Saturday, July 10, 2010

No fences

So I think my last post ended obscurely, which is because I haven't really thought it all through yet, which is why I'm blogging about it. I might just be trying to repeat what Beth Savickey has already said about Wittgenstein's Art of Investigation. I'm also thinking about the idea of philosophy as therapy.

I'm very sympathetic to the idea of Wittgensteinian philosophy as therapy (and readings of Greek philosophy as something similar too, such as this and this), but didn't Wittgenstein get annoyed when people thought he was saying that philosophy ought to be a kind of psychotherapy rather than merely being like it? It is like it, I take it, in being dialogical or conversational--it takes two--and in offering no one-size-fits-all theses or pronouncements. It is unlike it in that it deals with a different kind of problems. Like some of the Greeks, Wittgenstein wants to help people live their lives better. Unlike the Stoics and Epicureans, at least, he has no recipe for a good life. He offers only a method for removing a certain kind of problem, which he seems to identify with metaphysics.

But it's hard to say what this method is--several methods have been identified within the Philosophical Investigations. Only a very close reading of that book can make it clear. And it's hard to say what Wittgenstein means by "metaphysics," although it is something like mistaking poetry for science. We might also call it linguistic fundamentalism or literal-mindedness. The proposed cure is a kind of ironical and poetical conversation. It could be done with jokes. And its proof, I suppose, can only be in the pudding.

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