges your "I know", then something like knowledge is.
Like the Arts, philosophy is practiced and crafted in order that the world--the community--gives its practitioner understanding. The transmission of knowledge (which is something like philosophy) moves in different ways. Just for example, knowledge can be taken; sought; offered; hidden; or forced upon. This last, forced upon, is a method that interests me. I don't think it's the right method, but I've somewhat given up the notion of right methods. But there is something seductive about knowledge, which is forced upon. Prophets, poets and politicians find often that forcing upon, besetting people with language, is the most efficacious means for making themselves understood. I disagree with this view. There is something I would call destructive philosophy, and something I'd call constructive philosophy; and the two would roughly correspond to the appetitive and the rational. Yet I'm tempted to regard Plato's method--dialectic--as destructive.
The inevitable shift with which I started this post has taken for me the form of a denial. To deny while cultivating beauty, God and community. Never to impose, yet never to hold back.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing.
Ah, whom can we ever turn to in our need?
Not angels, not humans, and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.
Perhaps there remains for us some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take into our vision;
there remains for us yesterday's street and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.
01 September 2006
This morning I answered an email from Ruth Minnikin. She's a singer that sounds kind of like an old lady; or a young girl. I'd say she's kind of like Joanna Newsom in that you can't describe her voice well. Well, that's why God made mp3s. (And Real Player streams.)
Ruth Minnikin - Angel At the Dawn (from Wrestle the Future to the Fucking Ground [itself a good thing.])
Ruth Minnikin SaysTo be rerecorded for my new album. The words came from a war poet's poem written in 1917 by James Lyons from Manchester (public domain). I wrote the melody and music after being asked to donate a song for a British compilation (it hasn't been released yet).
31 August 2006
What sort of proposition is: "What could a mistake here be like!"? It would have to be a logical proposition. But it is a logic that is not used, because what it tells us is not learned through propositions.--It is a logical proposition; for it does describe the conceptual (linguistic) situation.A logical proposition describes the conceptual situation? I suppose that makes sense. Again, contra Ramsey, logic isn't a normative science. But that's not to say that it's all willy-nilley. I hate it when you say something controversial, and the interpretation that follows carries what you say to the most wild, stupid conclusion. Just because logic isn't normative, and it's rather descriptive, doesn't mean that logic is meaningless. It's still a strict taskmaster. But there's a difference between a boss that makes you show up on time, and a boss that let's you come in whenever you'd like. Similarly, a boss that demands the impossible. And the impossible can mean different things in different situations.
30 August 2006
29 August 2006
I'm burnt well out. I'm writing the great american novel. I'm a singer in the band. I'm trying to do everything. I can't. Every moment of my waking time could be spent doing what I would call work. I've been sleeping little and seeing the world through lover's eyes, fresh and confused.
This article is awesome. Too bad it's from the W$J. Oh well!
Much in the way Elvis fans travel to Graceland, Mr. Gould's admirers make pilgrimages to Ottawa from as far away as Japan to commune with the Gould artifacts on public display, which include his Steinway piano and the battered wooden chair he used instead of a piano stool for all his concerts and recording sessions. "People cry when they see the piano," says Richard Green, interim director of the music section at the Library and Archives. "They love to touch it." Aficionados also visit Toronto to see the red-brick house where the pianist lived as a child and to eat the Hungarian soup he favored at a diner called Fran's.
28 August 2006
Well, this just in: LA is gentrified. Sounds like Santa Fe:
Gelato. Back in the 1990s, coffeehouses were a pivotal sign of gentrification, showing buyers of means that a neighborhood was ready for its close-up — and a low-fat, no-foam latte. Espresso-based businesses generated street life, the air of Italian sophistication and an addicted customer base willing to pay obscene prices. The glamour began to fade, however, once Starbucks started grafting itself onto laundromats. Gelato shops – which offer a cream-free form of ice cream — are the new hubs of neo-Italian excitement, pushing a neighborhood from middle to upper class.
25 August 2006
I went to Saint John's for registration; what a clusterfuck.
I still haven't done any philosophy lately. I'm working towards a proposition in On Certainty, which is around 501, that says something along the lines of, Am I not getting closer and closer to saying that in the end logic cannot be described? It's a beautiful section, about 30 propositions deep. I can't help but picture Wittgenstein sitting in a room with a chair, a desk and a bed. That bed is his deathbed. He's sitting next to his deathbed banging up against the limits of his language. He's trying to say things; and he says things. Some things maybe go beyond this limit and he's inadvertently speaking nonsense: But he knows it. He often runs his hands through his hair, and then he gets up and stalks the perimeter of the room, pacing lengthwise over and over. He sits down again and writes that he's approaching saying that logic can't be described. But, of course, to say such a thing is to describe logic. He's running up against the apparent paradox concerning boundary-concepts that Kant ran up against in the Critique of Pure Reason: I.e., that the phenomenal is what we experience and the noumenal is the limit of our experience, a purely negative concept. A boundary-concept. Of course you'd like to say, This is it! This object is a noumenon--it cannot be an object of experience. But if you could say that, then the object would be an object of experience. There isn't even a last object of experience; there's only non-experience. A negative concept.
