Intellectual / Social

The sociology of mind is not a theory of how intellectuals are affected by “non-intellectual motives.” To frame the question in this way is to assume that thinking normally takes place independently, in a pristine realm driven by nothing but itself. But thinking would not be possible at all if we were not social; we would have no words, no abstract ideas, and no energy for anything outside of immediate sensuality… Thinking consists in making “coalitions in the mind,” internalized from social networks, motivated by the emotional energies of social interactions. My concern is not with “non-intellectual motives” but to show what intellectual motives are. (Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies, p.7)

"Metaphysical questions are indeed misleading, for they express an unclarity about the grammar of words (e.g. of the use of ‘I’, ‘mind’, ‘space’ and ‘time’) in the form of a scientific question. Unsurprisingly, the typical metaphysical answer appears to specify a putative truth about the world. The only gold one can extract from such ore is in the form of rules for the use of words. But most of metaphysics is dross, to be discarded as nonsense. Wittgenstein’s account made it clear, as most previous critics of metaphysics had not, why metaphysical assertions — that is, assertions about the world which seem to be necessarily true — are so compelling, and what modest grammatical truths lurk behind them."

— Peter Hacker, Wittgenstein’s Place in Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy, p118

"One of the greatest impediments for philosophy is the expectation of new, deep revelations. For the human craving for the arcane is present in philosophy no less than in other walks of life, manifesting itself in the desire for hitherto undreamt-of mysteries about the mind, thought and language. But in philosophy there are no mysteries, only the mesmerizing confusions engendered inter alia by our entanglement in grammar. Here too, as in psychoanalysis, there is often an underlying tacit motive for cleaving to error and illusion. Hence, ‘if you find yourself stumped trying to convince someone of something and not getting anywhere, tell yourself that it is the will and not the intellect that you’re up against’ (MS 158, 35)."

— Peter Hacker, Wittgenstein’s Place in Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy, p112

"Living things in contact with the air must acquire a cuticle, and it is not urged against cuticles that they are not hearts; yet some philosophers seem to be angry with images for not being things, and with words for not being feelings."

— George Santayana, Soliliquies in England

"In MS 124, where, as we have seen, [Robinson] Crusoe is discussed at some length, Wittgenstein introduces the idea of a language that is not a means of communication, but rather a ‘toolbox’ for a person’s private use. This, he writes, is perfectly conceivable – as is patent in the case of a Crusoe. For the meanings of the words in this private language are manifest in Crusoe’s behaviour (MS 124, 221f.). But, Wittgenstein continues, can one not conceive of a language in which someone speaks or writes of his own private sensations, his inner experiences, for his own use? Such a language would, of course, be intelligible only to him, for no one else could know what the words of his language refer to (MS 124, 222). This sets the stage for the private language arguments proper, which are designed to show that although it may seem as if we were here dealing with a language – that is an illusion. It is an illusion to which most philosophers of the modern era succumbed, for they thought that our public languages are the confluence of all speakers’ private languages, the words of which signify (name) private ideas or mental representations."

GP Baker and PMS Hacker, Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar and Necessity p166

  • A great, concise clarification of what Wittgenstein meant by a private language - so often misunderstood - only recently I read a paper in which somebody thought he was demolishing Wittgenstein by pointing out that a Robinson Crusoe type could develop his own language.

"Wittgenstein shows not just that all language is vague, but that we should not deplore this fact. Vagueness is not necessarily a defect of language… No improvement is made by adding something to a signpost that removes a possible misunderstanding that nobody has. The adequacy of explanation is to be judged by everyday practical standards, not by some arcane theoretical ones. It is absence of agreement in a practice that is a defect of language, not the mere possibility that there might be irresolvable disagreements which never in fact arise. Wittgenstein seems to push the bidding even higher: that vagueness is impossible to eliminate even in principle and is indispensible to the efficient use of language for communication."

