The Two Desk Problem

Wittgenstein’s parables, like Jesus’, have a peculiar power to capsize thought, to overturn it even as it sails its trade routes.

His BlBk parable about the floor exemplifies the power (p. 45).  The target of the parable is the idea that physics teaches us that the floor, or a desk, is mostly empty space.  This teaching seems to render the floor beneath us or the desk before us shaky, almost visibly trembly, certainly not certainly up to the task of holding me up or holding up my copy of Bradley’s Appearance and Reality (a heavy-ish tome).

But what physics teaches constitutes its explanation of the solidity (not, in this case, the insolidity) of the desk.  Physics explains why the desk shoulders Bradley.  That explanation cannot render the desk unhelpful. And that explanation cannot spawn a second desk–call it ‘the desk of the philosophers’–that now must somehow be reconciled with a first desk–call it ‘the desk of Moore, Austin and Wittgenstein’.  But there is no second desk.  There is just the one, solid, quietly helpful, patient to endure investigation even by physicists.

Explanations cannot swallow their own heads.

Abiding in Hope: Heidegger

This passage of Heidegger has been rolling around in my head all day.  It must be connected to something else I have on my mind.  Lord willing, I will eventually figure out what that is.

Thirst for knowledge and greed for explanations never lead to a thinking inquiry.  Curiosity is always the concealed arrogance of a self-consciousness that banks on a self-invented ratio and its rationality.  The will to know does not will to abide in hope before  what is worthy of thought.  –“A Dialogue on Language”

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