Monday, January 09, 2006

Dan Flies on Wittgenstein's Kite!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on my art and life blog and on my web site, I have a keen interest in the work of the Austrian Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His explorations into the limits of language, so eloquently persued in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, have had a direct impact on my work throughout the years.

A book was recently published entitled “Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: A Story of Models of Wings and Models of the World” The book was written by Susan G. Sterrett, an assistant Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. It is an exciting and insightful look into the history and development of aeronautics and Wittgenstein’s pursuit of the limits of language in his “Tractatus.” It is also an engaging and additionally insightful example of the creative process. A book I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the topics I’ve mentioned. I wrote to professor Sterrett and she was kind enough to take the time to read a couple of essays on my web site that were directly related to some of the ideas in her book and responded in a very positive manner to my interest in her topic.

Anyway…Professor Sterrett’s insight’s has rekindled my interest in one of Wittgenstein’s principal questions as to how “picturing” and “similarity correspondence” relates to his ideas on language. My own understanding of those ideas, as I have pursued them in painting, and how they relate to visual metaphor, expression and communication, has led me to some new images. And…I would like to share them with you.

The two images below stem from a popular visual conundrum, the neckercube, that I used in an attempt to try and establish an argument about simultaneity and Wittgenstein's views on the limits of language while writing my MFA thesis at the University of Chicago in 1977. Leaving all pretensions aside as to how an approach as seemingly intellectual as all this may seem, along with the expertise needed to approach such a huge philosophical problem in language, suffice to say that this is how I PLAY!

As I wait for my project for McCormick place in Chicago to begin, I see these initial ideas as some new work to be pursued in the near future; as paintings, prints, and drawings. Consider these the kernels of a new approach to my work. I hope you will enjoy them.


Blogger Patrick said...

I am a bit surprised that you do not mention, what you must know, that Wittgenstein later repudiated the Tractatus in its entirety and presented extremely compelling reasons for doing so. In fact, he wanted to Tract reproduced in his Philosophical Investigations to demonstrate more completely how "primitive" the picture theory of language was. It is for this reason that he begins his last work with the passage from Augustine.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Patrick: You once inferred to Wittgenstein’s “misery” as a ghost that he carried within him. I have no reason to believe that you are incorrect in that perception of his psychological disposition.. However, as in the case of all of us who are human, we have many options ( pills for depression, counseling, suicide,) as ways to come to terms with those “ghost’s.” My sense of Wittgenstein the human being is prejudiced with a belief that the Tractatus, with all the epistemological questions it may raise, nevertheless exemplifies a search for some kind of truth that enables human suffering to be alleviated. That we may, as humans, sometime attempt to shoot bees with a howitzer, doesn’t necessarily mean we were wrong in the attempt. In fact, to come to terms with what may have been our inaccuracies in the past by refuting a former belief can also be read as the cure for what ails s. Or at least a step closer. I should add that I didn’t find Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, as well as a number of other attempts at truth, as interesting as his pursuit in the Tractatus.

Yes, of course I am aware that Wittgenstein refuted the Tractatus. It is not the speculative nature of the conclusions that interest me. What interests me is what I see as an incredible process of imagination and creativity that can touch on various aspects of living a life and feeling fulfilled. One could easily look at the Tractatus as analogous to the neckercube itself. Depending on the position you want to focus from will yield a result consistent with that perception. I have chosen over the years to leave myself open to at least two different positions regarding the Tractatus; 1) the logical extension toward some kind of truth and 2) the questions it raises in the areas of ontology, phenomenology, and epistemology, all of which interest me in my attempt to understand what I do. Let’s call it “Dan’s Ghost,”

I am very pleased that you would take the time to look at my blog. As an artist I have no pretensions as to my knowledge in the field of philosophy. It does not dissuade me, however, from philosophizing as to the value of the philosophy of others, Wittgenstein, et al.

I mentioned Professor Sterrett’s book “Wittgenstein Flies a Kite…” as an example of what I think is an interesting and insightful look into the “picture” theory of the Tractatus. I hope that you will give yourself the opportunity to read it. I would be very curious as to your thoughts. Thank you again. I enjoy your site very much. Perhaps I should begin to comment from time to time.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Hello! I have seen the book, but you are the first to recommend it to me, so I will pick up a copy. I am fascinated with what you said about creativity and living a certain kind of life in terms of the Tractatus. Much of the Tractatus was written, as you may know, during WWI. Witt carried it in his knapsack and worked on it during "lulls." I mention this only because it was at the same time, WWI, that Witt was trying to find a justification for his existence. He repeatedly asked to be sent to where his exposure to the Russian guns would be the greatest, and it is nearly miraculous that he survived--something he seemed determined, in very many ways, not to do. If I am not mistaken, the manuscript was completed while Witt was being held in an Italian POW camp. (While a prisoner there, he found a small group to read Kant's first Critique together, which only goes to show the difference philosophy played in one's life then versus now. In the 19th century, philosophy was considered something one would know if one were "cultured" at all. If today we came upon a group reading Kant together, we would think them classmates. If we then learned they were not, what would we think?) What interests me is the connection between the Tractatus, the life issues you have mentioned, and Witt's behavior at this time--his frantic endeavor to achieve a consciousness of value in himself. When I consider Witt's outrage over the difficulty of finding a publisher for the Tractatus (not even Frege or Russell could understand the manuscript), I wonder how much solace or fulfillment the creative process brought him as against the recognition that he craved. This strikes me as a rather important matter, a crucial difference. A disciple of Freud said that free association is not the way to the cure; those who can free associate are cured. But is it enough to be cured? Surely there is something nihilistic in the demand that one be "more" than this, more than well. Similarly, there seems something nihilistic to me in the Homeric insistence upon "living on through the generations in the minds of men." What would Nietzsche say? Everything in the present is devaluated in the attempt to achieve something in a "beyond" (whether in heaven or the future). There must be real life consequences for such nihilism, for such total devaluation, by which a work becomes one's ticket to something enduring--because what is before one is not (and that is--what?--"unacceptable"). Thanks for sharing your thoughts; they made me very thoughtful in turn. You made me consider Witt in a slightly different light (and reminded me too of the imagination as Wallace Stevens conceived it, for it was Stevens who raised the all-important question, What will suffice?)

11:54 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Patrick: Thank you for getting back to me. You bring up a number of very interesting observations ( Is it safe to assume you have read Monk's Bio. on W?) and insights. I would likke to address a few of them. At the moment I am tied up with trying to recover some work from customs that I did in Spain this past year. But I definitely would liike to respond to some of the issues you raise. And I will...soon.

I have been in communication with Susan Sterrett. She has been extremely gracious and has responded to some of the responses I had to her book. She was also very gracious to take the time to drop by my web site and read a couple of reviews of my work that refer to my interest in W. I wrote to her today about your response to my blog post. She is busy at the moment getting prepared to teach at Duke for the upcoming semester. She did say that she would take a look at what you mentioned as to W recanting his earlier views on "picture theory" in the Tractatus.

I do hope you have a chance to read her book. As I said in my response to you, I would be very interested in what you have to say.

