1. Kierkegaard on saying and showing. The paper explores certain parallels between Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript and Wittgenstein's Tractatus. The following five parallels appear to exist between these two works: both draw a distinction between sense and nonsense; both distinguish between what can be said and what can only be shown; both aspire to show what cannot be said by drawing limits to what can be said; both end by retracting themselves; both imply that silence is the only correct form (...) of answer to certain questions they pose. I argue that the standard interpretation of each of these works has them inside out: a proper understanding of parallels and reveals both works to be concerned with undermining a doctrine of ineffability. I try to show that although parallels , , and depend upon a misreading of these works they, too, are nevertheless connected to deep and interesting genuine parallels in the respective philosophical undertakings of these two authors. ;2. Nietzsche's perfectionism. Nietzsche has been read as advancing a form of perfectionism in both moral and political philosophy. I argue against the standard reading of Nietzsche as defending some form of moral or political elitism. The argument is based on a careful examination of Nietzsche's third Untimely Meditation--a text frequently drawn upon to support an extreme elitist interpretation of Nietzsche. I go on to suggest that Nietzsche's views are, nonetheless, aptly characterized as perfectionist in certain respects and that they represent a striking development of certain strains of perfectionist thought that have been either widely neglected or prematurely dismissed in contemporary moral and political philosophy. ;3. The James/Royce Debate on the theory of truth. The paper argues that to understand William James' mature views one needs to situate his writing within the polemical context of the period in which he wrote and, in particular, to view his development against the background of his ongoing dialogue with Josiah Royce. I outline three successive arguments Royce deploys in an attempt to show that James' pragmatic theory of truth is self-refuting. I argue that the pressure these arguments exert on James leads him to develop a more nuanced and original form of pragmatism than has hitherto generally been appreciated. (shrink)
This essay examines the relationship between Philipp Frank and JamesBryantConant in light of two issues that engaged leading American intellectuals in the mid-twentieth century: the place of metaphysics in higher education and the responsibilities of intellectuals as educators to defend democracy against the rise of totalitarianism. It suggests that Frank’s relationship to pragmatism was nourished by his professional and intellectual relationships to Conant and that each of their contributions to our understanding of science is (...) inseparable from their efforts to engage their fellow intellectuals as well as the public about these pressing issues of their day. (shrink)
The following is a transcript of a discussion about the question between Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and JamesConant. The discussion was part of a series of discussions on more or less philosophical subjects broadcast on Chicago Public Radio. This discussion is anchored by Gretchen Helfrich. Two listeners (Chris and Edwin) also took part.
Gerald Bruns’s “Stanley Cavell’s Shakespeare” is a consistently sympathetic and thoughtful response to Cavell’s difficult essays on Shakespeare.1 Nevertheless, while Bruns’s exposition of Cavell’s thought places it in a pertinently complex region of philosophical and literary concerns, it is hampered by its relative isolation from much of Cavell’s other work and from certain abiding conflicts within contemporary philosophy which inform that work. The resultant misunderstandings of Cavell’s thought are perhaps as inevitable as they are widespread—a function of the way in (...) which the modern American university carves up and compartmentalizes the world of humanistic learning—and are on the verge of becoming entrenched among commentators on his work. Much of Cavell’s work has been concerned to resist some of the costs of this process of compartmentalization or professionalization. The problems this resistance poses for the reception of the work are perhaps nowhere more pervasive than in the case of Cavell’s collection of essays on Shakespeare, Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare, in part because of Cavell’s sense of the figure of Shakespeare, of what this corpus of writing represents. In light of, and in appreciation of, Bruns’s serious and resourceful effort to get Cavell’s thought on these matters straight, it is worth trying to get it clearer. JamesConant, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, is currently a fellow at the Michigan Society of Fellows. His “Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein and Nonsense” is included in Pursuits of Reason: Essays in Honor of Stanley Cavell. (shrink)
This new edition of William James’s 1909 classic, A Pluralistic Universe reproduces the original text, only modernizing the spelling. The books has been annotated throughout to clarify James’s points of reference and discussion. There is a new, fuller index, a brief chronology of James’s life, and a new bibliography—chiefly based on James’s own references. The editor, H.G. Callaway, has included a new Introduction which elucidates the legacy of Jamesian pluralism to survey some related questions of contemporary (...) American society. -/- A Pluralistic Universe was the last major book James published during his life time. It is a substantial philosophical work, devoted to a thorough-going criticism of Hegelian monism and Absolutism—and the exploration of philosophical and social-theological alternatives. Our world of some one hundred years on is much the better for James’s contributions; and understanding James’s pluralism deeply contributes even now to America’s self-understanding. At present, we are more certain that American is, and is best, a pluralistic society, than we are of what particular forms our pluralism should take. Keeping an eye out for social interpretations of Jamesian pluralism, this new philosophical reading casts light on our twenty-first century alternatives by reference to prior American experience and developments. -/- . (shrink)
William James had the courage to experience the collision of European and American ways of thinking head on, and to emerge from it with a new philosophy - one displaying a remarkable vitality for dealing with the transformative issues at the core of the human condition. This easy to read introduction to his life and work explains why James' work is overwhelmingly valuable to us today in getting to grips with the spiritual dimension of human experience.
