Friday, June 8, 2018

Orwell and Wittgenstein again

When I'm not taking a day off, my plan from now on this summer is to do something Schopenhauer-related every day. Mostly this will be writing in the form of blogging, although I doubt I'll actually post every time I write. And the plan itself could change, of course.

John Holbo's dissertation is Schopenhauer-related, and that's my starting point. Here's a quote in it from Wittgenstein (LC, p.2):
If I had to say what the main mistake made by philosophers of the present generation is...I would say it is that when language is looked at, what is looked at is a form of words and not the use made of the form of words.
This strikes me as an important thought to keep in mind if you're ever tempted, as I am, to see Wittgenstein as a kind of ally of Orwell's on questions of politics and language use. Orwell does talk about the uses made of forms of words, but he also seems to think that if only we get the forms right then the uses will take care of themselves. I do think there is something to this idea. Simple words and sentences can make evil and stupidity harder to hide. But it's not a particularly Wittgensteinian idea. 

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