Something like an object of non-experience is an utterance of nonsense. Earlier (around 200 in OC) Wittgenstein says that logically, Moore is certain that he has two hands. To say you know it is nonsense, because, for one reason, the negation, I don't know I have two hands, is nonsense. This typification has to do with a logic to this language-game. (God, hyphens are ugly. This must be why Joyce abhorred hyphens [but not em-dashes instead of inverted commas for dialogue].) Logic in this situation can't be described. Is the feeling one gets upon hearing an illogical proposition something like the feeling of uncanniness? Of not being home, of something vague and spectral that's just wrong? I think it could be. I'm going to do a closer reading of the relevant passages this weekend.
Why not put together the Viennese writers of the early 20c? (I.e., Freud and Wittgenstein.) This isn't a methodological or ideological likening; it's putting two men together in a time and a place; ideas are local because customs and institutions are local.
24 August 2006
I didn't go to work today. I still heard about the Hitler restaurant in Mumbai or whatever. Fuck that. (Talking Points Memoist Jonah Whatshisname raised a good point when he said we don't mind Soviet kitsch but we abhor Nazi kitsch. I guess the Jews have more clout than the Kulaks or something?)
I watched Devotchka last night. They were ok. Ok, I'm going.
23 August 2006
Such a criticism fails to distinguish between certainty and knowledge. Knowledge, which will be dealt with in more detail, is public—it depends on other people, a consensus view, as it were. Certainty, though, is a personal affair. As Wittgenstein says, “Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgment” (328). This dictum helps to distinguish between knowledge and certainty. One would never acknowledge (in the usual usage of the word) that he’s certain of something. There are situations that may call for one’s saying, “I am certain of…”; but this usage is not the same as saying, “I know…”; the latter is an acknowledgement of a piece of discourse, a so-called truth. Such an acknowledgement takes place in a public sphere. To make sense of this distinction, think of something that only you could be said to know, your favorite color for instance. To say that you know your favorite color is to go only as far as saying that you have a favorite color. Saying you know your favorite color could be called for by a situation, someone doubting whether you have a favorite color, maybe. But it’s a piece of unnecessary verbiage to say, “I know my favorite color; it’s orange.” It is not so unnecessary to say, though, “I know the capital of the U.S.; it’s Washington”. The reason for this distinction is that knowledge hinges upon the ability for a state of affairs to be or not be the case; that is, for the negation of a knowledge proposition to make sense. To say, “I don’t know my favorite color” (assuming, though, that you have one) would be a piece of nonsense. To say, “I don’t know the capital of the U.S.” merely shows an ignorance. This asymmetry between knowledge and certainty hinges on the public nature of knowledge versus the private nature of non-knowledge propositions of the type dealing with favorite colors, pain or fear. Such a private proposition should not be regarded as part of a language, which is shared by people; nor should it be regarded as a piece of knowledge, for it’s impossible for one to be wrong about such a proposition. Something about which it’s impossible to be wrong underlies our entire system of knowing and speaking.
So, as I was saying, my hobby... Yesterday I commented on a Wall Street Journal article and I got a lot of hits. It was a good article, yes. Today I tried the same thing, and I've gotten almost no hits. Everyone busy? I hate commenting on the WSJ because most people can't read the relevant article. So, with that said, I'm putting a moratorium on WSJ-commenting. I'm sticking to the Gray Lady.
I haven't done any philosophy lately. I'm going home tonight and I'm going to work through the rest of the instances of "comes to an end", which I found using Amazon's handy Look Inside feature, all instances in On Certainty. I.e., "But explanations come to an end." What does that mean? It means, actually, quite a few things. Coming to an end is in a way reducible to acting or action, but attendant to coming to an end is a whole intellectual outlook that remains, unfortunately, quite foreign to most people. Coming to an end hinges on a coherence epistemological model; it hinges on language-games; it hinges on certainty and knowledge; it hinges on a long perspective regarding all the preceding. It's an infinitely interesting phenomenon to me. To say that explanations come to an end (therefore, do, don't think) seems out of hand to preclude innovations in explanation. Maybe. But who really is doing the (real/pertinent/exciting/edifying/good) explaining? Not the philosophers.
...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.when I read this story from the WSJ today. It seems Tom Cruise has been dropped by Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures. The reason? (What the fuck do you think?)
