Thursday 11/08

Philosophical Investigations, 401-450

Discussion Questions

First Question: Dismissing Metaphysics

402 culminates with a seminal charge against metaphysical dispute:

"It's true I say 'Now I am having such-and-such an image', but the words 'I am having' are merely a sign to someone else; the description of the image is a complete account of the imagined world."—You mean: the words "I am having" are like "I say! . . . ." You are inclined to say it should really have been expressed differently. Perhaps simply by making a sign with one's hand and then giving a description.—When as in this case, we disapprove of the expressions of ordinary language (which are after all performing their office), we have got a picture in our heads which conflicts with the picture of our ordinary way of speaking. Whereas we are tempted to say that our way of speaking does not describe the facts as they really are. As if, for example the proposition "he has pains" could be false in some other way than by that man's not having pains. As if the form of expression were saying something false even when the proposition faute de mieux asserted something true.

For this is what disputes between Idealists, Solipsists and Realists look like. The one party attack the normal form of expression as if they were attacking a statement; the others defend it, as if they were stating facts recognized by every reasonable human being.

Okay, what are idealism, solipsism, and realism, what are the reasons for these positions, and what point is Wittgenstein making when he asserts, "[t]he one party attack the normal form of expression as if they were attacking a statement; the others defend it, as if they were stating facts recognized by every reasonable human being"?

Second Question: Other Minds

What is the Problem of Other Minds? Is Wittgenstein's response at 420 satisfactory? Why or why not?

Third Question: Philosophy Dead-Enders

What kind (examples!) of philosophical inquiries is Wittgenstein scorning when he writes,

436. Here it is easy to get into that dead-end in philosophy, where one believes that the difficulty of the task consists in our having to describe phenomena that are hard to get hold of, the present experience that slips quickly by, or something of the kind. Where we find ordinary language too crude, and it looks as if we were having to do, not with the phenomena of every-day, but with ones that "easily elude us, and, in their coming to be and passing away, produce those others as an average effect". (Augustine: Manifestissima et usitatissima sunt, et eadem rusus nimis latent, et nova est inventio eorum.)

Fourth Question: If Wishes Were Fishes, We'd All Cast Nets

Plans, wishes, expectations, and beliefs can, of course, be unsatisfied (439ff). What is Wittgenstein's worry here, and what does he make of satisfaction (fulfillment)?