Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Philosophy Bites on Wittgenstein

I love philosophy and at the same time, very frequently, when I read or hear philosophers or about them, I seriously lose track. When I wrote my masters and finished a good deal of the work, my mentor threw a book at me about the effect of Wittgensteinian thought on sociology. See if I could incorporate that in my thesis, to top it off. I couldn't. Wittgenstein had me baffled and I obtained my masters without him.

So Wittgenstein has become the symbol of where I feel I need philosophy, but fail to wrap my mind around it. Hence, with a mixed sense of urgency and intimidation, I set out to listen to the latest Philosophy Bites podcast. Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds speak with Barry Smith about Wittgenstein.

Early Wittgenstein is briefly discussed. Already Wittgenstein is heavily interested in language, but still uses what is named a picture theory of language; our language in one way or another tries to picture our world. This is the approach that investigates how we can improve the accuracy of language in order to picture the world more effectively. Wittgenstein takes it to logic: how logic will allow us to analyze the arguments (essentially the pictures of the world) and thus find the limits of what could be. What is logically incorrect cannot be. What is correct could - though need not be.

By 1929 he returns to England and sets out to radically alter this approach. No matter how inaccurate our language is, we seem to do well with it. What is more, we cannot start thinking, unless we have language, hence language is not the instrument to picture the world, but rather what ties us to it. This makes it very difficult to catch the essence of language. Here is where we are not even half way the podcast and I am in my third run of listening to it. Very fascinating and catching, but unbelievably hard to really deeply dig into.

More Philosophy Bites:
Skepticism ,
Thought experiments (and Avicenna).

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