A-debate a-brewing

Ludwig Wittgenstein in his youth.

Ludwig Wittgenstein in his youth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Wittgenstein put it in the “The Blue Book”:

Our craving for generality has [as one] source … our preoccupation with the method of science. I mean the method of reducing the explanation of natural phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws; and, in mathematics, of unifying the treatment of different topics by using a generalization. Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness. I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is “purely descriptive.

Part one of the debate here.

Part two is here.

5 thoughts on “A-debate a-brewing

  1. The comments are worth reading too, E.g.,
    Matt M
    Vancouver, BC


    What strikes me about most Wittgenstein criticism is that none of his critics seems to completely understand him, or they use the methods he ridicules to bring him down. Wittgenstein sort of brought that upon himself for writing they way he did, but anyone tempted to dismiss him ought to make sure they really understand what they’re up against.

    Also, a lot of the commenters seem to think that the world is uninteresting if Wittgenstein is right. We are still left with science, art/aesthetics/religion, and logic to work with, though. The difference is that philosophy can’t get us to a “truth” about any of these things, which is pretty liberating, when you understand the claim.

    Finally, anyone tempted to defend philosophy against Ludwig’s indictment should comprise a list of all of the problems “solved” by traditional philosophy. That length of that list should make you think.

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  3. Interesting. Sartre, in his essay “Anti-Semite and Jew” argues that prejudice also derives from generalization. Although in no way condoning the generalization of prejudice he argues that it is a kind of survival skill gone wrong. For instance, in earlier stages of man’s development if we saw a large cat kill our friend over here and saw another large cat over there we should:

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  4. a) go over and give it a pet
    b) run away
    c) ask a friend
    It would seem that each response would generate diffenent consequences

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  5. Consider the idea that the real essence of truth is Authority — that is, what is true is whatever God, or the King or The Party commands or accepts. This is a reductive definition, one that still lurks in the background of many people’s worldviews. It has also been used over the centuries to stifle dissent and change. In order to free us from these sorts of thoughts, the philosopher must not only show the error in such definitions. She must also take conceptual leaps. She must aim at revision as much as description, and sketch new metaphysical theories, replacing old explanations with new. from part two.

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