Friday, April 20, 2007

Easy to say, hard to do

The other day I picked up a copy of Foot's Natural Goodness, a book that was lying out on a table in the reading room. I flipped through the intro and came across a great anecdote (on the first page as it turns out). Foot was telling an anecdote about one of the few times Wittgenstein went to a public lecture at the university he was associated with:
"Wittgenstein interrupted a speaker who had realized that he was about to say something that, although it seemed compelling, was clearly ridiculous, and was trying (as we all do in such circumstances) to say something sensible instead. "No," said Wittgenstein. "Say what you want to say. Be crude and then we shall get on." The suggestion that in doing philosophy one should not try to banish or tidy up a ludicrously crude but troubling thought, but rather give it its day, its week, in court, seems to me very helpful. It chimes of course with Wittgenstein's idea that in philosophy it is very difficult to work as slowly as one should."

The moral of the story is really what I thought was good. It is pretty hard to go as slow as one should. This is probably my biggest stumbling block. There tends to be a bit of a pseudo-Humpty Dumpty idea behind my rushing through things: I know what I mean so why explain? But, this just does not fly as a grad student. Alas.

1 comment:

Justin said...

The proper method in philosophy would be to declare one's opponents' positions hopeless, or useless, or catastrophic mistakes, followed by dogmatic declarations of the truth.

Nothing slow about it.