Also, at some point in time I will respond to your perception of Jackson Pollock. I think we have differing views on his approach to his work. I look forward to talking to you soon. Thanks again for getting back to me. I hope you will stay in touch.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

You don't sound much like any truck driver I ever met.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments you recently left on my blog.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Mark Daniels said...

My son was a History and Philosophy major and talks about Wittgenstein all the time. He loves 'Wittgenstein's Poker.'

I'll send a link to this post his way.

Mark Daniels

6:24 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Mark: Thanks for dropping by. Yes, "Wittgestein's Poker" is an interesting peek into W's personality as well as his philosphy. I studied with one of the philospohers metioned in the book, Stephen Toulmin who was a student of W's. Toulmin taught at the University of Chicago in the Commiittee on Social Thought. He co-autored a wonderful book on W and the cultural millieu entitled "Wittgenstein's Vienna." I highly recommend it if your son hasn't already read it.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Mark: Yikes! Forgive the typo's! I apologize.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Wonderful response! No, I do not find Russell convincing at all. I am actually undertaking something much simpler: I am "looking" to try to determine what happens. It is easier to see what is at stake in concrete examples. If I take up a cane in my hand only to discover that it bends like soft rubber, I am immediately surprised or amused. What informs this response? It is certainly correct, to use a Kantian terminology, that I have the concept of "cane" in my understanding, but as Kant recognized, this fact is not enough, does not explain the phenemena. In the first edition of his first Critique, Kant is rather clear that the concepts of the understanding are grounded in the imagination (and this was Heidegger's reading as well). What does this mean? It means that I do not have to have a particular triangle in mind, a fixed concept as a concrete image, to identify all triangles. In fact, one cannot image a fixed image of a triangle that could be employed in the recognition of all triangles, they being so very various. Unfortunately, Kant did not achieve great clarity on this point and made rather significant changes from the first to the second edition of the first Critique. However, it seems plain, given the example of the cane, that when I behold one a whole range of imaginative possibilities are available to me concerning what is typically done with a cane, how it behaves, what can count as a cane, how it is constructed, etc. I am surprised when this particular cane bends so easily because of this awareness of the imaginative possibilities--the probabilities--that have been invoked. I would say, too, that we "see" these possibilities "out there" before our eyes, that they always inform our vision. An example, again, should bear this out as well as establish the existence of the imaginative range I am describing. Monday, under certain familiar conditions, does not seem like Sunday or like Christmas Day. What goes into this? Well, it isn't any kind of type or Platonic Idea of Sundayness. It is the imaginative range that has been established through experience. On Mondays I have an idea of getting up at a certain time, the shops being open, people working, etc. All of these ideas are there "in" the day all around me. My objection to Witt is that what I am calling this imaginative range is built up over time and through experience, not via pointing or an instance of the twoness of nuts, and it does shape and control interpretation in something like the way that a shared culture does. I pick up the rubber cane, and I laugh. This was not a possibility I expected. I expected something because a range of possibilities was already available to me, unconsciously of course. The range, obviously, is concerned with probabilities and is inductive. A child has to learn something to experience Christmas Day as he/she does. I, as an adult, have learned rather different things and, as such, the day stands forth differently for me. Aspect seeing is not anomolous; it is universal. There is nothing that comes before me that I have not appropriated. Even the rain on the roof has been appropriated.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

1) Patrick, I took the liberty of posting my comment on your site on my site as well . If anyone is reading this it would be kind if they have some idea of what we are in dialogue about I know of at least two who are interested. We’ll see where it goes.

I to feel like we are starting to communicate but beware, I have no formal education in philosophy but I have read much and am very passionate about it, especially W. While in grad school at The University of Chicago I did study and have a short social relationship with the noted philosopher of science Stephen Toulmin , a a former student of W’s. As well as some classes with Leonard Linsky a W scholar from the University of Chicago. I don’t believe one learns by osmosis so I have no pretensions about my qualifications.

One of the things I would like to get to is your comment on “intention.” Something in Susan Sterret’s book regarding “modeling” and the “court room model,” really caught my attention. Eventually!

I am still in the process of working things out with customs as to my shipment from Spain as well as working on a private commission so I will be a little slow responding at times.

2) Response to "Wittgenstein Two."

Hola! I just posted this on your site. I also posted that the first line in my response quotes your article as saying "my mind." That was incorrect since you actually said "the" mind. I acknowledged that error but also stated that it doesn't change my thoughts. Sorry about the typo's too! My darn keys seem to double up a lot of letters. I probably need to change the speed for typing on my keyboard; as well as spell more carefully!

OK. I'm going to give this a shot. I had Pollock on my mind when I entered your site...but, that can wait.

When you ended your observation with "my mind," which I take to mean Patrick's mind, I couldn't help but wonder if you are willing to acknowledge that W's mind probably works a little different. My understanding, from strictly a layman's point-of-view, is that W's reasoning behind "two" as you described is an extension of his refutation of Russell's "Theory of Types." When you elaborate on your position you describe a string of classes that resembles very closely Russell's view I think. Your position seems much closer to the idea of "logical constants" of the type that is a characterization of Russell’s Types. It leads, as I think I hear your explanation, to an ad infinitum result, which W is trying very hard to dismiss as finally leading to nothing. Certainly not to any truth that might be inferred from some initial premise. The logic that W pursues, by necessity, demands a much clearer example of what he (W) means by two, not what someone like Russelll, who I think woud have shared your observation, might mean by two. I believe you know that Russell accepted W dismissal of his "Theory of Types."

At some point in time I would like to use the "Theory of Types" as an anology as to how "Not" to view Pollock. Now there is where some real "imagining has taken place in our culture. Obviously I would have to characterize "Type" in some semantical leap that I think some art historians thrive on!

I really like your site!

2:00 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Patrick: I hear you saying things like "experience, seeing, and imagination." My first response is that they are very subjective positions; all of which may differ from mine.

I remember the first time I saw a "soft" sculpture by the artist Claes Oldenberg. Actually there were two; one was of an electric fan over 12 feet high, made of a very flexible material and folded over, in and around itself; the second was of a set of drums that was a duplicate in scale, material and behavior. My experience of his art, which I would argue stems from his imagination as well as whatever part of his intellect that may have played into it, was that it defied my usual sense of what a fan and set of drums ordinarily “should” do and behave like. The function of both of these objects was challenged on the basis of how we “should” understand them. In my opinion, if there is one thing for certain that this “experience” didn’t do for me it was to suggest that “truth” was one of its premises. In fact, I would say that what it challenged was perception; visual perception and conceptual perception.

