You are on page 1of 13

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd Published by Blackwell Publishing

Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA METAPHILOSOPHY Vol. 40, No. 2, April 2009 0026-1068

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING DEBUNKING AND WITTGENSTEIN’S PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

Abstract: In this article I contest a reading of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical InvestigationsFa reading of it as debunking philosophy. I concede that such a reading is not groundless, but I show why it is nonetheless mistaken. To do so, I distinguish two different ways of viewing Philosophical Investigations and its concern with philosophical problems, an External View and an Internal View. On the External View, readers of the book are taken to know ahead of time what philosophical problems are. On the Internal View, readers are not taken to know this ahead of time: the task of the book is to disclose what philosophical problems are, to show them coming into being. One thing disclosed is our participatory role in philosophical problems coming to be. Learning about the nature of philosophical problems is thus learning about our own nature; metaphilosophical knowledge is in part self-knowledge. If the Internal View is correct (as I believe it is), then Philosophical Investigations does not debunk philosophy but provides a different conception of philosophy and the philosopher’s task. Keywords: Kenneth Burke, Thomas De Quincey, debunking, literature of power, literature of knowledge, metaphilosophy, philosophical problems, Philosophical Investigations, Richard Rorty, self-knowledge, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Introduction Philosophy is strange. Philosophy is not nice. It is too tall or too short, it looks unclean and acts uncheerful, its features are too big or too small, it makes difficulties, it is dispossessed, it sprawls on the couch, it gestures darkly, it is easily affronted and full of affectations. Philosophy spills the coffee, drags its sleeve in the gravy, stomps on the dog’s foot, slurps its soup, laughs at the wrong time. Philosophy is no discipline to take home to mother.1 Strange and not nice, philosophy plumply lures debunkers. Anything so, well, uncouth, surely needs debunking.
1

All this with apologies to Sydney Smith.

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING

261

Debunking is my target. Specifically, my target is debunking in relationship to Wittgenstein’s late-life masterwork, Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein 1958). More specifically, my target is the reading of Philosophical Investigations as debunking philosophy. To aid me in attacking my target, I am drafting Kenneth Burke’s essay ‘‘The Virtues and Limitations of Debunking’’ (Burke 1941). I’ll call up Burke’s essay a little later. Does Philosophical Investigations Debunk Philosophy? Philosophical Investigations has been read as though debunking philosophy is its business.2 Consider just a few, typical remarks from it:
We predicate of the thing what lies in the method of representing it. Impressed by the possibility of a comparison, we think we are perceiving a state of affairs of the highest generality. (104) Here it is difficult as it were to keep our heads up,Fto see that we must stick to the subjects of our every-day thinking, and not go astray and imagine that we have to describe extreme subtleties, which in turn we are after all quite unable to describe with the means at our disposal. We feel as if we had to repair a torn spider’s web with our fingers. (106) The problems arising through a misinterpretation of our forms of language have the character of depth. They are deep disquietudes; their roots are as deep in us as the forms of our language and their significance is as great as the importance of language. FLet us ask ourselves: why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep? (And that is what the depth of philosophy is.) (111) A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably. (115) Where does our investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble.) What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stood. (118) The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language. The bumps make us see the value of the discovery. (119)
2 I am not attacking any one reader’s reading; I am attacking a reading schema. The specific content supplied to the schema varies across debunking readers, but they share the schema itself. My hope is to discomfit all the debunking readers by attacking the schema they share.

