Epistles to today's 9-year-old kids!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Don't read until the future:
Did the Irish really save civilization? We have no idea.

We can tell you this. Based on what we've been told by credentialed future anthropologists, today's 9-year-old kids will have to restart our failed civilization at some point in the future.

They will be called to this task in the wake of the global conflagration these despondent future scholars refer to as Mister Trump's War. They'll have to address the decades of intellectual squalor which led our failing society to this current place.

As we've noted in the past, our logicians have abandoned their posts over the course of a great many years. That's been true in the western world as a whole, not just here in this country.

It will fall to today's 9-year-old kids to restore our daily logic.

Give us this day our daily bread? It may be our species' most basic prayer. But our species can't live by bread alone. We also need daily logic.

We plan to leave these daily epistles for today's kids to find. They'll focus on a particular type of meditation which emerges from the later Wittgenstein's seminal book, Philosophical Investigations.

The book itself is an unholy mess, a point Wittgenstein himself acknowledged in his mournful Preface. We won't advise today's kids to (attempt to) read the book, unless they want a Finnegan's Wake-level interpretive challenge.

In our next epistle, we'll look at what Wittgenstein said about his own jumbled book. On the whole, we won't be attempting to tell the kids what Wittgenstein "thought" or "said."

We will be doing this, however—eventually, we'll be outlining Wittgenstein's theory concerning a basic way human reason tends to go astray. Writing for the New York Times, Professor Horwich put it like this:
HORWICH (3/3/13): Wittgenstein claims that there are no realms of phenomena whose study is the special business of a philosopher, and about which he or she should devise profound a priori theories and sophisticated supporting arguments. There are no startling discoveries to be made of facts, not open to the methods of science, yet accessible “from the armchair” through some blend of intuition, pure reason and conceptual analysis. Indeed the whole idea of a subject that could yield such results is based on confusion and wishful thinking.

This attitude is in stark opposition to the traditional view, which continues to prevail.
Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on—and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein.
For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking...
In his later work, Wittgenstein threw much of traditional "philosophy" under the bus. In Horwich's formulation, Wittgenstein said that traditional philosophy's alleged findings were, on the whole, "the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking."

Could such a counterintuitive claim possibly be true? In fact, college freshmen have suspected such things for centuries. In an otherwise muddled book, Wittgenstein conjures a meditation which lets us start to see that this counterintuitive view actually may be true.

His meditation leads to clarity in a wide range of undertakings. Our society has been dying on the vine from the lack of daily logic. In the future, will today's 9-year-olds peruse the epistles we leave for them and create a more competent world?

22 comments:

  1. From the description of Cahill's book "How the Irish Saved Civilization":

    "Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization — copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost — they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task."

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    2. Nae, lass. Th’ feckin’ Irish didn’t sae th' warld, th' Scots did!

      Delete
    3. Great book by Cahill, I grabbed it on impulse from a used book sale at my local library, now own the rest of the series by Cahill.

      Delete
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  2. So, the Irish saved civilization by preserving writings of previous centuries.

    Somerby says:

    "They'll have to address the decades of intellectual squalor which led our failing society to this current place."

    Intellectual squalor doesn't sound like anything worth preserving, so presumably Somerby is expecting those 9 year old future anthropologists to do something else.

    Again, he has borrowed the title of an interesting book and applied it to a situation that is the opposite of what the monks did. Somerby cannot consider our current civilization's writings to be worth preserving, given his daily rants. So he is using a literary reference in a manner contrary to its original meaning, the opposite of it.

    This supports my view, expressed yesterday, that Somerby makes these references because they are obscure, not because they make any sense in the context of his own writing. If he were actually literate, he wouldn't misuse other people's words this way. He would know the allusion doesn't fit, is inappropriate as anything except a reference to saving civilization, and he would have some respect for the original author and his book, and choose a different title.

    But no, he perhaps figures none of his readers will get the reference, which anyone can look up using google. Being Irish myself, I resent this comparison to 9 year old future anthropologists who Somerby deems qualified to recreate society, only better than now, because Somerby finds little to like in anyone's writing these days (except possibly Willa Cather).

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    1. Intellectual squalor doesn't sound like anything worth preserving,

      Nothin’ slips by you, does it, professor?

      so presumably Somerby is expecting those 9 year old future anthropologists to do something else.

      Except perhaps for words plainly written right in front of your face. Not presumably. You don’t have to presume anything. You just have to read for comprehension. TDH tells you exactly what he expects of the 9 year olds — that they will have to “restart” our civilization and “restore” our logic.

      Again, he has borrowed the title of an interesting book and applied it to a situation that is the opposite of what the monks did.

      No, again you have failed to read and understand a simple text. The monks saved what was worthwhile when western civilization descended into the Dark Ages. TDH says that today’s 9 year olds will face the same task.

      He would know the allusion doesn't fit, is inappropriate as anything except a reference to saving civilization,….

      Except, of course, that reference to saving civilization is exactly why the allusion fits.

      Being Irish myself, I resent this comparison to 9 year old[s]….

      Of course, you’re offended. You’re a bag of resentments looking for someone to accuse of offending you.
      Let me quote Richard Dawkins at you:

      If someone tells me that I've hurt their feelings, I say, "Well I'm still waiting to hear what your point is.”

      And also of course, TDH doesn’t say that 9 year olds are qualified to recreate society now. He says they’ll have to do the rebooting “at some point in the future.” And how did you figure that TDH was slamming the Irish?

      Why can’t you read and understand the text before you head for the fainting couch? Just like your stupnagel comment (and I’m still waiting for you to thank me for correcting you), your error drives your ire.

      Delete
    2. Surely, Wittgenstein will be worth saving, despite his book being an unholy mess. Logic!

      What pathetic bullshit.

      Delete
    3. Another masterpiece. Corby is brilliant. Deasrat, she's writing satire!!

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  3. "global conflagration these despondent future scholars refer to as Mister Trump's War"

    Dear Bob, you and the future scholars living inside your head have been promising us this glorious Trump's War for years now.

    We've been waiting, waiting - but alas, no war. No global conflagration, and not even a little pathetic regional conflagration...

    Are you bullshitting, dear Bob? Like a garden variety dembot? Tell me it ain't so, my dear...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One thing at a time. Trump's golfing as hard as he can, running the USA into the ground.

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    2. not golfing, working.
      Damn spellcheck.

      Delete
  4. “we'll be outlining Wittgenstein's theory concerning a basic way human reason tends to go astray.”

    But “we won't be attempting to tell the kids what Wittgenstein "thought" or "said."”

    In other words, Somerby is only going to quote Horwich in order to outline Wittgenstein’s theory? And isn’t outlining Wittgenstein’s theory equivalent to outlining what Wittgenstein said?

    And yet, “The book itself is an unholy mess, a point Wittgenstein himself acknowledged in his mournful Preface. We won't advise today's kids to (attempt to) read the book,”, which raises two questions: 1) if it is such an unreadable mess, how can Somerby be sure what Wittgenstein’s theory actually is?

    And 2) how does Wittgenstein’s theory contribute to any clarity for our world? It sounds as though he is just another example of a muddled logician. If he were truly worthwhile, why would Somerby not recommend his book?

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