I believe that if there is anything that philosophy tries to enter into in when establishing its focus it’s a dialogue with truth. And though it is possible to use ideas about truth that may turn our usual perceptions upside down to get there, what it does not do is ignore “facts.” In this particular example I would argue that although there are fans and drum sets in the world, and that is a fact, we cannot compare Oldenberg’s examples with similar fans and drum sets because they only exist in his imagination. Now, I suppose we could say that now that we have seen them they have become “facts” in the world, I would strongly suggest that that kind of thinking would lead us into a circular situation not unlike Russel’s “Theory of Types.” We have simply created a sub set of an imagined set of circumstances. And to make matters worse, the sub set isn’t factual in any true sense. For as I understand logic, ideas are an extension of something that already exists in the world. The idea does not preface the thing in the world. What I think we have here in your comment is something that comes closer to art. So when I hear you apply the terms “imagination. experience, and seeing to your perception I am wary as to how some concept of truth based on fact can exist. I am trying to identify what I understand here so as to find a way out of talking in some circular manner. I think premising an argument on the basis of subjective as opposed to objective facts can lead us into a circular discussion. Because I can come up with a number of abstract concepts related to my experience, imagination, and perception that I am sure will be quite different from yours. Then we begin to enter the area of opinion; a far remove from truth. Just a thought.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Hello! I just noticed that we are/were fellow Chicagoans. You write, "In my opinion, if there is one thing for certain that this 'experience' didn't do for me was suggest that 'truth' was one of its premises. In fact, I would say that what it challenged was perception; visual perception and conceptual perception." There are philosophers who would say that you can have Truth, and others who would say that you can have only truths--and others, alas, who would claim you can know nothing whatever but fictions. To make matters even worse, philosophers don't even agree about what the word "truth" means. For me, truth is something like the manifestation of the actual and, by this view, there is no shortage of truth. A dream is a manifestation of the actual. However, a dream is not necessarily true in that there is a one-to-one correspondence between it and "a state of affairs in the external world." My particular interest as a philosopher is in perception, rather in the tradition of Husserl. If I believe that there is a basis for knowledge in sensory experience, to the extent that I am not a pure rationalist, I have no choice but study perception and try to gain insight into how it occurs. I know, for instance, that what I think or believe or feel "colors" what I perceive. The words of English only present them to my perception as unities (words) because of my state of knowledge (as an English speaker). A Russian would look on and see the same marks otherwise, not as meaningful units. And this is true not only of words; it is true of all phenenomena imaginable. But we have arrived at a very fruitful center: "For as I understand logic, ideas are an extension of something that already exists in the world." This is the assumption behind Russell's work and the early Wittgenstein. One of the things that underwent change with the latter was precisely this assumption. However, I would rather present the matter in my own words. The subject-object relationship is an assumption. That is, it is assumed that I stand "here" and that an object stands "over there" as a fact. By this view, if I entertain an idea or proposition in my mind that somehow "corresponds" to what is the fact out there, I am in a state of truth. There is an old critique of this view that remains very much to the point: There is no vantage from which it can be determined that this correspondence occurs. In other words, there is no extra-mental vantage or God's eye view from which this correspondence can be assured. What is seen is taken for what there is to be seen, the factual character of what presents itself. Moreover, this worldview, of subject and objects with the former achieving "correspondence," is extremely unlikely. (I would say impossible.) Some have tried to demonstrate this on the basis of contemporary physics, but I am not tempted in this way. There is the fantasy of an "objective world," and most believe that science has the inside track on it. However, I would argue that while science is good for controlling this world, for describing its "how," it has nothing whatever to say about its "what." That is, if an object approaches earth at 32 ft/sec2, that says something about gravity--its "how." How does this unknown something (this "what," gravity) behave on the earth? Oh, at 32 ft/sec2. This is a measurement, and that is what math and mathematical physics provide, measurements. A measurement is the translation of a phenomenon into the language of mathematics. (I will leave biology out of consideration for the moment, although it is generally believed that biology and chemistry converge in physics.) However, a measurement doesn't tell one more than measurements can. To mistake the measurements of science for "Truth" would be like taking a yardstick for the thing to which the yardstick is held. All the yardstick can tell us is "how" something moves against its conventional gradations, units of measure. If I believed that the yardstick was the absolute guide to Truth, I too would believe in the inherent significance of numbers (and have celebrated much more with the millennium--2001, which was a celebration over the fact that a yardstick contains 36 inches, as if it were mysterious--that time has been mathematicized and that it gives us back the units we have put into it). Philosophy is not indifferent to "how." There is a sense in which a "how" is a truth. Nonetheless, there is also the "what." And it is for the "what" that human beings live. It does not matter that the one I loved more than any other on earth gave me a special gift that drops to the earth at a certain rate. What matters is its "what" in connection with her/his "what." When a stranger comes to my home, he already knows (even if only unconsciously) all the hows of it--of temperature, pressure, weight, etc. Yet what he experiences as my house is not what I experience as my home. Two minds stand together, occupy the same space, but there are truly significant differences in what reveals itself. And these are the differences, and only for which, that one lives. Without them, no one could live at all. Science in its forgetfulness (forgetfulness that the "objective" world is only a set of ideas that it holds in mind and calls objective, true, factual) can never get at what really matters, or even into its neighborhood. (I would argue, too, that there is little in contemporary physics that would suggest the existence of "facts" or an objective, God's eye world. That science proceeds as if there are subjects and objects standing over and against subjects, apart from them, is a problem of method that science will probably never escape, relativity or no.) In that we are all brought to fantasize about this objective world of facts (without ever agreeing upon it), in that we are prone to this fictional vantage of the third-person narrator of a novel, the God's eye view, I must say that my fantasies on the matter do not conform to the subject-object "split." If I could ride the light (like a surprising Einstein) into God's eye, what would I see painted there as objectivity, from this vantage in which correspondence would be determined? I would see, I think, that the subject is not set over against the world, apart from it as an observer, but that the subject is grounded in, rooted in, inseparable from the world that it is trying to witness. In other words, the Being that rolls through all things--through energy, space, time (whatever these things are, science doesn't know)--rolls through humankind just as much as anything else, that human beings can address Being because it belongs to them essentially. However, their belonging to Being has nothing whatever to do with what they think in logical propositions about what is "over there" in the world. A principal movement in philosophy since Descartes has been in the recognition that Descartes set the subject off in isolation (as spirit) from a world of extension. Heidegger speaks of the history of philosophy as an ungrounding or uprooting of man from Being. To put this simply, the individual has become locked into a floating isolated illusion of separateness, from which it seeks to dominate everything through thought, calculation, science, and technology. I don't entirely share this view, and I am not certain that Heidegger is right. A proposition certainly says something about language and the way language is meaningfully used (even what Wittgenstein called "the rules of the game" or "grammar"), but its approaches to Truth or truths have been extremely awkward, if not drunken and delusional. Wittgenstein wanted "atomic" propositions that could with certainty refer to atomic facts in the world, but he could never find one--and neither could anyone else. There just was no way to make language "point" or "picture" in the way these men wanted. And, as the later Witt discovered, that was because he failed to see language for language, the limits of its own possibility. Language is good for certain uses, as is a hammer, but to try to capture truth in a word or a set of words is like trying to hammer the air into a fixed place. And that is in part why Witt turned away from his early thought so radically. Patrick

12:23 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Hola! I am enjoying our conversation as well! While I was in Chicago I read a new publication by Ray Monk entitled "How to Read Wittgenstein," published in 2005. It completely jells with my understanding of the Tractatus and the eventual need to write the Philosophical Investigations. W's move away fro the idea of philosophy as a "science" was right on the mark. The most interesting view that Monk brings to light, for me at least, is that W never lost his belief in an absolute "truth." And when Monk places it in the context of W's recognition of the "primitive" basis for language and the "connections" inherent in communication it really shines. The best part for me ,however, was w's recognition of the "Ubersicht." a characterization of the significant role that the arts of literature, poetry, painting, and music have to the relationship to W's understanding of "truth."

