Saturday, February 27, 2010

Following up on Pseudonoma's "definition" of space, Sebastian has declared the conversation on space both over and not over. I do not know whether my contribution will fit in the space afforded by the interval between these two possibilities, nor whether I will even be able to produce this contribution, but let me just get my foot in the door with an aphorism, and may it come to me how I may amplify it tomorrow:

Space is the grant by which logic, not to say first becomes logical, but rather makes this "first" which belongs inalienably to its logicality into a gift.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who's been up all night writing about Wittgenstein?

I've written a paper much too long to be suitable for a blog entry, but I will be happy to make it available upon request. Excerpt follows:
6.5 When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words.
The riddle does not exist.
If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.

One is tempted at a number of points in reading the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to exclaim, perhaps while throwing the book against the wall, “But that's obviously wrong, Ludwig!” Proposition 6.5 seems to afford such an occasion: surely riddles bedevil us all our lives. Leaving aside for now the question of the meaning of being, what about the not uncommon question, “What do I do?” Whether I ask this question as I stumble blearily out of bed on a Saturday morning, or as I confront an overwhelming pile of unprocessed work, or even at the nadir of despair-—in any case, I ask it precisely because no action immediately presents itself, and I am forced to reconsider my disposition to action in a radically different way than when I coast mechanically from task to task. The question has a reflective turn mirrored in its reflexive structure: what do I do? I might as well ask, what does my doing do? Obviously no answer on the order of “Pour a bowl of Wheaties” or “Write an abstract for a conference submission” will serve here, because it would have to be selected from a range of options already “on the table,” which is just what is lacking when I ask this question. Rather, I have come to interrogate the sustaining source of my doings—-yet, this questioning necessarily occurs only in the absence of that source, at the moment of its sudden abandonment: otherwise it would already be providing me with an action and give me no cause to ask, “What do I do?” Now an answer to this question “in words” would not supply what the question is asking for--its satisfaction would take place only in a grant from the sustaining source of my doings. In other words, the answer to this question can only be a conversion: the source and I must reconcile. Does it follow that the question was never put into words in the first place? With careful attention to Wittgenstein's sense of what it means to be “put into words,” we may see in what way it can be said that a riddle such as the one described above is not ever a question put into words.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010



The "active forgetfulness" of which Nietzsche speaks, the forgetfulness of the child, for which he makes Zarathustra long, seems not to be easy to introduce into history. The divine art of forgetting, which is invoked in the fragments of the "Dionysus Dithyrambs," is not the art of human history, whose irreversibility implies memory. In history the price we pay for our great critical freedom in regard to the answers is the nonnegotiability of the questions.

Nietzsche's indelible memory of the theological questions the answers to which have "lapsed" is a function of his commitment to history. And the commitment to history is precisely the context of that lapse.

I hope to have something to say soon about the urgency of a philosophy of history.

Re: Ereignis @ Seynsgeschichte

Pseudonoma seems very enthusiastic about something to do with thinking and time.

Re: Patzig, Günther. 1969. Aristotle's Theory of the Syllogism. Tr. Jonathan Barnes. Dordrecht: D. Reidel. Ch. I, "What is an Aristotelian Syllogism?"

Includes a nice wind-up of part of the discussion of the absence of particular propositions. The reasons adduced for this omission by Ross (following along with the model of scientific practice) and Lukasiewicz (desire to get everything ready to work as both subject and predicate) don't cut it. Instead, the three classes of being given in I.27 are real types (particular, universal, categorical), and only the middle type fits the generalized program for discovering deductions presented in the following chapter, and serves the purpose of making this program possible.

Only half-way through chapter one, but at least I gather that an Aristotelian syllogism is a conditional proposition, rather than a valid generalized argument form. Can't say I see what's riding on that distinction yet.

Re: Blumenberg, H, 1983, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, R. Wallace (tr.), Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press., Pt. I, Ch. 3, "Progress Exposed as Fate"

I'm interested in the hermeneutic framings and reframings. In Ch. 2 Blumenberg took up Gadamer's claim of a "dimension of hidden meaning" displayed through the concept of secularization (which would require one observing it to undergo a turn in order to be undeceived of the undeveloped surface). Now he puts a new spin on the turn, declaring that the thesis "that the modern age is unthinkable without Christianity...gains a definable meaning only through a critique of the foreground appearance--or better: the apparent background presence--of secularization" (30). The hidden dimension turns out to be just as susceptible to partiality.