"It's nothing to do with his acting ability, he's a terrific actor," said Mr. Redstone. "But we don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot."Notice a few things about what Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone said. It has nothing to do with Cruise's "acting ability". I haven't seen a Tom Cruise movie since, say, Jerry Maguire. And his early stuff? Risky Business, Cocktail, Rainman? Super! But I imagine that, as filmmaking technology changes, so too changes the demand put on actors. I haven't seen any recent Tom Cruise movies lately, but I've seen the commercials all over the fucking place. It must be hard to act in front of a blue screen. Yes, I'm talking to you War of the Worlds, Minority Report and Mission Impossible III. Anyway, Cruise's acting ability has nothing to do with this.
But why did Redstone say that Cruise "effectuates [sic] creative suicide"? Doesn't the "creative" denote something artistic, say, acting ability? I suppose the two cancel each other out. The decision is acting-based neutral. Now, when Redstone says, "costs the company revenue", now there's the ticket. Cruise, having went off the deep end, obviously costs parent company Viacom tons of money. Or, well, he doesn't earn as much money... But that's almost the same thing. OK.
That said, and even with all the riches of Tom Cruise, I think this decision makes him a little more holy. Now you might think there are millions of paths to the one true god God, the Father, who sits to the left of his Son, Jesus. I do, too. Getting fired can only help Cruise's spirituality and soothe his soul, really prepare it, for the time when he's ready to embrace a real religion, Christianity. (Probably on his death bed.)
This trend, though, is a little disturbing. Are we having another Red Scare in Hollywood? Are there going to be commissions set up to publicly persecute those who practice strongly their religious beliefs? First Mel Gibson gets shafted by Disney for being an Anti-Semite (really, is there a faith with a longer history?) and now Cruise gets cut for being a Scientologist. (I can only hope Will Farrell becomes some sort of crazy, multiple-wife-having Mormon Scientist who refuses to use contraceptives and fathers, like, 100 children in illegal marriages. Come on trifecta!)
22 August 2006
--It's still called a paper, dude. Even if it is online, it's still a paper.
--Really. Why do you think they have print and online editions? They're editions of the paper.
--Well, it's just like how people call condoms rubbers--they're not made of rubber: That's just what they're still called.
--Yeah. So I was read an article about how this group of, like, investors made money off this hedge fund. And, yeah, and, like, Rocky invested money and he made all this money and now the other investors want the money back because Rocky, like, cashed out before they all lost their money.
--Yeah, he's the one that played Rocky.
--No, that's On the Waterfront. How the fuck can you confuse those two?
--Anyway, so other people are suing, like, these hedge fund people. The people that lost money. And, like, this one guy said the funniest thing. This guy that was involved in this, like, hedgefund run by Bayou Management said,
Individuals who profited "should be sharing the pain," says Jeff Marwil, the federal trustee in charge of liquidating Bayou. "Our goal is to equalize in a fair and equitable fashion."--[...]
--Yeah. The stupid fucker was investing his money in a hedgefund and he has the fuckin stones, to, like, spout some socialist workers' union shit about fairness and equality. I don't think that, like, Fidel is all going to Prudential or whatever shit and sayin, like, Hey invest our money. We need to make tons and tons of money to, like, distribute it to the people in a fair and equitable fashion. Investment bankers are, like, the antithesis of socialists.
--Yeah. He should stop working 80 hour weeks and start hanging out in coffee shops and smoke clove cigarettes. Fuckin hippie.
I feel like "area man". I can't help but think that I ruined it for everyone. That, or I'm going to get fired. We got an office memo this morning reminding us not to take mobile phone calls and to clock out for lunch, etc. I do the former and don't do the latter. You might think that I deserve to be fired, but this just is how the office was introduced to me. Super casual, eat a sandwich on the clock and so forth. Look's like the summer's almost over. They're a Buck Mulligan/Haines to my Dedalus. A Surgeon General to my Big Tobacco. A seal to my oil spill. My bosses are, that is. I have to get off my ass and do some real work, anyway. It's time.
I saw a friend last night. We had some adventures: preseason Monday Night Football; trying to bribe a pimply store clerk to sell us Madden '07 a day early; crime fighting; ill fate and abundant wine. He's quite a fan of Alphonso Lingus. I don't know what to make of this Lingus, but he seems to like Che. The friend of my enemy is my enemy, I guess. But who the fuck am I to say who Che is? Is he a socialist dictator, a bloodthirsty, delusional tyrant? The Reign of Terror repersonified in Latin America? Is he a hero of the people and boon to tshirt manufacturers worldwide? Something onto which one projects his revolutionary dreams and fears, a rorchach test? The latter, I think.
Nevertheless, it's time to be courageous. That's true. Courage is neglected or vilified. Courage isn't NFL players or soldiers or doctors or Donald Rumsfeld. Courage is the unity of thought and action where action is primary and thought is an epiphenomenon, a savoring of one's own action. It's a freedom of the will's to raise itself up to the level of thought through manifest courage. Courage sets us free of the bondage of language and thought. The rational, appetetive and courageous need balance; too often the latter two are quashed and denied. The courageous and hungry are an antidote to our superrational authoritarian times. I'm sick of the sly, bookish people's being, which is bonded to the grounds of seclussion. Parlor games and academic frippery. Beauty and nobility must be draped on the lithe frame of courage. Yeah, I'll, uh, stick with that.
