[lit-ideas] Re: "Roughly speaking" (Was: Wittgenstein)

  • From: Henninge@xxxxxxxxxxx (Richard Henninge)
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 05:44:09 +0200

----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Paul" <Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, May 28, 2004 6:54 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: "Roughly speaking" (Was: Wittgenstein)

> >One can always [Robert Paul should have typed "also" here instead <of>
> "always," but "also" is wrong in any case]...<
> Yes, I should have; that is to say, that is what the text reads. It isn't
> to me why 'also' is 'wrong in any case' though. 'One can imagine, as
> 'But one can imagine, too...'--? The sense is that we have one example,
and we
> can imagine another, similar to it.
> 'Man kann sich aber auch denken,...' = ?
> Thanks to Richard for his comments.
> Robert Paul
> Reed College

And thanks to Robert for his, but what I meant to say was not so much that
"also" was wrong in any case, but that the emphasis (on "also") is wrong in
any case. The two examples are not equivalent, or equi-valent, equally
valuable, equally strong. The first is the naive Augustinian notion that one
learns a language by being taught what the words mean and by learning the
rules. The second example, introduced by "BUT one can ALSO imagine . . . ."
We've been through this kind of thing before. I make a big deal about some
triviality of a false translation (which strikes me as seriously skewing)
and Robert *forgives* the erroneous translation by paraphrasing the sense.
OK, the sense is "we have one example, and we can imagine another, similar
to it." I ask myself why translators would have a problem reporting the
"but" in the original. My trusty conspiracy-theory-like argument is that
there is a general fear of saying _too much_ that guides the translators of
Wittgenstein to translate him in such a way as to make him say what people
after years of reflection think he must have been saying--even if this
requires rough translations or otherwise taking the bolder edges off his

This section will conclude with the bold pronouncement that the asker will
be forced to make up his own word for the king--and do for himself from then
on out. Why is this so radical, puzzling, paradoxical? Well it wouldn't
strike us as so paradoxical if the translators had let us hear the BUT that
underscored (in Wittgenstein's mind) the dubiousness of the first example.
(Let me digress on the dubiousness of the first example: this dubiousness is
mitigated by the translators. Let me explain: I pointed out in my last post
on PI section 31, this section, that "bis auf diese letzte Bestimmung" was
weakly rendered by "unless he already knows the rules of the game _up to
this point_" since "bis _auf_" actually means "except for" and "point" is a
weasel word because, though it can--after the fact, in justifying the word
choice--be pointed out that "point" means "Bestimmung" in the sense of a
provision in a contract, the feeling of the reader is that "point" here is
merely "point in time" or "moment" in a developing situation. But this
"Bestimmung" is a "determination," said with a straight face by someone who
knows that this example "hinkt," or "limps," precisely at this *point*. Why?
Because this so-called "last determination"--the form of the king--is an
unnecessary determination. If you know the rules of the game and know that
one of the pieces functions as the king in chess functions, it is irrelevant
to have someone tell you, grabbing a king from a chess set accidentally in
reach, "This is the king.")

This dubiousness, however, is still in the second example too, since, there
too (Wittgenstein says "too" or "auch" four times in the second paragraph)
the "Erklärung"--the explanation--is given to someone who has learned chess
by watching people play: "This is the king"--if one is showing him, e.g.,
chess figures of a form unfamiliar to him. That is indeed a very cheap
"explanation," and Wittgenstein knows that the word "Erklärung" is
exaggerated. In paragraph one, the last determination was unnecessary; here,
this "explanation" only explains or "teaches" him (the translators weakly
translate *lehrt* here and *lehre* in the following sentence as "tell" in
both cases--you should be able to tell me why, by now) the use of the chess
figure because, "as we might say, the place for it was already
prepared"--or, better, "the place [Platz] on which it was placed [gestellt]
was already prepared." You tell me, now, why the translators preferred the
shorter version--could it be that the infelicitous repetition of two senses
of "place" could not be gracefully avoided otherwise, or was it rather that
the translators feared that such literality and seeming redundancy would
make their "original" appear in a less acceptable form--because *odd*,
*strange* and even harder to "explain" than usual? The way the translators
ruin the last sentence in this second paragraph is revealing: "And in this
case it is so [i.e. the place has been prepared here], not because the
person to whom we give the explanation already knows rules (this clearly
like the example in paragraph one), but because in *another* sense"--no, "in
*the* other sense"--"he is already master of a game"--no, "he already
masters a game" ("er...schon ein Spiel beherrscht"). Wittgenstein makes it
clearer than do the translators that his faulty first example (knowing rules
and definitions) has been explained to be faulty by a second example that
shows that the learner "already masters a game" when he has already
"prepared" the places in his logical space. The shape of the king is as
irrelevant as its color. Roughly speaking, the king has neither shape nor
color--it has only sufficient distinguishing features, like the Klang or the
Gestalt of a word, to set it apart from other objects/words. How it, the
king in chess or an object in Wittgenstein, is then "used," in both cases,
is what Wittgenstein refers to as its "internal properties."

So that in the end (at the end of section 31), he can say that only someone
who *already* knows what to do with something (can *use* it) can "sinnvoll"
or sensibly, significantly, reasonably ask about what it is called.

New little paragraph: Wir können uns JA AUCH denken--"And [indeed (my
addition)] we can [even (my addition)] ímagine the person who is asked [what
the name of a piece is] replying: "Settle the name yourself--> "Determine
[Bestimm] the naming yourself--and now the one who asked would have to
manage everything for himself." I would wager that the translators don't
know whether Wittgenstein is being ironic here or not. I would wager that
they think that this final line is triumphant in tone, as if the "one who
asked" is now in some kind of trouble left all on his own--when in fact
Wittgenstein has step-by-step undercut the teaching effect of ostensive
definition to the point that the "one who asked" for them can do without
them and can even determine the names of things for himself. His mastery of
the game (of chess or simple objects) is learned as a form of life, not
taught by others who "know" (it) better.

If this is still unclear, consider that there is such a thing as blind
chess. And then think about what simple objects are in Wittgenstein.

Richard Henninge
University of Mainz

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