19 Apr

World Snooker Championship

Bemerkungen Uber Die Grundsatzlichkeit Des Snooker

( Editor’s note: In 1948, Ludwig Wittgenstein, aged 59, paid a brief visit to Sheffield, Yorkshire, England in order to study Gemeinschaft there. One Saturday afternoon when there was nothing particularly interesting on at the pictures, he went into the snooker hall known as ‘The Crucible’ {’Der Schmelztiegel’} where he became instantly fascinated by the play. Following this visit he went again to Norway where, putting aside his already well-advanced work on the final version of ‘Philosophical Investigations’ {’Philosophische Bemerkungen’}, he began a lengthy treatise on the art of snooker. This previously unpublished fragment was discovered in the tap room of ‘The King’s Arms’, Cable Street, Attercliffe in 2014).

35. I am teaching a friend the game of snooker and he accidentally plays the green ball before the yellow. I remind him of the sequence which must be followed, explaining that this sequence is the syntax or depth grammar of the game. (Remark on the concept of following a rule).

36. Then he plays a red ball and the cue ball rolls into a pocket. I exclaim – my exclamation is accompanied by a gesture – “Ah so you’ve gone in-off!” (In-Entfernt). My friend expresses astonishment at this locution and replies, “But I thought in English ‘In’ is contrasted with ‘Out’?” I explain that the language game (Lebensform) “In-Off” is what is known as an exception to the rule-following procedure. I give him a list of such exceptions and add four points to my score. (What does it mean to make a list here?)

37. I say, “The brown is on the blue spot”. His face wears a look of unbelief (Unglaubigkeit) and he lifts the brown ball from the table. I explain that lifting the brown is not part of the Lebensform. (But the idea of lifting the brown deliberately as a joke – Ein Witz oder Ein Scherz).

37.1 He says, “But this spot is not-blue! (Unblaulichkeit). It is only a little black mark on the table!” I explain that here “a little black mark” means “the blue spot”. I laugh out loud and he looks offended.

38.2 (Whether my laughter and his being offended are also part of the game?)

38.3 The mistake is always to look for a definition of being offended where we should look for a criterion. Taking offence cannot be defined: it can only be shown (Eine Pracht). We might make a list of what is shown when one takes offence:


Leaving the table and sullenly taking a sip of one’s beer.

Ripping the cloth with one’s cue – with a grimace. (But the grimace too is also part of the criterion).

38.4 Imagine this language-game: I say, “That’s not just a little black mark, you idiot! It’s the blue spot”. My friend comes over to where I am philosophising and sticks his cue up my nose. So we say, “Yes, sticking a snooker cue up Ludwig Wittgenstein’s nose is also a criterion for an instance of offence-taking”.

39. “Ouch!” too is designated part of the language-game here.

40. “But the blue spot is also a little black mark”. (remark concerning the open-textured nature of ontology).

41. It is a mistake to think of it as being a little black spot or the blue spot (Ein Klein schwartz Punkt oder Der blau Punkt), we should rather look for its use.

42. Is the blue spot still blue in the dark? Questions such as this produce a feeling of giddiness (Schwindelgefuhl). This is a particular sort of giddiness which might be called philosophical (Philosophische Schwindelgefuhl).

43. Compare the various occasions of giddiness which we might experience and note the family resemblance among them:

Standing on the sloping roof of a house built by Wittgenstein

Playing snooker with Wittgenstein

Sitting on the blue spot in the dark etc

What all these have in common is not a particular sensation. Rather they are governed by the use of the word Schwindelgefuhl.

44. I see a man at the table and he is bending over his cue, taking careful aim, following through, potting (as it might be) a red ball etc and I exclaim, “Ah, so he is playing snooker!” Then I see his opponent who is sitting on the seat drinking his beer and I say, “He also is playing snooker!”

45. Then someone says, “I saw a man sitting on a bench outside a cafe yesterday and he was drinking beer. Does that imply that he also was playing snooker?” (What does “playing snooker” mean here? The inadmissibility of beer-drinking as a criterion for snooker- playing).

45.1 “Waiting one’s turn” is also part of what we mean by the game.

46. Is it possible that you see a brown ball where I see a blue one? We must guard against the bewitchment of our intelligence by our tendency to slip into (ausrutschen, ausgleiten) the ontological mode. Questions of this sort are only solved by asking, “What rule is being followed here?”

46.1 We see that he pots a ball and scores himself four points. “Ah!” we conclude, “So it was the brown ball after all”.

46.2 But we object, “Is it possible that I see him score four points where you see him score five?” (remark on the notion of the infinite regress (unendlich sich ruckwarts bewegen.)