21 August 2006
I made a late start of the day because of having to go to the MVD (motor vehicle department). Isn't it supposed to be DMV? The signs leading up there couldn't even agree; they alternated between MVD and DMV the whole time.
Shakespeare got to get paid. No time for philosophy or even blogging today.
19 August 2006
DFW is the most talented living American writer. When he was younger he seemed a little too precocious and in love with his own ability. But his last few books show something new, something that he even proclaimed in his essay on Dostoevsky from Remember the Lobster. His writing now has a moral gravitas. And if you know me, you know that I'm all about moral gravitas. Something about recovering from sin. It's appealling. But, so. DFW maintains his technical genius while aiming it precise like a laser at Things That Matter.
His article on Federer, for example. It seems at first that he's writing about Aesthetics. As something transcendental, something that urges us to go past the bounds of language (a task in which we fail), this tack would seem aimed at something that Matters.
The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.
You more have to come at the aesthetic stuff obliquely, to talk around it, or — as Aquinas did with his own ineffable subject — to try to define it in terms of what it is not.
he looks like what he may well (I think) be: a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow,
Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.
Within this smattering of breathless talk about the Aesthetic value of Federer's game, DFW intersperses technical detail. No surprise. But if I'm correct in assuming that DFW decided early on (likely just after his debut, Broom of the System) that he wanted to be a Serious Writer, he realized something: There is nothing higher than the transcendent. The variety of descriptions one desires to use have the form of analogy, simile and metaphor. DFW uses these well. And I don't make a claim for his originality here, but I think he realized another avenue to the transcendent--exhaustion. He exhausts subjects with comprehensivness, vocabulary, descriptive overload and technical detail. Endless chains of chemical formulas and syntheses; in-depth descriptions of the inner workings of cruise ships; being a floating eyeball at a porn festival. Through exhaustion of subject matter DFW manifests something higher: boredom, ennui, loathing, frailty, desire, exhaustion itself. DFW makes through sheer persistence of assertion through structure a narrative framework that is itself unsupported yet self-sustaining. He manifests Ethical and Aesthetic problems and solutions.
(I'm running up against the limits of my language.)
At first I thought it was a DFWian trope. He has little ticks, little verbal-descriptive-narrative ticks. He early in the article described the final cointoss for the serve in the match between Federer and Nadal. A child who had overcome cancer tossed the coin.
Later, at the top of page 4 DFW interpolated a little bit of seemingly unrelated data about the child with the cancer. For a little gravitas, right. He uses this technique and it's pretty neat. He did it all the time in his 9/11 essay and his McCain essay and, well, all the time in Infinite Jest. Neat, an interpolation.
Another neat thing about DFW's style is the footnote thing. You might hate it, 'natch. But in this essay--wow. I quoted the body's final paragraph above, it's the last quote. It seems to wrap up the body-Aesthetic thing a little. It's a little bit of fluff. But the final footnote really ends the article. It ends it a few paragraphs before the article actually ends in the body.
DFW takes the same path that, say, Blake took in writing Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence. Little lamb, who made thee? Tiger, what immortal hand or eye formed thy fearful symmetry? The Big Thing: how could the creator of the lamb, so meek and mild, be also the creator of the Tiger, of burning bright in the forests of the night fame. This might not be that interesting of a question. But DFW makes the same move.
One wouldn’t want to make too much of it, or to pretend that it’s any sort of equitable balance; that would be grotesque. But the truth is that whatever deity, entity, energy, or random genetic flux produces sick children also produced Roger Federer, and just look at him down there. Look at that.
But there's more. The "just look at him down there. Look at that" reemphasizes the Aesthetic concern. White liberal guilt, maybe, necessitates such a concern, but: Why isn't DFW writing a prolix, verball impressive and sure to be widely-read article about children with cancer? Why is he at Wimbledon? In the lap of luxury? Watching a sport? As much work as it is to compete, watching sports is something of a leisure activity. Tennis? LaCoste? Isn't all a little bourgeoise?
But DFW almost anticipates this concern. It would be grotesque to think that, say, a million cancerous children equals one Roger Federer. But there is something transcendent to a Federer. Trying to get at this transcendental-ness, isn't this a worthy task? If you can't heal sick children, what better alternative is there than to give sustenance to the human faculty that values physical genius and spiritual rectitude? Even in a fluff piece on tennis, DFW continues to make a bid at being The Serious Writer. (Compare this piece to his piece on Michael Joyce from Esquire. But there is no comparison [as the saying goes]: It's the difference between a church and a stripclub.)
