Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Wittgenstein on the Scripture of Pain

One may illustrate the distinct uses of Scripture (in all that relates to morals) and of natural Conscience, by the comparison of a sun-dial and a clock. The clock has the advantage of being always at hand, to be consulted at any hour of the day or night; while the dial is of use only when the sun shines on it. But, then, the clock is liable to go wrong and vary from the true time; and it has no power in itself of correcting its own errors; so that these may go on increasing, to any extent, unless it be from time to time regulated by the dial, which alone the unerring guide.
(from Introductory Lessons on Morals and Christian Evidences by Richard Whately pub. 1857)

"But if I suppose that someone is in pain, then I am simply supposing that he has just the same as I have so often had." — That gets us no further. It is as if I were to say: "You surely know what 'It is 5 o'clock here' means; so you also know what 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun' means. It means simply that it is just the same there as it is here when it is 5 o'clock." — The explanation by means of identity does not work here.
(Philosophical Inverstigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein para:350)

The sun-dial/sun/clock analogy may be a common one though it’s not particularly familiar to me. Wittgenstein here might be said to rebut the scripture of pain. There is none. To further expand the Whately/Wittgenstein correspondence in an admittedly fanciful way the word evidences is suggestive of the British Empiricist tenet - if we have valid knowledge
we have evidence. Wittgenstein is impugning this, it seems to me, conscious as I am that one is walking on a quaking bog ascribing a position to him.

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