46.3 Cases in which we may be mistaken about whether the ball is blue or brown:

When my opponent scores himself five points, perhaps only four were due to him? (The concept of cheating Betrugen)

His arithmetic may be very poor

The lights went out. (But could we see that the lights had gone out?)

47. But the fact that my opponent is a cheat is not the cause of the ball’s being brown (or blue). It is only a proto-phenomenon (Ein Proto-phenomenon) where we ought to say, “This language-game is being played”.

48. The rest is silence

19 Apr

Cor wot a cop out!

The Archbishop of Canterbury says he is powerless to provide blessings for gay marriages because to do so would split the global Anglican Church.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Most Rev Justin Welby says that the Church had probably caused “great harm” to homosexuals in the past — but there was not always a “huge amount” that could be done now to rectify the situation.

Although indicating that he was sympathetic to calls for the Church to publicly honour gay relationships, the Archbishop says that it is “impossible” for some followers in Africa to support homosexuality. In the interview, the leader of the Anglican Church, which has 77 million followers globally, speaks movingly of the persecution faced by Christians in parts of the world. He indicates that the Church must not take a step that would cut off these groups, most of them in the third world, however much this angers parts of society in Britain.

It’s not just Africans who oppose same-sex marriage, Archbishop. You will find plenty of opponents in the diocese of Canterbury

So once again we have equivocation from the leader of the Anglican church. Welby thus stands in a long tradition of “on the one hand…and on the other…and in a very real sense.” But it is sheer cowardice and dereliction of duty to invoke political expediency to settle a dispute which is about doctrine and morals. The Christian faith teaches that marriage is a sacrament consecrating the faithful relationship between a man and a woman.

It is the Archbishop’s job to uphold that teaching. Why doesn’t he?

18 Apr

Magic realism

Don’t let the fact that Gabriel Garcia Marquez (RIP) is extravagantly praised by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and a shoal of lefty South American politicos put you off reading his novels. But, among the justified tributes to Marquez, some very misleading things are being said. Principally that, with Borges, he was the founder of magic realism – a style of writing fiction which mixes together mundane reality and magic, the supernatural, elements of the fairy tale and so on. The genre has often been linked with surrealism and especially with Salvador Dali.

But the founder of magic realism?

For this we must go back somewhat further than the life of Marquez. Thomas Mann was an early practitioner. And so was Hermann Hesse in those enchanting and magical novels Steppenwolf, The Glass Bead Game and Narcissus and Goildmund. We might think also of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and his novella Victoria. Then there were the German poets such as Klopstock, so enthusiastically taken up by Gustav Mahler – a magical realist if ever there was one.

But even these writers were latecomers on the scene. I’ve mentioned fairy tales and these – particularly in the collection by the brothers Grimm – are surely the origin of the genre of magic realism? In these we have ordinary life penetrated and suffused in the supernatural: witches cast their spells; goblins and pixies appear in forests which are at once natural and unnatural; people have their heads cut off and yet can still run around.

Marquez was an interesting writer and deserves to be read but when it comes to magic realism, he didn’t start it. Perhaps the serious critics will mention this fact. So far we have heard only from the newspapers and the golly-gosh arts commentators at the BBC. These types are renowned both for hyperbole and their extremely short memories.  

17 Apr

Dumber still and dumber: the infantilisation of Britain

What is a “quality” newspaper? The Times long since gave up any pretence to that virtue and in recent years it has been followed by the Daily Telegraph. The six pages after the leader page are invariably the most monstrous drivel, a cavalcade of ignorance and illiteracy. This is where philosophical disquisitions are entered into on subjects such as face paint and the school run by journalists who, it seems, have to share the same five brain cells and who have never strayed within a Sabbath day’s journey of the English language. “Trivia” is too holy a word to describe what appears there.

This morning – under the heading “Arts,” what else? – there is a whole page given over to a silly photograph of some phantasmagorially-dressed young people with the question; ARE THESE THE WORST DRESSED POP SINGERS EVER?

Certainly it is the most pressing question of the day.

We know why the paper goes in for such blatant trash: because they know that it’s what “the punters” – as they offensively refer to their readership – want. Yes, well, it was Lord Reith in the 1930s who said, regarding the BBC, “We mustn’t give the people what they want; or they will start to want what they’re being given.” But there are already more than sufficient outlets for rubbish in the tabloids and the myriad gaudy, TV channels. And it seems there is no longer so much as a niche for quality. If you say this, you will be accused of “elitism.” But what’s the alternative? I’d rather be an elitist than a mediocratist. And “mediocre” is putting it more than a bit on the high side. They say it’s “only a bit of fun.” But who could possibly raise a laugh at this dreary, repetitious stuff?

