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Showing posts from July, 2012

Wittgenstein and Time

Just finished reading Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations,* which means he's a philosopher I appear to have come back to again and again. It's the fourth Wittgenstein book I have on my shelf, alongside a Blackwell Reader (which includes the whole Tractatus), the Blue and Brown Books from the middle period, and some notes on fragments on Culture and Value.

One thing that I can't say I'd ever noticed in Wittgenstein before, and which isn't perhaps an obvious part of his thought, is the strong place of time and temporality. As I read the Investigations, it became apparent to me that so much Wittgensteinian 'grammar' led back to an interpretation or misinterpretation of temporality. He is particularly interested in the phenomenon of 'going on' ("jetzt kann ich fortsetzen") within a game or rule-bound situation, in the motif of understanding something in a flash (e.g. §319), and in expressions that appear to cross time (hopin…

Five Notes on Religion

As my last post was partially about negative responses to religion, I've been thinking about it (religion, that is) a fair bit recently - and my thoughts were given a further push very recently when I was asked about my research on prayer and Romantic poetry, and whether I myself was religious. This last thing comes up quite a lot if you work on religious themes!

I suppose one of the reasons I'm interested in religion despite not being religious is because it is so frequently the handmaiden in texts. The bridesmaid and never the bride. The religious dimension is often cited as stable, ideological, self-evident, and then the critic goes to work to explore tense, sceptical (read, exciting!) energies that cut against it. Seeing as people lived, loved, struggled and died within the richness of religion for centuries, that seems bizarrely reductive to me.

Yet, still, why religion? There is a pervasive cultural logic that says that religions are somewhat grotesque curios from an ear…

Understanding Guardianistas

"It's not racist to criticise Islam - it's a barbaric faith that doesn't accept basic human rights, and people have no right to have their beliefs given special protection.""Feminists only want equality when it suits them - what about the lack of women working on oil rigs and dying in wars, you don't hear anything about that!" What do the two statements above have in common? Firstly, they are the kind of thing you read all the time in the BTL (below-the-line) comments section of the Guardian website. (They aren't real, but they are eeriely representative.) Secondly, they share the same logic.

I should point out immediately that personally I disagree with both statements, and I think that their objectionable nature (objectionable both in terms of their truth-value and their ethical or political content) could be 'explained' in a number of ways - including, I suppose, simply saying the first poster was a racist and the second a sexist. How…