Word and Object

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Wittgenstein on “Knowing That,” “Knowing How” and “Being Able to Do”

November 9th, 2007 · No Comments ·

At §150 of the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein invites us to consider three separate concepts: 1. {“knowing that”}; 2. {“knowing how”}; and 3. {“being able to do”}. Wittgenstein states their “grammar” is “evidently closely related.” Wittgenstein has a propensity to put forth “stalking horses” as a way to delineate his position more sharply. And, frequently, he […]

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Specificity of Discourse

April 14th, 2007 · No Comments ·

Don Imus rightly has been condemned, and then fired, for his use of the phrase “nappy-headed hos” with reference to the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team. I think Mr. Imus is an execrable person – not for his predictably “shock-jock” views, but rather: (a) for not being able to speak properly. He’s a mumbler, and in […]

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The Phenomenological Proust

December 24th, 2006 · No Comments ·

What is the world’s most boring novel? Easy! It’s Swann’s Way, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust. The main reason why is, nothing happens. The narrator (Proust) waits for his mother to kiss him goodnight. Everybody sits around waiting for dinner at the Verdurins. It’s raining, so the narrator (Proust, […]

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The Incidence of “Brain Fever” in The Brothers Karamazov

November 13th, 2006 · 1 Comment ·

Dostoyevsky’s characters frequently suffer from something he calls “brain fever.” Pulcheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikova, Raskolnikov’s clueless mother, has it in Crime and Punishment; in fact she dies from it.  Arkady Makarovich Dolgoruky has it, for a while, in The Adolescent.  So does Nicolas Vsevolodovich Stavrogin, in The Possessed.  Then there is Rogojin, in The Idiot; not […]

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Why Did Jesus Kiss the Grand Inquisitor?

November 1st, 2006 · 2 Comments ·

In his recent lectures on Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Hubert Dreyfus asks this question of his audience, primarily comprising lower-division students at U.C. Berkeley.  Through the electronic magic of pod-casting, I surreptitiously have been listening to Professor Dreyfus for the last six months or so, as I drive to and from the studio.  My dog, […]


Speech Acts with Legal Consequences

October 25th, 2006 · No Comments ·

This is yet another note precipitated by re-reading J. L. Austin’s famous paper, “A Plea for Excuses,” see previous post. As I described, Austin originated the concept of “speech acts,” which are the things one does, or accomplishes, by uttering words. Examples are activities such as promising, commanding, evaluating, describing, etc. Now, there’s a significant […]

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Legal “Excuses”

October 24th, 2006 · No Comments ·

I was thinking some more about J. L. Austin (see previous post, “Comments on ‘A Plea for Excuses,’” and it occurred to me that lawsuits, and litigation, are the ultimate example of an aberration, something going wrong. Now, I dislike lawyers as much as the next guy, but stay with me here, like Dante with […]

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Comments Regarding “A Plea for Excuses”

October 23rd, 2006 · No Comments ·

Our subject today is a paper by a philosopher named J. L. Austin. Austin was a professor at Oxford. He actually died comparatively recently, in 1960. He is not to be confused with another English philosopher named John Austin, who was a famous scholar of jurisprudence, or I suppose we could say a “jurisprude,” back […]

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Dostoyevsky and Miracles

September 18th, 2006 · No Comments ·

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov unquestionably is one of the greatest novels of Western literature. I would not rank it as “the” greatest, as some do, because that spot is reserved for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Even so, I probably have read it a dozen times since first coming across it in high school. It’s one […]

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Typecasting Bertrand Russell

September 9th, 2006 · No Comments ·

I always have been a huge fan of Bertrand Russell. I never met him personally; in fact, he died the year I entered college at Berkeley. I was, however, taught by people who were his students, and thus have what might be called a “second generation” connection. One of the things that always has slightly […]

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