zaterdag 21 januari 2017

Benjamin De Mesel


Third Edition


Venue: Institute of Philosophy, Kardinaal Mercierplein 2, 3000 Leuven


Wittgenstein’s relationship toward ethics and moral thought has always been complicated and defiant of any kind of straightforward characterizations. While he grappled with moral and ethical considerations throughout his life, and clearly possessed a profound moral conviction, neither in his earlier nor later works did he ever develop an explicit ethical theory. Instead, readers are seemingly confronted with two ways of reading him: either with the call to remaining silent about matters outside the realm of representation in his earlier writings or with allusions to a method for clearing up with philosophical difficulties in his later works – often referred to as therapeutic philosophy.
The primary focus of this conference is to explore potentially relevant and fruitful uses (as well as possible difficulties) of Wittgenstein’s ideas and methodology for contemporary moral philosophy. As such, the presenters will be addressing key themes within the scholarly debate involving Wittgenstein, ethics, and moral thought: whether a positive ethical theory can be extracted from his works, to what extent his later ideas involving philosophy as therapy resolving philosophical confusions can be applied to moral philosophy, as well as exploring whether concepts (e.g. language-game, form(s)-of-life, meaning as use, and family resemblance) or perhaps a method or style of reasoning that could be characterized as Wittgensteinian might be relevant for contemporary moral philosophy.

Why Wittgenstein won’t ridicule me.

“Wittgensteinian approaches to moral philosophy”.
This title assumes that anyone who submits a paper understands Wittgenstein. Or that the author at least believes that he understands Wittgenstein. If this was not the case, it couldn’t be Wittgensteinian approaches, it would be the author’s approaches. Considering that Wittgenstein himself emphasised on numeral occasions that nearly no one did understand him, it is a bold statement to claim that you understand Wittgenstein. It’s even bold to claim that you believe you understand Wittgenstein.
The first sentence in the preface of the tractatus logico-philosophicus: “Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself had the thoughts that are expressed in it – or at least similar thoughts”. Since I am inclined to believe this, I would like to start with the question “When did you have these thoughts?” It must be obvious that “these thoughts” are prior to the reading of his book. It’s not my intention to play hide and seek in this matter. As “these thoughts” were overwhelming to me, I know exactly where and when I had these thoughts. I will try to clarify this.

Convinced that the thoughts that are expressed in the tractatus came in a similar sudden way to Wittgenstein - If I had the same thoughts as Wittgenstein then Wittgenstein had the same thoughts as me -, I want to give a suggestion when this happened to him.
I finally would like to focus on the last part in his “lecture on ethics”.
“My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language.”

I think that it is safe to say that the whole tendency of Wittgenstein was to refute his own statements. There was always something to add in his writings, there was always something new in his writings, there was always something to change in his writings. So, I want to clarify how this sentence in his lecture can be, in a Wittgensteinian way, undermined. Because without the negation of this sentence, we have to admit that it is not possible to write or talk Ethics.

(Uiteraard veel kans dat u mijn paper hier in alle exclusiviteit te lezen zal krijgen. You lucky bastard.)

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