Posts tagged Kelly Jolley

Philosophical Tastes

This is a note from quite a while back, over at Kelly Dean Jolley’s common-place blog, which I stashed to chew on later, and which I’m chewing on a bit now. Here’s Jolley:

I’ve been thinking again about Wittgensteinian reminders, and, while I was doing so, I ran across the following from Henry James.

There are two kinds of taste, the taste for emotions of surprise and the taste for emotions of recognition.

It strikes me that much of the power of Wittgenstein’s work in PI is only available to those who have the taste for emotions of recognition. In fact, I wonder if the juxtaposition of PI 127[1] and 128[2] is not itself a juxtaposition of the two tastes: in 127 Wittgenstein engages the taste for emotions of recognition and in 128 he denies the taste for emotions of surprise.

–Kelly Dean Jolley, Reminders and a Kind of Taste
Quantum Est In Rebus Inane (March 20, 2012)

  1. [1][Philosophical Investigations § 127: The work of the philosopher consists in marshalling recollections for a particular purpose. — CJ.]
  2. [2][Philosophical Investigations § 128: If someone were to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree to them. — CJ]

Clarity and clarifying

A couple of notes from a couple of different conversations on being clear and becoming clear. (It’s about philosophy, I promise, not about Scientology. . .)

Me, in reply to Andy Bass and Nemo during a conversation on Wittgenstein and philosophical method (Dec. 2011):

[Quoting A.B.:] Wittgenstein’s “end” to philosophy altogether would be some way of living with, and using, language in which linguistic inconsistencies and their resulting philosophical conundrums cannot arise at all. Wittgenstein doesn’t spend much time with this notion of a final treatment. . . .

I dunno, doesn’t he? It seems like this sort of end of analysis is importantly part of the goal of the Tractatus, and the struggle against that picture is part of the important shift in PI. To live with language in such a way as to end philosophical puzzling would be to become perfectly adept as a logical grammarian — to succeed in catching and keeping the will-o’-the-wisp of logical form. But if there is no such thing to catch, or no such thing as catching it . . . .

I’m rather inclined to think that if we take seriously what Cavell (for example) has to say about the projectability of concepts — and on the late Wittgensteinian themes that Cavell is drawing on here (on the urban geography of natural language, etc.) — then I think it has to be part of the nature of a certain sort of language-game — of any language-game of the sort you could reason or explain in, say — that there could not possibly be a way of living with language that does not raise the possibility of philosophical problems. To live with a language where concepts and linguistic structures can constantly be projected into novel forms is to live with the pervasiveness of risk, doubt, misfires, mistakes, confusion, — since to acknowledge the possibility of projection just is to acknowledge the risk of failing to cotton onto the novel uses, or to shift contexts appropriately, or to recognize the interplay between the old usage and the new, or . . . .

And often we should like to be perfectly adept at these things, but (1) it seems clear that we cannot do that with any set of ex ante rules about what good language ought to look like (as the positivists seem to have thought); (2) it also seems clear that we cannot do that with any set of ex ante principles about what good linguistic therapy ought to look like (as AoTLP[1] hinting); and (3) setting all that aside, it’s not clear that we possibly could count as being perfectly adept by any means within us (what if the conversational context is not something that’s always up to us, but depends on future contingents about what others will play or non-play? what if it involves external objects, like the meter-stick in Paris or the chemical structure of water, which may not be epistemically transparent to us? etc.). And it’s not even clear if this, were it possible, would always be desirable (what if projection serves a tentative or exploratory purpose, not just an analytical or declaratory one? not to allow a certain degree of risky or even confused behavior may simply be to close us off from some funky new neighborhoods that language might otherwise work itself into. . . .).

. . .

[Quoting Nemo:] After a conversation with Socrates, one would say to himself, I don’t know what t’m talking about! I don’t know what [the thing] really means. I’ve got a problem. With Wittgenstein, I know it now! Avoid logical fallacies and speak proper grammar, there is no problem at all.

Well, I think that the bit after I know it now! is for L.W. much easier said than done, but it’s the doing that he’s interested in. The AoTLP[1] seems to have some faith that there is a state you can be in where you will become perfectly adept in the avoiding and in the grammaticalizing — a state that can only be really understood by reaching it, but which will disclose itself to you, irresistibly when and to the extent that you reach it. (In many ways it ends up sounding something like what Socrates is portrayed as teaching Meno about the unforgetting of true knowledge in the second third of the dialogue.) Now, as I understand the later L.W., that faith in the End of Analysis is one of the things that really does change and come under the later L.W.’s criticism. In some ways this makes his project seem less Socratic (or Platonic, whichever), since it means a much less idealized picture of what logical understanding amounts to; in other ways, it makes it seem more Socratic, since it means that there is no end of philosophy to aim at — it’s not a matter of reaching some perfected state of clarity, only an ongoing process of recognizing confusion and clarifying. . . . (In PI, Wittgenstein says that the real discovery is the one that allows you to stop doing philosophy when you want to — but of course stopping it is rather different from finishing it.)