18 August 2006
Wittgenstein puts it well when he says, “The difficulty is to realize the groundlessness of our believing” (166). This isn’t to say that our beliefs are unjustified; but they may appear unjustified if we keep asking for justification on top of justification. Such an interrogation of justification leads inevitably to an infinite regress. When we set out to test an empirical proposition there must be something that is not justified. Wittgenstein asks,
Now am I to say that the experiment which perhaps I make in order to test the truth of a proposition presupposes the truth of the proposition that the apparatus I believe I see is really there (and the like)? (163).
and I believe the answer must be, “No.” It’s not a criticism to say that “scientific disinterest” or the “scientific method” is itself a presupposition. To criticize the scientific method, say, in such a manner—i.e., to say that the scientific method itself presupposes the validity of its methods and that there is such a thing as the outside world—is to share similar presuppositions. Such a critic shares, for instance, the presupposition that the world exists. He shares the presupposition that a method must be valid to have value. He shares the presupposition of the criterion of truth. He is already within “our system,” so to speak. To have such an argument makes manifest a shared system of discourse, a shared culture. This point answers in affirmative Wittgenstein’s question, “Doesn’t testing come to an end” (164)? In a way, a person sacrifices his good faith facility for doubting when he acts with certainty. If you can ask a question, such as “How do you know you’re not dreaming?” I wouldn’t know how to respond. For if I am dreaming, then I’m also dreaming your question—it would seem that this state of affairs would render your criticism senseless. (If I have a dream in which someone tells me that I’m the President, should I expect to be President upon waking?) On the other hand, shouldn’t your questioning whether I’m dreaming be proof enough that I’m not dreaming; that is, unless you happen to be dreaming. (I don’t know what it would be to exist as a figment in someone’s dream.) The clichéd response to a situation in which one thinks she may be dreaming is to pinch herself. The underlying assumption behind the act, I think, is to give oneself a painful enough stimulus to awaken from any sleep. It’s conceivable that one would then awaken into another dream. But even in dreams, one would eventually start acting, doing things. If you went through your whole day in a dream, and as you went to bed that night you woke up to the real world—faced with another day to go through—your two days would be indiscernible.
This situation is a fine analogy for the kind of phenomenon that Wittgenstein describes. Our everyday action is as ungrounded as a dream action. This isn’t a criticism, because criticism seems to imply a higher standard than what’s actually before us. A potential critic our system of action, certainty, belief and knowledge comes from one of two places—a higher vantage or a different system altogether. Wittgenstein’s point is that there is nothing higher. The system that he sees everyone using is, simply put, a human system. A god would be higher, but it would be neither wrong nor right; for, “In order to make a mistake, a man must already judge in conformity with mankind” (156). There must already exist a practice to which to compare any given thing.
* * *
I've rediscovered the Kings of Leon. I was in London when the hype landed, which, after thudding, had little impact anywhere else. I guess America had had enough of CCR. But the Kings manage to compress, say, the greatness of Proud Mary into 2.5 minute pop songs. Their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak got such a bad rap; but I think it's significantly better than their debut. The song structures are weird! They're like the southern Bob Pollard (sometimes) with songs that last well under 3 minutes. Some of them are just a hook, or a chorus. For this the were rewarded how??
Their music is often referred to as Southern Rock, although it doesn't rock at all-- it lacks force, velocity, and power.
Well, then. You know what--fuck Pitchfork. Forget I namechecked CCR. Forget how critics overuse words like 'damaged' when describing unconventional genre-fuckers. The Kings are awesome. They make damaged pop songs. They seem to have fabricated their backstory, but that shows they were on the cutting edge of American Art. (C.f. LeRoi, JT; Frey, James; Blair, Jayson.)
Oh yeah, how's about this. I couldn't remember that Blair guy's name. (Popmatters had a great story on him, though; I shoulda remembered.) So I
But aridiculous thing strikes me:
The passage supra was deemed unworthy for human comsumption.