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

262

KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

Remarks like these captivate readers. I speak from experience. Remarks like these were the cage I paced in for years. It is easy enough, at least in liberated retrospective, to see why these remarks captivate, why they cage readers. Many readers of Philosophical Investigations are drawn to it, or they stay with it, because they are deeply dissatisfied by philosophy. Now, different readers are differently deeply dissatisfied by philosophy. Some simply do not want philosophy, they looked into it mistakenly; they want something else, maybe poetry, maybe theoretical physics. Other readers want philosophy, but not the philosophy they are reading; they want another philosophy, like the one they are reading, but perhaps one that does not yet exist or one they are ignorant of. Still others want philosophy, but not a philosophy like the one they are reading. They want philosophy, but nothing they are offered satisfies. It is readers of the last sort that I think are captivated by remarks like those I’ve mentioned. Why? It is because the remarks accuse philosophy of errors other than falsehood. In fact, if we carefully survey Wittgenstein’s critical lexicon, what shows up is an emphasis on the generally weak character or on the specific vices of philosophyFon the incontinence of philosophy, or on its willful ignorance, its impudent knowingness, its uncouthness. The reason this differenceFthe difference between terms of criticism that move outward from ‘‘false’’ but remain in essential contact with it, and terms of criticism that move outward from ‘‘failures of character’’ but remain in essential contact with itFmatters so much for the readers I am discussing is because the difference promises a revaluation of philosophy, and not a mere reevaluation. In other words, the difference promises an overhaul of what philosophy itself is, instead of a change of logical polarity in some subset of its claims, or instead of adding to or subtracting from its claims. The difference promises to make philosophy mean better, instead of making it know better. The trouble the readers I am discussing face is finding the promised philosophy, or at least finding a marked path toward it, in Philosophical Investigations. These readers hear the promise, but then, like Moses, they cannot cross into the Promised Land. It is as though they smote the bedrock with their shovels, instead of speaking to it. Because they cannot cross into the Promised Land, they soon begin to regard it as a land of sour grapes (not milk and honey) and then as an illusion altogether. The lessons of Philosophical Investigations no longer seem to them to point toward a different kind of philosophy, but seem instead to be lessons in how to be free of philosophy, lessons in how to escape the bondage in which they had been living, even if there is no land of milk and honey to settle in. The readers then settle into what they take to be the Wittgenstein-authorized activity of plaguing philosophy, of showing it up, of debunking it. The philosophy offered by Philosophical Investigations comes to seem to have only other philosophy as its subject matter, and
r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING

263

it seems fit only for debunking that philosophy. The idea is that once the dust settles, once Philosophical Investigations has done its work, nothing is left standingFat least nothing interesting, unless stone and rubble are interesting, say, for an archaeology of unknowing. The philosopher of Philosophical Investigations dwells amid ruins, the ruins of philosophies, philosophies he has ruined. Philosophical Investigations begins at a construction site, we might say, having in mind Builder A and Builder B of the opening remarks, but it moves out from there destructively in every direction.

Burke on Debunking In his essay on debunking, Burke notes that all debunkings share a two-part structure. There is, predictably, the debunking part; but there is also, less predictably, what he calls the ‘‘humanitarian afterthought.’’ Typically, readers who read Philosophical Investigations as debunking philosophy understand the book to have just this two-part structure. Let’s think about the debunking first, since it comes first and since it is my primary interest. I’ll say a few words about the afterthought later. Let’s consider the opening paragraphs of Burke’s essay; they are worth quoting in full.
The word ‘‘debunking’’ has gone into our language because it fills a need. It refers in general to that class of literature designed to show that George Washington did not cut down the cherry tree, and the highly alembicated variants of such. It counters the inflating of reputations by the deflating of reputations. It is the systematic ‘‘let down’’ that matches the systematic ‘‘build up.’’ At one time in America an aspect of it went by the name of ‘‘muckraking.’’ It took a notable step forward with the biographical methods of Lytton Strachey. But it had been given an explicit methodology as far back as the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, with his schemes for disclosing the ways in which material interests are masked by ‘‘eulogistic coverings.’’ Among Bentham’s ideological inventions was his ‘‘Panopticon,’’ a project for a model prison so arranged that an overseer, centrally located, could at all times observe the behavior of the prisoners. Reading of this project with Bentham’s critique of language in mind, one is tempted to ask whether it was not the perfect symbolization of Bentham’s attitude toward spontaneous human speech itself. Moralizing words he looked upon as transgressors; if not to be imprisoned, they were at least to be put on probationFand Bentham, by his analysis of language, developed a ‘‘panoptical’’ perspective from which he could constantly observe his verbal suspects for signs of ill behavior. (Burke 1941, 168–69)

