Saturday, 11 February 2017

Philosophical Investigations

Southampton Sports Centre

If you've ever felt bothered by not knowing much about Derrida and deconstruction – and I know I have – you could do worse than read this article from the New Humanist. If nothing else, you will find Nietzsche quoted as saying, "I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar". Now there's a little something to drop into your conversation sometime, perhaps as an alternative to my favourite dinner-party ice-breaker, "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest" (Diderot). Ah, such flashes of merriment, guaranteed to set the table on a roar!

But if that leaves you feeling a little impatient with the philosophical project, you may enjoy this amusing addition to Wittgenstein, by the inimitable Michael Frayn (the thinking man's Tom Stoppard), which I came across via the previously-mentioned Language Hat blog. You're welcome!

Hollybrook Cemetery


Zouk Delors said...

Thanks, Mike. I have indeed been so bothered, and the article went some way to mitigating that. There is at least one parallel universe, among the infinity, in which I came to know an awful lot about such matters -- but the one in which you are reading this comment is not one of them.

I have, though (as I believe you know), read at least part of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, having been handed my own copy at age 18 by a certain Mr Powell-Davis, JP, and was most indeed most amused by the parody. Must finish reading that book some time.

Mike C. said...


I like the idea that Derrida rocks up as a substitute nobody, and proceeds to steal the show. Of course, there's a parallel universe in which he fumbles the whole thing, and ends up teaching in a school in some Parisian banlieue... Sadly, that's the one most of us seem to find ourselves in...


Zouk Delors said...

Incredible, isn't it? Like the ginger one in Girls Aloud ... but with less impact on mass consciousness, obviously.

amolitor said...

Philosophers are such a strange bunch.

They seem to make a career out of hand-wringing about how it's impossible to know anything, with occasional bursts of muddling up the thing with the name of the thing. Well, I guess they do a lot of choosing which idiotic, pedantic, wrong-headed hill to die on.

Reading the New Humanist piece of frustrating to anyone with a reasonable grounding in mathematical philosophy. Of course the structuralists are dunces, you're not going to get to absolutes with reason, that's been shown conclusively (and in a relative, and yet still useful, fashion, imagine that!) and the Deconstructionists seem to mostly seem to sit around asking unanswerable questions and looking smug.

It turns out that Derrida was partly right, it's all built on sand. But, as any mathematician will cheerfully tell you, that doesn't mean you can't get on with it. You just have to be careful.

Mike C. said...


Philosophers are indeed a strange bunch. As, IMHO, are mathematicians, who are differently-abled to the rest of us. If you want worldly wisdom, seek a plumber.