17 August 2006
The series of propositions starting with 24 begin for the first salvo against sloppy usage. Flying in the face of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend logic, Wittgenstein takes issue against a target of Moore’s. (It’s in response to Moore that Wittgenstein writes On Certainty.) Wittgenstein settles his sights on the idealist—a philosopher of little faith—who doubts whether he actually has two hands. Such a doubt, Wittgenstein says, occurs only in a specific language game (I.24). But one shouldn’t take this view too far. For example, it might seem that calculations are unimpeachable; we’re tempted to say that a rule, such as a formula, guides our actions; and such a rule logically excludes our making a mistake (I.26). Wittgenstein is quick to point out any such rule would contain a caveat, “‘in normal circumstance’” (I.27). The very application of such a disclaimer, limited as it may be, shows Wittgenstein’s emphasis: The primary medium of expression is action, not logic. That is, logic does not prescribe actions to which human life needs must fit. There exists the possibility that a rule, which possess the steel-clad rectitude of a logical form, may run afoul in its application; or in its application, a rule may be subverted or adapted. Take for example the expression “2X + 1”. It would seem that this expression gives us a rule for generating odd numbers. If you were to think that, then you were probably raised in a western culture that takes for granted the teaching of simple algebra to its students. A form of life can be imagined, though, for which the expression “2X + 1” is a rule for generating even numbers or nonsense. Even in a western culture, one’s application of the expression “2X + 1” may not generate a series of odd numbers. If, for example, the expression was given on a math test in a question for which X is supposed to equal infinity. Or the expression could be given as a piece of graffiti on the side of a building. If the building on which the expression was scrawled happened to be a mathematics classroom, would the expression have a different meaning if the building happened to be an English classroom? The meaning of the expression as a piece of graffiti is poorly defined.
The point of the argument is that doubts about meaning and certainty appear and disappear depending on the language game in which they’re employed. For this reason one couldn’t say that a particular expression has a fixed, absolute or sublime meaning. The one thing that runs through all use and meaning is action. Wittgenstein offers a cryptic remark,
What is ‘learning a rule’?—This.
What is ‘making a mistake in applying it’?—This. And what is pointed to here is something indeterminate. (I.28).
that I take to manifest the general meaning of the whole work. There’s a tension in the above quote in that it seems both definitive and absolutely vague. The two things Wittgenstein calls “This” to which rule and mistake point are “indeterminate”. This passage, then, doesn’t seem very illuminating. But the next passage sheds light on it; the overall meaning is about as obscure as a full moon. Wittgenstein says, “Practice in the use of the rule also shews what is a mistake in its employment” (I.29). The critical words are “use” and “employment”. The reason why “This” can’t refer to anything in the text is because it refers to not to another piece of text, but rather to another context. Learning a rule is not a logical process that can be prescribed by something higher. Learning a rule is accomplished in a world of action. The process is something like a child who walks underneath the dining room table. He’s playing with a toy, and his attention is wholly spent on his play. He’s short enough to walk underneath the table, and so he doesn’t even bother looking up as he does it. But one day the child is too tall and he his head smacks soundly against the table’s edge. There is no universal, prescriptive rule for when the child will hit his head. But at some point he will hit his head on the table, and he should have learned a rule; this rule will be different for all children. Thinking that a rule can universally prescribe a course of action is like thinking that this child can tell other children not to walk under tables when they reach 1,500 days old.
To return to calculations, one might be certain that given the expression “2X + 1” she could derive all the odd numbers. But, as Wittgenstein says, “One does not infer how things are from one’s own certainty” (I.30). To think that one’s certainty entails a particular action is to get it all backwards. Rather, certainty is manifested by certain actions. If I saw you look both ways and then run across the street, I wouldn’t have to ask you if you were certain of your being able to avoid traffic. Your actions as good as told me. Likewise, in calculating an expression for deriving odd numbers, one doesn’t infer that she’s correct from her being certain of her calculations. Her certainty is tied to a range of experiences. Among those experiences are her training, education and memory. Wittgenstein says,
If someone is taught to calculate, is he also taught that he can rely on a calculation of his teacher’s? But these explanations must after all sometime come to an end. (I.34)
which begins a reductio ad absurdum argument against trying to entail from certainty a particular way of acting (rather than entailing certainty from a particular way of action): Why are you certain of your calculation? One may respond that she’s read about a particular theorem in her textbook. Why are you certain of the textbook? One may respond that her teacher gave her the textbook, and besides which her teacher told her the same thing. Why are you certain your teacher is correct? One may reply that her teacher went to a fine university and her teacher’s teachers are all regarded well in their fields… Etc. All those things can be said to contribute to one’s certainty. But nothing can justify a priori one’s certainty.
Certainty is something of a dirty affair. It cannot be gotten by reason alone. If it could, then explanations for being certain would not “come to an end”. But this expression seems somewhat vague. For it might seem that the foundation of certainty would be one’s final explanation. It seems, maybe, that the final explanation—and not, as I would have it, action—is the foundation of certainty. But what would this final explanation look like? Would it be something like, “I’m certain because my teacher said so” be the final explanation for one’s certainty over a calculation? This explanation doesn’t seem to carry the finality that one would expect certainty to carry. For the question can always be posed: Why? In language such explanations will never come to an end. The whole history of thought can be pointed to as an explanation of why one is certain of a calculation. But when one acts is the point at which such explanations come to an end. One might be asked why he’s certain a particular bridge will hold the weight of him and his automobile. A swarm of explanations can be given; and they will be given to no great effect. This isn’t to discount modern engineering. But after the engineers have been interrogated and all their explanations exhausted, what’s left? The final vote of certainty is to act. You drive across the bridge. Action is the period that punctuates a final explanation.