Wittgenstein gives voice to an aspiration that is central to his later philosophy, well before he becomes later Wittgenstein, when he writes in §4.112 of the Tractatus that philosophy is not a matter of putting forward a doctrine or a theory, but consists rather in the practice of an activity – an activity he goes on to characterize as one of elucidation or clarification – an activity which he says does not result in philosophische Sätze, in propositions of philosophy, but (...) rather in das Klarwerden von Sätzen, in our attaining clarity in our relation to the sentences of our language that we call upon to express our thoughts.1 To say that early Wittgenstein already aspired to such a conception of philosophy is not to gainsay that to aspire to practice philosophy in such a manner and to succeed in doing so are not the same thing. It is therefore not to deny that, by Wittgenstein’s later lights, the Tractatus is to be judged a work that is marked by forms of failure tied to its having failed fully to live up to such an aspiration. But if it is thus to be judged, then it is to some degree a failure even by Wittgenstein’s own earlier lights. This means that if one wants to understand the fundamental turn in Wittgenstein’s thinking as he moves from his earlier to his later philosophy, and why it is that he wanted the Tractatus to be published and read together with Philosophical Investigations, one needs to understand what sort of failure this is – and that requires coming to terms with the Tractatus’s own understanding of what sort of work it was trying to be. We think that readers of the Tractatus – be they admirers or detractors of Wittgenstein – have, on the whole, failed to do this. (shrink)
Wittgenstein is usually taken to have held that the use of a term is not mentally constrained. That is utterly wrong. A use of language unconstrained by meaning is attributed by him to "meaning-blind" or "aspect-blind" creatures, not to us. We observe meaning when an aspect dawns on us; meaning is the impression (Eindruck) of a term as fitting something; hence, unlike pain, it cannot stand alone. That is a mentalistic theory of meaning: use is determined by images (Vorstellungen) that (...) play semantic roles in virtue of their aesthetic properties. Although a term may be arbitrarily interpreted, aesthetic reasons determine which interpretation be seen as right for it. (shrink)
A central debate in early modern philosophy, between empiricism and rationalism, turned on the question which of two cognitive faculties—sensibility or understanding—should be accorded logical priority in an account of the epistemic credentials of knowledge. As against both the empiricist and the rationalist, Kant wants to argue that the terms of their debate rest on a shared common assumption: namely that the capacities here in question—qua cognitive capacities—are self-standingly intelligible. The paper terms this assumption the Layer-Cake Conception of Human Mindedness (...) and focuses on Kant’s argument against the empiricist version of the assumption, in particular, as that argument is developed in the B version of the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason. The paper seeks to show how a proper understanding of the structure of the B Deduction reveals its aim to be one of making sense of each of these two capacities in the light of the other. For the front of the argument that is directed against the empiricist, this means coming to see how a reading of the text that is informed by the layer-cake conception is mistaken. For the front of the argument which is directed against the rationalist, this requires coming to see how a mere inversion of the central claim of such a reading would be equally wrong. It would require seeing how a discursive faculty of understanding able to traffic in nothing more than empty concepts would no more amount to a genuinely cognitive power than would a faculty of intuition able to traffic in nothing more than blind intuitions. That is, it requires seeing how each of these faculties depends on its relation to the other to be the sort of faculty that it is in a finite rational being. (shrink)
Why worry about Wittgenstein’s Tractatus? Did not Wittgenstein himself come to think it was largely a mistaken work? Is not Wittgenstein’s important work his later work? And does not his later work consist in a rejection of his earlier views? So does not the interest of the Tractatus mostly lie in its capacity to furnish a particularly vivid exemplar of the sort of philosophy that the mature Wittgenstein was most concerned to reject? So is it not true that the only (...) real reason to worry about the Tractatus is to become clear about what sort of thing it was that the later Wittgenstein was most against in philosophy? Is the interest of the book therefore not largely exhausted by its capacity to show us what the later Wittgenstein did not think? Much of the secondary literature on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, either implicitly or explicitly, answers these questions largely in the affirmative. The aim of this paper is to suggest that the manner in which it has done so has done much to