Friday, January 28, 2011

Operative definition....

A philosopher is someone for whom the following is a joke: "The temptation to tell anthropologists that taboo is the name of a non-natural quality would be very strong for any Polynesian who had read G.E. Moore." (MacIntyre 1970, p. 68)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Why we need "the unconscious".

What motivates our theoretical belief in “the unconscious” to begin with? Quite simply, the incoherence of (ordinary) conscious beliefs. It’s because ordinary conscious beliefs are often contradictory (“I know that my girlfriend isn’t like that, and yet I think she is like that.” – a variant of Moore’s paradox) that we need the category of “the unconscious” to begin with. “The unconscious” is needed to synthesize or perhaps rather isolate a contradiction.

“She did that, because she unconsciously thought that…” is a form of explanation that is meant to save the coherence of the actor’s ordinary web of beliefs – the explanation isolates a (seeming) contradiction.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Pretending is a playing the part of someone not pretending. Pretending is performing a representation of not pretending. From this it is already clear that in order to pretend something, you have to know what it means and entails to carry out the action in question sincerely or non-pretendingly. (Romeo is being original; the actor is an echo. The bear growls non-pretendingly; the child stands on all four and growls in inverted commas.). What this fact really boils down to is: Knowing how to be sincere is a necessary condition of knowing how to pretend. But it’s not a sufficient condition; acting or pretending is an extra technique that has to be learned. In other words, pretence may be done skilfully; and the criteria with which we judge such skill is connected the criteria we apply in establishing non-pretence. The skilful performance is the one which makes it the least obvious that it is pretence.

But there is also such a thing as ‘second-order-pretence’. Second-order-pretence is playing the part of someone who is playing the part of someone not playing a part. If one could not pretend in this way, no actor could do the role of someone in a Shakespearean comedy in which the very characters are often pretending to be someone else or even acting within the comedy itself. What changes in this case? The stated necessary, but not sufficient relation stills holds, but the criteria we apply in judging a performance as skilful radically changes: The second-order pretence ought to represent the first-order pretence as pretence. And to do so in an obvious manner. The skilful second-order pretence portrays the first-order pretence as bad pretence. (We know this sort of pretence from when we poke fun of some friend, who we believe was pretending in certain situation, e.g. when making an impression on someone of the opposite sex. We enact the situation token-reflexively using a squeaky voice, bad choice of words etc. in order to make it clear that this was instance of first-order pretence.) The second-order pretence must contain the first-order-pretence as a part of its representation.

There might even be such thing as third-order pretence. An example would be someone enacting a bad performance of an actor playing in Shakespearean comedy. This would an example of someone pretending to play the role of someone who is bad at pretending to be someone who is good at pretending to be someone else.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Attempt at aphorism...

Philosophers have answers to problems that people do not have. And the finest mark of a teacher of philosophy is his ability to create problems for people who didn’t have problems to begin with.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tasting Notes...

Chateau Wittgenstein Vintage 1918: Tight and dense. Showing potential, but only hinting at its profound depth.
Chateau Wittgenstein Vintage 1925: Hibernated and closed but with occasional violent outburst of bitter notes.
Chateau Wittgenstein Vintage 1932: Reductive in style. Long fruit, no real finish.
Chateau Wittgenstein Vintage 1945: More open and oxidative in style. Distinct notes, easy to enumerate. Complexity and majestic finish.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Grammar of a Word

Stanley Cavell once remarked that the grammar of a word is its placement within the schematism of our concepts. And somewhat typical of his writing no explanation followed. I have been wondering how to make sense of this. Why a schematism? One interpretation I've considered is this:

Because the grammar of a word serves as foundation for our projection of a word into new contexts – just the Kantian schema projects the pure concepts of understanding unto intuition.

And we don't just project a word into, as it were, “numerically” new contexts, e.g. our ability to identify dogs as "dogs" in a strictly indefinite multitude of contexts, which are however similar in some respect, e.g. the presence of a dog.

We also project words into, as it were, more radically new contexts, e.g. we don't just talk about feeding the dog or feeding the baby (these are the contexts in which I learned the concept of “feeding”), we also talk about feeding Africa or of feeding the parking meter (with coins). And we project the concept into these new contexts with the greatest ease. The grammar of a word is the foundation of this ease. That is, the foundation of our spontaneity with regard to concepts.

Any other suggestions for an interpretation?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A note on skepticism and language games

Someone, who have not understood that 'pain' can be feigned under such-and-such circumstances have not understood our concept of 'pain' at all. The possibility of pretence is a structural possibility, in a sense; a necessary possibility. And yet, the language game of 'pain' is not founded on the constant possibility of pretence and doubt, but on the actual presence of pain.

Language games must be regarded as essentially functioning, not as essentially defect. Scepticism bypasses this point; and this is the error of scepticism. Our language is alright as it is.

And as they are, our language games already includes the standard sceptical possibilities; and so the sceptic cannot be viewed as a revisionist, but only as someone who misconstrues our language game, as someone who lays the accent on the wrong part of our language game. But, of course, he is not laying the accent on a non-existing part of our language game; we do doubt each other and we do contest matters of fact.

That we accept more than we contest constitutes what Heidegger called our being "in tune". And so the sceptic tests the extent to which we are in tune. He is not a truth-seeker or a revisionist, but rather someone who tests our bond. The sceptic serves, as it were, a social function.