— GP Baker and PMS Hacker, Wittgenstein: Meaning and Understanding pp215-16

"It is because of this “dialectic” between fact and artifact that, although no philosopher would seriously defend a correspondence theory of truth, it is nevertheless absolutely impossible to be convinced by a purely constructivist account for more than three minutes. Well, let’s say an hour, to be fair. Most philosophy of science since Hume and Kant consists in taking on, evading, hedging, coming back to, recanting, solving, refuting, packing, unpacking this impossible antinomy: that on the one hand facts are experimentally made up and never escape from their manmade settings, and on the other hand it is essential that facts are not made up and that something emerges that is not manmade. Bears in cages pace back and forth within their narrow prisons with less obstinacy and less distress than philosophers and sociologists of science going incessantly from fact to artifact and back."

— Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope p125

"Moreover any object immediately becomes the foundation of a network of habits, the focus of a set of behavioural routines. Conversely, there is probably no habit that does not centre on an object. In everyday existence the two are inextricably bound up with each other."

— Baudrillard, The System of Objects


John Searle on Austin and Wittgenstein. Sadly, Austin didn’t like Wittgenstein and Wittgenstein didn’t appear to care either way.

(Source: youtube.com)

"And we must always be particularly wary of the philosophical habit of dismissing some of (if not all) the ordinary uses of a word as ‘unimportant’, a habit which makes distortion practically unavoidable. For instance if we are going to talk about ‘real’, we must not dismiss as beneath contempt such humble but familiar expressions as ‘not real cream’; this may save us from saying, for example, or seeming to say that what is not real cream must be a fleeting product of our cerebral processes."

— J.L. Austin, Sense and Sensibilia p63-4

"Is it possible, with the help of my schema, to understand, visualize, and detect why the original model of philosophers of language is so widespread, when this slightest inquiry reveals its impossibility? … Let us block the extremities of the chain as if one were the referent, the forest of Boa Vista, and the other were the phrase, “the forest of Boa Vista.” Let us erase all the mediations that I have delighted in describing. In place of the forgotten mediations, let us create a radical gap, one capable of covering the huge abyss that separates the statement I utter in Paris and its referent six thousand kilometers away. Et voilà, we have returned to the former model, searching for something to fill the void we have created, looking for some adequatio, some resemblence between two ontological varieties that we have made as dissimilar as possible. It is hardly surprising that philosophers have been unable to reach an understanding on the question of realism and relativism: they have taken the two provisional extremities for the entire chain, as if they had tried to understand how a lamp and a switch could “correspond” to each other after cutting the wire and making the lamp “gaze out” at the “external” switch."

— Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope pp72-3

"We always forget that the word “reference” comes from the Latin refere, “to bring back.” Is the referent what I point to with my finger outside discourse, or is it what I bring back inside discourse?"

— Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope p32

"At any rate, what a vapid idea, the book as the image of the world."

— Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

"Does philosophy not result in conceptual truths – and is that not a cognitive achievement? That would be misleading … these conceptual truths are not statements of fact. They are descriptions of normative connections within the web of concepts that constitute our form of representation. They are said to be true. Indeed, they are often said to be necessary truths. That, of course, is correct –- but misleading. Their truth is akin to that of the proposition that the king in chess moves one square at a time. What we realize when a philosophical insight dawns on us is a feature of our form of representation. We attain an understanding of the way in which our familiar modes of description of things hang together."

— Peter Hacker, “Philosophy: A contribution not to human knowledge, but to human understanding”

(Source: info.sjc.ox.ac.uk)

"Havelock (1982) and Snell (l960) noted the ways that notions like *idea*, *mind*, and *word* developed and the ways in which words from the common vocabulary suddenly became the subject of analysis and reflection in classical Greek culture. Whereas for the Homeric Greeks notions like *justice* and *courage* were exemplified in the deeds of gods and hero, for the literate Greeks they became philosophical concepts. The writing system, Havelock argued, was partly responsible."

— David Olson, “How Writing Represents Speech”