Unfortunately, the sorts of things that one finds interesting defines who and what one is. O brave new Britain that hath such people in it – people who can gorge themselves on fatuity

I shouldn’t pick on the Daily Telegraph for it’s not the only place where there has been a massive falling off. But I do pick on it, more in sorrow than in anger – because I used to admire and enjoy the DT. Now it makes me retch.

The best bits of writing in the DT  are the obituaries. The paper might as well write its own.

Where else might we look for quality? Fifty years ago, at its founding, we were told we would find it in BBC2. Subsequently, even the BBC admitted that BBC2 had become so dumbed down that they would remedy the lack of seriousness by giving us BBC4, which they described as “a place to think.” But think about what? Now it’s full of rock music. Thursday evenings are hours on end of old editions of Top of the Pops. The Arts Channel Number 1 is all noise and froth and the sort of entertainments we ought to have grown out of by the age of twelve.

Thus we stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age 

12 Apr

Was Heidegger a Boozy Beggar?

According to those masters of philosophical commentary Monty Python, and in their Urtext, The Philosophers’ Song (Das Lied des Philosophes), “Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table.” I love the song but I know Martin H was no such thing: but a disciple of the great phenomenologist Husserl and guru to the utter charlatan (and therefore adored by the whiizziwigs in the Church of England 1960s avant garde) Rudolf Bultmann. Now strike me down if I tell a lie, but today in a review article I have actually read an Oxford philosopher – one needs to put those last two words in inverted commas these days – with a good word for the alleged boozy beggar. Though, of course, the PPE creep couldn’t help talk up the gossip about Heidegger’s “Nazi past” and again make the false assertion that Hannah Arendt, the narcissistic Jewish socialist and spiritual poseur, “had coined the phrase “ (to quote the Oxford meagre-prof): “the banality of evil.” It wasn’t blessed Hannah, prof; it was Tommy Aquinas – thought he said it in Latin – which I conjecture is too elitist for Oxford these days – and Aquinas called evil a privatio boni.

Which being translated is “empty”, “devoid of all reality”, in a word, dear Ms Arendt, “banal.” We mustn’t be too hard on the Oxford prof though. Loads of elite lefties have made the same mistake

But to get back to the boozy beggar. He was the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. Why? Because he rejected the Enlightenment arrogance which has plagued anglosaxon philosophy since the 18th century and which sees philosophy from the point of view of the detached individual observer who stands apart from the world and evaluates his experience of it in terms of sense data, perception, philosophical idealism or whatever. Heidegger by contrast starts from the very commonsensical view that we are not detached observers but part of the flux that we observe. We are Dasein – thrown – into the world and have to be content with just (as it said in the Peter Sellers film) being there.

We are, as that other Tom said, “the music while the music lasts”

Of course Heidegger is despised among the intellectual fashionistas because of his alleged Nazi sympathies. But the lefties and the desperately progressive luvvies who love Sartre’s plays – despite the fact that Sartre was a psychopath who all his life moved in and out of Stalin’s communist party as if it were a revolving door – never mount the same criticism of that Left Bank nihilist 

Heidegger never once, in the days when he was my constant drinking companion at the Dichtung und Warheit corner pub in Freiburg, put down his pint to affirm a belief in God. But he believed in Being.  (Which is probably the same thing, isn’t it, God?) And thus he aligned himself with the great medieval philosophers – I think particularly of my friend St Thomas who, downing his glass in one gulp would always says, “One swallow doesn’t make a Summa” – those so tragically usurped by the 18th century Endarkenment

This is us, Dasein, in the pub, thrown here, we know not what. This dart board. All these bloody games of dominoes and the woman selling The War Cry . We are consumed with Angst. We know we must die. Therefore we must adopt not Vorhanden but Zuhanden – a “being towards death” (Dasein aus Tot). And how do we do that?

The boozy beggar says by attending to the greatest art and music and literature, by noticing that the reality in which we partake is greater than we who partake of it; and and by avoiding becoming reductionist professors of philosophy in bloody Oxford

Here’s to you, Martin baby. And, if you’re buying, mine’s a pint.

11 Apr

Audible Fog

This morning I found myself in a cloud of audible fog. This phenomenon was produced by Glenys Stacey in an interview on The Today Programme. Ms Stacey is the Chief Regulator at the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OFQUAL), one of the many quangos which managed to escape David Cameron’s promised “bonfire of the quangos.” OFQUAL is meant to ensure that the  qualifications awarded in state edukashun are up to scratch or, as they say, “to deliver standards.” Out of the fog there came the Chief Regulator’s intonation, suitable for the dreariness of the subject and the earliness of the hour, on a bureaucratic monotone. Not surprising since Ms Stacey is a career bureaucrat with impeccable credentials. She has been Chief Executive of Standards for England, held high place at Animal health and the Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Courts Committee as well as on the Criminal Causes Review Commission.