I also bought a book on some of the fundamental thoughts of Husserl so I can get a better grasp on your observations. I hope to get back to you soon. I really enjoyed your last comments. I printed them out and reread them a few times while I was away.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Oh! I forgot to mention that one of the early characterizations of one sense of Husserl's views was one that had to do with his insistence on the inability of "the science of psychology" to bring any meaningful results to philosphy, and in fact found it repugnant in that way. Interestingly, W finally concluded the same about "science" when he wrote the PI. Also interesting is that W did not consider Freudian psycholgy a science. What he felt was Freud's contribution was creating a mythology. One that W felt much more appropriate as to the necessity to understand the "primitive" nature of language that he so deftly probes in the PI.
Anyway, more later.

Also some great stuff on why W would use an example like "Two" this or "Two" that. The example Monk uses has to do with the "Five red apples." I'll explain later.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I do not know the Monk article you mentioned. I will see if I can find it. Yes, I believe you are right about the pervasive belief at the time that philosophy would serve science and Witt's eventual rejection of this. The Vienna Circle was very enamored of science and very doubtful of philosophy and what they saw as its pretensions. This strike me personally as really very odd: science is not philosophy's "other." These are "boxes" we ourselves have put in place, artificial divisions. But when they have been in place for awhile, and we forget that Bacon and Newton thought of themselves as philosophers, we act as if these divisions dangled from trees, were all perfectly natural and inevitable. I myself see no way to avoid science and philosophy, either, because there is no way to avoid holding beliefs, making assertions, and trying to justify them somehow. Everyone is a philosopher; it is just that everyone is not careful or especially mindful about it. Perhaps when you have time you will tell me more about Witt and the arts. The arts interest me very much. Witt said that the limits of language are the limits of our world. This is an insight, it seems to me, while made by others, that is both extremely important and demanding genuine meditation. Witt also said that philosophy is less about "thinking" as such than "seeing." Now, this too is my experience, and this latter statement makes sense in terms of the former. We tend to divide the world not only into natural/artificial, science/philosophy, but also into East/West. The East is the land of religion and meditation, and the West is the land of "thinking." However, this strikes me as the old error, the old bewitchment by language. When I am doing philosophy, I am in a state of "meditation," and while much "seeing" is going on, there isn't "thinking" in the sense of X=7=14. Yet again, as Witt observed, what we call "thinking" is only a unity as a word; it does not at all refer to a single activity. If William James is right, our first perceptions involve "aspect seeing." The world appears much as it does on the retina, dots broken up by blood vessels, "random," etc. And then the mind (initially via innate structures and then linguistic) "connects the dots" into this pattern and that--patterns which become stable over time via intersubjectivity. In this way I can see how Witt thought language the limit of our world. I can also see something else which just occurred to me now: infantile amnesia--the tendency not to remember the first months or years of life. If data is organized meaningful through an innate structure that gradually gets displaced by language, the original data loses sense and thus drops out of memory. After all, a new language is initially difficult to acquire in part because it takes a systemic view of sorts to organize meaningfully a language, and this takes time to acquire. So, a Greek word slips away from me over and over again, while the same word in English remains fast in memory all in a glance. But I have gone on and on here and haven't yet read your other comment.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

You mention Husserl. I have to confess that Husserl was a big discovery in my life. His work was so important to me that I wanted to tell everyone (interested) about it, and I felt bad for those who had not had the same good fortune to find him (rather like I would for someone who had never eaten pizza--a weakness of mine). I share the concern about psychology that you mention. Husserl proceeded by "bracketing" any questionable assumptions so that they would not corrupt his investigations. For some reason, something in the history of psychology, its subservience to science, the grossest assumptions are carried over into almost every project and just make hash out of it. Rarely have I met an academic in psychology who has the insight into, say, the "I" that Husserl had. The "I" is a very mysterious "entity." It is there, but it comes as close to not being there as anything one might imagine. It is spaceless, timeless--imagines itself unchanging completely. (The I that I am now is the I that played with that fire truck all those years ago. That boy was me. Those memories are mine. Things about me have changed, but not my Iness--that it is the same I.) The I is the thinker of the thoughts (although no causality is obvious in this way at all), a "center" of mineness. However, I can inspect my own thought, like squinting in a dirty mirror, in the attempt to gain insight into myself. That is, the I that is squinting is trying to discover the truth of itself in the thoughts that are mine but are standing forth for inspection as other. Witt was very acute in his readings of Freud. I don't recall him taking on the problem of the I, although he might have, but he was very clear that Freud's interpretations were highly inventive. Witt studied his own dreams but drew very different conclusions, non-Freudian. Witt was more concerned than anything else about "honesty," and that went into his greatness I think. I, like Witt, in my own small way, do not want to shuffle off this mortal coil without achieving some honesty about it. In a way, this can be seen as an act of reverence, gratitude. It is the opposite of nihilism. To attempt to see things honestly is to "care" (a Heideggerian term that is quite meaningful without the Heideggerian context). It is a kind of loving meditation of "looking," beholding what is mine--my construct--and what is there to behold, what arises. (It is not at all like demanding, expecting, trying to force and overwrite experience--make experience other than what it is.) Witt was right to see something religious in this. The posture is the same, the objects different. One learns to accept what is there to be experienced rather than trying to flee for it or discount it for "insufficiency" or whatever.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

You mention Husserl. I have to confess that Husserl was a big discovery in my life. His work was so important to me that I wanted to tell everyone (interested) about it, and I felt bad for those who had not had the same good fortune to find him (rather like I would for someone who had never eaten pizza--a weakness of mine). I share the concern about psychology that you mention. Husserl proceeded by "bracketing" any questionable assumptions so that they would not corrupt his investigations. For some reason, something in the history of psychology, its subservience to science, the grossest assumptions are carried over into almost every project and just make hash out of it. Rarely have I met an academic in psychology who has the insight into, say, the "I" that Husserl had. The "I" is a very mysterious "entity." It is there, but it comes as close to not being there as anything one might imagine. It is spaceless, timeless--imagines itself unchanging completely. (The I that I am now is the I that played with that fire truck all those years ago. That boy was me. Those memories are mine. Things about me have changed, but not my Iness--that it is the same I.) The I is the thinker of the thoughts (although no causality is obvious in this way at all), a "center" of mineness. However, I can inspect my own thought, like squinting in a dirty mirror, in the attempt to gain insight into myself. That is, the I that is squinting is trying to discover the truth of itself in the thoughts that are mine but are standing forth for inspection as other. Witt was very acute in his readings of Freud. I don't recall him taking on the problem of the I, although he might have, but he was very clear that Freud's interpretations were highly inventive. Witt studied his own dreams but drew very different conclusions, non-Freudian. Witt was more concerned than anything else about "honesty," and that went into his greatness I think. I, like Witt, in my own small way, do not want to shuffle off this mortal coil without achieving some honesty about it. In a way, this can be seen as an act of reverence, gratitude. It is the opposite of nihilism. To attempt to see things honestly is to "care" (a Heideggerian term that is quite meaningful without the Heideggerian context). It is a kind of loving meditation of "looking," beholding what is mine--my construct--and what is there to behold, what arises. (It is not at all like demanding, expecting, trying to force and overwrite experience--make experience other than what it is.) Witt was right to see something religious in this. The posture is the same, the objects different. One learns to accept what is there to be experienced rather than trying to flee for it or discount it for "insufficiency" or whatever.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Ooops! By accident I somehow posted the same thing twice. Sorry!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