Let’s review what Burke said with Philosophical Investigations in mind. The reading I am interested in takes Philosophical Investigations to be a highly alembicated bit of debunking literature. Wittgenstein designed
r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

264

KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

the book to show that Plato knew no Forms, to show that Democritus never laughed at a swerving atom, to show that Plotinus never one-ed with the One, to show that Augustine’s pear tree was not the centerpiece of Eden, to show that Aquinas had never contemplated a complicated God, much less a Simple one, to show so on and so on, on through the wearying history of ‘‘built-up’’ philosophies, offering ‘‘let down’’ after ‘‘let down.’’ Wittgenstein deflates the inflations of philosophy, its lack of economy. Wittgenstein goes a-muckraking in the stalls of philosophy. Now a fascinating part of the Burke is the Bentham part, since it fits perfectly the debunking reading of Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein’s Panopticon To see why the fit is perfect, think about another remark from Philosophical Investigations.
A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of our words. FOur grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity. A perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in ‘seeing connexions’. Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate cases. The concept of a perspicuous representation is of fundamental significance for us. It earmarks the form of account we give, the way we look at things. (Is this a ‘Weltanschauung’?) (122)

Wittgenstein’s longing for a commanding clear view and for perspicuity looks like a longing for a verbal PanopticonFone with glass walls imprisoning philosophizing wordsFwith himself as overseer. Each word could then be spied upon, kept under surveillance, scrutinized for misbehavior. Wittgenstein is the warden of reflective palaver. Words like ‘‘knowledge’’ and ‘‘being’’ and ‘‘object’’ and ‘‘I’’ and ‘‘proposition’’ and ‘‘name’’ are serving life sentences. Philosophical Investigations is the textbook for running the transparent penal colony. On this reading, Wittgenstein has jailed philosophy by jailing dangerous language, by deadening the vain jangling of philosophy. The task for Wittgenstein, or any other philosopher who would oversee the Panopticon, is to learn to discipline and punish the words that operate on the shadowy outskirts of language-games. The jailed words are unlikely to be paroled, although a few, like ‘‘grammar’’ and ‘‘logic’’ may serve as trustees. The job of the philosopher on this reading is wholly negative. There is no positive work for the philosopher to do. The philosopher walks an eternal beat, is on eternal stakeout, waiting for a word to commit a crime, to offend, and then the philosopher captures and unmasks the offender, tries it, and imprisons it. By jailing philosophical language, the philosopher diminishes the liberty of other philosophers, by barring them from
r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING

265

the corrupt means of philosophical expression. Wittgenstein’s philosopher prevents philosophers’ being duped by studied words. Allow me one more comment on the Panopticon. Burke accuses Bentham of having the wrong attitude toward spontaneous human speech. It is easy to allow the debunking reading of Philosophical Investigations to encroach on more than just philosophical language; it is easy to allow the reading to impugn spontaneous human language itself. It can come to seem as though Wittgenstein tolerates only fully deliberate human language, language in which each used word is proceeded by an explicit ‘‘Shall I or Shan’t I?’’ in foro interno deliberation. When the reading encroaches in this way on spontaneous human language itself, then the Panopticon becomes unimaginably complex, with a cell for every word of language. No word is spoken outside the Panopticon, except those few that have been made trustees. Are even they fully trustworthy? Luckily, the debunking reading rarely goes quite this far.

The Humanitarian Afterthought So what, on the debunking reading of Philosophical Investigations, is the book’s humanitarian afterthought? Well, it is something like: ‘‘Let’s try to rehabilitate the criminal philosophical words, to teach each a workaday role in a language-game or two, and to make them respectable members of linguistic society. Now that we are past philosophical problems, the words won’t tempt us anymore. But if they won’t be rehabilitated, then we’ll have to just leave them in the Panopticon, leave them in excommunication.’’

Motives for Philosophizing A key distinction in Burke’s discussion of debunking is one between the exposition of human motives and the debunking of human motives.3 I think that this distinction matters tremendously in correctly understanding Philosophical Investigations. The debunking reading of the book predictably treats Wittgenstein’s willingness to discuss the human motives to philosophize as his attempt to debunk the motives. Why does Wittgenstein devote time to expositing the human motives to philosophize? Motives for philosophizing, we may think, are irrelevant to philosophy itself, to its problems. If we think that the motives for philosophizing are irrelevant, then it will be difficult to see how Wittgenstein’s discussion of motives could be expository instead of debunking.
3 I am using ‘‘motives,’’ as I believe Burke often did, as a genus for the various species of affective, appetitive, and conative states.