A frighteningly rebellious attitude seems to run through the argument. The modern age's legitimacy may be predicated on its impulse to kick free of its genesis, to enjoy its own resources in a project of self-development (self-assertion?).

Re: Anscombe, G.E.M., 1959, An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, London: Hutchinson., ch. 7 "Wittgenstein, Frege and Ramsey"

A tentative new feature on philosophy ktl: quick notes, trying to describe what I think about whatever I read today.

The thesis, more or less, is that the appearance of universals in language is due to the fact that actual relations have to be represented with a meager supply of spatial relations of words. That something is on top of another thing could be represented easily with pictures, but the pictorial relation is referred to rather than shown in words. Result, there appears to be a universal concept "being on top of." Objects relate to each other, not to the relations which relate them. Because it is by their power of so relating that they are objects at all, the concepts are a function of the being of the objects.

I'm not convinced that Wittgenstein "dissolved" the problem of universals in the Tractatus. Anscombe probably doesn't either, but it's hard to tell. At any rate, she doesn't make anything of the fact that importing universals into objects as "properties" doesn't eliminate them. I think the virtue of this procedure, if its pretense to erasure can be erased, is that it returns the universals to their starting point.

Not sure what I mean by that except that I get an exciting sense of recollection when I think of universals as an illusory residue and transpose them into the unprotected, unguided sheer manifold of being of things.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Now that I think of it

To answer my own challenge in the comments of my recent commentary on the historical syllogism of St. Augustine, I am reminded that The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure by then Joseph Ratzinger gives a model of a pious dilation of the final era (I won't say epoch, so as not to suggest I have any sense of "epochality") of history. Perhaps it is time for me to dust off the old Hexaemeron.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I have yet to find a way to answer the challenge posed last month by City in Speech, to say what space is. I have several anxieties which obstruct my attempting any answer to that question. However, in the next day or two I will have something to say at least in the way of destroying those anxieties.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Introduction to the historical-logical demonology of St. Augustine

At the conclusion of his argument in Book II of The City of God that the "gods who demand plays" are manifestly wicked on the evidence of the disrepute in which everyone holds the players (a discussion whose full relevance to a certain cyberpath lately traversed I have yet to realize), St. Augustine gives the following remarkable summary:
And the whole of this discussion may be summed up in the following syllogism. The Greeks give us the major premiss: If such gods are to be worshipped, then certainly such men may be honoured. The Romans add the minor: But such men must by no means be honored. The Christians draw the conclusion: Therefore such gods must by no means be worshipped.

I call this summary "remarkable" for two reasons. First, the nature of the syllogism here shows itself to be such that the act of drawing a conclusion exceeds and does not automatically follow the manifestation of premises. The Christians do not achieve their conclusion on account of being supplied with any further matter of fact than those which were already available to the Romans. A historical comma transpires between the premises and the conclusion. Perhaps this comma shares its source with the obtuseness of St. Augstine's imagined interlocutors, against whom at the beginning of Book II he complains:
If the feeble mind of man did not presume to resist the clear evidence of truth, but yielded its infirmity to wholesome doctrines, as to a health-giving medicine, until it obtained from God, by its faith and piety, the grace needed to heal it, they who have just ideas, and express them in suitable language, would need to use no long discourse to refute the errors of empty conjecture. But this mental infirmity is now more prevalent and hurtful than ever, to such an extent that even ater the truth has been as fully demonstrated as man can prove it to man, they hold for the very truth their own unreasonable fancies, either on account of their great blindness, which prevents them from seeing what is plainly set before them, or on account of their opinionative obstinacy, which prevents them from acknowledging the force of what they do see. There therefore frequently arises a necessity of speaking more fully on those points which are already clear, that we may, as it were, present them not to the eye, but even to the touch, so that they may be felt even by those who close their eyes against them.

Second, St. Augustine here indicates in passing his general theology of history in a way that amplifies its centrality to philosophy. That Christians are conclusion-drawers has everything to do with the fact that for St. Augustine the Christian age is the final immanent development of history. This fact in turn is not merely a way of interpreting the chronology of events but permeates the temporality of all intellectual learning. The significance of the comma noted above between the minor premise and the conclusion is that only Christ brings anything to a conclusion.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mutual exclusivity of reading and graduate study?