In other news
I don't get The Knife, recent indie music blog darlings. I think, maybe, that they're this year's version of Annie. I didn't really get Annie, either. The pop-oriented obsession that the P'fork displays is a little too studied, affected, for me: Small-dicked middle managers driving Corvettes; deeply repressed gays who just seethe with homophobia; dance-phobic indie kids that claim to love Annie, The Knife and whatever the latest Top 40 single (Toxic, Get Ur Freak On, Promiscuous etc.)--they've all got something to hide, and this hidden thing naturally expresses itself in some way. Not to get all Freudian, but aren't there a few doctoral theses waiting to be written about indie's love of pop?? No?
This blog has changed. That's just the way it is. Somethings will never change. But this isn't it.
16 August 2006
A data dump. A thought landfill. Refuse and rubbish. I use the word rubbish, e.g., "Please show me the rubbish bin." What a fag. No one ever knows what I mean when I ask this. Fuck them. My point: I like to just dump things on here; the dumping gets me thinking. Veeeery similar to another great thought callisthenic.
I was reading the excellent Talking Points Memo, well, just a moment ago, and I meeting me was this.
Living in a major American city, I take it for granted that my wife and I live under a certain general threat of major terrorist attacks. In that sense I'm not really different from everyone else in the country to this or that degree. Back in late 2001, when I was living in DC and we were in the midst of the Anthrax scare and various reports of sleeper cells in the United States, I remember having moments where I hoped the FBI and CIA were doing everything imaginable to shut these guys down, whatever the constitution might say.
Now, here's the point I want to focus in on. I want to make a basic distinction between the things we might think or feel impulsively when in the grip of fear and things we really think ought to be done. I never thought we should be torturing people or rounding people up. What I am saying is that I remember the atmosphere of those days just after 9/11 and the primal gut instincts that made part of me wish those things were happening.
All of which I agree with. This post reminded me of Wittgenstein's muttering about games and intention in the little footnote-ish thing at the bottom of a page of the PI towards the beginning. I'm not going to look it up on Amazon's booksearch (a great tool for paper writing), but it says roughly,
--Teach my kid a game.
--WTF!?! You taught him dice! I didn't mean for you to teach him dice! Jesus Christ..
--But did you have before your mind as you said, 'Teach my kid a game' that you didn't want me to teach him dice?
The answer, which is suppressed, is no. You did not have before your mind the prohibition against teaching the kid dice as you told me to teach him a game. You just didn't. But you meant for me not to teach him. Those are two different processes. The clash of forms of life that result from these misunderstandings ground many a shitty Hollywood film. E.g., culture-clash buddy cop films.
--Let's listen to some tunes.
[Radio blares hip-hop.]
--What is this?!? I said music! That's not music, that's just... noise!
The meaning of "music", like "game" is in a sense predetermined. But the words are not determined by a mental image. They're determined by form of life, perhaps. (Among other things, granted.)
So when I say,
and then someone, i.e., Bush, goes on to, like, hook up electrodes to prisoners' balls and put feeding tubes down hunger-strikers' throats and all sorts of dumbshit shit, well, I want to say,
--But I didn't mean for you to do all that! I just want to be able to get out of bed and go to work in the morning without being so scared shitless that I have to down a fifth of Scotch and smoke a fucking pack of cigarettes. I just don't want to be scared!! But I didn't want you to, like, kill people... Sheesh.
But the liberal response versus the fascist response versus the conservative response, well, all the responses, they show a certain difference in form of life. OK. But how is this interesting? I don't know. This blog is my pot, and this post is my dump and I'm just trying to think.
I was talking to my thesis advisor on Monday, and I was pretty concerned with relativism/nihilism being the natural outcome of my project. From this thought I got to thinking maybe Wittgenstein was in a Heideggerian anti-rationalist. Wasn't he just saying that actions speak and words obfuscate? But people all act in different ways. I'd never pull a Joe Stalin and throw people in the gulags. Etc., etc. But my advisor made a good point: The Big Three totalitarian dictators of the 20c., Stalin, Mao and Hitler, offered reason and reason and reason. They were reason givers. Maybe their reason prodded them into doing unethical things. That is, maybe instead of being unethical people, they could have been ethical actors, in fact, they were ethical actors, until their policy decisions forced their hands into acting unethically. Or something like that. Normal people merely act, and those actions are surrounded by a moral context against which we rarely struggle. We know right from wrong, but this knowledge is not manifested in Hamlet-lite inner monologues treating of delight and deception; our ethical knowledge is manifest in our actions.
If we obviate reasons, then all we're left with are unjustified actions. And this is the fertile crescent of human life, the dirty gaping maw from which all significance springs. Words just try to tidy up things. I'm exhausted. But, as you can see, this all was going to be pulled together. Right.
