[lit-ideas] Re: Sounds right to me

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 23:10:18 +0900

On Wed, Dec 17, 2008 at 10:08 PM, Eric Dean <ecdean99@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Finally, when I referred to the 'meaning' of a game, I put the word
> 'meaning' in scare quotes because I was not comfortable with my choice of
> words there.  I intended, in that case, to be pointing at what people pay
> attention to in the playing of a game.  Experienced players and experienced
> observers don't spend time monitoring the rules per se (except when they
> think other players have broken the rules).  Rather they attend to what they
> are *doing*, the goal they are trying to achieve and how best to deploy the
> means to that goal available to them within the bounds created (more or
> less) by the rules.

Approaching tangentially, and leaving the question of fidelity to
Wittgenstein to those know him much better than I do, the issue here appears
to me to be at least as old as the Dao De Jing and the famous line, "The Dao
that can be named is not the Dao," which is generally read as a rejection of
the Confucian view of the Dao (the Way) as embodied in ritual and a form of
critical thinking called the rectification of names. Thus my impression
that, on one very broad reading that ignores technical details, that the
Wittgenstein who wrote the Tractatus was attempting a final rectification of
names, but the Wittgenstein who wrote Philosophical Investigations had
glimpsed that Dao for which there is no name, of which we cannot speak,
except in metaphor.

I think of others who have grappled with this puzzle: Pierre Bourdieu, for
example, who uses soccer as an image in a way that seems at least analogous
with Wittgenstein's language games, and proposes the concept of habitus, a
learned disposition, to explain the player's acts, which cannot be said to
be rational choices because there is no time while playing, to stop, weigh
alternatives, and make a rational choice. Or my old guru, the anthropologist
Victor Turner, who contrasted social structure, the rules of the game of
social life, with communitas, the spontaneous community that emerges when
rules are suspended, stretched or broken and old meanings reaffirmed or new
ones emerge.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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