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Philosophy begins in boredom

Boredom is the mother of poetry. (Goethe)

Friendships often bloom where there's nothing else to do. (Puskin)

What is the standard by which language-with-meaning is distinguished from language-without-meaning in philosophy? That subject is called 'logic of language' in my jargon, and it is the foundation of my thinking in philosophy, that and philosophy as defined by the Socrates of Plato's Apology and Xenophon's statement of the Socratic standard for knowing in philosophy.

Outline of this page ...

Philosophy, as Wittgenstein used the word 'philosophy'

Philosophy, as we use the word, is a fight against the fascination which forms of expression exert upon us. (BB p. 27)

Philosophy, i.e. what Wittgenstein gives the name 'philosophy' to, is a fight against the self-mystifying spell that language casts over the mind (cf. PI § 109). Or again, the fight to break the grip our misunderstanding the logic ("grammar" in Wittgenstein's jargon) of our language holds us in.

Now, this is very important because here Wittgenstein says that he is defining the word 'philosophy' as he defines the word 'meaning', i.e. by saying that there are many meanings of the word 'philosophy', but that he is choosing this one rather than some other. This is important because here he says, This is what I am calling 'philosophy', just as he says "meaning, in the only sense of the word 'meaning' which interests me is ..." (PP i, p. 257; BB p. 65)

And so this answers (maybe) the question I asked elsewhere: does Wittgenstein think this is the only thing philosophy is, or only just that this is the only aspect of philosophy (or the only thing that philosophers do or can do), that interests him? So Wittgenstein is not, at least in the Blue Book, identifying the essence of philosophy with this statement; he is not saying, This is what philosophy essentially is (which he does say about metaphysics in the Philosophical Investigations. He does not identify metaphysics with philosophy -- because logic (of language) also belongs to philosophy -- but he does say that essentially metaphysics is essentially conceptual confusion and never speculation about what reality in itself is).

In the Blue Book it's more like, There are many meanings of the word 'philosophy', "The meaning I have selected is ..." Just as there are many meanings of the word 'meaning': Wittgenstein chose one for his work in philosophy; there are many meanings of the word 'philosophy': Wittgenstein chose this one, saying this is the work that interest me, the work I want to do in philosophy.

The limits of Wittgenstein's (work in) philosophy

Philosophy, as I use the word ...

Is that a definition? Which kind -- verbal or real definition. "Real" would be a thesis-hypothesis about the essence of philosophy, "verbal" a description of how the word 'philosophy' is actually used -- or the meaning its user is assigning to it or has chosen for it. A definition sets limits. But which kind of limits does it set in this particular case? I think I have said which kind I think above: a selection, a choice is made; a choice, not the only possible choice.

Cross of Gero, circa 970 A.D., Cologne Cathedral (Clark, 'Civilisation' (1969), illus. 20), 59 KB

And the other kind of faith?

Religious faith ... is a trusting. (CV p. 72, a remark from 1948)

How often had he dared to walk out to God's grace without an umbrella open? (Marshall, A Thread of Scarlet (1959), xxx, 1)

As the Catholic Church uses the word 'faith' it means primarily the body of doctrine the Church believes has been revealed by God. But that is not all it means by that word. For faith in God is what dares to trust in God alone rather than in oneself. "Our Lord didn't like dying on the cross" (Marshall, The Bishop (1970), i), and without the kind of faith that is trust, he could not have gone to his crucifixion with the words "Thy will not mine be done."


Theology is speculation about what no one knows. It is "faith seeking understanding" and as like as not finding only misunderstanding instead.

Metaphysics in contrast to Natural Science

The eternal questions without answers are not, and could never be, questions for natural science to answer. The clue to why is given by the definition of 'faith' in Hebrews 11.1,3, namely that faith is ("confident") belief that what is visible has its origin in what is not visible -- or in other words, that what is perceptible to the senses has its origins in what is (essentially) imperceptible to the senses. But the limit of natural science is the empirical -- i.e. its limit is what is (at least in principle) perceptible to the senses. And the answers to the eternal questions lie beyond that limit, a "beyond" that natural science does not recognize as even possibly existing -- because that recognition would negate the first principle of the whole scientific project that reality, even ultimate reality, can be discovered by studying what is in principle perceptible to the senses. For example,What is death? according to natural science versus What is death? according to metaphysics.

One can't really say that metaphysics is the view sub specie aeterni, because a physicist may also try to understand the universe "from the point of view of eternity", looking as Thales looked to find what is unchanging, what is eternal, in the reality we perceive with the senses. The distinction would have to be that metaphysics looks for a different kind of answer -- but how different?

Was Thales' way a natural scientist's way of looking at things rather than what we now call a philosopher's way? If Socrates were to look at the world sub specie aeterni, what would he be looking for? The only example I can think of is death, as above; are there no others, e.g. "Why is there anything rather than nothing?" Not that Socrates asked that question, but would Plato? and how would he respond if asked? He did use the concept 'the world as a limited whole' [TLP 6.44-6.45], which is the Sophist's "all things" or "everything" [233e-234a].)

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