You have sent some very thoughtful and thought out comments. I truly appreciate the effort you bring to our conversation. Please keep in mind that I do not have the same background as you do. But I will try and be as thoughtful as you are.

I will comment on Witt and the arts as well as the five apples. My thoughts on those ideas are an extension of what I read in Monk's recent contribution to Witts philosophy. I also will try and respond directly to some of the ideas that you mentioned. I have already been caught up in the word "colors" that you used to identify an issue with personal experience. My focus is on the reification of the word as to nouns, adjectives, adverbs and the like. Also to a sense of synesthesia (sp) that I see as a correlation to that. And how all of that gives me a direction as to some of the issues regarding perception that you raise.

But............the Chicago Bear game is my primary focus this afternoon.

And...I will get back soon.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

I would like to mention something about what I referred to in an early comment to you about Witt. and his "pursuit." It was a comment I made about how "life" enters into my reading of his Tractatus.

I am in complete agreement with you as to the PI being a much more thought out philosophy about language. His reflection upon the errors he made in the Tract. were certainly justified by his further understanding of the role of "private languages." I commented that I found his "pursuit" of truth in the Tract. more interesting. I think that in the Tract. we have a good example of the kind of "private language" that Witt. would agree doesn't work. I think that is why sometimes it is so hard to understand what he means (although I think that is finally being sorted out and I think it was because of the PI that we now understand the Tract.)

But as he formulated further how "private language" does work I think he hit on the correct approach. I think his personality when writing the Tract. really shines through. There is no question as to the eccentric behavior that he displayed while writing it. It was almost as if he was hanging on to a very small corner of his mind that was trying to reason with itself. The Tract. for me is a wonderful example of not only creativity in all its strangeness but also a terrific example of a way to survive one's ghost's. Of course there is always the danger of going over the edge so to speak, but that didn't happen in this case. Instead, what we know, is that he went on to finally come to grips with "reality" as I think aligns itself much more closely to how the world and language work. I have no pretensions as to the absoluteness of any of the results he came up with but I think as we have seen, his results from the PI have generated a myriad of observations and writing that seems to me to be moving philosophy closer to it's intended purpose; communal life. Reason, seems to me to be the arbitrator of all this and I think it is starting to play itself out in many variations of philosophy and art. Interestingly, Stephen Toulmin, his former student and co author along with Alan Janik of "Wittggenstein's Vienna," in 2001 wrote a book "entitled "Return to Reason." It is an interesting book in that I hear Toulmin challenging many of his own earlier views as to the relationship of science to philosophy, one of Witts. major contributions to understanding the role of "logic" as a science; which he insisted it was not. ( I agree of course)

7:32 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Ha! A private language to express the grief of a football defeat! There would be problems. If you said "Yawl" but with a cheerful voice, would that count as an expression? In other words, tone is central to oral linguistic expression, but it seems to be part of a "biological" language. (I know of no people who express sadness in what we would call cheerful tones.) If you said "Yawl" but in a depressed voice, it wouldn't be private. Your tone would speak through the boundaries of privacy, as dissapointment. The trouble here, it seems to me, is to agree on what constitutes a language, whether public or private. Is a tone a part of language? If so, the "noise" I make when I drop a brick on my toe is language. Is a facial expression a part of language? If so, the sour face I make when I eat a lemon is linguistic. Certainly I could construct a script that only I could understand. (There was a time in the 19th century when only one man in the whole world knew the hieroglyphics of Egypt, and thus for all practical purposes it was a private script.) It isn't always clear how Wittgenstein is using the word "language" (or the word "grammar"). When my dog wants to go outside to pee, she runs her head into my leg. We say that dogs are non-linguistic, but is she not communicating with me? One is tempted perhaps to say, "Oh, that is just instinct." Strange instinct, but so much of what I call thought and language are instinctual for me too. When a baby cries, I have the idea that that is instinctive, but when I observe it crying and looking around for someone, I see it as instinctive language. The baby "wants" something. If as Witt says, the boundaries of language are the boundaries of my world, I certainly do not see any basis for a private language, but I also no longer know what language is, because I cannot determine what it is not. (It is impossible to define a word except by limiting it against something that is other--e.g., vowels are not consonants, etc.) I certainly feel as if I am communicating when I dress. If I came to teach class in a bathrobe, that would be it for me; they would take me away to the Ho-Ha Home. The best candidate for a private language, it seems to me, is a dream. In a dream I am in communication with myself. I could, say, dream about an event from my youth. In this case, there is private communication going on in the sense that it would all be "narrated" from my unique perspective at the time of the event in the past as well as at the present time, the time of the dream story. Could I communicate this dream experience to someone else? Not very fully. If I dreamed, say, of a time when I was four years old and eating pancakes, it wouldn't be only that the experience was peculiar to me but that I do not know how to describe to other people what pancakes taste like. This is especially obvious if it is assumed that I am offering the description to someone who has never eaten pancakes. Nothing I could say would really give that person the right idea. Yet the experience of eating pancakes is certainly a part of my world. So, what would it mean that the boundaries of language are the boundaries of my world? Here is a phenomenon, the eating of pancakes, that is very much a part of my world but which is impossible to describe adequately in language. Well, I am not entirely convinced that Witt was right here unless, again, language is taken in the broadest possible sense--as representation. But that would of course be silly, for it is obviously true that that which I cannot represent to myself is unknown to myself (and thus not a part of my world). The trick then becomes discovering what province of representation Witt has in mind when he uses the word "language." And if he has in mind only a province of representation, by definition, the limits of language are not the limits of my world. The only possibility I can conceive would be in something Nietzsche once speculated, that consciousness begins with language. Yet, again, this is so speculative I have no earthly idea how one could verify it. Besides, I have reason to believe it is not true. To return to my dog again, she gives all the signs of dreaming, and if she is dreaming she is aware of her dream images and that means that she is conscious--for consciousness is only being aware of mental contents. If one were to say, "You cannot know that you dog is dreaming, even if she does run and growl and bark and claw while asleep," I could only reply that the same is true of other human beings. They make noises that sound like language to me so I assume they are conscious, but I am always making this assumption through an interpretation of "external" or behavioral signs. I have no direct access to human consciousness (other than my own) either. I stand toward my dog exactly as I stand to other human beings in this regard. However, clearly, my dog is not linguistic. I am not sure I have been clear in the expression of all of this. Your previous note contained so much that I am going to have to give it more thought. There are several extremely interesting observations in it that I would like to think through, meditate upon a bit. I really am enjoying this very much. Patrick

11:29 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Patrick: As to the section on “private language” Ray Monk in his most recent book, “How to Read Wittgenstein,” Norton pub., 2005, observes that “Some people hold that its target is the entire tradition of Western Philosophy from the early modern period inaugurated by Descartes to the middle of the twentieth century.” Indeed, Wittgenstein’s greatest achievement, it is often said, was to have undone 300 years of Cartesianism.”