I think I may only be able to read one philosophical text in my life. I still don't know which one it should be.

Obviously I distinguish between a) reading and b) passing my eyes over all the words, perhaps in conjunction with an authoritative statement from someone who has succeeded in reading (a teacher, a commentator). I have had occasion to "read" many works in the latter sense. The more I read in this way (i.e. the longer I remain a grad student and thereby submit to the necessity of having read many books in a certain time without regard to the pace of development of my own understanding), the more discouraged and cynical I become.

Every semester I renew my resolve to pay no attention to the requirements of my classes, and every semester this resolve dissipates in the face of an imposed sense of responsibility.

This makes me wonder whether I should be in school. My pace of understanding certainly isn't matched to what the syllabi demand. I haven't entirely given up on finding room in the graduate program for actual learning (I do have some marvelous evenings in the library these days, and ktl is going a long way), but I do sometimes wonder whether there wouldn't be just as much room for it outside the magical "academic community."

On the other hand, perhaps the tedious acquisition of basic facility with and superficial recognition of the themes of a large set of standard texts really is a necessary part of learning philosophy, and I should just stop complaining and get back to work.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

introduction to the assertiveness of non-assertoric propositions

I would like to reach a decision on the question of whether any proposition can remain without a truth-value on account of its not being asserted. First of all, it seems reasonable to ask whether there is any such thing as a proposition which is not asserted. Perhaps the special content of a propositional question? The question demands and waits for answer: is this so, or not? It incorporates a proposition into the structure of a demand. It asks for a decision, and this decision has built into it the same special content as does the demand. Should I assert this, or not? I should, if I find it true. Then how does this finding happen? Do I examine the proposition as a neutral object and then measure my beliefs for agreement or disagreement? If so, in what does this measuring consist, and how is it commensurable with the proposition? i should be looking for a belief that looks like the proposition or like its negation. This means that I must already know what the proposition says, and what my beliefs say, so that I can see whether my beliefs and the proposition say the same thing. But an unasserted proposition:--what does it say? Nothing, but that its assertion would say something. It is this latter something which is to be measured against my beliefs. Therefore, to undertake this measuring, I must first posit the assertion of the proposition, since the unasserted proposition says something incommensurable with the beliefs which need to be checked in order to decide whether I should make it.

Then it is impossible to reach a decision about an unasserted proposition, as to whether it should be asserted, and we do not find any proposition prior to the assertion of it. The appearance that the assertion of a proposition may be suspended in a question arises from the fact that we sometimes find ourselves trying to reach a decision on some point or other (as even now I am trying to do). We think that, because we have externalized the assertion in a realm of possibility, there has been no actual assertion. But wherever (in whatever "realm of being") we put it, we still actually put it there, as an assertion, and so we put it there along with the truth-value which is supposed to be deferred.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Natality and Fate of Tradition

The manifestation of the temporality of tradition, and therefore of the temporality of being in a community, depends on achieving the sense of a founding in terms of a developed consciousness. This means that the provenance of tradition cannot be given in propositional form, whether this proposition should be an unquestioned authoritative mandate or a hypothesis for future verification. However, there is in this fact a substantial piece of information about the sense of a founding—namely, that it is such as to reveal itself not abstractly but only through historical time, not construed as the mere passing of the seconds, minutes, etc. which regulate the motions of physical bodies, but as the medium of a dialectical development of historical perspective. Insofar as tradition involves a responsibility to a founding (as opposed to the thoughtless aping of a fetishized set of protocols, which can be the foundation of no community), it must relate thoughtfully to this founding: it has to know the founding. This knowledge of the founding in its true temporal meaning turns out, as we have seen, to require a development of temporality itself. Formally speaking, this requirement is the temporality of tradition.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Trying to say the impossible one more time

Allow me once again to repeat myself. I seem to have put things so badly in yesterday's post that a more thoughtful statement corresponding in nearly every point to my own intention could be brought against my statement as its negation.

It is exactly because the external view of tradition is my inheritance from the western tradition that I am loth to give it up, and why I cannot accept the necessity of abandoning the internal/external dichotomy as long as this necessity is interpreted as a mandate to roll back consciousness to a point before tradition came to be seen in an externally historical perspective. That is what I meant to say in point 2 of yesterday's post.

