Friday, April 25, 2008

The relevance of Wittgenstein to ... well, never mind what

Earlier today, Brian Leiter linked to this blistering salvo, which would be of little interest to those of us who do not care whether what Andrew Sullivan says about William Kristol reveal the former to be an anti-semite, except that all of a sudden, an impassioned debate broke out in the comments about ... Wittgenstein's influence on contemporary analytic philosophy. Much of this is familiar (Jason Stanley drops by to disparage Hegel), but some of us (I include myself) can't get enough. Check it out!

UPDATE [4/28]: Phew. N interlocutors, N + 1 opinions about Wittgenstein. See also here (not sure if it's a propos or just timely).

11 comments:

N. N. said...

I couldn't resist commenting.

N. N. said...

I was looking around on various universities' digital commons, and when I got to Columbia's I found a dissertation titled "Making space: Pragmatism between skepticism and dogmatism (Donald Davidson, Richard Rorty, John McDowell)." Sounds interesting.

Duck said...

Yeah, I've read that one. Not sure you'd like it; it wanders all over the place, and degenerates into flat-out handwaving toward the end, where the author compares Wittgenstein to – I am not making this up – Nietzschean perspectivism (!?) That might give you heartburn. There are some good bits though, esp. where the author gets tough with Rorty. Of course some of that kind of talk is available in the DR archives.

It's not downloadable, is it?

Daniel Lindquist said...

"It's not downloadable, is it?"

For $39 it is. For another two bucks you can get a paper copy.

There's a free 24 page preview, though.

musicalcolin said...

I'm guessing he has read it, but thanks for linking to it!

Duck said...

I'm supposed to get royalties if anyone buys it (so I imagine no one has, and at that price I'm not surprised). I wonder which 24 pages you get (I can't look).

musicalcolin said...

The cover sheet through page 18. Are those particularly good pages?

musicalcolin said...

Not to have you summarize your thesis, but I'm curious if you find space (heh) for William James. I have been reading a lot of James recently and actually find him more convincing than Rorty. His arguments definitely need translation sometimes in terms of relevance, but they feel less slippery to me.

Duck said...

What a rip! 6 pages of nothing before you get to the text! As for those first 18, well, let's see, that gets you the first two sections of chapter 1. Yes, there's some good stuff in there, but since there's no introduction to the whole thing (one of its myriad problems), it's not at all clear from those sections where the author is going with this. So it's not really a good way to figure out if the whole thing is worth your $39.

Duck said...

I don't know James that well, so there's not much about him (except a rejection of his "pragmatist theory of truth," on its typical construal anyway). It's not so much that I prefer Rorty – with whom I disagree quite a bit – but that Rorty is more directly relevant to the discussion of the relation of pragmatist approaches to epistemology and metaphysics to Davidsonian semantics (about which of course James didn't have anything to say). Isaac Levi (who is the reluctant source of my pragmatist epistemology) is, and I quote, "not a big James fan," but I look forward to reading more James some time. Some people (e.g. Russell Goodman) think James and Wittgenstein are very close in some ways.

musicalcolin said...

I'm taking a seminar with a real honest to god Jamesian Pragmatist and it is a very interesting experience. The extent to which he can deflate (or pragmatize) any philosophical argument brought up is staggering. The extent to which Russell (of course) and Brandom both got James wrong is quite staggering. The more I read of James the more I appreciate his differences from Rorty. James doesn't need the linguistic stuff that Rorty needs (not just because it was in its proto-form) to make excellent arguments.

That said, it took most of the semester for me to come around. Once I realized the strong parallels to certain aspects of phenomenology I became much more appreciative. Also it's a great tool for beating up metaphysicians.

I want to recommend my profs book, which discusses dogmatism and skepticism with some Wittgenstein and a little bit of Rorty thrown in for good measure. It's fairly wild stuff. If your interested email me at screen name @ yahoo

Also, I haven't heard of Isaac Levi.