Investigation and Interpretation

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Emil
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:18 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126717 wrote:
Frankly I cannot answer your question about Lancan because I really don't understand what he is saying. However, let me ask you, in turn, what you think about the following quotation from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. I think it is relevant to this discussion.

We are under the illusion that what is peculiar, profound, essential in our investigation, resides in its trying to grasp the incomparable essence of language. That is, the order existing between the concepts of proposition; word, proof, truth, experience, and so on. This order is a super-order between - so to speak - super-concepts. Whereas, of course, if the words "language," "experience," "world," have a use, it must be as humble a one as that of the words "table," "lamp," "door." (p. 44e)


It is funny that you bring up W. in this, Ken, as he wrote most incomprehensibly! Perhaps he was doing analytic philosophy but it is certainly extremely hard to understand anything he wrote. It's not like reading Hume which is also hard to understand. H. is hard to understand because the texts he wrote were written 250 years ago or so. W. wrote only some 70-50 years ago and yet I can't understand it easily. I can understand other persons from the same era just fine (Clifford, W. James, Quine, Russell, etc.).
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:29 pm
@Emil,
Emil;126777 wrote:
It is funny that you bring up W. in this, Ken, as he wrote most incomprehensibly! Perhaps he was doing analytic philosophy but it is certainly extremely hard to understand anything he wrote. It's not like reading Hume which is also hard to understand. H. is hard to understand because the texts he wrote were written 250 years ago or so. W. wrote only some 70-50 years ago and yet I can't understand it easily. I can understand other persons from the same era just fine (Clifford, W. James, Quine, Russell, etc.).


W. wrote aphoristically (Like Lichtenstein) so you have to get used to his style. But what of the passage. Do you understand that?
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:33 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126778 wrote:
W. wrote aphoristically (Like Lichtenstein) so you have to get used to his style. But what of the passage. Do you understand that?


No, I have no clue what it means. I didn't read PI yet so maybe that is why. I read the Tractatus.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:40 pm
@Emil,
Emil;126779 wrote:
No, I have no clue what it means. I didn't read PI yet so maybe that is why. I read the Tractatus.


Well, he says that philosophers should not think that words like, "knowledge" or "reality" have a different kind of meaning than, and need a different kind of understanding from, ordinary words like "lamp" and "table". "Philosophical" words are not special. Their meanings are to be discovered in how they are ordinarily used. (That does not, I think, suppose you have read, PI).
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:53 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126781 wrote:
Well, he says that philosophers should not think that words like, "knowledge" or "reality" have a different kind of meaning than, and need a different kind of understanding from, ordinary words like "lamp" and "table". "Philosophical" words are not special. Their meanings are to be discovered in how they are ordinarily used. (That does not, I think, suppose you have read, PI).


Alright. Then why didn't he just write what you just wrote? I suppose this is the paradigmatic thesis of the ordinary language philosophy.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 01:01 pm
@Emil,
Emil;126788 wrote:
Alright. Then why didn't he just write what you just wrote? I suppose this is the paradigmatic thesis of the ordinary language philosophy.


First of all it was in German. And second, it wasn't his style. But I don't think it was particularly hard to get that out of it. Yes, it is ordinary language philosophy. But, going beyond interpretation (I hope) don't you think it is true? Why should "knowledge" (say) be treated differently from "lamp"?
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 01:57 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126792 wrote:
First of all it was in German. And second, it wasn't his style. But I don't think it was particularly hard to get that out of it. Yes, it is ordinary language philosophy. But, going beyond interpretation (I hope) don't you think it is true? Why should "knowledge" (say) be treated differently from "lamp"?


I think it is. Especially for a person that hasn't read much of W.'s works. You have read a lot more than I have.

I agree with it, yes.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 02:11 pm
@Emil,
Emil;126803 wrote:
I think it is. Especially for a person that hasn't read much of W.'s works. You have read a lot more than I have.

I agree with it, yes.


There are lots of people who think that words like "knowledge" and "information" are superconcepts which have a special philosophical meaning they do not have in ordinary discourse (and which it is beneath philosophy to treat like the word, "lamp") That's why they are interested in what some particular philosopher means by, "knowledge". They think there is some "incomparable essence of language" that philosophers are "trying to grasp".
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 09:34 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126811 wrote:
There are lots of people who think that words like "knowledge" and "information" are superconcepts which have a special philosophical meaning they do not have in ordinary discourse (and which it is beneath philosophy to treat like the word, "lamp") That's why they are interested in what some particular philosopher means by, "knowledge". They think there is some "incomparable essence of language" that philosophers are "trying to grasp".


Ok. But some words do have meanings in philosophical contexts that they do not have in other, normal contexts. Think of "valid" as an example.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 04:28 pm
@Emil,
Emil;126813 wrote:
Ok. But some words do have meanings in philosophical contexts that they do not have in other, normal contexts. Think of "valid" as an example.


