A Brief Arc of Narrative-Laced Noise
1 day ago
I suggest, more generally, that we should beware of insisting that the best way to do history of philosophy is to look for labels that join these philosophers together in a tradition by way of commonly held doctrine or method. Instead, we should look toward how the Tractatus is transforming the Fragestellungen, the problem-contexts and concepts that it inherits from Frege, Russell, and others. This implies that we may sometimes need to look outside the Tractatus, to its wider intellectual context, in order to gauge its language's purposes, effects, debts, successes, and failures. It also implies that we need to be willing at times to question the idea that the most interesting way to account for Wittgenstein's philosophical evolution, and the evolution of early analytic philosophy as a whole, is in terms of the mistaken-thesis, correction-of-the-mistaken-thesis model. The situation is more complex. The evolution might be better conceived as an evolving expressive tradition within philosophy, a way in which the formulation of various kinds of conceptual questions and problems is constructed rather than foreseen, in which certain questions and problems come to be solved in their very formulation and certain others are, in Ernst's vivid phrase, simply allowed to fall away as silly or insignificant.This is fairly obvious, but still worth saying (not sure about "constructed rather than foreseen" though, as a way of making the point). It does mean, however, that we may not then turn around and deny the relevance of extra-textual (i.e. extra-Tractarian) evidence concerning Wittgenstein's intentions in that book, as wielded so impressively by those (e.g. Hacker) opposed to the "resolute" reading (or as Floyd calls it, the "Jacobin" reading). This is from her article "Wittgenstein and the Inexpressible," in Alice Crary, ed., Wittgenstein and the Moral Life: Essays in Honor of Cora Diamond. This brand new release (only $36 in paperback from Amazon!) also features that humongous essay by James Conant, "Mild Mono-Wittgensteinianism," (which is also available as a pdf file on his webpage).
The most fundamental divide among interpreters of Wittgenstein lies, for me, between those who detect in Wittgenstein's writings some form of semantic or epistemic resource argument, an argument ultimately appealing to the finitude or expressive limitations of language—whether it be truth-functional, constructivist, social-constructivist, antirealist, assertion-conditionalist, formalist, conventionalist, finitist, empiricist, or what have you—and those who instead stress Wittgenstein's criticisms of the assumptions lying behind the desire for such resource arguments, criticisms that in the end turn upon stressing the open-ended evolution, the variety, and the irreducible complexity of human powers of expression. The former kind of reader sees the inexpressible as a limitation, a reflection of what is illegitimate in grammar or fails to be epistemically justifiable; the latter sees the inexpressible as a fiction, an illusion produced by an overly simplified conception of human expression.Naturally the latter readers are the good guys – including of course Diamond, on whom, Festschrift-style, she bestows effusive praise, as well as Cavell, Dreben, and Warren Goldfarb. Hmm, maybe I should have applied to Harvard after all (I wouldn't have gotten in, but it's the thought that counts, right?). Incidentally, when Columbia/Barnard was searching for a senior woman a while back, we were treated to a round of job talks by the candidates, including Floyd, Jennifer Hornsby, and Constance Meinwald. I would have been stoked (as the kids say nowadays) if one of them had been hired, but none was (although not, rumor has it, for lack of offers).
A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment.Just think if he hadn't crossed out "the" and written "a" instead. Narrow escape there. (Or, as Dennis the commentator mourned at the time: "It looks like Tess of the D'Urbervilles all over again.")
My description of American law before the Civil War sounded like a romp through the Garden of Eden. [...] When we turn to our next period [...] we find ourselves expelled from our lovely sunlit garden and condemned to wander uncertainly in the law's black night. And yet American law apparently achieved its greatest triumphs during this period. Never had lawyers and judges and the new breed of law professors been so confident, so self-assured, so convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they were serving not only righteousness but truth. [...] Perhaps, when everyone is blind, it is child's play to persuade ourselves that we now see better than our sighted predecessors ever did.Perhaps a revised edition will describe a new age: the Age of Prozac. But I know little of these matters.
