Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Wittrs

People bring a lot of mental baggage to philosophy, a kind of suitcase word (alluding to Marvin Minsky), are hoping it'll give 'em some grand unified theory of something or other. I think Wittgenstein's camp is mostly designed as a sanctuary for refugees from those views, wanting to find out what, if anything, remains of value, once you subtract all the claptrap of "big ideas" i.e. it's a paring back to a skeleton, a deliberate starving vis-a-vis an old diet.

Like if you've swilled beer all your life (as I have, since high school), like schmaltzy philosophy (like the Wagnerian stuff), "big ideas" (deep narrator voice at the movies, making stentorian comments about "man", about "logic"), then this "no beer" philosophy is definitely not for you. It's spare, austere, stark, zen. Nothing's happening. There's no "holding one's breath" for the next issue of 'Nature' or 'Science' (except in the sense you're usually expecting lots of nasty twisted thinking folded into the mix).

Final image: philosophy the way Wittgenstein came to show it, is like the janitors coming at the end of the parade, sweeping up all the horse and elephant poop (wow, elephants!). 99% of folks who feel drawn to philosophy are there for the floats, the bling, the marching bands. By the time the janitors show up, they're drifting away. Wittgenstein waves, at the helm of a street sweeper. Sean and I swoon, but most have folded their chairs and drifted off, gabbing about the floats ("did you see those strippers!?" (HB2U Lindsey Walker)).

Twilight Zone