Conclussion: Roughly speaking, people who were trained within the generally accepted parameters of a given society will be possessed of an indubitable ethical framework that they generally won't question and from which they won't stray. But, when this framework is transgressed, the first sign will be some sort of reason-giving maneuvre.
15 August 2006
It's sad to see happen.
14 August 2006
Wu-Tang is da bomb!
The Cold War Kids will be the next big indie thing.
Understanding what Wittgenstein means by “certainty” is central to understanding his work. The concept of certainty runs through all of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Indeed, it seems as if this concept is a clue that connects Wittgenstein’s early and late philosophy. More than any other philosopher, Wittgenstein seems to have completely reversed his thinking about his subject matter. The Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus seems to differ entirely from the Philosophic Investigations. But with his final work, written almost on his deathbed, flies in the face of the dichotomy that is commonly drawn to describe the alterity between the TLP and the PI. On Certainty offers a range of thought that draws on both the TLP and the PI. The thread that runs through these works is woven of Wittgenstein’s use of words and phrases like “proposition”; “fact”; “to know”; “to be certain of”; “picture” and “form of life”.
Wittgenstein’s remarks in OC bear out an unexpected consequence: Certainty is not a language game. Language games belong to language. (It is true that in a language game there is significantly more than language itself in play.) Rather, Wittgenstein assigns to certainty a kind of non-linguistic prominence. He says that certainty is beyond justification. It is, “as it were, as something animal”. Utterances are offered as justification. If I’m asked if I’m certain that the world exists, it’s nonsensical to reply, “Yes, I am certain.” Such a reply justifies nothing. The justification for certainty is “something animal” in that it is non-discursive; I justify my certainty by acting. Wittgenstein asks rhetorically, “Does a cat know that a mouse exists?” The sensible answer is that the cat does not know that a mouse exists. Or, if a cat could speak, it would make no sense for the cat to say, “I know that mouse exists”. The cat’s certainty of the mouse’s existence is shown by its stalking the mouse. This is the type of certainty to which Wittgenstein refers when he says that certainty is “something animal”.
To move on, this point naturally moves toward another entry in the Wittgenstein Glossary. Why is it nonsensical to say that the cat doesn’t know that a mouse exists? The cluster of remarks implies (correctly) that it is nonsensical for a man to say that he doesn’t know that his hands don’t exist. This fine distinction hangs on Wittgenstein’s use of “to know”. OC was written in response to a G.E. Moore essay in which Moore says that he knows that he has two hands. Nothing will ever convince him otherwise. Wittgenstein’s criticism of Moore can be summed up by saying that he thinks Moore misuses “to know”. He equivocates its meaning with the meaning of a phrase of the type “I am in pain”. The latter cannot be doubted. Therefore, Moore thinks the former cannot be doubted. Wittgenstein uses “to know” in a very specific way. (Although, he does say, “I would like to reserve the expression ‘I know’ for the cases in which it is used in normal linguistic exchange”. )
Wittgenstein says that “to know” expresses a relation between a subject and a fact. There are various times when sensibly we use “I know”; i.e., it would make sense to say, “I know my bicycle is locked to the parking meter”. There is a fact—“my bicycle…”—and “I”, who has taken into account the fact. There seem to be a class of propositions that are not facts. This distinction gives a clue as to why Wittgenstein criticizes Moore’s usage. “That I have two hands” is not a fact. This proposition forms part of my world-view, which is a necessary condition of my making judgments at all. I am certain of such propositions.
Wittgenstein says that one could not give up such a proposition for fear of giving up his whole system of beliefs; such a proposition has the character of a rule. In this way, certainty relates to a large portion of the PI, which deals extensively with rules and rule following. There are propositions of which we are certain, and there are propositions that we know. (I ignore for now propositions that we believe.) The latter have the character of empirical knowledge. Wittgenstein says, “it is always by favor of Nature that one knows something.” I take this to mean that propositions that we know can be confirmed or denied. These propositions relate to what Wittgenstein calls “facts” in the TLP. Propositions assert a state of affairs, to which they may or may not agree. When Wittgenstein says, “The world is all that is the case”, he means that the world is composed of all propositions that correctly express the facts. Propositions of which one is certain differ from propositions that one knows. Just one example of their difference is that the negation of a proposition of which one is certain makes no sense. If I say, “Water will freeze at 100 degrees Celsius”, then something may be wrong with my entire world-view. I may not know what the words “freeze” or “water” mean.
As I said above, certainty cannot be justified with words. A result of this phenomenon is that we believe things for which we have no good reason to believe. Wittgenstein says, “At the foundation of well-founded belief lies belief that is not founded”. Part of what this means is that a belief in the efficacy of an analgesic in relieving a headache is founded ultimately on a whole system of beliefs—e.g., in modern medicine, in advertising, in experience and so forth—that mutually support one another.