Monk also goes on to point out that there are those who dismiss that idea because Witt had never read Descartes and in fact seemed to dismiss him offhandedly. Those proponents instead allude to Witt’s “private language argument as a stab at Russell’s acknowledgment of the possibility of a private language in his lecture on logical atomism given in 1918.

Without going into the details as to why this was highly improbable according to Monk, (and I agree with him) Monk states that in his view “…it is best to forget that these sections of the Philosophical Investigations – which contain some of the most innovative metaphors (the metaphor idea stressed by Monk is something that really interested me!)and some of the most inspired writing of the entire book – are supposed to constitute a single sustained argument. They quite clearly do not. Rather they are attempts to approach from a variety of different angles various assumptions about private, “inner” experience that are customarily made by professional philosophers and ordinary people alike.”

I am going to quote in its entirety the remainder of what Monk has surmised on this topic. After reading your response, if I understood you correctly, we may have miscommunicated as to whether I believe in “private languages” or not. Let me say upfront that I do not! The point I was trying to make when I mentioned the Tractatus was that I think the Tractatus, to some degree, is the kind of private language that can result in difficult if not impossible understanding. And I mentioned the PI as an example of a totally different approach by what I perceive as a person (Witt) whose personality was beginning to conform to a more realistic approach to language and therefore life in general. And that the writing of the PI was what give us a clearer understanding of the Tractatus.

Anyway, I will try and clear this up by going on a little further with Monk’s observations:

“ For example, it is not at all unusual, even outside philosophy seminar rooms, to hear people say things like ‘only I can know whether I am really in pain: another person can only surmise it.’…To say this is to forget the “triviality” of which Wittgenstein reminds us: “ if we are using the word “to know” as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?) then other people very often know when I am in pain.’ If we then start talking about the certainty with which we know our own pain, then we need to be shown that what prompts such talk is a confusion between a grammatical remark and a material one. ‘ One plays patience by oneself’ is a grammatical remark. ‘I went to the cinema and saw the film myself’ is a material remark. The first might be used to explain to somebody what kind of a game patience is. Similarly the sentence ‘Sensations are private’ is a grammatical remark; it says what kind of things sensations are, it does not, e.g., report a possible discovery about sensations.”

“There is a tendency – and again, like the ‘picture of the essence of human language’ discernable in Augustine’s description of how he learned to speak, this is a pre- philosophical tendency rather than a philosophical opinion – to think that the private is somehow logically prior to the public. ‘ I know what I see, think, feel, etc.,’ it is common to believe, ‘ but I have to infer what you or anybody else is seeing, thinking, feeling, etc.’ One of Wittgenstein’s aims in the Philosophical Investigations is to show the incoherence of this picture of the relative priority of the private and the public. This is the point of the famous ‘beetle in the box…’ The thing, (the beetle or whatever) to which only I have access cannot be the meaning – or even the reference – of words that have a public use. And, as words like ‘belief,’ ‘desire,’ ‘intention,’ ‘thought,’etc. undeniably have a public use, it follows that neither their reference nor their meaning can possibly be something essentially private.”

I think the above relates very strongly to some of the examples you sent. Again, I’m not a philosopher but Monk’s observations seem reasonable to me. I hadn’t planned on getting back to you so soon but I didn’t want us to go too far astray in trying to understand one another.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I was just taking a break from a lesson plan I am writing for a four-hour class on Weds. night, and I saw your posting, which was just what I needed—a chance to relax and respond, “chat” a bit. A relationship that came up very early on (I believe you raised it) and that continues to interest me is that between the work Witt was doing and his life, his experience in the War, his family and friends, and so on. Actually, I thought of it a bit earlier this evening too. I was out with some folks and there was one person there I hadn’t known long but I felt as if we were becoming friends. This evening, however, his behavior was very strange and I asked him what was the matter. He said, “You think too much. I mean, you really think too much.” And he walked off in a bit of a huff. This wasn’t an event of monumental importance, but it did arrest my attention. It made me reflect that I am rather a Charlie Rose type. (Do you know the PBS interviewer?) I tend to ask people all kinds of questions, usually about themselves. It is almost as if I cannot help it; I am actually interested, curious. However, there is the fact that not everyone has a taste or tolerance for this. My students sometimes ride me about this too. I was discussing a film in class recently (Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross) and a young lady approached me afterward and said, “There is no way you can enjoy a film if you are bothering about all of those details while you are watching it.” I don’t think she believed me, but I told her that I enjoy films now more than I ever have in my life. And it is true.

I didn’t understand you as advocating private languages at all. No, I was trying to work through the whole idea in my own mind—consider it even in its most hypothetical possibility, as a kind of process of elimination (which is probably why may last post was a touch incoherent and confusing). I agree entirely with your observation that Witt employs (elaborate) metaphors in the endeavor not for us to reach this conclusion or that but for us to jump the tracks, pry ourselves out of old habitual ways of thinking, see things in an entirely new light. This is much of his appeal for me. And his metaphors are so powerful—really excellent, memorable.

His life and his work….I, too, tried to look at this very closely as I was reading Monk and others. There are aspects, connections, that I recognize in myself at work (on a much smaller scale, naturally). Witt, amazing as this sounds, brought me to bring to consciousness much more fully what it is I do (thus, no attempt to generalize) when doing philosophy. I suddenly realized the incredibly childlike simplicity of it. I hold an idea or a question in my mind (much as one might a peeble between the toes) and I keep it there—and wait…and wait…and wait. What happens then I can liken (very roughly) to the attempt to recall a forgotten name: I hold the word “Molly” in my mind (which I know is wrong) and wait for “Holly,” “Dolly,” the whole associative chain. It is as if notions are all held together in a magnetic field. So, getting back to Witt and philosophy, it was observed that Witt (like Socrates) would fall into these deep bouts of “abstraction,” during which he was oblivious to everything—to such an extent that it surprised even other philosophers. However, I understood it very well, I thought. While I cannot say what went on with him at these times, I know what I experience: the mere holding of the idea/question gradually “magnetically” calls up material (images, complete thoughts, feelings, hunches, etc.). At first the material tends to be rather conventional stuff, but if I wait long enough, and hold on, strange elements emerge—angles of view I had never considered before, novel recontextualizations. I speak of it as meditation because that it how it feels and also because it can go on for hours. It even reminds me of Buddhist practices, and I certainly can’t imagine a successful philosopher without what the Buddhists call, very specifically, “mindfulness.”

