The Form of a Philosophical Problem

Wittgenstein comments that a philosophical problem has the form:  “I don’t know my way about.”  –So much in so little.

But I want now only to say this.  To feel the force of Wittgenstein’s comment, keep in mind that Wittgenstein is not lost in terra incognita; he is no stranger in a strange land.  He is lost at home.  He has to find himself, but to find himself where he is, where he has always been.  Everything around him is so alien and so familiar, so exotic and so everyday.  He is gone but he never left.

Sometimes the hallway to my living room becomes non-negotiable.  A philosophical problem has the form of homesickness in my easy chair.

2 responses

  1. Thanks for your blog. I always look forward to reading it.

    What usually strikes me about Wittgenstein’s saying is a contrast with Ryle in The Concept of Mind, who talks about “people who know their way about their own parish, but cannot construct or read a map of it”. Your commentary helps to see how Ryle’s cartographic is such a different notion of the form of a philosophical problem. The “parishioners” may lack some skill, but aren’t lost…

    • Thanks, Tony! Yeah, I think the cartographical has elucidatory value here, but limited elucidatory value. The spiritual dimension of what W describes goes missing if we try to treat it as simply a matter of a lack of skill.

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