Why We Do What We Do? Part Five: Conclusion

“Practical holism ... is the view that [any theory of language] can only be meaningful in specific contexts and against a background of shared practices’. ... Background practices, equipment, locations, and broader horizons ... are part and parcel of our ability to engage in conversation and find our way about.” (Stern, 2004, pg 163 - 164)

To sum up, Hans Sluga once wrote that “human language games are not based on knowledge but on practice.” (Sluga, 2011, pg 107) I have applied this observation to the broad notion of existence or practice. It is not what we know that gives shape to our existence. It is what we do. Our knowledge comes to serve and - in fact - justify why we do what we do and the standards of excellence that we expect from these endeavours. If I am to conclude, then I would say that a practice is something that we do not just once but on a regular basis. Unlike an activity, the participant in a practice attaches a certain level of significance or commitment  to the action. In the practice, one comes to acquire certain rules that give shape to the practice. The participant comes to act in accordance with the rules, some which are explicitly stated and others which are acquired through experience and understood as conventions of the practice. 

To be fully immersed in a practice requires an understanding of the standards and expectations, the intention behind the activities, and the motivation and significance that underpins the practice. One becomes adept in the practice through experience, and this is assisted through instruction (or guidance) by those who are more experienced. These “masters” set the stage for engagement and they scaffold subsequent engagement and development. This is done in the hope that the practice will be internalised and the participant will “go on” in accordance with the rule. By “going on”, the learner is committed to the practice by adhering to the practice, contributing to the practice and being part of the practice’s evolution. Collectively, one’s practices give shape to one’s form of life within the stream of living. One’s practices provide one with a habitus (or culture), and one’s habitus (or culture) gives rise from one’s practices. 

At the same time, we should never forget any single practice or set of practices is open to disintegration or entropy. Entropy is formally defined as "the lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder." Any system must have energy placed into it so that the system is maintained or preserved. If the practices of a cultural system are not reinforced, then the system and the form of life to which that system is attached will suffer and decay. According to the concept of entropy, the natural state of any system is decay unless efforts are made to maintain it.


Sluga, H. (2011). Wittgenstein. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Stern, D. (2004). Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Words matter. They are the vehicles of thinking

From "Land-based spells brings crisis" by Reuven Brenner in Asia Times Online.


Note: The article explores the current economic instability. In doing so, it highlight how our description can have a funny way of confusion the facts. In other words, we can convince ourselves (though our language) that a unstable economic idea can and will work, even though experience and the facts would prove otherwise.

"Words matter. They are the vehicles of thinking: while they can shape accurate perceptions, they can shape misperceptions too. As it turns out, and not for the first time in history, there is not much "real" about this asset class. The question is, what do you do with it?

"John Law and followers, who come up with theories based on 'real' estate', or 'real' bills' doctrines (unconstrained by having a "unit of account" too), make implicit assumptions that they know what is 'real'. But as one can readily see, many things perceived "real" can melt into thin air in a flash. Perhaps we would be far better from now on using the French word for 'real estate' - 'immobilier'. 

"... Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher, was right when he stated that: 'Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.' Indeed, 'real estate' 'QE,' 'bubbles' ( attributed to random variations in people's mood rather than any concrete laws and regulations), erecting statues to heroes of subsidized 'immobility' (unread, unwatched, not listened to statistical 'cultures' being a good example) have all 'bewitched' many for centuries, though 'bothered and bewildered' a few." 

We can also imagine a case where someone goes through a list of propositions and as he does so keeps asking “Do I know that or do I only believe it?” He wants to check the certainty of each individual proposition. It might be a question of making a statement as a witness before a court.
— Wittgenstein, On Certainty, 486