While I am no Witt, I am guessing, from all I have been able to read about him, that he was undergoing something like this experience while writing the Tractatus. (I will mention one other thing in this regard. There is a “spiritual” retreat that I have attended. Last year it was in Switzerland. One goes, checks in at the hotel—and then sits all day alone in a room everyday for a week, sometimes two, doing absolutely nothing. It sounds odd to most people, but it is actually a very common retreat practice—and it does draw a lot of Buddhists, though I am not one of them. The idea, put rather crudely, is that “what is at bottom surfaces”—especially when there is absolutely nowhere “to run.” It is easy not to see what we are all about as we move through our day. We become “addicted” to a kind of busyness, and without it there is often considerable restlessness. In other words, we gradually lose true “honesty” and get lost in an understanding of what we are about rather that what we are actually up to. Something like this blindness goes into Freud’s repetition compulsion, the tendency for one to live out the same old patterns over and over again—whether “good” patterns or “bad.” I see a relationship between this and what Witt is doing in bringing people to radically different angles of perception.)

All of this makes me think of GE Moore, “Many difficulties come when you attempt to answer questions, without discovering first precisely what question it is which you desire to answer.” It always always seems to me that once I have formulated the question as it needs to be formulated, the answer is just there (or, I should say, important candidates for an answer), and I can feel the existence of this content even before it emerges into consciousness (rather like Milton must have when, blind, he called out to his daughter to come and “milk him”). So, getting back to the relation between this activity and the rest of life, in my own small way I feel it very powerfully. It has “slowed” my life down. It has changed the metabolism of it. I am not tempted to pass through things quickly with the hunter’s eye, the target-seeking gaze (that screens out so much). I enjoy things more and need “things” less. (One day Socrates was spotted in the market. A man approached and exclaimed, “Socrates! I am surprised to see you here, attending to the items for sale with so much interest, given what you teach about the soul.” Socrates replied, “I am enjoying being here, seeing all the things I do not need and do not want.” I am sure you noticed how spartan Witt’s life was—giving away his inheritance, the empty cottages in Ireland, etc. At just seems like an incredible strength and joyousness permeates everything when this desire for simplicity and “austerity” is achieved.

You develop at some length a matter that is very much in my thoughts just now: the difference between the public and the private. My inability at present to do justice to this subject (which probably created some confusion in my last posting, as I tried to think of the problem this way and then that way) is a fact, but your comments were helpful. We do have a tendency to suppose that private experience “comes first” and is then released into the public sphere via language, behavior, painting, music making, etc. A student of Witt’s named Turring, the decoder and theorizer of the thinking machine, asked Witt one day about such a machine. Witt said, “Will it know what a toothache feels like?” Now, just here, I can see the “public” making the “private” possible (thus reversing the priority you rightly mention). After all, it is only through participation in a language that I a) localize sensations in my body (into parts—hands, head, tooth) and b) identify pain as “pain.” The words/concepts tooth and pain exist for me through my participation in the prior, public domain of language. This language articulates experience into elements, meaningful units, parts, localities. The pain of the toothache is not the pain of a smashed finger or of a heart attack or of acid reflux. These various pains are all brought into proximity (and thus a kind of bewitchment) through the concept provided by the word “pain.” And then we draw upon the resources of language (public) to speak of dull pains, shooting pains, pinching pains, throbbing pains, and so on. In this respect, the public makes the private possible. Witt is doing something remarkable here, but I must confess I do not yet fully grasp his exploration (if that is the right way to put it). I am still wondering how deeply the phenomenon under consideration runs—and I can not yet tell.

Well, there is a bit more work to do before I go to bed, my lesson plan. Sorry for such a long note. But, as usual, I enjoyed it and your observations will be very much in my thoughts tomorrow as I sit alone with some of this and try to see more of what presents itself. Wonderful note—thank you. If more thoughts come to you (or you just want to “chat” about yourself) please post me as usual. Always a delight. Patrick

11:01 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Patrick, I think I can understand your student's concern with focusing on so many details. It is easy to miss the forest for the trees as they say. I too, in my teaching days could find myself moving into thoughts that would excite me in such a manner that the need to make sure I cover all the bases got across. I finally had to learn that my students needed to come to that kind of a process on their own; that giving them the more general idea of things didn't brig up anxieties that would cause them not to look at all. Nevertheless, I do empathize with your process. It can be fun and at the same time very revealing in our exploration of ideas. I mentioned a while back, those are really the little "Ghost's" that I visit.
In any case, I enjoyed your response.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I thought I would share something with you.
When I was on campus today, I met someone I didn’t know who turned out to be a professor of the philosophy of language. I asked him if we could chat for a bit, and we did. He said something that struck me as insightful: “The problem with Witt is that it is almost impossible to know what he means by language.” Again, if he means by it all representations, it is a trivial observation (e.g. that the limits of language are the limits of my world), for there is no world without mental representations of it. If by language he means some subset of representations then, by definition, language is not the limits of my world. So, in this case, where he is making a clear epistemological claim, he cannot be said to be right without greater clarity on the nature of language than this professor (and I) have been able to find in Witt. Also, without a definition of language, his views on the possible of a private language are not of value because they lack specificity. Patrick

3:17 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

I thought we already agreed that Witt refuted the Tractatus as a final resolve. The statement you quote is from the Tractatus. I'm perplexed why this is going in circles. Who was this prof anyway? And what has he written that could put a more detailed explanation as to what "He" means by language? I think Monk made it quite clear that the PI shed all the light we need to know as to how and why Witt refuted the Tractatus and why the PI's section on "private language" makes sense. Anyway, that's my thought on the matter until proven otherwise.

Thanks for the thought though.

Hey, read the articles I mentioned. I'm looking foorward to your thoughts on them.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I don't think this is a circular move. Witt cast off the Tractatus, but not in total. He entertained the view to the very end that the limits of language are the limits of the world. (This is something like the Heideggerian view that language is the house of Being and the Nietzschean view that truth is an army of metapors.) However, what he means by language is crucial. If by language I mean merely English, French--the languages of the world, then it is obvious that a private language is possible. I can call a cat "gip" and runs "nez" and away "ti." The cat runs away would then be "Gip nez ti," and we would, in this way, have another and a private language. Now, one would wonder what incentive one would have for building such a private language. However, and this is the problem, this is not what Witt means by language (e.g. English, French, etc.) I will read the items you mention. Patrick

7:20 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I have just begun reading the articles posted on your site. First, let me say, as best I can judge from the smallish photos, your art is remarkably graceful, lyrical, moving--I do not know the proper language. I am no art critic; I only know what I like. I was rather taken by the comments of John Brunetti, who starts out quoting Beckett, "Nothing is certain when you're about." The selection in itself seemed high praise. As you know, I am a philistine who happens to like Pollock (among others, naturally) and I like him, in part, for this very reason. I have a preference for art that does not readily fall into a conceptual category, that does not insist too strongly on saying something that has been said, and heard. It does sound like Brunetti is a perceptive critic (and a rather good writer, I think) for even a cave-dweller like myself can sort of see what he is getting at. The Hearing #IV does somehow elude both assertion and counter-assertion, as Brunetti suggests. (However, the photo does make it a bit more challenging than I would like.) Brunetti writes something I find interesting: "The elusiveness of an edge between a shape and its surrounding space reveals the fiction behind complete comprehension of our environment, and our relationship to it." I certainly can see the application of this remark to your work, but what he has written reads rather like a formula. Is he, at this point, commenting about "an edge" as it appears in your work, or is he making a universal statement about art that no one would contest? I just wondered. It is consonant with your delight in the Tractatus, its power to withhold at least as much as it gives.