[The book] is a needed reminder to our day of the intricate connections which continue to exist between critical scientific thought and social and emotional experience. In Cornford's own words: Philosophy, when she puts aside the finished products of religion and returns to the 'nature of things,' really goes back to that original representation out of which mythology itself had gathered shape.Related to this, sort of, we have:
The primary aim of this book is to explain the remarkable rule which regulated the succession to the priesthood of Diana at Aricia. When I first set myself to solve the problem more than thirty years ago, I thought that the solution could be propounded very briefly, but I soon found that to render it probable or even intelligible it was necessary to discuss certain more general questions, some of which had hardly been broached before. In successive editions the discussion of these and kindred topics has occupied more and more space, the enquiry has branched out in more and more directions, until the two volumes of the original work have expanded into twelve.I think we've all been there. Here's a blurb from Harry Woodburn Chase, Chancellor of New York University:
Dip into Frazer's Golden Bough and sense something of the mesh of fear and suffering and regimentation and bloody sacrifices from which civilization has meant escape.So, good Hallowe'en reading, then. Here's a random selection, from the section entitled "Kings Killed When Their Strength Fails":
[I]t used to be the regular custom with the Shilluk to put the king to death whenever he showed signs of ill-health or failing strength. One of the fatal symptoms of decay was taken to be an incapacity to satisfy the sexual passions of his wives, of whom he has very many, distributed in a large number of houses at Fashoda. When this ominous weakness manifested itself, the wives reported it to the chiefs, who are popularly said to have intimated to the king his doom by spreading a white cloth over his face and knees as he lay slumbering in the heat of the sultry afternoon. Execution soon followed the sentence of death. A hut was specially built for the occasion: the king was led into it and lay down with his head resting on the lap of a nubile virgin: the door of the hut was then walled up; and the couple were left without food, water, or fire to die of hunger and suffocation. This was the old custom, but it was abolished some five generations ago on account of the excessive sufferings of one of the kings who perished in this way. It is said that the chiefs announce his fate to the king, and that afterwards he is strangled in a hut which has been specially built for the occasion.So they changed to the new way because the king suffered too much the old way. Got it. Of course, maybe the Fashoda chapter of the Shilluk Nubile Virgins Union had something to do with it. We may never know.
24. Suppose I intend to shoot someone. I tell him, “Stand over there.” Then I raise the gun and take aim. Now he says, “I say there. Hang on. What are you up to?” I want to say, “You stupid git! What part of ‘stand over there’ don’t you understand? Now get over there and shut up!” The hardness of the logical must.And of course I appreciate §33 as well.
The editors apparently hold the opinion that having the entire Nachlass to hand in a definitive edition will solve the problems of interpretation. I disagree. The Nachlass consists of over 120 notebooks, manuscripts, and typescripts, comprising nearly 30,000 pages in all (’scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Wittgenstein?’). Springer Verlag of Vienna is undertaking the monumental task of publishing a definitive edition, in German and English. They foresee the publication of two to five volumes per year; the first 15 volumes will cover only the years 1929 to 1933 of Wittgenstein’s hand-written notebooks. I submit that, even after the Springer Verlag edition is completed, no one in his right mind is going to read the whole thing in order to unravel the ’final interpretation’ of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.Hard to disagree with that.
Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellThis one's long, but if you get past the slow beginning you won't be able to stop.
Anna KareninaI loved this – no trouble here.
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22I blazed through this one in a couple of days.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering HeightsSame here – what a great book. In fact I think it was the very next thing I read after One Hundred Years of Solitude (so, a good week).
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don QuixoteOkay, you got me. I did read part I though, which is plenty long.
Moby DickI read all the way to the end – the last three chapters are brilliant – but I skipped some in the middle.
Madame BovaryHigh school extra credit. Not worth it to me at the time.
The OdysseyNot as gripping as Crime and Punishment, but worth reading. I'm sure a lot of it went right over my head though (read it 20+ years ago).
Pride and Prejudice
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societiesSomeday.
War and Peace
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in booksSkip Ulysses if you must and read this one instead.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of CholeraI guess I'm just afraid it won't be as good as One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Brave New WorldHigh school.
The FountainheadFinished Book I, before it picks up (if it ever does, that is).
FrankensteinIsn't this Dan Brown?
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The InfernoNever read any Rushdie. I hear Midnight's Children is good.
The Satanic Verses
Sense and SensibilityA while ago. Too clever by, well, more than half.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield ParkNot this one, but The Mayor of Casterbridge is a kick in the head (that's good).
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver TwistI barely cracked this. I did a book report on it though.
Gulliver's TravelsWhy would anyone stop reading this one? It's short and very readable.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
DuneI did bog down in As I Lay Dying, which I picked precisely because it was short. On the other hand, I finished Absalom, Absalom, which is not only long, but also, as I read it, purposely oppressive in its difficult prose. Must be a masochist (I don't hate it I don't).
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes : a memoirHoward Zinn, right? No thanks.
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States : 1492-present
CryptonomiconI like this guy, really I do, but I don't know about those doorstops.
NeverwhereThis I found overrated.
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly EverythingThis is a book of short stories, for crying out loud. Just read it.
The Unbearable Lightness of BeingThis is good, but The Joke is the key Kundera. I think I've had enough though.
BelovedI did bog down in Song of Solomon. Just didn't grab me.
Slaughterhouse-fiveHigh school. I did finish it, out of pure spite (though not without bitter complaint). I do hope they don't assign it any more.
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & LeavesAbout 400 pages too long, but I did get through it.
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novelNow, Ada is the one to ask about. A long time ago I puzzled through about 20 pages of that one. My guess here also is that once you get over the hump you're set.
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
PersuasionWhy yes. (See my post here.)
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into valuesI actually liked this. He messes it up ultimately, but for a non-philosopher (okay, he was a grad student in philosophy) he does pretty well. That is, while making mistakes of his own, he at least avoids other mistakes made by certain name-brand philosophers who will remain undesignated by me here today.
The AeneidGood one to ask about. Never started it. I did read V though, which isn't that much shorter (nothing since except Crying).
The HobbitGet real.
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequencesNot sure what I was expecting here. I got about half way though.
The Three Musketeers