obstruct the possibility of an understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy – both early and late. The aim is not to suggest that these questions should be answered instead in the negative, but rather to furnish a prolegomenon to the possibility of a proper understanding of what – and how much – ought to be affirmed in answering them in the affirmative. As the present volume makes evident, there is currently a debate underway about how to read (and how not to read) Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. This paper will not attempt a direct contribution to that debate,2 it will attempt instead to bring out some of what might be at stake in that debate. It is natural to think that all that ought to be at stake is a fairly parochial question concerning the proper interpretation of Wittgenstein’s work during a single, relatively early phase of his philosophical development. Thus it is natural to conclude that, whatever differences may divide the parties to this debate concerning how to read the Tractatus, nonetheless, au fond these interpreters of Wittgenstein may be in broad agreement about how to read most of the rest of Wittgenstein’s work – or, at least, whatever their disagreements may be about the early work, they are ones that can be independently adjudicated, without substantial cost to anyone’s prior.... (shrink)
This paper comes in three parts. In the first part, I explore the question of the relation between the philosophies of the early and the later Wittgenstein as they are standardly distinguished, with the aim of raising some questions about whether that standard distinction might not obstruct our view of certain significant aspects of the development of Wittgenstein’s thought. In the second part, drawing on the work of Marie McGinn and Warren Goldfarb, I distinguish two senses in which these two (...) commentators have been moved to call upon the expression ‘piecemeal’ in their respective attempts to characterize an important feature of Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophical method. In the third part, I draw upon this distinction to help bring into focus a significant shift in Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophical method which occurs fully within the so-called “later” period—a shift which has in no small part remained invisible due to the manner in which the opposition between an early and a later Wittgenstein has hitherto been conceived. (shrink)
If someone believes himself to have discovered the solution to the problem of life … then in order to refute himself he need only reflect that there was a time when this ‘solution’ had not been discovered; but it must have been possible to live then too…. And that is the position in which we find ourselves in logic. If there comes to seem to be a ‘solution’ to logical (philosophical) problems, we should need only to caution ourselves that there (...) was a time when they had not been solved (and even at that time people must have been able to live and think). (shrink)
As we have seen, the crucial step in Nietzsche’s argument for his early doctrine is summed by in the following remark: ‘If we are forced to comprehend all things only under these forms, then it ceases to be amazing that in all things we actually comprehend nothing but these forms’ (1979, pp. 87–8). Before eventually learning to be suspicious of it, Nietzsche spends a good deal of time wondering instead what it would mean to live with the conclusion that (what (...) he calls) “the Kantian philosophy” apparently thus forces upon one, if one allows oneself to take this step. The different ways of living with its implications that Nietzsche goes on to distinguish in his early writings play an important role in his own subsequent retrospective understanding of the stations of the dialectic through which his thought had to traverse in its movement towards his mature perspectivism. Nietzsche contrasts these, in turn, with different possible versions of stage-two perspectivism. It is these finer discriminations that Nietzsche makes among the possible ways of occupying the second and third stages of the dialectic that will briefly concern us in this part of the paper. (shrink)
If, as the title of this book suggests, the state of Tractatus commentary has at times recently resembled something close to a state of war, then it has most of all resembled a war of attrition. Against this background, Roger White's "Throwing the Baby Out with the Ladder" makes for refreshing reading. To be sure, White repeats some of the familiar misconceptions of what resolute readers do or must claim that have marred the debate over the adequacies or inadequacies of (...) such an approach to the Tractatus (TLP). But he also introduces some novel and interesting lines of criticism that merit serious attention. Foremost among the latter is White's treatment (in Section III of his paper) of three engaging examples that he sees as making trouble for resolute readers, and for their opposition to the standard idea that the lesson of the Tractatrrs could consist in its communicating, and our grasping, ineffable insights by way of its nonsense-sentences. (shrink)