Ainigma

I do n’t much like introductions.  They far too often appear to be conclusions (and writing another conclusion which resummarized the introduction was…I can’t even conclude that thought).  I was, and remain, resistant to the practice in my writing (that too sounds conclusive).

In introducing another to a process, or to a game, one does not point to what is ‘important’ or speak of ‘conclusions’.

And now we ‘ve segued to Wittgenstein.  Whew.

If Philosophical Investigations were set in the typical format, some flavor would be lost.  The struggle would n’t hang in the air.  I would be wrestling with Wittgenstein’s conclusions, not along with Wittgenstein.  He despaired of channeling such thoughts in book-form, and as such he is far more helpful.  He does n’t have to tell me what is important, just show how he is struggling (would n’t we be better teachers if we did the same).

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.  (preface to Philosophical Investigations)

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Thus I am able to treat his work as a series of notes, useful or unuseful, but cannot quite answer the question ‘Have you read Wittgenstein?’  Instead I am, in some measure, struggling alongside him toward aims not wholly his own.

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.  (#109 from Bk. 1, ibid, p. 47)

For his thought, it seems that an appeal to the metaphysical is reprehensible insofar as it denies the fact that it is saying ‘I don’t understand’ but pretends still to be an explanation.

What ‘we’ do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.  (#116, p. 48)

And now to the thought which I ‘ve been struck by: what is this ‘everyday’?  ‘Do all ordinary things strike us so?’ (#600, p. 156)  When we try to leave the metaphysical and obstinately confusing which comprises our language game, the first inclining is to turn towards its opposite.  If the philosophers are confused, let us turn to the un-philosophical or at least the non-philosophical.  Where is that?  We want to say in the ordinary.  But we can’t apply Wittgenstein’s test, ‘can you point to it?’, or can’t we?

Can’t we?  What day can we point to and say ‘this is ordinary’.  It can only be accomplished from a distance.  The ordinary retreats from view.

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And now that we have been introduced to the enigmatic, which leads who knows where:

My aim is to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.  (#464, p. 133)

Feedback, Update Culture, and Communicative Distress

This article (by Timothy Dalrymple: 14 Feb, 2012) caught my eye this past day.  My first impulse was to give pause to consider why it is I blog (as opposed or congruent to why others do).  But first, a digression (which is n’t really a digression):

Whatever practicalities have lent themselves to checking my phone and e-mail inbox for messages, maintaining a facebook account (and ignoring a myspace one), and, when the iron is hot; blogging, I find myself spending more time checking for updates than meaningfully communicating.  I can pretend to ignore the psychological effects of this with the best of them, but it calls into question whether the returns reflect what I intend.  I can ill afford to fail to define meaningfulcommunication – so I ‘ll choose here communication which either gives rise to right action (orthopraxy) or which leads to a dialogue worth having (the grand pursuit of truth and good together).

In my interactions, those which fall outside the lines of necessary business of course, my attention is more easily captured by the quantitative than the qualitative.  How do I mean?  E.g. on social media I am most apt to notice, amidst the long stream of data, whatever items are ‘getting play’ or getting a lot of feedback.  On facebook and in blogging, feedback can be interpreted by ‘likes’, ‘shares’ (or pingbacks), and ‘comments’ (as well we know).  In blogging we also measure traffic by views.

I believe that in choosing to maintain social interactions through these various mediums we intend to receive feedback.  This is the agony of media in general: we want quick and appropriate responses.  This extends even to conversations where language serves as the only medium — if we are not answered in kind, there is a natural communicative distress.  There is a certain validation in being answered in kind – in communicating meaningfully.

 

But when these are mediated by way of the internet, our expectations take on a quantitative aspect.  We can see displayed for us the gap in minutes since last our communication was answered.  Who has n’t experienced that awkward silence in texting or instant messaging.  In wordpress we can see how many hours it has been since the last visit to our site, which has been the most popular day, week, or month of traffic, and which has been the best trafficked or best ‘like’d post.  Does n’t this lead to a compounded distress?

Please do n’t misunderstand me (at least not too much), I see value in observing these statistics.  But I wonder if, when I ‘m either too high or too low due to the statistics, I ‘m measuring properly.

 

In terms of this blog, I ‘ve carved out my niche and have set in my own mind the measure of success (self-pingbacks make me feel a bit queasy, but narcissism versus nausea leaves no one a winner).  I can’t accurately measure success by traffic, followers, or comments because what I ‘m really seeking to do is consider things from the perspective where the various distresses of communication (not being answered in kind as only one example) are acknowledged and a fruitful dialogue ensues.  Few will find my insights interesting (of those who misunderstand me well enough) and perhaps fewer will find them helpful.  But for those who are open to a journey where we grow through miscommunicating well, there will hopefully be a space for meaningful communication.

I think other bloggers should carefully consider what it is they seek to accomplish because, as Dalrymple well notes, one may lend undue credit to one’s opposing philosophies by giving them voice where answering them with silence would better demonstrate how one answers such items.  The wise choice is, according to Proverbs 26:4&5, either to answer a fool according to his follyorto not.  Wisdom is demonstrated both in the choice (of answering in like or choosing not to) and in the manner with which one carries out her decision.

 

Asking oneself a few questions first is prudent and the article lists a few suggestions: decide if you are (or should be) addressing a controversy, if you have adequately digested the issues and if you are adding something meaningful, assess your motives, and do n’t forget you ‘re addressing people – so be compassionate.

As pertains to the article specifically, I appreciated Dalrymple’s honesty when he described how he enjoyed the thrill of success.  I can’t pretend (at least not well) that I do n’t get excited when the quantitative feedback suggests an upsurge of interest, but I ‘m mostly looking for feedback of a different sort and I ‘d do well to be distressed or thrilled with a more to-scale measure.  To my fellows distressed at the feedback you ‘re receiving, I recommend considering how your communication should be addressed.