I also said yesterday that I am looking for a way to preserve the achievement of the western tradition in affording me the external view, while not being limited by the fact that this view, taken in itself, obscures any possibility of standing within tradition. I think my intention here was admirably paraphrased by pseudonoma as the pursuit of an "escape from the external view without deviating from its most proper intention and aim."

An impasse shows the way forward, because it shows what thinking still has to do. This is why an impasse is not a "dead end."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

To sum up the last week's series of posts in pursuit of the nature of tradition, I have arrived at the following impasse:

1. The dichotomy between the internal and external views of the temporal character of tradition has to be abandoned, because as a religious being searching for piety, I cannot be satisfied with an interpretation which situates me as an outside observer of tradition.

2. The dichotomy cannot be abandoned, because it seems to involve forfeiting the position from which the most can be seen, rolling back consciousness to a point before it discovered the externally historical presentation of tradition; in other words, it seems to involve a willful denial of what the tradition of the philosophy of history has come to know and has passed on to me as my inheritance from it.

I am not sure that I should regard these demands as being equal in force, but I do so regard them. In an attempt to reconcile them, therefore, I am looking for a way to hold on to the synoptic view afforded by the external interpretation while removing the one-sidedness of an "external" position. For this reason it will not content me to retreat to the internal position any more than to abandon myself to the external. For, as I have been saying all along, the very notion of an internal point of view, as one side of a fundamental division, is a function of the external view which lays this division down in the first place--so that the intention to retreat (known as "traditionalism") fails from the outset by capitulating to the very thing it is trying to flee.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Can it be to the advantage of thinking to have given up a distinction? The external view of tradition described in the below postings seems to be conscious of more than the internal. Surely we should not have to dim our awareness in order to reach the truth. Besides, as pseudonoma pointed out in response to yesterday's posting, the external view is itself taken up, passed on, affirmed, and questioned from within the internal view, as a ramification of it.

No solutions today, just more problems.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Natality of Tradition, c't'd

In yesterday's posting, I was trying to explain why after saying that tradition is regarded internally "as the way it has always been (let "it" be what it may)," I felt it necessary to add "or at least the way it has been since before one's initiation into the field in which the tradition in question holds sway." The reason I gave was twofold: first of all, any description of tradition, from whatever point of view, has to take account of the fact that tradition may and perhaps must relate to a founding; secondly, in the light of a distinction between internal and external ways of encountering tradition, a distinction based on and itself reinforcing the external view, the interpretation of founding which most readily presented itself was an external one: that a founding is an action which invents and introduces a new way of doing things which subsequently catches on.

I have not yet given any reason for denying that this interpretation is the correct one. However, it is certainly incorrect to give it as part of the internal point of view. Now, the question naturally arises as to whether it is even possible from the point of view we have been taking so far, to give a correct statement of the manner in which the internal view would take account of the fact of a founding. I propose that this is not possible, and that the external view of tradition is not even capable of stating in any matter of fact way how founding is traditionally interpreted, let alone what founding is in truth.

KTL Overdose

More on Wittgenstein, continuing the line started last month. Read it if you're interested.

The account of propositions as a kind of expression repeats and deepens the lacuna in the picture theory (its omission of display and perception of logical pictures). The proposition is an expression of a thought, which is in turn a "logical picture" by which we "picture to ourselves" the facts which make up the world. First of all there is the fact, or, as far as thought with logical form is concerned, it might be better to say the elementary binary node of possibility. This node is what we picture to ourselves and determine positively or negatively. The binary node of possibility which is one point in the world appears to us in our picturing it to ourselves in logical space. The world is not a logical picture but finds expression in one, and this is what it means for a logical picture to be "of" facts.

Now the words "node," "point," "appears," "picturing," and "space" above all seem to be metaphors transferring the material of the senses into the structure of thinking. On the basis of this metaphoricity, it would be necessary to qualify also the statement that the world finds "expression" in thought (Such an analysis would be in accord with the traditional interpretation of intellectual perception as a metaphor). However, to posit a metaphysical rift between sense and thinking will make it impossible to explain how it is that the expression of a thought "can be perceived by the senses" in a proposition.

