Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Realism, not Empiricism

“Not empiricism and yet realism in philosophy, that is the hardest thing.” RFM VI S. 23.

Below is a summary reflection on Brad Kallenberg’s Ethics as Grammar: Changing the Postmodern Subject, particularly in regard to the above quote from Wittgenstein. These four propositions are Kallenberg’s attempt at showing W.’s pedagogical spiral of conceptions from primitive reactions, to language-games, to form of life, and aspect-seeing. The bold are quotes from Kallenberg.

“P1: Agreement in primitive reactions constitutes a community’s for of life.”
A baby’s crying in a primitive reaction; so too the mothers response in feeding the baby. The patterns of these reactions (from eating, sleeping, sex, etc.) create a general form of life, differing from community to community. Language-games are based in these reactions, so…

“P2: A community’s form of life conditions the shape of its language-games.”
From PI. S. 23, “He the term ‘language-game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life.” These forms of life extend from gathering/hunting food and cooking, to building houses, to marriage rituals, to economic contracts, to political systems, with each form having diverse, yet related language-games.

“P3: The language-games a community plays determine the way it conceives the world.”
As a child, learning a native language and/or language-game becomes the conceptual hardware necessary for sorting out their world. Their world is organized at the same time that as they are learning these language-games. Language and the world are coterminous, and coextensive, as Kallenberg likes to say. One is not before the other. This goes along with W.’s claim that there are no private or ideal languages, but that experience is produced by language.

“P4: The way a community conceives the world shapes the primitive reactions.”
This brings us back to where we started. A communities conception of the world (conception in the sense that it is practices daily on the ground of forms of life) shapes how we react to primitive phenomena, even pain sensations and/or emotional responses. What we first might of thoughts of as pre-linguistic is in fact already penetrated words.

Not any one of these theses individually constitute where W. begins or ends, but according to Kallenberg they expressed what he calls W.’s understanding of language’s ‘internal relation’ to the world. There is no world outside of language that we can get to by which we can compare the accuracy of our statements. This doesn’t mean that categories of Truth and Objectivity are abandoned, but they are radically transformed and communally situated.

This, I submit, it a meager attempt at W.’s realism w/o empiricism. Entering into this process going round and round there propositions, such that each is transformative of the other, is W.’s attempt at realism, without relying on a positivist, empirical view of language.

But is this then merely Idealism of another stripe?


Coming Soon: Wittgenstein’s ‘Saying vs. Showing’ distinction.
And how these relate to Lacan.

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