The voluminous writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein contain some of the most profound reflections of recent times on the nature of the human subject and self-understanding - the human condition, philosophically speaking. Describing Ourselves mines those extensive writings for a conception of the self that stands in striking contrast to its predecessors as well as its more recent alternatives. More specifically, the book offers a detailed discussion of Wittgenstein's later writings on language and mind as they hold special significance for the (...) understanding and clarification of the distinctive character of self-descriptive or autobiographical language. Garry L. Hagberg undertakes a ground-breaking philosophical investigation of selected autobiographical writings - among the best examples we have of human selves exploring themselves - as they cast new and special light on the critique of mind-body dualism and its undercurrents in particular and on the nature of autobiographical consciousness more generally. The chapters take up in turn the topics of self-consciousness, what Wittgenstein calls 'the inner picture', mental privacy and the picture of metaphysical seclusion, the very idea of our observation of the contents of consciousness, first-person expressive speech, reflexive or self-directed thought and competing pictures of introspection, the nuances of retrospective self-understanding, person-perception and the corollary issues of self-perception (itself an interestingly dangerous phrase), self-defining memory, and the therapeutic conception of philosophical progress as it applies to all of these issues. The cast of characters interwoven throughout this rich discussion include, in addition to Wittgenstein centrally, Augustine, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Iris Murdoch, Donald Davidson, and Stanley Cavell, among others. Throughout, conceptual clarifications concerning mind and language are put to work in the investigation of issues relating to self-description and in novel philosophical readings of autobiographical texts. (shrink)
The philosophy of literature, a topic on which we publish numerous articles, concerns what we at the journal take to be engaging and interestingly intricate issues; these include the ontology of fictional characters and the precise nature of our emotional responses to fiction. Philosophy as literature, although we perhaps publish fewer works of this kind, considers philosophical writing from a literary standpoint; issues here include the varying stylistics of philosophical writing over the ages and the role of figurative or metaphorical (...) language in the writing of philosophy, as well as the settled tropes those practices have collectively engendered. Philosophy and literature—perhaps our most frequently published... (shrink)
In 1931, in the remarks collected as Culture and Value, Wittgenstein writes: ‘A thinker is very much like a draughtsman whose aim it is to represent all the interrelations between things.’ At a glance it is clear that this analogy might contribute significantly to a full description of the autobiographical thinker as well. And this conjunction of relations between things and the work of the draughtsman immediately and strongly suggests that the grasping of relations is in a sense visual, or (...) that networks or constellations of relations are the kinds of things (to continue the ocular metaphor) brought into focus by seeing in the right way. (shrink)
One can characterize the relation between philosophy and literature in a number of interestingly different ways: literature provides examples that put flesh on the bones of philosophical ideas; literature shows what philosophy says; literature serves philosophy by displaying the complexity of circumstance that philosophy may oversimplify; literature captures a kind of content that is not amenable to propositional encapsulation; literature offers a portal into an imaginative world and a special kind of vicarious experience within it that philosophy does not and (...) should not try to provide; literature shows what it is like to be another person in another time and place; and.. (shrink)
: This paper argues that Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground makes a fundamental point that runs directly counter to the received popular image of the work; i.e. the understanding that Notes describes a consciousness reflecting on itself, hermetically sealed within its own Cartesian interior. In truth, a closer reading shows that the mind depicted therein is profoundly relational and situated in a particularized context, and that this discursive mind characterizes what Wittgenstein says about mental privacy in the context of the private (...) language argument. The upshot is that language is not secondary, not an afterthought, and thus not posterior to pure subjectivity of the kind that many who celebrate "inferiority" take as a given human experience. (shrink)
Does non-representational art itself constitute a refutation of any theory of art based upon mimesis or imitation? Our intuitions regarding this question seem to support an affirmative answer: it appears impossible to account for abstract and non-representational art in terms of imitation, because, to put the problem simply, if nothing is copied in a work of art then there can be nothing essentially imitative about it. The very notion of abstract imitative art seems self-contradictory.
When we inquire into the nature of works of art we can see at a glance that there is a good deal of evidence against aesthetic idealism, the view that artworks are, in the final analysis, imaginary objects in the minds of their creators. We believe, for instance, that the National Gallery not only contingently but in some sense necessarily weighs more than merely the sum of the empty building, the people in it, and the assorted fixtures. This sum must (...) also include the weight of canvases, the oils on them, carved stone and marble, and so on, all of which add up to substantially more than nothing, which is at least the approximate weight of imaginary things. We know that it takes considerably more than a verbal utterance or acoustical blast to transport an artwork, and we also know that a visit to the gallery is not going to amount to an afternoon spent with wax figures of unicorns, flying horses, present and bald kings of France or, for that matter, talking teapots. In short, intuition protests against the idealist theory that if works of art are imaginary objects, they cannot be the things we go to see in the gallery; and if they are imaginary objects then, like a waxen Peter Pan, they are surely not art. Mellon and Meinong simply have different kinds of collections. (shrink)