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

266 The External View

KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

Central to the debunking reading is a conception of philosophical problems alien to Philosophical Investigations. The debunking reading takes it for granted that we know what a philosophical problem is ahead of ever reading the book, and that in reading the book we find out what to do about philosophical problems, about how our human motives lead us to see them as significant when they are not. In other words, the debunking reading takes us to have a grasp on the nature of philosophical problems independent of any lessons taught by the book. The idea is that, just as I might recognize that I have cockroach problems in my house, and go out to buy a book to teach me what to do about them, the reader of Philosophical Investigations recognizes that she has philosophical problems and goes out to buy a book to teach her what to do about them. I will call this central bit of the debunking reading the External View. I call it that because it is the view that the nature of philosophical problems is external to the work of Philosophical Investigations. The External View tells us that we know what philosophical problems are all right, and we know that ahead of needing and ahead of reading Philosophical Investigations. On the External View, Philosophical Investigations shows us how to get clear of philosophical problems, how to leave them behind. If the book succeeds for us, then we will shrug off philosophical problemsFand afterward we will teach, say, epistemology, if we teach epistemology anymore, only as the history of the entanglement of some bad motives, some bad words, and some bad ideas. Richard Rorty supplies a good statement of the External View: ‘‘The Nature of Being, the Nature of Man, the Relation of Subject and Object, Language and Thought, Necessary Truth, the Freedom of the WillFthis is the sort of thing which philosophers are supposed to have views about but which novelists and critics, historians and scientists, may be excused from discussing. It is such textbook problems which Wittgensteinians think the Investigations may let us dismiss’’ (Rorty 1982, 32).4 The Wittgensteinians Rorty describes are debunking readers. But not all Wittgensteinians are debunking readers.
4 Is Rorty himself a proponent of the Externalist View or the Internalist? On a suitably complex reading of him, he would be shown to dance around from one to the other, but without distinguishing them. I suspect that, faced with the distinction, Rorty would say that he holds the Internalist View, and that he would say he does because he believes that philosophical problems have histories but not natures. Although I do not have space to make the case here explicitly, I judge that Rorty’s self-classification would be an error. What he calls Internalism is an Externalism that apes features of Internalism. But one thing is sure: Rorty is almost completely insensitive to Wittgenstein’s attempts to show the creation of philosophical problems; he is sensitive only to Wittgenstein’s attempts to show their decreation (or, as he would likely prefer to term it, their ‘‘deconstruction’’).

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING

267

Let me further specify the features of the debunking reading. On this view, philosophical problems, in a manner reminiscent of the monuments of Stonehenge, stand heavily, solidly, and significantly on their own broad bottoms. Philosophical problems are just anyway thereFa permanent piece of the discoverable intellectual landscape. The debunking reading takes Philosophical Investigations to aim at showing us that philosophical problems are now only tourist traps, and of significance, if they are of significance, only extrinsicallyFas monuments that some folks once, mistakenly, took to be of intrinsic significance. The monuments are really just crude bricks, pillars, and beams: nothing more. The monuments, the problems, once seemed significant, but that was because we’d been taken in by miscreant wordsFwords now serving time in the Panopticon. Why, though, were we taken in by the wordsFwhy could a word like ‘‘know’’ exert a bewitchment so gaudy that we took it to be godly? How could a word like ‘‘know’’ delude us into obeisance before rocks? The debunking reading answers by talking about motives. Wittgenstein’s advance is supposed to be his revealing to us the motives that we bring to philosophical problems, motives that impute significance to the problems. Our trouble is that we do not recognize our motives for what they are. We do not see how our motives make us easy marks for miscreant words. On the External View, our motives are what give life to the philosophical problems. Without the overlay of our motives, the problems would be seen for what they areFdismissible. What Wittgenstein is trying to teach us, on this view, is that the problems, on their own, are inert; and that our motives are not what we imagine them to be. When we philosophize, or so says the External View, we think we do so with pure motives. The philosophical, as a wise man once said, is the pure. We think we are motivated as scientists or other respectable theoreticians are motivated. We think we are motivated by the Love of Knowledge or by Disinterested Curiosity. Motivated in that way, we picture the end of our philosophical work as Knowledge of Knowledge or Knowledge of Facts. We want our Knowledge to be Complete and to be Consistent: we will be satisfied by nothing less than Full Generality. Because of our motives, we become the dupes of words, especially words like ‘‘know’’ or words like ‘‘freedom,’’ and the words make us think that certain philosophical problems, like the Problem of the External World or the Problem of Freedom, are significant. So the External View gives our philosophizing a three-part structure: there are, first, our motives; there are, second, the words; and there are, third, the problems. Our motives lead us to within earshot of the words. The words carnival-bark at us, confidence words if not confidence men, luring, seducing, bewitching us, arousing our curiosity. And the words and the motives together introduce us to the problems, now charged with significance by our bewitched motives.
r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