The thought may be a picture but does the thought then think itself? (Does a picture perceive itself and display itself?) We cannot neglect this question by chalking it up to the penumbras of the metaphoricity of "logical pictures," as though we were looking for a correlative in thinking to the production and reception of pictures only because we had been deceived by the metaphor into expecting everything to be the same "over there" in thinking as it is "over here" in sensing. Rather, it is the very gap in correspondence between sense and thinking which requires us to ask about the thinking of a thought. We can be satisfied, at first, with the substantial existence of sensible pictures. A thought, however, is not already "out there" but comes about simultaneously with the thinking of it. The phrase " ourselves" nicely reproduces the ambiguity of "machen uns Bilder," which in good usage means that we get an idea of something, but taken word for word also attributes the production of ideas to us as simultaneous with our receiving them. Wittgenstein's usage here points to a critical difference in the nature of a thought and the nature of a picture; the latter is produced and subsequently received, and stands in the meantime waiting in the world, ready to be seen.

The picture-theory of the Tractatus persistently treats the logical picture as though it were something substantial--that is, perduring in a meantime between production and perception, and says nothing about what it means to see a logical picture, or to display it. These, however, are the real moments of thinking, of which "the thought" is a fleeting shadow. What thinking is, then, remains fundamentally unclear in the Tractatus, and this leads to a deeper unclarity in what seems clearest: the senses. Here it must be admitted that we have no clear way of discerning whether the static interpretation of thought is responsible for the static interpretation of the proposition, or the other way around. At any rate, that an expression of a thought can be perceived by the senses proves that the senses no more receive a ready object than does thinking. Thinking must already somehow have a hand in saying and hearing for perception of a proposition to come about.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Natality of Tradition

I gave an incorrect description yesterday of the "internal" view of tradition. It should be obvious that an acknowledgment that things might once have been different and that one's initiation into the field could have been differently governed is already a transposition to the external view. However, this failed to be obvious to me, and I think the elusiveness of this fact had to do with two things: 1) It is not foreign to tradition (and may even be essential to it) to involve a relation to a founding, which means that the internal view can in some way involve a sense of a time before the tradition, and 2) the external view of tradition has such an overwhelming credibility, once it comes over the horizon, that the description of an internal view of tradition (which here means only a description of the negated other of the external view) cannot help being determined by the external.

The second of these things is a correlative of the problematic described at the end of yesterday's post: if the dichotomy between internal and external cannot be described from an internal point of view, without losing that point of view, neither can a correct description of the internal view be given from the external point of view.

As for the other point, I will have more to say tomorrow about the sense of a founding.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Nature of Tradition

Tradition presents itself in one of two ways, depending on whether it is viewed externally or internally: 1) as the way it has always been (let "it" be what it may), or at least the way it has been since before one's initiation into the field in which the tradition in question holds sway, and 2) as a pattern introduced into a temporal process, belonging to some subjectivity (let this be an individual or a community) which would otherwise have the possibility of being introduced into the same field in a variety of different ways. In general, it is impossible for any tradition to be regarded in both of these ways at once (since to accept the possibility of having been introduced into a field in some other way is to cease to be traditional with respect to that field), and this is the point of describing one as internal and the other as external.

But note that this description is not neutral. Rather, it requires an external perspective to imagine the possibility of both. If we would like to understand the nature of tradition while remaining traditional we will have to abandon this dichotomy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

introduction to metaphorical originality

Another Gadamer passage provoking mixed feelings:
The players are not the subjects of play; instead play merely reaches presentation (Darstellung) through the players. We can already see this from the use of the word, especially from its many metaphorical uses.

Here as always the metaphorical usage has methodological priority. If a word is applied to a sphere to which it did not originally belong, the actual "original" meaning emerges quite clearly. Language has performed in advance the abstraction that is, as such, the task of conceptual analysis. Now thinking need only make use of this advance achievement.

Something like this methodological priority seems to me to be what I have been thinking towards in my analysis of having, except that I do not limit it to a merely methodological priority. I particularly draw your attention to that last-linked posting, in which I insisted that having an ability more originally belongs to having than does having in the hand. True: Gadamer does say that the 'actual "original" meaning emerges' only in the light of the later transference of the term, and this might mean that the original usage was secretly guided by something more original. But this saying should only lead us to ask what it means for a word to have an "actual" meaning, when actually no one means that, yet.