Yes, of course. But in that sense, "valid" is a technical term. "Knowledge" is not a technical term in the ordinary sense. It doesn't have some deep philosophical meaning in addition to its ordinary meaning, nor is its ordinary meaning some deep meaning detached from its usual meaning. What meaning could Lacan find that was the real philosophical meaning? Where would that meaning even come from? Heidegger does the same thing. He ignores what a word means, and then finds (invents" a deep philosophical meaning for it. But he uses etymology to do that. It is wrong-headed from the word "go". If you read Plato's Cratylus you find how Socrates makes fun of this view of meaning (although, Plato here is making fun of himself, because he really originates this idea that the meaning of a word is its essence which is hidden).

Wittgenstein's positive point is, of course, the ordinary language thing. But his negative point (which I think is more important for this discussion) is that terms like "knowledge" or "truth" do not have special meanings to be dug out by philosophers who are supposed to have some special factual for spying them. Lancan has no particular insight into the essence of knowledge hidden from the rest of us which, if we understand him, will provide us with philosophical enlightenment. Why should he?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 04:51 pm
@kennethamy,
There is a risk in all of this that by excluding the idea of the 'super concept' in W's sense, or insisting that it must simply have the same kind of meaning as 'lamp' or 'table' that you also exclude what is most distinctive about philosophy. Surely we can acknowledge that there is a distinction between abstract and concrete expression. 'The lamp is on the table' is a different kind of expression to 'knowledge has limits'.

When we 'discuss language' we are on a different level of explanation to merely 'using language'. I mean, using language, you can explain many things, especially concrete and specific things, like 'this is how to fix a lamp' or 'this is how to build a table'. But when it comes to discussing language itself, we are up against a different order of problem, not least of which is that we are employing the subject of the analysis to conduct the analysis. (I have a feeling that Wittgenstein said this somewhere.)

So it is important to recognise what language is for and what it can and can't do. There are some kinds of speculations which can be articulated and might be answerable. But there are others which you can say, but might not really be possible to answer, even though they seem very simple (such as, what is number/meaning/the nature of being). Of which Wittgenstein said, that of which we cannot speak, of that we must remain silent. So knowing what not to say must be part of this whole consideration.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 05:19 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126832 wrote:


So it is important to recognise what language is for and what it can and can't do.


Indeed, indeed, indeed.

***

Also, interpretation and investigation seem inseparable to me, just as thinking and feeling seem inseparable. This is not to deny the use of distinctions, but to emphasize the lived unity of such distinctions. This might have been mentioned already.

To stand-under language is almost to stand-under philosophy. (I picture a mechanic under a car.) To investigate/interpret language, we seem to be forced to use language. Philosophy as the self-description of language. That's just one more sentence for the collection.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 05:36 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126832 wrote:
There is a risk in all of this that by excluding the idea of the 'super concept' in W's sense, or insisting that it must simply have the same kind of meaning as 'lamp' or 'table' that you also exclude what is most distinctive about philosophy. Surely we can acknowledge that there is a distinction between abstract and concrete expression. 'The lamp is on the table' is a different kind of expression to 'knowledge has limits'.

When we 'discuss language' we are on a different level of explanation to merely 'using language'. I mean, using language, you can explain many things, especially concrete and specific things, like 'this is how to fix a lamp' or 'this is how to build a table'. But when it comes to discussing language itself, we are up against a different order of problem, not least of which is that we are employing the subject of the analysis to conduct the analysis. (I have a feeling that Wittgenstein said this somewhere.)

So it is important to recognise what language is for and what it can and can't do. There are some kinds of speculations which can be articulated and might be answerable. But there are others which you can say, but might not really be possible to answer, even though they seem very simple (such as, what is number/meaning/the nature of being). Of which Wittgenstein said, that of which we cannot speak, of that we must remain silent. So knowing what not to say must be part of this whole consideration.


"Lamp" is a term for a concrete object. "Knowledge" is a term for an abstract object. But the central point is that neither has a hidden meaning that only a philosopher can ferret out. The meaning of both are their use(s) by fluent speakers of the language. It is not necessary to go to Lancan or Nietzsche to discover what "knowledge" really means anymore that it is to discover what "lamp" really means. As Wittgenstein wrote, "nothing is hidden". Philosophy is not science. It is not necessary to go underneath the phenomena to discover what there really is. It is ironic that interpretationists accuse analytic philosophy of "scientism" when it is they who think that philosophy is a kind of science.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 05:42 pm
@kennethamy,
I am reading a history of Western thought at the moment, which has made me realise the role of 'rhetoric' in all of this also. I previously thought it was simply about the making of speeches. But it is much more subtle than that. It is using language in a specific way, to convey a meaning which might not be able to be derived from the bare text.

