Knowing How to Talk About What Cannot Be Said: Objectivity and Epistemic Locatedness

Sophia 53 (2):215-229 (2014)
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I take it that A. W. Moore is right when he said that ‘Wittgenstein was right: some things cannot be put into words. Moreover, some things that cannot be put into words are of the utmost philosophical importance’. There is, however, a constant threat of self-stultification whenever an attempt is made to put the ineffable into words. As Pamela Sue Anderson notes in Re-visioning gender in philosophy of religion: reason, love, and epistemic locatedness, certain recent approaches to ineffability—including Moore’s approach—attempt to find a ‘third way’ of engaging with it, which displaces the traditional dichotomy between the effable and the ineffable, that is, between what can be said and what cannot be said. In this way, they seek to overcome the threat of self-stultification mentioned above. Still, one important challenge to this kind of approach, which Moore addresses, is, as he puts it, ‘to show how it is possible’ to talk about the ineffable ‘without belying its very ineffability’. His solution to the problem of the ineffable takes the notion of ‘knowing how’ to play a central role, and is formulated in accordance with his commitments to truth and objectivity. A further important challenge to the kind of approach to the ineffable Moore proposes concerns the issue of objectivity. In Re-visioning gender in philosophy of religion, Anderson draws attention to our epistemic locatedness, which brings in questions concerning, for example, gender and culture. Pursuing this view, the challenge is to show ineffable insight without ignoring our epistemic locatedness and, in particular, the role of gender in the conceptualisation and imagery through which we seek to come to terms with the ineffable. My paper deals with these challenges. By engaging with Moore’s and Anderson’s discussions of the ineffable, I examine how it is possible to talk philosophically about the ineffable, without breaking a commitment to enlarged or objective thinking, and without ignoring the epistemic locatedness of thinking



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