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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

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Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

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Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

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The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

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William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Varieties of Ladder Disposal

Posted by John Holbo on 03/04/07 at 07:04 PM

Dave Maier takes a really long time to explain the joke. Indeed, to start telling it. While you are waiting, you get some introduction to recent disputes in Wittgenstein studies, concerning the status of that penultimate sentence of the Tractatus: ‘whereof we cannot speak’ and all that. He’s discussing the so-called ‘resolute’, ‘New Wittgensteinian’ reading, which runs (briefly): we need to take the ‘this is all nonsense’ gesture seriously; that is, we shouldn’t regard Wittgenstein as flirting with mysticism. My view: there is no chance whatsover that the ‘New Wittgensteinians’ are right about what Wittgenstein was actually up to, in writing the thing. He had very contradictory impulses, I think. They try to purify him down to a favored set of those impulses. But the ‘New Wittgestein’ actually ends up being a quite interesting model, somewhat in the way that ‘Kripkenstein’ is interesting: you can navigate through the complexities of Wittgenstein, the conflicted author, with reference to this artificially pure, oversimplified and simple position.


Dude, that’s the ultimate sentence.  But you’re right that it’s the penultimate sentence (or section, anyway, i.e., 6.54) that we’re really concerned with.  I’m not convinced that you are being quite fair to the NWs, either here or in chapters 10-11 of your thesis (which seems no longer to be available at your site; and now I’m curious about 12-15, which I don’t have).  I don’t see their view (or the best versions anyway) as “artificially pure, oversimplified and simple” at all.  It’s not just a single radical gesture of renunciation, essentially pure and thus refuted by qualification.  Even with my NW hat on, I have no problem “conceding” that W. “had very contradictory impulses.” Hell, look up “conflicted” in the dictionary, and there he is, glaring off to the left.

Indeed, that’s part of the point.  Maybe this isn’t clear in Diamond (I find her hard to read).  In preparing for The Follow-up Post Which Makes It All Clear (okay, probably not), I ran across this lecture (streaming audio only, I’m afraid) by NWer James Conant, which was the best thing I’ve heard/read yet from any of them.  Conant stresses that the NW reading concerns both early and later Wittgenstein, and in particular the complex relation between the two.  No artificial purity there, I can assure you.  See, the standard reading ... forget it, I’ll do this later.

And the crack about “Kripkenstein” was really out of line.  There’s no comparison.  After some resistance, I have come around to the view that Kripke’s book isn’t completely worthless, providing as it does a look at the significance of the worries of Wittgenstein’s interlocutor in the Investigations from the perspective of an utterly unWittgensteinian, unrepentant metaphysical realism (surprise, they’re skeptical!).  NW isn’t like that at all.  Those interested should read Alice Crary’s intro to The New Wittgenstein (and Hacker’s flat-footed response), or listen to Conant’s lecture.

BTW, those put off by the characteristically pedantic and shaggy-dog nature of my tale can still appreciate the humor (i.e. something funny I ran across; not a joke of my own) by skipping down to the end (start at “My own view ...”, the first full paragraph above the last blockquote).  Keep in mind just the one thing: that scholarly controversy rages over whether the sentences of the Tractatus, which purport to delineate the bounds of linguistic sense, are themselves nonsensical.

By Dave Maier on 03/05/07 at 01:08 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Penultimate, ultimate. (You say po-tay-toe.) Yes, I rather compressed that, didn’t I?

But I do think the Kripkenstein comparison is apt. I think it’s very helpful to say: you can see where Kripke is getting this. A very tidy, neat argument has occurred to him, reading Wittgenstein. And it is, to some degree, understandable that he sees it. And if the baffling complexity of Wittgenstein is giving you a headache, then spend a minute hallucinating that Kripke has got it right. But he hasn’t. Let’s get started ...

I feel the same way about the New Wittgenstein, including Conant’s version. I don’t mean that in a bad way. We should probably take this up at greater length ...

By John Holbo on 03/06/07 at 11:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Okay, fair enough, I suppose.  I’d like to read chs. 12-15 (about the later W, right?).  Can you put them up again, or just send them to me?

By Dave Maier on 03/06/07 at 12:30 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Speaking of not-so-private-language arguments, revisiting whose who (who had the last word? And—Officer Kripke?! where’s the WSS parody? though I prefer a world in which he’s Supreme Ruler of Wittgenstan).

By nnyhav on 03/06/07 at 05:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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