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Kant, Wittgenstein, And Transcendental Chaos

Kant, Wittgenstein, And Transcendental Chaos

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Kant, Wittgenstein, And Transcendental Chaos by Kenneth R. Westphal
Philosophical Investigations 28:4 October 2005
Kant, Wittgenstein, And Transcendental Chaos by Kenneth R. Westphal
Philosophical Investigations 28:4 October 2005

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Philosophical Investigations
28:4 October 2005ISSN 0190-0536
Kant,Wittgenstein,and Transcendental Chaos
Kenneth R.Westphal,
University of East Anglia
What we have to mention in order to explain [
zur Erklärung 
] the sig-nificance,I mean the importance,of a concept,are often extremelygeneral facts of nature.Such facts as are hardly ever mentioned becauseof their great generality.(
PI 
§142 Note)
1.Much – often too much – has been made of comparisonsbetween Kant’s and Wittgenstein’s later philosophy.I shall be cau-tious,though I am more interested in a philosophical point than Iam in scholarly controversy about whether this was one of ‘Wittgen-steins’points.I shall suggest that there are some philosophicallyrevealing points of comparison between one of Kant’s key argumentsand one of Wittgenstein’s important lines of thought,neither of which has yet received its philosophical due.2.I begin with a thought of Wittgenstein’s that has become a
Leitmotif 
in recent discussions:‘Not empiricism and yet realism in philosophy,that is the hardest thing.(Against Ramsey.)’
1
My paper is about a certain way of justifying realism about ordi-nary objects and events around us in space and time.The relevantkind of realism is that physical objects and events exist and have atleast some characteristics,regardless of what we think,say,or believeabout them.
2
Put transcendentally,the thesis of this paper is:Did wenot inhabit such a world and were we not cognizant of such a world,we could not so much as be self-conscious,and so could not evenentertain skeptical doubts about our worldly circumstances.Certainly
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd.2005,9600 Garsington Road,Oxford OX4 2DQ,UK and 350 Main Street,Malden,MA02148,USA.
1.Wittgenstein,
Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics
(G.H.von Wright,R.Rhees,and G.E.M.Anscombe,eds.,G.E.M.Anscombe,tr.,Cambridge,Mass.:M.I.T.Press,revised ed.,1978;cited as
RFM 
’.),§VI–23,p.325.Nearly all translationsfrom Wittgenstein have been emended,usually to a small degree,without further notice.The quoted statement is discussed in detail by Cora Diamond,
The Realistic Spirit 
(Cambridge,Mass.:MIT/Bradford Books,1991),chapter 1.Here I develop adifferent aspect ofWittgenstein’s point.2.I deliberately disregard here Kant’s contrast between ‘empiricaland ‘transcen-dental’realism.This distinction requires Kants transcendental idealism.For reasonsdiscussed below (§4),I do not think Kant’s transcendental idealism is tenable.
 