— Charles Johnson (Dec. 2011), comments re: Wittgenstein on Progress in Philosophy

Kelly Dean Jolley, on Clarity, Combative Clarity (Dec. 2011):

I am Wittgensteinian enough, or Kierkegaardian enough, or Marcelian enough to believe that what philosophy aims for is clarity. But one is always becoming clear; one is never finally clear.

Clarity. Clarity is internal to philosophical investigation: it is not a separable result, isolable from the activity that realizes it and such that it confers value onto the activity because of a value it has independent of that activity. If a result is separable, isolable and independent, then it has a career cut off in an important way from the process that realized it. Indeed, in one sense its history only begins after the process that realizes it is finished. The result can be seized and put to purposes quite different from anything that those involved in the process of realizing it intended or foresaw.

But clarity is valuable because of the process of philosophical investigation that realizes it. And there is no clarity in isolation from the philosophical investigation that realizes it. Philosophical investigation does not realize a clarity that someone could hope to enjoy who is no longer involved in philosophical investigation. (I got clear, you see; and now I am enjoying my clarity, although, thank God!, I am no longer involved in the travails of philosophical investigation.) –Kierkegaard’s Climacus talks about the true Christian, the subjective Christian, as combatively certain of Christianity, as certain in a way that requires that the certainty be daily won anew. Eternal certainty (his contrast-term) is not something that the subjective Christian can enjoy on this side of the blue. Similarly, the clarity realized by philosophical investigation is combative clarity, not eternal clarity.

— Kelly Dean Jolley (Dec. 2011), on Clarity, Combative Clarity, in Quantum Est In Rebus Inane

  1. [1]The Author of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the later Wittgenstein’s way of referring to his earlier views when he wished to criticize them.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="">Saving Our History Books For The Singularity. rechelon, <cite>Human Iterations</cite> (2010-07-26)</a>. <q>Some noble soul has labored to put the two most important history books on Individualist Anarchism’s first wave in America online — and in very accessible condition.   Anyway, I felt I had to pause in my projects and distractions to let you know.  This is the shit. Eunice Minette Schuster’s...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">What does it mean to love your enemies? Ryan, <cite>The Peaceable Kingdom</cite> (2010-07-26)</a>. <q>A question many Christians aren’t really asking. This moving video lays it out very simply. It is not wide-eyed optimism in the sense that it doesn’t portray automatic world peace and love in the face of violence. It means that to truly love your enemies you might have to receive...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">A squealing leftie writes. chris dillow, <cite>Stumbling and Mumbling</cite> (2010-07-23)</a>. <q>Tim says something that puzzles me:Human beings really are status seeking beings. The method of ranking it, enforcing it, discovering it, may change, but that there will be a social hierarchy is a given. And that’s the bit that our squealing lefties seem to forget….Simply because we are human beings...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Three from Vienna. <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2010-07-27)</a>. Including an excellent anthology from my teacher Kelly Jolley, also including essays by my other teacher Roderick Long; and a Tractarian musical number. About the latter, all I can say is that he would have been better off trying to whistle it. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Trail of Tears 2010. <cite>der Blaustrumpf</cite> (2010-07-27)</a>. Deportation is ethnic cleansing. Nothing more, nothing less. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Remember Furkan Dogan. Sheldon Richman, <cite>Free Association</cite> (2010-07-27)</a>. <q>Furkan Dogan was the 19-year-old American fatally shot five times by Israeli commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara headed for Gaza -- without a peep from the Obama administration, which has time to get involved with everything else happening in the world. Dogan was a bright young man with a promising...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Wikileaks releases classified Afghanistan war logs: "largest intelligence leak in history" Xeni Jardin, <cite>Boing Boing</cite> (2010-07-25)</a>. <q>An archive of classified U.S. military logs spanning six years, more than 91,000 documents, and 200,000 pages, was today made available by WikiLeaks. The papers show a picture of the war in Afghanistan that is far more grim, and far less hopeful, than previously portrayed. The New York Times, London's...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Guadec Day 2: In pursuit of critical mass. Ivanka Majic, <cite>Canonical Design</cite> (2010-07-27)</a>. <q>Today I was reminded of this quote by Jane Goodall: If everyone could think a little bit about small choices they make every day: What do you eat, does it result in animal cruelty? What do you wear, how was it made, does it damage the environment? When people start...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-07-27.)</em></p></li>

Plains-spoken philosophy

(Via Roderick and my dad.)