268

KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

On the External View, we are supposed to come to see our motives as questionable, not just because they are duped by words, but also because the motives themselves are suspicious. What we call the Love of Knowledge or Disinterested Curiosity does not turn out to be what we call it. The motives are not noble motives but ignoble motivesFexpressions of desires for dominance, mastery, for Truth, for the subjection of subjectivity. Resisting the External View Earlier I noted that Burke distinguished debunking motives from expositing them. I now want his distinction to do work for me. Wittgenstein is ‘‘on’’ about the motives for philosophizing in Philosophical Investigations. But Wittgenstein is ‘‘on’’ about the motives because he is ‘‘on’’ about philosophical problems. But he is not, as the External View would have it, trying to force you to give up on the problems and dismiss them. He is instead trying to make clear what philosophical problems areFso that you may free yourself from them. In other words, the nature of philosophical problems is internal to the work of Philosophical InvestigationsFin fact, I’m willing to go so far as to say that the nature of philosophical problems is the work of Philosophical Investigations. To make what I want to say clear, I need to back up and talk generally and unguardedly for a moment. Wittgenstein is a philosopher of selfknowledge. What I mean by that is not just that Wittgenstein is concerned with the nature of self-knowledge, with its twisty ins and outs, but that he understands philosophizing to culminate in a way that crucially involves self-knowledge. (So understood, Wittgenstein represents the near-end of a line that runs away from us through Thoreau, Emerson, Kierkegaard, Kant, Pascal, Augustine, Plotinus, and back to Plato and Socrates.) A philosopher of self-knowledge, as I use the phrase, is a philosopher who self-consciously understands his philosophical writing as a species of what Thomas De Quincey called ‘‘the literature of power,’’ as opposed to a species of what he called ‘‘the literature of knowledge’’ (De Quincey 2003, 336). That may seem an odd classification, given the verbal repetition in the phrases ‘‘self-knowledge’’ and ‘‘literature of knowledge.’’ But selfknowledge is unlike other knowledgeFand not just in that its object is different. Self-knowledge is operative knowledge, knowledge unbreakably interlinked with action. It is not express knowledge, knowledge which may result in the assertion of propositions but which is not unbreakably interlinked with action. The literature of power is literature from which we learn nothing, but may become something. ‘‘From which we learn nothing’’ meaning, as I hope is clear, that we learn nothing as we would learn something from the literature of knowledge. ‘‘From which we may become something’’ meaning, again as I hope is clear, that we are changed by what we read, that our powers increase; and that, in the
r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING

269

case of a philosophy of self-knowledge, the increase of these powers is tied to the self-knowledge that we come to have as a result of reading the philosophy. Self-knowledge, again, is operative knowledge. (The selfknowledge pictured here is a self-knowledge that does not share its grammar with third-person knowledge: it is essentially a first-personal self-knowledge.)5 I make this point so as to facilitate understanding what I want to say about the lesson Wittgenstein is teaching about the nature of philosophical problems. For Wittgenstein, the study of the nature of philosophical problems is in important part an exercise in self-knowledge. What does this mean for our purposes, here? It means this: the motives and the words that the External View distinguishes from the philosophical problems have to be seen as themselves parts or dimensions of the philosophical problems. For Wittgenstein, philosophical problems have a dimensionality that is overlooked. Our motives, and our words, are crucial dimensions of the philosophical problems. Wittgenstein thinks that we mistake the nature of philosophical problems. Part of our mistaking them is our notion that philosophical problems are just there, that they are a permanent part of the discoverable intellectual landscape, standing independent of our words and our motivesFbut waiting for our words and motives to lead us to them. For Wittgenstein, the philosophical problems are in part created out of our words and our motives. Their staying power is, among other things, a function of the relative constancy of our words and our motives, not of the problem’s independent there-ness. Our motives rigidify, our words bend, and the problems take on the dimensions of their shapes, their substance. We want to see laws in the use of words, and do so when we take ourselves to see a law in the use of one, say ‘‘freedom’’; but we find that the very law that was meant to make the use of the word clear instead binds the word in such a way that we seem to sacrifice freedom, or seem to find it absent where we thought it present. Freedom becomes problematic. When we philosophize, we often want to be able to use words in ways that avoid the troubles of words. But when we attempt to render our words invulnerable to the troubles of words, we find that they are not quite words anymore; either that, or we find that they are not quite our words anymore. We may feel we are speaking the words of GodFbut we are Babbling God’s words, and we mean nothing in particular by them. So it goes, often. Given their nature, philosophical problems cannot be simply dismissed as insignificant, said goodbye to with a queenly wave of the hand. They
5 Two books that give a more detailed sense of what I have in mind here are Stuart Hampshire’s Freedom of the Individual (1965) and Richard Moran’s Authority and Estrangement (2001).

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

270

KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

can’t be simply dismissed because we are complicated in them, our motives and our words are parts or dimensions of them. We might be able to repress them, but we can’t dismiss them. They go where we go. But another reason they can’t be simply dismissed is that, if we have responded to them in the way Wittgenstein teaches, then there will be nothing to wave goodbye to.

Complete Clarity Wittgenstein says that the clarity he aims at is complete clarityFa clarity that requires that the philosophical problems disappear. He does not mean that they disappear as problems, while still hanging around in ruins, insignificant, dismissed. He does not mean that they should be ignored or should, somehow, fall beneath our notice, as if they were relegated to some musty, unvisited attic of our memory or some dank, unopening basement of our subconscious. He means that the problems should disappearFgo away, not to another place, but entirely. When we attain clarity, the philosophical problems should be no more. I should slow down. Wittgenstein thinks that philosophical problems have a nature such that they can disappear. Philosophical problems come and goFthey are created and decreated.6 Perhaps that’s why O. K. Bouwsma once quipped that philosophy is a battle in which the dead rise to fight again. One of the most strikingFat least when noticedFfeatures of Philosophical Investigations is how few times the philosophical problems, in a form that justifies naming them and capitalizing the initial letter or letters of the problem’s name, put in an appearance. True, there is a mention of Solipsism, and of Realism and Nominalism; and, true, readers of Philosophical Investigations often read its remarks as being devoted to particular philosophical problemsF‘‘Here, Wittgenstein is showing why we can dismiss the Problems of Freedom,’’ and so on. But the problems do not really put in an appearance, and readers who think the problems are putting in appearances are mistaken. (Consider how hard it is to resist this thought, when, after all, we are taught to read the book as a book of philosophyFas part of a curriculum of books united by their treatments of the same problems.) It is the readers who are the ones who insist on seeing the problems in the remarks, on calling them out. Wittgenstein (mostly) doesn’t. The reason for this is that Wittgenstein wants to be able not only to decreate the problems; crucially, he wants us to be there as the world moves over to make room for a problem as one gets created, as one
6 I use Simone Weil’s term, ‘‘decreation,’’ purposely. She uses it to describe the return of the created into the Uncreated, and while I will not here explain all that I take to be relevant to choosing her term, I note that I particularly want its positive valuation, as opposed to the negative valuation of ‘‘deconstruction.’’

