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

  • From: Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Robert Paul)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: 04 Jun 2004 19:59:10 PDT

It is always a pleasure to be challenged (in the best sense) by philosophical
remarks from Richard Henninge.

His careful reading of the German original in [31] of the Philosophical
Investigations deserves a fuller reply that I can give tonight. I did though
want to ask about the concluding sentences:

'[The] mastery of the game (of chess or simple objects) [on the part of the
person who has supposedly asked for 'ostensive definitions'] is learned as a
form of life, not taught [him] 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.'

Let me suggest (1) that one of the difficulties with the Tractatus view of
language was that if correct it would have made possible a language that
depended on no particular form of life; a language that not only was not--as a
matter of contingent fact--but could not have been part of a form of life, and
(2) that there is no language game in which the simple objects of the Tractatus
play a part: Wittgenstein arrives at the necessity for such objects through a
transcendental argument in which he tries to show that because of other things
he thinks he has established require such objects, they must exist. Yet, except
for his brief flirtation with the possibility that 'the objects' might be
Russellian sense data, he professed not to know what they were. He thought that
that he had established that there must be such things meant his job was

It would seem odd to suppose that the ultimate structure--the fixed
structure--of the world were sense-data, whose existence is notoriouslyfleeting,
or that tables, chairs, cats, and various medium-sized pieces of dry goods were
things whose nature Wittgenstein could not, at that ordinary level, describe.

These are deep waters.

Robert Paul
Reed College

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