09 March 2007

Thesis On Certainty, Part 2

It's Friday and we don't feel like doing anything. In fact, since the boss is out of town, we'll probably leave work three or five hours early and go drive around and run and play and whatnot. (Which reminds us of a time we tried to give a lecture on syllogistic reasoning to some ninth graders, and we used the proposition "If the cat's away, then the mice will play," and, well, we think we're pretty good at explaining things--but they didn't get it at all.) So's... we're going lazily to post another section of our thesis. The epigraph and the first post are here. (If anyone knows how to make that whole "after the jump" thing, email me!)

Second Post of Thesis - On Certainty

That the game of language-learning “proves its worth” is shown by its working in practice, functioning well. This worth is shown by the form of life that we inhabit: our society’s language-learning is characterized by a standard of education in which there is an accepted, working methodology of teaching and learning; our speech acts generally succeed in communicating things; and more significantly, our whole way of life shows “the stability of things as the norm.” Our shared form of life shows the worth of the game.

But, as Wittgenstein says, the worth of the game should not be confused with its ground. Looking at how people hunt and expect certain animal parts always to exist in certain places, he says, “I naturally do not want to say that men should behave like this, but only that they do behave like this.”[i] We are not exactly interested in proving objectivity. We are, however, quite interested in looking at different ways in which an objective type of relation seems to obtain. And whereas metaphysical philosophy converges on the transcendental a priori in order to make sense of objectivity, Wittgenstein contents himself with what’s apparent, what comes after the beginning. Wittgenstein should not be counted as a mere empiricist or a mere psychologist, though. Nor is he interested in the descriptive science of anthropology. We think that doing so would be to accuse him of a philosophical irresponsibility, which is undeserved. Despite his interest in the empirical, a posteriori site of knowledge, Wittgenstein’s critique of classical metaphysics is keen and quite specific. At stake is his convincing us that there is a robust notion of objectivity that doesn’t rely on the a priori. Wittgenstein clarifies the notion of objectivity, but he refuses to understand it by “ratiocination,” metaphysical speculation and over-rationalization. His appeal to “any logic good enough for a primitive means of communication” is an appeal to a non-sublime, non-prescriptive logic. For Wittgenstein, logic is something of a blunt instrument—not the keen razor of the mind, by which it is traditionally understood. Wittgenstein’s unique conception of logic is given by his expositions of language-games. Objectivity fails to obtain in a transcendental sense, but within the area circumscribed by Wittgenstein’s logic—language-games—certain propositions are objectively true. Moreover, it belongs to the logical determination of language-games to set the limit of the intelligibility of our language and actions, which then determines the limit of our thought. Thus, a different sort of objectivity obtains when we look from the outside at language-games: certain propositions fall outside of certain language-games. Our focus on language-games, and their attendant notions, will describe Wittgenstein’s notion of objectivity.

We will first focus on Wittgenstein’s critique of the classical metaphysical worldview, which worldview seeks wrongly to investigate a priori sites that fall “further back” from the beginning. Special attention will be paid to Moore’s concealed metaphysical presupposition in his criticism of the classic metaphysical worldview. We will then examine Wittgenstein’s notion of logic, to which connect his notions of knowledge, belief, certainty, and language-games. Finally, we will look at that with which Wittgenstein replaces the traditional notion of ground: action.

[i] On Certainty, §284.