Saturday, February 8, 2014

Visual goings on in Wittgenstein

In PI 122, Wittgenstein famously says that "A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of our use of our words". He goes on to claim that "our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity" and that "a perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in 'seeing connections'".
But, what does 'commanding a clear view', one that enables us to see connections, involve? It has always concerned me that the visual analogies relied on here cannot do the work required of them. For what, when it comes to language, do we see it with? Just our eyes? Surely not. For these can
reveal nothing philosophically interesting without embodying an element of linguistic interpretation. And, when we rely on eyes that are linguistically enhanced, so to speak, then what we see is already infected with the confusions we wish to allay. The assumption here, of course, is that all visual awareness that tells us anything interesting is linguistically saturated.