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

MOTIVES FOR PHILOSOPHIZING

271

appears, as one organizes itself before us. To witness a problem’s creation is to be keyed into its decreation. Wittgenstein is working at revealing the creation of philosophical problems, showing us how they come to be. And what we learn is that we are involved in their coming to be, that our motives and our words make the problems what they are. We come to understand how their nature involves our nature. Chagrinningly (if you’ll allow a smile in the midst of mortification), for us philosophical problems are second nature. As Wittgenstein teaches us about their nature, we are learning about our own, learning about our motives and our words, about their profitable and unprofitable comminglings. We learn about what we are, what we do, what we hope for, and how we can be brought to misrepresent all of these to ourselves. Kant once digested philosophy into three ‘‘small’’ questions that together asked the ‘‘big’’ question. The three ‘‘small’’ questions are, What can I know?, What must I do?, and What may I hope? And the ‘‘big’’ question is, What is a human being? Kant thought that the right answers to the ‘‘small’’ questions united into the right answer to the ‘‘big’’ question. We might say that Wittgenstein thought that reflecting on the ‘‘small’’ questions and the answers we treat as candidate right answers sheds light on the answer to his version of Kant’s ‘‘big’’ question, What am I? Wittgenstein wants us to see how deeply into our soil the roots of philosophical problems really go. That’s another reason for his typically working at the creation, at the beginnings, of the philosophical problems. He wants us to see how even the most shopworn, professionalized of the philosophical problems has its existentially significant dimension. (Of course, that doesn’t mean that each person who faces the problem comes to it from the angle of that existentially significant dimension; but it remains a dimension of the problem, and accounts, in part, for the problem’s ability to puzzle, and to puzzle enduringly, and to puzzle even those who do not come at it from its existentially significant dimension.) The existential dimension is among the reasons why the philosophical problems differ from anomalies generated by revolutionary scientific theories. Understood in a way that resists the External View, Wittgenstein may be seen as expositing our motives for philosophizing, motives that he exposits as part of the structure of philosophical problems themselves. The motives are not debunked. Nothing is wrong with the motives when not part of the structure of a philosophical problem, out of contact with words with which we mislead ourselves and rigidify the motives. Nothing is wrong with our words either, out of contact with the motives that lead us to bend them. And nothing is wrong with us, for as long as we remain in control of our motives and our wordsFin control in a way that only self-knowledge reliably ensures. Working on philosophical problems is a way of achieving masteryFthough not mastery of others or of other
r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

272

KELLY DEAN JOLLEY

things, but rather mastery of ourselves. We need self-discipline, selfcontrol, an increase of our powers; but we need no Panopticon.7 Department of Philosophy Auburn University Auburn, AL 36849-5210 USA kellydeanjolley@gmail.com Acknowledgments An earlier version of this essay was given as a College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Faculty Lecture at Auburn University. I thank the members of the audience for their helpful questions. I also thank an anonymous Metaphilosophy referee for his or her useful comments. References Burke, Kenneth. 1941. The Philosophy of Literary Form. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. De Quincey, Thomas. 2003. The Works of Thomas De Quincey, vol. 16. London: Pickering and Chatto. Hampshire, Stuart. 1965. The Freedom of the Individual. New York: Harper and Row. Moran, Richard. 2001. Authority and Estrangement. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Rorty, Richard. 1982. The Consequences of Pragmatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan.

7 Someone might ask here: ‘‘O.K., but haven’t you only internalized the Panopticon?’’ A good question, I think, despite the answer being: No. Self-discipline, self-control, and so forth, are not aimed at extirpating, or even at incarcerating, our motives. The aim rather is to stabilize our motives, to increase our understanding of them and decrease our alienation from them. The point is not to engage in obsessive vigils of self-observation, a 24/7 neptic allawakeness, but rather to make our motives fully our own and, in so doing, to increase our power, our freedom. Such an increase, such freedom, requires not self-loathing or selfobjectification but a deep sympathy for, and ultimately a reunion with, ourselves.

r 2009 The Author Journal compilation r 2009 Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishing Ltd