Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, December 4, 2015

Wittgenstein Installment 2 - Kara Stallings sec 11


“The words of this language are to refer to what can be known only to the speaker; to his immediate, private, sensations. So another cannot understand the language.”

This quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein is one that I believe best sums up the purpose for his extensive work. His goal was to bring to light human’s deep inner dialogue and convey its most profound sensitivity and unique individuality while at the same time pushing people to attempt to share that of which cannot be adequately expressed. He greatly respected language as a direct means verbalizing our own identity and he believed the only way to do so properly was to share your language with the rest of society.

In his Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein uses one analogy in an attempt to explain some of the problems involved in thinking of the mind as something over and above behavior. This experiment was known as The Beetle and the Box Theory. In this experiment he asks for people to imagine that everyone has a small box that holds a “beetle”. However, no one is allowed to look in anyone else’s box, only in their own. So over time, people talk about what is in their boxes and the word “beetle” comes to stand for what is in everyone’s box. With this analogy, Wittgenstein is trying to point out that the “beetle” is very much like an individual’s mind. No one can know exactly what it is like to be another person or experience things from another’s perspective but it is generally assumed that other people’s minds are very similar to our own. However, he also states that it doesn’t really matter what’s in everyone’s box, or whether everyone has a beetle, since there is no way of checking or comparing them. In a sense, the word “beetle” simply means “what is in the box”. From this point of view, the mind is simply “what is in the box” – or rather “what is in your head”.

Wittgenstein argues that although we cannot know what it is like to be someone else we in the same sense cannot assume there must be special mental entity called a mind that makes our experiences private either. Part of the reason he thinks this way is because he again considers language to have meaning through public usage. In other words, when we talk of having a mind (or a beetle), we are using a term that we have learned through conversation and public dialogue. In order to reach outside of our own minds (and boxes) one must only do so via communication with another. People cannot survive or thrive if they remain as private beings. Our only hope of reaching our full intellectual potentials in life is to reach out publically, sharing with other’s our own personal stories and intellect and in turn gaining the wisdom that can only be found within another being’s mind as well.
Beetle and Box Theory

First Installment: Installment 1

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