Ian Ground “Why Wittgenstein matters”

I just listened to a talk given by Ian Ground to The Royal Institute of Philosophy back in Feb of 2015. Much was interesting, but it was the last minute or so of the talk that had me sitting straighter. His words were,

What Wittgenstein tells us is the perspective from within life, as you might say, from the inside of the world, is not for sale to the highest objective bidder. His complaint is that there is a standing intellectual temptation which is natural to us but which is unnaturally amplified through our culture to, as it were, paint the outside of the world onto the inside.

We want our meaningful practices to be real. We don’t think our capacity for meaningful thought, for talk, and action could be some kind of systematic illusion, but in our culture our model of what it is to be real has been almost completely colonized by the sciences. We think that unless something is objectively describable, detached from any particular point of view, it must be either unreal or supernatural.

It’s not that there isn’t in a perfectly sane sense an objective view to be had on our lives, on our moral and aesthetic life, or what it is to be a natural-minded creature. It’s not that we shouldn’t seek to investigate and understand such things in an unbiased or unmethodical way, or be evidence-free. But rather that we should do ALL these things in a way which is not in thrall to a single conception of the real.

For me the remark that best crystallizes Wittgenstein’s fundamental view and why his thinking matters is this one: “Not empiricism and yet realism in philosophy, that is the hardest thing.” Empiricism here is many things, but essentially the idea that the world is wholly graspable from an objective view. The realism is neither the metaphysical nor the epistemological version, it is instead a capacity for seeing the world and our lives in it seen from the inside as well as the outside, whole and shared, aright.

My view is that preserving and nurturing that capacity, given the homogenizing and totalizing forces in the opposite direction, and given to our own capacity for self-deceit, almost as soon as we begin to reflect upon our nature, is vitally important for understanding both of ourselves and our place in nature and for the health of our culture.

Any mistakes in the transcription are my fault. The part written out here begins around 59:20