2:22 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

AHA! I knew you would have something perceptive to say.
I think what Brunnetti is referring to when he speaks of the "edge" is some metaphorical relationship to how it is used in the painting and how that corresponds to some idea I have about reality and illusion in "real time." I think that is the comparison that he is alluding to in his use of Beckett as a basis of comparison. Ultimately, I think what he is dealing with, at least I would hope he is, is perception, both physical and conceptual. If he is, then he is coming very close to some of the issues that inform my work. That's just a guess on my part but I do know john's writing and he has never come across as someone who has a formula by which he expresses his thoughts on a given subject.

Thanks for the comment. I am very interested on how you will respond to the two essays that I mentioned.

I think my work from Spain is finally in the U.S. I'll know more today. Hopefully then I can spend more time on art and related issues like the one we are having.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Good luck, once again, with Spain. I had a chance to read your article, "Twenty Contemplations." I think the artistic search for a "language," as described in this piece is full of implications both for Wittgenstein and Heidegger. In particular, there is a highly unconventional feeling for representation by which Witt goes in search of his "grammar," a grammer which obviously has nothing whatever to do with The Little Brown Handbook. In other words, language in the more conventional text has acquired a structure of usage and the business of identifying the contours of this usage is rather like the navigation by intuition, as I envision it, that enters into artistic creation (e.g., formulating "a language befitting the sublime nature of the subject." This is a kind of innovation to which, I must say, I have never given much thought. However, while the lines do diverge, they also come together again, for the philosopher would be poor indeed to could not relate to your concluding observation, "It was a moment in which I was fully able to appreciate and experience a sense of the self, the medium and the unexpected." Naturally, the meaning of a word or concept or theme has no atomic structure, is not divisible into parts, and therefore requires an act of recognition, a kind of spiritual cartography, by which it can be articulated translated and set forth for identification. A very nice piece.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Patrick: "...spiritual cartography!" Very poetic! What a wonderful way of placing into context all that you said preceding it and after. I am very impressed. I think your explorations in philosophy (esp. perception) bring a special kind of insight into my work. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

I want to respond briefly to what you said in an earlier email about the prof. who found it "almost impossible to know what he (Witt) means by language."

Every text I have ever read on Witt, including Ray Monk's most recent, characterizes Witt's definition of language as "a picture of the world." And that it reveals "the sum total of the world" as a "model" of reality. Now that's a characterization that is consistent. It is very hard for me to understand how the prof. you mention doesn't understand that as well.

Now...this prof may disagree with that assessment of Witts premise. But to say that Witt doesn't tell us, and I think categorically, what language is, I think is a mistaken view. One may not agree with Witt's observations, and as we know Witt himself refuted some of it, but the only way to understand where Witt is coming from is to accept his premise, acknowledge that it had a conclusion, and go on from there.

As to how to interpret the idea of "representations" as being trivial or whatever, it seems to me that we need to find a way to agree on how to understand "representations" in the context of Witt's extension of his logic as to "pictures." I must admit that I am not qualified to comment in any way as to the argument as to whether Witt's conclusions align with reality or whatever. But...I do think I understand that he knew what he (Witt) meant by "language" and that he was very clear on it. I think that is why so much of what I have read in that regard is so consistently the same as I stated above.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

It seems best to take the Robert Glauber essay in sections rather than all at once. Glauber writes well enough and has many interesting things to say, but his presentation isn't always coherent (e.g. his quote from Flaubert literally contradicts the following paragraph, "Ineptitude consists in WANTING to reach conclusions"....Fortunately...the search is all). This is quibbling. However, what isn't, is the doubt that arise (in my mind at least) about trying to "transubstantiate thought into art" and trying "to make their theories usurp their creative work." Do these things really stand in the dualism (rather 18th- century)that Glauber supposes? Here's a stunning sentence: "Despite his philosophical underpinnings, Ramirez's work, like all good art, is primarily an effort to present what Wittgenstein termed 'communicable ideas.'" This is one of those sentences, from a fussy editor's perspective, that has a fifth wheel and yet still manages to wobble. But, I must say, this is th very thing that interests me: the Witt connection. Now, the music interests me too, but in a different way. To rather torture the language, I am interested in the shapes of meaning. And the chain that connects Witt to Thomism really sounds compelling. There is, of course, the Aquinas that wrote and wrote and wrote, and then the one who feel into complete silence. God? Well, if there is a hand in the way, I can't see the sun either. That actually was my initial impression of your work, before I read anything about it. I thought, "He is painting the sacred, but he is doing it in a way that is clean and novel." Ah, to find the sacred in a certain slant of the late afternoon sunlight. But I must read on, very interesting. Bravo, Dan!

12:36 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

jubfjhPatrick, very interesting. Your perceptions open some interesting ways to try and connect some of the questions you raise. I thought that your comments as to Aquinas and Witt's idea of "silence" was very fresh. I've never thought of the two together in the way you mentioned. Very interesting!

As we move along I will try and accommodate your request for some images with dimensions etc. I will set up a seperate link to a blog page that will contain some of the images that might be helpful to you. I will inform you as to when they are posted.

Again, keep in mind that I also work in the studio along with (like you I'm sure) a myriad of other responsibilities so there will be times when there is a little time gap in our communication.

I should also tell you that there is one particular philosopher aside from Witt and Toulmin that has had a direct impact on my thinking; Roger Scrutton. I reread two essays in particular from his "Modern Philosophy: an introduction and survey," on a regular basis. The essays are "Perception" and Imagination." They come closest to suggesting ways to look at some of the things that interest me from the conceptual side of my work. I've never found it necessary to understand the "how" or "why" of actually "making" my art so much as to appreciate why it ends up "looking" the way that it does and how that "look" corresponds to what my perception was of what inspired the work itself. I have always considered my self a romantic; not necessarily in the philosophical vein as defined in 19th century German Romanticsm, although there may be some correlation, but from a more contemporary position in defiance of the so called "Logical Positivist" attitude that seems to look at the world from a very "clean" point of view. I know that the "Logical Positivist" position is pretty much passe but I still see my own role as an artist needing to come to terms with all the little devils that being creative tosses into the process. Those are just some of the "Ghost's" that I was referring to in an earlier discussion we where having about Witt and the evolution of the Tractatus.

7:08 AM  

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