Constructing, construing and retaining knowledge

Main Text  I  References  I  Comments


  • PI II xi: [Learning] and imagining are subject to the will.
  • PI 467: Does man think, because he has found that thinking pays? -- Because he thinks it is advantageous to think?

“[Wittgenstein] often remarked that the problem ... of thinking well ... was one of the will more than of the intellect - the will to resist the temptation to misunderstand, the will to resist superficiality.” (Monk, 1990, pg 366)

  • CV: A thinker is very much like a draughtsman whose aim it is to represent all the interrelations between things.
  • CV: Quoting Longfellow: "In the elder days of art, / Builders wrought with greatest care / Each minute and unseen part, / For the gods are everywhere.
  • CV: Thinking too has a time for ploughing and a time for gathering the harvest.

“The rhetorical question ‘is he learning an empirical proposition?’ talking about a child and not an adult, indicates that it is not a propositional lesson but rather a visual, imaginative, intuitive exercise that is intended.” (Krebs, 2010, pg 126)

“[It is] about becoming aware of the multiplicity of possible new connections and meanings in our experience. It is the openness to the sensible ‘impression’ that the hypothetical intermediate cases bring about in us that changes our vision. ” (Krebs, 2010, pg 124)

  • CV: One movement links thoughts with one another in a series, the other keeps aiming at the same spot. One is constructive and picks up one stone after another, they keeps taking hold of the same thing.

“In talking about ‘internal relations’ he is thematising the ways in which our imagination can reconstitute our experience and transform our actual perception of the facts, even while they show no measurable change.” (Krebs, 2010, pg 124)

  • OC 410: Our knowledge forms an enormous system. And only within this system has a particular bit the value we give it. 
  • OC 225: What I hold fast to is not one proposition but a nest of propositions.

“I believe the attempt to explain is certainly wrong, because one must only correctly piece together what one knows, without adding anything, and the satisfaction being sought through the explanation follows of itself.” (Wittgenstein, from Remarks on Fraser’s Golden Bough)

“My interest in Wittgenstein’s notion of problems which can be solved by ‘putting into order what we already know without adding anything,’ i.e., by overviews, is not merely exegetical.” (Cioffi, 2010, pg 291)

  • PI 291: What we call “descriptions” are instruments for particular uses. Think of a machine drawing, a cross-section, an elevation with measurements, which an engineer had before him Thinking of a description as a word-picture of the facts has something misleading about it: one tends to think only of such pictures as hang on our walls: which seem simply to portray how a thing looks, what it is like. (These pictures are as it were idle.)
  • PG 125: A puzzle picture. What does it amount to to say that after the solution the picture means something to us, whereas it meant nothing before? (seeing connections)

“When Wittgenstein deplored the explanatory pretensions which he found in Darwin’s book on the expression of emotion in men, and in Freud’s dealing with ‘psychical facts, but nevertheless commended their talent for introducing order into the matters with which they dealt, he was evincing his distinctive proclivity to overviews.” (Cioffi, 2010, og 297)

It is the distinction between (a) something being itself surveyable and (b) something having a surveyable representation. In the case of the car accident, it is clear that the courtroom model provides a surveyable representation but the event remains nonetheless unsurveyable in so far as it cannot be retrieved from the past and was, in any case, never fully surveyable even as it happened.” (Sluga, 2011, pg 101)

“Synoptic views ... [enhance] the accessibility of what we already know - just as the fact that we prefer the conventional, alphabetically arranged telephone book to an alphabetically scrambled one, though it contains no more information than the scrambled one.” (Cioffi, 2010, pg 301)

“Figuration draw out attention to the connotative as well as denotative elements in language; they indicate aspects of the thing being characterised; but this is necessarily an indirect and inferential process.” (Burbles, Peters and Smeyers, 2010, pg 9) 

  • PI II, xi: And I must distinguish between the ‘continuous seeing’ of an aspect and the ‘dawning’ of an aspect. The picture might have been shewn me, and I never have seen anything a rabbit in it. 
  • PI II, xi: One kind of aspect might be called ‘aspects of organisation’. When the aspect changes parts of the picture go together which before did not.

References  (back to top)

  • Burbles, N., Peters, M., and Smeyers, P. (2010). Showing and doing: an introduction. In M. Peters, N. Burbles, and P. Smeyers (Eds), Showing and doing: Wittgenstein as a pedagogical philosopher. (pp. 1 - 14). London: Paradigm Publishers.
  • Cioffi, F. (2010). Overviews: what are they of and what are they for?. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 291 - 313). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Krebs, V. (2010). The bodily root: seeing aspects and inner experience. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 120 - 139). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Monk, R. (1990). Ludwig Wittgenstein: the duty of genius. London: Vintage.
  • Sluga, H. (2011). Wittgenstein. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Wittgenstein, L. (1967) “Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough”. Edited by R. Rhees. Synthese, 17: 233-253.
  • _____________ (2001). Philosophical Investigations. 3rd Edition. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • _____________  (1967) Zettel. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  • _____________  (1974). Philosophical Grammar. Edited by Rush Rhees. Translated by Anthony Kenny. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  • _____________   (1980). Culture and value. Translated by Peter Winch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • _____________ (1969). On Certainty. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Translated by D. Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Harper Torchbooks.