The Slow Cure

Wittgenstein says somewhere (Culture and Value?) that in philosophy, the slow cure is all-important.  Why is that?  Is it because of the way in which philosophical problems involve our will as well as our intellect, and that a change of heart requires rehabilitation, rehabituation, a reorientation of our feelings, –something that takes more time than a change of mind would take?  Otherwise, why take it slow?  You’d need only the time it takes to consider the conclusion in light of the argument.

4 responses

  1. “In philosophizing we may not terminate a disease of thought. It must run its natural course, and slow cure is all-important.” Zettel, sec. 382.

    I think that the slowness has to do with the fact that we have to change how we habitually think about a lot of things. We are dealing with very complex and very firmly established habits. It is difficult enough to change our habits about simple and easily specified matters, like how we sing a musical passage that we have learned incorrectly. (I have found that even after I have inculcated the correct sequence of notes into myself, the wrong sequence may on some occasion come out of my mouth, accompanied, like a Homer-Simpsonish “D’oh!”, by the only slightly belated awareness that it is wrong!) In philosophy, we can’t even specify what the things are about which our thinking needs correction in advance of catching ourselves saying things that show us to be confused.

    I have misgivings about representing the contrast between the Wittgensteinian slow cure and the recognition of the cogency of an argument as a contrast between change of heart and change of mind. Surely the slow cure is itself a change of mind, according to the literal sense of the phrase rather than the rather flippant sense in which it is often employed. (I recall a moment in the movie Start the Revolution without Me, when Louis XVI arrives at a ball dressed as a chicken only to discover all the other guests in normal evening dress: “I thought it was a costume ball!” he pathetically exclaims to Marie Antoinette; “I changed my mind,” the queen haughtily replies. Note that “change of mind” here does not even concern judgment or opinion, but rather choice or in this case, mere whim.)

    But there is something more to Witters’s metaphor: He doesn’t say merely that the cure takes a long time, but also that the disease must run its course. This is, presumably, why a slow cure is all-important. So I suppose it is not just a matter of correcting very complex habits. Rather, we don’t even know what needs to be corrected until we have explored all our confusions. I suspect that this sort of prolonged self-examination—perhaps producing a lot of utterances of the form “I am tempted to say, ‘ . . .'”—is what he means when he speaks of the disease running its course.

      • maybe, I’m not so sure that his later work isn’t trying a kind of shock treatment approach to bring about gestalt-shifts/aspect-dawnings and not as much a methodical/exhaustive self-examination.

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