Not a good book, he said: As we explained in our first epistle, we're writing to today's 9-year-old kids with messages to be read later.
It will fall to these 9-year-olds to rebuild our failing culture. We've suggested that a meditation developed in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations might help direct us to a day when we'll receive our daily bread, but also our daily logic.
Let's review some of the relevant history:
In the decades which led us to our own Trump, our logicians had walked away from their posts. They addressed highly esoteric concerns, hidden away in their aeries.
In the realm of daily logic, we badly needed assistance. We needed help with the logic of sensible paraphrase. We very badly needed help with the logic of generalization.
We needed help with the logic of "race." We needed help with the logic of same and different.
Did any logician step forward to help? We can't think of any such effort, and our journalists were utterly helpless.
When we started The Daily Howler, several years had just passed in which we were repeatedly told only two parts of a three-number story.
Our journalists couldn't figure it out. Our logicians were off in the ether.
Philosophical Investigations was published in 1953, two years after Wittgenstein's death (at age 62). Is it possible that this very jumbled book could contain a relatively simple diagnosis explaining where a great deal of reasoning goes astray?
Is it possible that this puzzling book could suggest a relatively simple way to recognize and address incoherence, even including incoherence on the highest academic levels?
Eventually, we expect to say yes! But first, we offer some good sound advice:
Do not read this book!
The woods were lovely, dark and deep, but Wittgenstein's book was impenetrable. If you try to read it, you'll fail.
Wittgenstein almost said as much in his preface to the book, a preface he wrote all the way back in 1945. The preface ended like this:
I make [my remarks] public with misgivings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another—but, of course, it is not likely.In our next epistle, we'll review the preface in a bit more detail. We'll even give you a look at what you would encounter if you were ever foolish enough to try to read the actual book.
I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.
I should have liked to produce a good book. It has not turned out that way, but the time is past in which I could improve it.
Cambridge, January 1945
You shouldn't try to read Wittgenstein's book. But a river runs through it.