this justification for realism is not empiricist.This thesis is a syntheticproposition we can know
a priori 
.It is is transcendental because itconcerns an
a priori 
way of knowing a key feature of human cogni-tion (cf.B25),based on the very possibility of our enjoying self-conscious experience of worldly events (cf.B275).OrthodoxWittgensteinians will protest that Wittgenstein rejected
a priori 
argu-ment,and that he severely cautioned us to be careful any time aphilosopher starts talking about how things must be.
3
Indeed wemust.However,being careful about how things ‘must’be is consis-tent with pointing out how things must be,at least under specifiedconditions – provided we
are 
careful about it.Wittgenstein’s cautionsabout such ‘mustsdidn’t preclude his showing forcefully that privatelanguage is impossible,and that rules cannot be followed in theabstract,algorithmic individualist way too often supposed by for-malists (and deductivists) of many stripes.
4
Nor did it prevent himfrom showing forcefully that we can use language and can followrules only within and because of our relatively stable and identifi-able social and worldly context.
5
This point is the topic of the presentessay.The line of argument I shall develop reconsiders the phenomenathat gave rise to the notion that our concepts have an ‘open texture’.To say that our concepts have ‘open texture’is to say that identify-ing objects or events by subsuming them under our concepts cannotand does not preclude those objects behaving in ways that defy our conceptual classifications,or our expectations based on those classi-fications.Philosophers noticed this ‘open texture’in connection with304
Philosophical Investigations
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd.2005
3.Cf.Wittgenstein,
Philosophical Investigations
(G.E.M.Anscombe,tr.,London:Macmillan,2
nd
ed.,1958;cited as
PI 
),§81,101,131;
RFM 
II §41,III §§30 ¶2,31 ¶1,VI §§7,8,24,46,VII §67.4.‘Hence “to follow the rule”is a practice.And to
believe 
one follows the rule is not:to follow the rule.And thus one cannot follow the rule “privately”,becauseotherwise to believe one follows the rule would be the same as to follow the rule’(
PI 
§202;my tr.).5.About the role of social context in rule-following,see Ike von Savigny,‘Self-conscious Individual versus Social Self:The Rationale of Wittgenstein’s Discussionof Rule Following’,
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
51 (1991),67–84.Aboutthe role of natural,environmental regularities in these issues,see Severin Schroeder,‘Private Language and Private Experience’,in:H.-J.Glock,ed.,
Wittgenstein:A Crit-ical Reader 
(Oxford:Blackwell,2001),174–98.The most probing reconstruction of Wittgenstein’s points about private language as an argument is Crispin Wright,‘Does
Philosophical Investigations
I.258–60 Suggest a Cogent Argument against Private Lan-guage?’,in:P.Pettit & J.McDowell,eds.,
Subject,Thought,and Context 
(Oxford:TheClarendon Press,1986),209–66.
 
what Leibniz called ‘bizarre fictions’:Leibniz’s angels or inhabitantsof the moon who display rational thought,speech,and action likehumans,but who have extraordinary powers or machines;Waismann’sfriend who disappears and reappears (or at least seems to),and hiscat which grows gigantic or revives in circumstances where catssurely die;Austin’s goldfinch which explodes,or quotes VirginiaWoolf,or ‘does something outrageous’.
6
On the basis of such exam-ples,these philosophers drew the following conclusions:(1)None of our empirical terms have or can have complete definitions;(2)We don’t have fully explicit or explicable rules for using empir-ical terms;(3)Conclusive verification of empirical statements is impossible;or (4)Future experience can always make us revise,not simply our claims,but the very concepts we use in formulating our claims.Whilst these philosophers noticed these puzzling kinds of cases,andconcluded that they show something important about human under-standing,they did not develop their analyses beyond the conclusions just noted.
7
These conclusions are significant,but there is somethingmuch more significant involved in the phenomena illustrated by suchexamples.This fundamental point is touched on by Austin’s negativeremark that in such cases ‘we don’t know what to say’because ‘wordsliterally fail us’,and by Leibniz’s positive remark that ‘we are sparedthese perplexities by the nature of things’.
8
Wittgenstein initiated the analytic discussion of ‘open texture’,though not under that name,with his example of a chair that dis-appears,or at least seems to some times,though at other times wecan touch it.From this example he concluded that the meaningfuluse of terms neither requires nor involves fixed and definite rules
Kenneth R.Westphal 
305
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd.2005
6.J.L.Austin,Other Minds(rpt.in:A.Flew,ed.,
Logic and Language:First and Second Series
;New York:Anchor,1965;cited as
Logic and Language 
’;342–80),354;Friedrich Waismann,‘Verifiability’(in:
Logic and Language 
,12251),125;W.G.vonLeibniz,
Nouveaux essais sur l’entendement humain
(A.Robinet & H.Schepers,eds.,Berlin:Akademie-Verlag,1962),
New Essays Concerning Human Understanding 
(P.Remnant and J.Bennett,trans.,Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,1981),3.6.22;cited as
New Essays
’.7.These conclusions are summarized by Waismann in ‘Verifiability’,125–28.8.Austin,‘Other Minds’,354;Leibniz,
New Essays
,3.6.22.

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