Friday, December 14, 2007

Can a Wittgensteinian be a naturalist?

I suppose one can if all it means is not having any supernatural beings in the language game one plays. But, for example, my late teacher Peter Winch argued, in the essay "Understanding a Primitive Society" that saying, "Of course, science is true and Azande witchcraft isn't true," is an unacceptable form a realism that fails to recognize the differences in language games. I have a strong sense that these kinds of arguments leave people like Blue Devil Knight shaking their heads.

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At 12/14/2007 12:09:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, they are just being silly. Plus, who are they to question my realist language game? :)

At 12/14/2007 02:36:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

There are three philosophers for whom I have never quite understood the reverent unquestioning attitude of their disciples:
1. Wittgenstein
2. Heideggar
3. Ayn Rand (*)

(*) Is she a philosopher?

Three philosophers that deserve crazy props:
1. Kant
2. Plato
3. Sellars

Runner-up: Aquinas

Three best living naturalist philosopher of mind:
1. Dretske
2. Paul Churchland
3. Fodor

Top three for not letting the above three forget the problem of qualia:
1. Chalmers
2. Kim
3. Nagel

Most overused, underjustified quote in contemporary philosopy of mind:
'There is no place in the brain where "it all comes together" ' (Dennett, arguing against the Cartesian Theatre). This has no good basis in evidence, but many philosophers use it as a mantra.

At 12/14/2007 03:47:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"is an unacceptable form a realism that fails to recognize "

Is there a typo here or some missing punctuation? I'm having a little trouble understandig its sense.

Will hopefully have a chance to respond to the post soon.

At 12/14/2007 05:23:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am still waiting for a clarification of the sentence I quoted above, but it appears to me that you have a rather profound misunderstanding of what a language game is or, rather, the use that Wittgenstein made of the analogy of a game as a way to understanding language.

The language game method is supposed to help us appreciate and understand the large diversity of use within a language along with the normative use of the rules of language. For example, French and English are not different language games they are simply different languages. It is the 'games' within each particular language to which his method is meant to apply. Giving commands, presenting a scientific explanation or comforting a bereaving person, cursing, etc. can all be seen as different types of language games.

I've been unable to locate the Winch article online and so have no idea of the context in which he uses the sentence you've quoted and am, therefore, rather unsure what point he may have actually been trying to make with it. I will, however, say that there is nothing that I can see in Wittgenstein's use of the concept of the language game which would prohibit a person in our society from pointing out the false ideas of the world which members of a primitive, magic believing society might entertain. If that was what Winch was suggesting, then he was indeed being very silly.

But studying the language of this primitive society in order to better understand their views of the world and their conceptions of how witchcraft relates to that world seems like an eminently reasonable approach regardless of how one views Wittgenstein’s understanding of language.

At 12/14/2007 05:33:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are three philosophers for whom I have never quite understood the reverent unquestioning attitude of their disciples"

I have trouble understanding why anyone should have a 'reverent unquestioning atttitude' toward any philosopher.

At 12/16/2007 08:50:00 AM , Blogger Rino said...

My question to BDK, and perhaps Anonymous, would be:

Does one particular language cut up the world at the joints: ie, reflect reality perfectly.

If yes, then how does this ideal Adamic language do it? Does the world have a langauge? Does english capture this worldese? Does the snow falling from the sky say 'you call me snow, that is what I am, and I will kill you if you don't'. I haven't experienced that yet. How does the mind gain access to a mind-independent world? And, if it does, then it is no longer mind-independent, and hence no longer fit for objectivity.

If no, then how is one language any better than another? What makes our current language of physics any better than the primitive magician? Is it the success of the paradigm? But then, one's definition of success is somewhat context dependent as well.

At 12/16/2007 02:45:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Rino: I think things like trees and brains exist, and I can describe how the two interact. If you were to disagree with that, then I don't feel like talking any more. I avoid these discussions as they are a time sink. That's why I kept joking about having a 200 word answer. There is no answer, not in 2000 years much less 200 words.

So, yes, very interesting philosophical issues that can become a huge red herring.

If pressed, I would say I am an empirical realist and transcendental agnostic (leaning toward transcendental realism). Kant rules. So if you must you can say the trees and brains are empirically real, transcendentally ideal. That's fine with me. I'm interested in the study of the empirically real.

But most of all I'm interested in not wasting a lot of time on the realism-idealism question (or however you want to spin it pragmatism-realism or realism-antirealism).

So I'm the wrong person to ask about it and I hope to say no more, in true ostrich fashion.


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