This was illustrated in regard to Luther and Augustine, both of whom were master rhetoricians. Luther, for example, believed that the only means of salvation was the acceptance of divine grace revealed by Scripture. Now grace was something which he himself was quite unable to convey -only God can do that - but he could speak in such a way as to cause the listener to 'listen appropriately'. So most of his speaking and writing, he saw as rhetorical, as distinct from philosophical or descriptive.

---------- Post added 02-11-2010 at 10:43 AM ----------

kennethamy;126847 wrote:
"Lamp" is a term for a concrete object. "Knowledge" is a term for an abstract object. But the central point is that neither has a hidden meaning that only a philosopher can ferret out. The meaning of both are their use(s) by fluent speakers of the language. It is not necessary to go to Lancan or Nietzsche to discover what "knowledge" really means anymore that it is to discover what "lamp" really means. As Wittgenstein wrote, "nothing is hidden". Philosophy is not science. It is not necessary to go underneath the phenomena to discover what there really is. It is ironic that interpretationists accuse analytic philosophy of "scientism" when it is they who think that philosophy is a kind of science.


I don't know if I agree with that. If it were true, wouldn't it erase the distinction between philosophical and ordinary discourse? If it were true, what would make a philosopher, a philosopher?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 06:08 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126849 wrote:
I am reading a history of Western thought at the moment, which has made me realise the role of 'rhetoric' in all of this also. I previously thought it was simply about the making of speeches. But it is much more subtle than that. It is using language in a specific way, to convey a meaning which might not be able to be derived from the bare text.

This was illustrated in regard to Luther and Augustine, both of whom were master rhetoricians. Luther, for example, believed that the only means of salvation was the acceptance of divine grace revealed by Scripture. Now grace was something which he himself was quite unable to convey -only God can do that - but he could speak in such a way as to cause the listener to 'listen appropriately'. So most of his speaking and writing, he saw as rhetorical, as distinct from philosophical or descriptive.

---------- Post added 02-11-2010 at 10:43 AM ----------



I don't know if I agree with that. If it were true, wouldn't it erase the distinction between philosophical and ordinary discourse? If it were true, what would make a philosopher, a philosopher?


Someone interested in philosophy, and who philosophizes. Words have meanings: not philosophical meanings (except for technical terms) and meanings.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 06:20 pm
@kennethamy,
So philosophy is the love of words? Why am I not surprised?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 06:25 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126863 wrote:
So philosophy is the love of words? Why am I not surprised?


Now, what am I supposed to say about that? In a way that is true. I have already repeated Ryle's characterization that philosophy is "talk about talk".
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 08:08 pm
@kennethamy,
I think it is OK. There is nothing the matter with it. But some have a different idea of what the subject amounts to. For example, I would say that the philosopher is a critic of normality, someone who questions that which most people think ordinary. So can we at least agree on where we differ?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 09:05 pm
@kennethamy,
I interpret Wittgenstein as saying that the philosophical language-game is not a privileged language game. To say that something isn't hidden is not to say that everyone finds it. This is just figurative language. Wittgenstein should be read by the light of Wittgenstein. His game is one more game, the game of describing the game. I interpret him as shattering the hope (for himself and those whom he persuades) for some unified authority on meaning.
Also he stressed the relationship of language and social practice. He finally took a more holistic view of language, and dropped his reductive Tractatus views. (This is not to deny the greatness of the Tractatus. Witt is one of my favorites, early and late.)
I associate Wittgenstein with a confession of the impossibility of closure. I don't think language is capable of tying itself up.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 12:26 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126891 wrote:
I think it is OK. There is nothing the matter with it. But some have a different idea of what the subject amounts to. For example, I would say that the philosopher is a critic of normality, someone who questions that which most people think ordinary. So can we at least agree on where we differ?


The philosopher should have a reason for questioning anything. The "normal" or the unusual. He cannot question just because he feels like it, or because he is a philosopher. There has to be a reason.

---------- Post added 02-11-2010 at 01:32 AM ----------

Reconstructo;126896 wrote:
I interpret Wittgenstein as saying that the philosophical language-game is not a privileged language game. To say that something isn't hidden is not to say that everyone finds it. This is just figurative language. Wittgenstein should be read by the light of Wittgenstein. His game is one more game, the game of describing the game. I interpret him as shattering the hope (for himself and those whom he persuades) for some unified authority on meaning.
Also he stressed the relationship of language and social practice. He finally took a more holistic view of language, and dropped his reductive Tractatus views. (This is not to deny the greatness of the Tractatus. Witt is one of my favorites, early and late.)
I associate Wittgenstein with a confession of the impossibility of closure. I don't think language is capable of tying itself up.


To say that "nothing is hidden" is to say that words like "truth" or "knowledge" do not have, in addition to their ordinary everyday meanings, some secret meanings that only philosophers are able to discover. There are no secret meanings. There is no, "what the word 'really means'" that Lacan or Heidegger has discovered.
 
 

 
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