Back when I was an undergraduate, I had the unexpected privilege of spending about two and a half years in one of the best Philosophy programs I could possibly have found–the Philosophy department at Auburn University. Those of you who know me probably know, and those of you who just know the blog may have guessed, that part of the reason for that was meeting and spending a lot of time studying with Roderick Long. Another important reason was the time that I spent studying and talking with Kelly Jolley, the current Chair of the department. It would be impossible to list all the philosophical, intellectual, and personal debts that I owe to Kelly, Roderick, and the rest of the faculty at Auburn (James Shelley, Mike Watkins, Eric Marcus, Jody Graham, …). So I’m really pleased to see the New York Times Magazine’s article about Auburn’s philosophy program, and Kelly in particular, which gives you a glimpse into a really quite remarkable story — the role that Kelly’s personality, teaching style, and indefatigable efforts played in transforming the Auburn philosophy department into the best department in the University, and a paradigm of liberal education at its very best — demanding, challenging, collegial, invigorating, and life-changing. And all this in the midst of a big state school that used to be dismissed as that cow college on the other side of the state.

It’s certainly a story that’s much deeper, more compelling, and ultimately much more useful than anything you’ll find in the firehose spray of little squibs and blurbs on lipstick or politicians’ summer homes or the sanctimoniously-executed power-plays and poll results for the Hopesters and Changelings of the world. Philosophers are constantly heckled — mainly by those who confuse busy-ness with importance and operational success with a life well lived — that philosophy, and the broader projects of the humanities and liberal education, are silly projects — useless really — because they don’t matter to what’s called real life. But if the sort of kitsch and trash that our practical journalists spread all over the front pages of our practical newspapers is what matters to your life, and philosophy is not, then the question you need to ask yourself is why is that the sort of life that I lead? And it’s as good a reason as you could ask for to change your life and to change the things that matter to it. And what I love about the Auburn Philosophy department, and one of the (many) things that I’m personally indebted to Kelly Jolley for, is the fact that that department really provides a place — one of the best examples of such a place that’s left in this modern world — where students are challenged to do that, expected to do that, encouraged to do that, and given access to the tools and the space and the teachers that they need for it.

Tolle, lege.

See also:

Over My Shoulder #42: Kelly Dean Jolley on Augustine and the longing for a philosophical answer. From The Concept ‘Horse’ Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is a passage from the penultimate chapter of The Concept Horse Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations, by my teacher, Kelly Dean Jolley. Jolley has just finished a long examination of post-Kerry responses to Gottlob Frege’s Concept Horse Paradox (CHP). He finds that they fail to do what they set out to do — indeed, fail to do much of anything at all — and that they tend to fail in a very peculiar way, by trying to run up against a frustration in language with a host of new terminology and notational enhancements for English prose, which are supposed to accomplish something, to express something, that heretofore English prose was unable to express. Jolley considers what it is about the philosophical voice, and the philosophical mood, that prompts this kind of graphical anzurennen. Thus:

Consider, in closing, Augustine’s famous question, What is time?, and his famous recoiling upon his own question.

There was, therefore, not time before you [God] made anything, since time itself is something you made. No time could be eternal along with you, since you are always there; and if time were always, it would not be time. Then what is time? Who can give that a brief or easy answer? Who can even form a conception of it to be put into words? Yet what do we mention more often or familiarly in our conversation than time? We must therefore know what we are talking about when we refer to it, or when we hear someone else doing so. But what, exactly, is that? I know what it is if no one asks, but if anyone does, then I cannot explain it.

Augustine asks a question. And asked, he cannot answer. Part of the reason he cannot answer is that he longs for a certain kind of answer: a brief and easy one. But he has no brief and easy answer. Worse still, he doesn’t even have a conceptual draft on such an answer; he cannot even form a conception of time that he can (begin to) articulate. Augustine takes his confession of inarticulateness to be genuine confession: he’s searched himself before God and found no conception of time that he can (begin to) articulate. But Augustine cannot quite rest easy in his confession–after all, he must confess further that he is guilty of all sorts of temporal words and deeds. He has talked and been talked to of events that took little time, a long time or no time at all. He has judged things temporary and permanent. He has observed the hours; he has worshipped or mourned or fasted on days; he has battled the demon of the noontide. In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday he prayed, and that instantly. He has wished time away and hoped for time back. He has arrived early, promptly and late. He is a practical horologist. Even more, he has confessed and is confessing by biographizing, by looking into his own history: … [You] made me (but not my memory) begin in time …. In time I began to smile …, etc. So the first confession’s genuineness sits uncomfortably beside what must further be confessed. The tension is captured in his words: I know what it is if no one asks; but if anyone does, then I cannot explain it.

Augustine’s difficulty is that the anyone who might ask includes himself. When he asks of himself, he can give no answer. When he isn’t asking, he talks and does in ways that seem to him to require that he has an answer within him; we might say that when he isn’t asking, he seems to live an answer to the question.

And so, I think, he does. But he longs for a certain kind of answer, one that, though he cannot provide it, determines the space, as it were, into which an answer should fit. It determines the space that his knowledge should occupy That space is wrongly shaped for a life, for a lived answer to the question. What he does is the answer to his question, but he cannot see how to see it as the answer. And isn’t something of the same the problem for the respondents to the CHP?

— Kelly Dean Jolley (2007). The Concept Horse Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations. Ashgate: ISBN #0754660451. 77–78.