Friday, March 09, 2007

Philosophy Talk

Quinn phoned to alert me to FM 91.5's Philosophy Talk last night, a rebroadcast of the March 4 program on Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of my favorite philosophers.

I tuned in just as our stage lion Popper, his regal mane flickering in the firelight, was fending off a menacing Ludwig. So brave, so heroic, these Englishmen, so unflummoxed by Austrian faux aggression.

Had I phoned in, I'd have circled in on Philosophical Investigations Part II, which I think talks up the relevance of what we'd later call "gestalt switches" in psychology. The "meaning as use" bullet doesn't really fly minus this dropping of the other shoe: "seeing according to an interpretation."

Vis-a-vis philosophy's more diabolical conundrums like "the problem of other minds," the PI suggests a more right brained "waking up" experience versus some sort of left brained logico-lexical sorting out, though such work paves the way in many cases.

Of course "gestalt switches" are something of an anathema to logicians as they smack of divine revelations, visitations by angels, other varieties of religious experience, all of which tend to short circuit perfectly good arguments, plus tend to lead to a lot of private language jabber.

But this is where I think Wittgenstein would point to what's right about solipsism, namely that these dharmas, or awakenings, are only intended for you, like those gates to the law in that famous Kafka parable. Don't make the mistake of thinking your insights will necessarily be of relevance to the philosopher sitting right next to you -- like est taught us that.

I thought Boston U's Juliet Floyd held her own amidst all the clever banter and repartee, standing up for the Tractatus as an attack on totalitarian visions of some positivist triumph.

Someone, I forget who, made a snarky crack about Rorty (my thesis advisor) which no one bothered to decode. I think that's what we expect when philosophers hobnob: snide asides and insider jokes designed to get the true believers chuckling knowingly.