philosophical error

“Philosophy leaves the world as it is,” said Wittgenstein.

Philosophy cannot force anyone to do anything. Someone may be led into accepting philosophical doctrine by trick logic. It does not follow that when his original error is pointed out to him he will abandon his doctrine.

Berkeley rejected belief in matter for reasons which some will regard as philosophical error. Buddhists reject belief in matter in light of mystical experience. Arthur Koestler discovered a Hindu mystic who uses bad philosophical argument drawn from science to justify a disbelief in matter, whose point is his mysticism.

The Assassins who were led through a long series of initiations involving various levels of religious “truth” to be told at the end “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”.

Suppose someone claims that illogicality is a necessary spur to progress.

Somehow I feel that Wittgenstein has got to the root of the question, or very very nearly.
Admittedly when ordinary language goes off the rails it may eventually lead to something interesting.

Just suppose all our thinkers, Freuds, Marxes, Aquinases, etc were aware of the errors in what they were doing. Is not the field then open for any old Nazi to come along and do his own thing in the same way as the others, substituting his own departure from logic for that perpetrated by the others?

Gellner describes John Wisdom as saying “say what you like but be careful”.
Be careful is just advice to think. THINK about what you are saying. Think about its relation to other forms of discourse. Philosophy is primarily critical. It must make people aware of other ways of looking at things, from that to which they are accustomed.

The Philosophical Investigations treats the idea of a picture. It is surely not true that philosophy does not concern itself with empirical facts. It might be argued that all it does is point out facts, many of which are empirical. Something to the effect that a certain word can be used in the same way by different people, although these people have different pictures when they use the word, is an empirical fact.

Sometimes philosophy says something illuminating rather than empirical, like “meaning is use”.
If the empirical fact I have suggested is brought to someone’s notice it may change some of his concepts.

Quine claims that even what we would regard as elementary laws of logic are not immune from revision in the light of experience.

There is such a thing as advance in philosophy, and errors which no well read man would repeat, at least in their original form. If there were no psychological “must” we could hardly get anywhere.
We accept certain rules about clarification of concepts.

The consequences of denying an empirical fact can sometimes be serious for sanity.

Our philosophies are conditioned by our experience, and vice versa. We remain free to have stupid concepts and ridiculous experiences. The ignorant man may prefer to remain ignorant on the basis that he likes the experiences his ignorance gives him.

Why was Wittgenstein so tormented?

“The central problem of classical empiricism was set by the assumptions that experience really offers us nothing but separate and fleeting sense-impression, images, and feelings; and the problem was to show how, on this exiguous basis, we could supply a rational justification of our ordinary picture of the world as containing continuously and independently existing and interacting material things and persons.” P F Strawson Bounds of Sense p18.

The connection between Wittgenstein’s statement “I hold no opinions in philosophy”, his statement that philosophy leaves the world as it is and the argument in Lewis Carroll’s What Achilles said to the Tortoise should be considered in relation to the method used in the Philosophical Investigations.

Winch in The Idea of a Social Science criticises the idea held by sociologists that the method appropriate to their own subject matter is the same as that appropriate for the subject matter of the natural sciences. Suppose a philosopher can point out a logical difference not normally taken account of. His “you must notice this difference” would be in a similar position to proposition c which the tortoise considers inadequate for him to grant. Of course if Wittgenstein’s writings left the world completely as it was before he wrote, there would have been no point in writing.

Who would deny that it is at least possible that a philosophical confusion could enter into life and change it? Suppose that someone begins to work out his theories on the basis of a philosophical confusion. Whether pointing out this confusion will cause the aspiring theorist to alter his theories, to abandon his line of thought, will depend on the level of advancement the theory has reached. Thomists are still taught the old “proofs” of the existence of God. If the theory has reached the level of “profundity” as Maoists talk of a “profound grasp of Mao-tse-tung’s thought, Wittgenstein’s criticisms may be reacted to in different ways.

The concepts in which the theory is expressed may be changed in an attempt to leave the theory substantially the same. Alternatively criticisms themselves may be denounced and rejected out of hand, the philosophy on which they are based may be denounced sociologically, or as heresy for example.

Philosophy leaves the world as it is. Heresy hunting I can understand from a certain sympathetic point of view. It is a serious business, the destruction of the people who wish to interfere with one’s trip and one’s life work. There is no contradiction between this and the sprit of Christianity. The sprit of Christianity is defined as it develops. Byzantine and Russian civilisation begin to interest me strongly. They are an oriental line of development from the Roman, more absolute and established than the western civilisation which gave birth to gothic art. Not for them the excited thrill of potential, but the calmness of a natural and accomplished spirituality. If gothic is like a technique for expressing brilliant inspiration, Byzantine art is a systematic technique for expressing spirituality essentially part of the established culture which gave it birth. The society and the religion are fixed. Gothic was like an adventure.

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