Wittgensteins Legacy, Kripke, and Cavell
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The contributors including several eminent philosophers take a variety of approaches to Wittgenstein; they discuss such topics as rule-following, realism about mathematics, the method of the Tractatus, the relation between style and content in Wittgenstein, and his distinction between sense and nonsense. Wittgenstein is discussed in relation to subsequent philosophers such as Quine and Kripke.
Stidd 1. Was Wittgenstein Really an Anti-realist about Mathematics? Finkelstein 8. Notes Based on a conference held in Sept. Includes bibliographical references p. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? La Trobe University Library. Borchardt Library, Melbourne Bundoora Campus. The University of Melbourne Library. Open to the public. The whole episode of the Wittgenstein prospectus was me basically confronting my philosophy education, and trying to bring out its limits. In retrospect, I see what I wanted was to push my committee to give me reasons why I couldn't write my dissertation that way.
I was hoping when they tried to give such reasons, that would open up a conversation about the institutional structures of graduate education; it would force the hidden structures to become more explicit. Contrary to the idea prevalent in my classes that one can study in academia any aspect of philosophy and in any way that is philosophically relevant, I felt that many things I cared about where nowhere to be seen, or even mentioned, in my classes.
There was a narrative of complete openness, but a reality of sharp boundaries of what is and is not allowed. What I thought I found in Wittgenstein's way of writing is a way to bring up the fact that there are sharp boundaries in academic philosophy. Here seemed to be one: "you can't write a dissertation in the Wittgensteinian way.
So I unconsciously latched on it as a way to say to my professors, "So, this is a boundary, right? You are not going to let me do this, right?
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Academic philosophy isn't open to everything, right? I wanted to get to that line, and see what reasons Goldfarb, Moran or Siegel could give for that line. And I wanted to challenge the reasons they would give, and question if those reasons can hold up to rational deliberation. But what all this required is that they actually give a response, say "yes" or "no". They did neither, and evaded confrontation. By simply refusing to say "no", they kept up the illusion that the graduate education I was receiving was completely open, as if they wouldn't do anything as authoritarian as draw a line in the sand just because they have the power to do it.
But their power showed through anyway by the fact that they refused to give an answer, to take a stand. By not getting back to me, they forced me to decide how long I was going to keep this up.
After a year, I couldn't keep it up. When I changed my prospectus to the essay form, in a way I let them off the hook, and allowed the happy illusion to persist that I could do anything I wanted in academic philosophy, and that I just happened to change my mind about what I wanted to do for my thesis. Bummer, Bharath. I think academic philosophy would be a lot better off if we felt more free to experiment -- in topics, texts, methods, teaching, and more.
At least, I suspect we'd all be a little bit happier.
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Trying something new or out of the ordinary can be disastrous. But can also be really interesting. Thanks for sharing this. Despite both being largely unfamiliar with Wittgenstein beyond basic familiarity with certain basic ideas 'language game,' 'private language argument,' etc and being overall more comfortable in the standard academic style, I identify with many of your worries and frustrations with the institutions of professional philosophy. Like you, I think of philosophy as, first and foremost, the activity of cognitively limited agents trying to make sense of ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions in the world.
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Given this conception, even if there are legitimate geniuses, the importance of their genius for the rest of us depends on our being able to incorporate their insights into our own thinking, using whatever modes of thought we find most conducive to serious philosophical reflection. The question for professional philosophy, then, is how well it serves to provide a space to foster such philosophical reflection, not only for professional philosophers, but also for our students and the public at large.
Obviously there must be constraints and gate-keepers if 'philosopher' is to be the name of a profession for which one earns a salary, benefits, and a certain social status. So what philosophical benefits does such professionalization have to provide to be worth it? I also think the lesson for those of us who don't yet have stable tenure-track positions in academia is why we invest so much of our identity as philosophers with those institutions. Once you realize that being a philosopher, in the sense you care about, is distinct from being a professional academic, why does it even matter whether there's room for your kind of philosophy within academia?
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Only someone who wants a professional degree has to worry about what counts as a dissertation. One suspects that this helps a bit. Derek, I resonate with your comment. Especially the last question you raise. I am not sure though about your last sentence. In one sense, it is certainly true: someone wanting to be a lawyer or a mechanic doesn't have to care about the requirements in a PhD program.
But in another sense, the public in general can care about what counts as a dissertation, given that the people who get the dissertations are teaching the public. If someone is going to teach me how reading Plato is going to expand my horizons, it is relevant to me as a citizen that I know how the person got to be in a position to be able to instruct me in that way, and therefore have the power required to influence my mind in that way.
What I think is wrong is saying that only the people who got the dissertations are in a position to properly discuss what should count as a dissertation, and that the public should take their word for it. If there aren't some topics at least regarding academia that academics and the pubic can meet somewhat as equals to discuss, then there would just be academics talking down to the public and expecting that the public should comply for their own good.
Anonymous, Yes, definitely. I especially agree with your last point. Wittgenstein wrote as he did as a way to resist being too much a part of academic philosophy.
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It is hard to see how that kind of writing can be then used for entrance into academic philosophy. Though this doesn't settle the issue of why a thesis can't look like the Investigations. Wittgenstein was able to write as he did because of, as you highlight, tremendous privileges he had. But he also produced good work.
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One can either say that such work can only be produced by such privilege, or say that one can try to change institutional structures so that people with less privileges can also contribute to such work. I think the latter is better.
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HI, Bharath. Yes, I agree with your correction to my last sentence. I meant it only in the restricted sense matching your analogies with mechanics and lawyers, but I didn't thereby mean to deny the value of public comment on the academic institutions within our society. Hi Bharath, Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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I have a rather lengthy response, and I warn that it is experimental in content. The "code" says it can't be longer than x characters, I have broken it in two parts. I hope you don't mind. I too struggled with the rigidity of what I saw academics following up on. Academics often producing research that, while not necessarily pointless, just didn't ask the right question, go deep enough or didn't open up the "philosophical" phenomenon for study.