So, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Wittgenstein lately. Once you understand the guy’s arguments, though, it’s pretty hard to shake them. There are no philosophical problems, we find, only empirical, aesthetic/moral (not moral philosophy, mind you), and logical ones.
The gist of his thinking is that the meaning of most words are determined by human behavior. Some words are not. We are tempted into believe that words that are determined by human behavior are like those words that are not. Take, for example, the classic “is my color red the same as your color red” problem. He shows us that the phrase “my color red” is nonsense, as in it doesn’t mean anything, like the word shnibble. The concept is simply not something that we can speak about, as “my experience of the color red” has no shared referant to ground the communication. We fall victim to the illusion because the grammar of the word “red” is like the word “chair,” but, alas, common grammar means nothing for our purposes. For more, check the Mark Alford website (a physicist whose website I have been reading compulsively in a desparate attempt to understand quantum mechanics) out or this alternately annoying and hilarious (as per the usual) David Foster Wallace essay.
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