Grief, you need stamina for a career like that…

Time was when we were possessed by the idea that teaching in English schools ought to have some connection, however tenuous, with the English language. But Ms Stacey speaks English only as a foreign language. She talked of “meaningful thresholds” and about students as if they were inanimate objects, saying, “We need people that can go into a lab…”

My interest thus stimulated, I stepped over the threshold and into OFQUAL’s website and discovered that the whole department is illiterate – thus representative, you might say, of the edukashun “system” which it oversees. Among the myriad infelicities and desecrations lurking on their site, I found that they are keen on “driving up the standards” in a milieu where certain things are “different than.”

OFQUAL’s site says, “Governments make education policy.”

Quite: that’s the trouble.

10 Apr

Heaven & Hell

Heaven & Hell

I seized the crimson threads of dawn

And strolled all through the April morn;

The white cliff’d shore, the whispering sea,

I thanked the Lord all silently

That he’d allowed me to be born.

Then lumbering towards me though the mist

There comes the Electronic Solipsist,

Disdained the joy of being alone

Jabbering into his wretched phone:

I wish the bastard would desist.

It is a plague throughout the nation,

Nihilistic contamination;

Loud technology’s recompense,

Ubiquitous speech but lacking sense:

This is audible damnation.

10 Apr

Interesting Times

Cameron’s poor judgment throughout the Maria Miller fiasco is only the latest episode in a whole series which has underscored the prime minister’s reputation for weakness. The fact that (it appears) Miller’s sacking was orchestrated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer – and from Brazil, at that! – makes Cameron’s dithering look even worse. It looks as if Cameron’s ambitions have become irrecoverable and there are multiple causes of his unpopularity. First, as the leader of a government which has been in office for the last four years, he is the politician most associated with the recession. Secondly, despite appearances, there is still a sizeable rump of traditional Tories who will never again vote for the party after the introduction of homosexual marriage. And then there is the rise of UKIP and its burgeoning popularity among the white working class. This class must be differentiated from the underclass. And workers’ annoyance at receiving less through their wages than many denizens of the underclass receive in benefits is palpable.

We do deserve the underclass – after all we are paying for it.

I think that the near future – next month’s European elections and the general election next year – will see the biggest political upheaval in Britain since Maggie. The crucial question is of who will benefit more from Cameron’s discomfiture: Ed Miliband or Nigel Farage. Just now it looks as if the likely outcome will be that UKIP will split support for the so called “right” and let Labour in. If that happens then the consequences will be worse even than they would have been in 1992 had Kinnock won. For the sort of government we should expect from Miliband, we must look to the European politician he most admires: the doctrinaire socialist Francois Hollande who has been busy these last few years ruining France.

The future looks very interesting – and very painful.

09 Apr

Crooks in the corridors of power

Maria Miller has resigned after relentless pressure from the Tory machine. Dave praised her competence which, being interpreted, meant that he was grateful for all her support with the homosexual marriage Bill. Well, now she’s gone and the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail are jubilant.

The controversy over MPs’ expenses will not die down though and there is renewed talk about how they should be regulated. This is to miss the point. I don’t care whether they are self-regulated or they appoint some external umpires to do the job. It will amount to the same and those who want to bend the rules will always find ways of bending the rules. The truly shocking realisation is that so many of our political representatives have proved themselves to be dishonest and untrustworthy. This should not be. But my friends tell me I shouldn’t be surprised. they say there’s no public morality left and the prevailing  ambition is just to look after number one, by fair means or foul. I suppose I must belatedly grow up and get used to the idea that people are no longer guided in their conduct by what they were taught in Sunday School. A shame. Besides, I think that getting used to the present public squalor is as bad if not worse than the squalor itself.

One thing will prove inescapable: the public will punish MPs at the election. However, this is scant consolation because they will punish them all indiscriminately, without regard for this party or that. And so, even if MPS will be elected by ever-decreasing numbers of voters, they will still get themselves elected.

That, you might say, is the trouble. We are governed by a corrupt and self-serving political class. They say the people get the government they deserve. That is our true darkness.

02 Apr

I disapprove, so you must desist

The Welsh go in for some exotic pastimes. They’re known for it – especially the hill farmers. But this one beats sheep-shearing any day…

Mark Drakeford, Welsh health minister, is introducing a Bill which will ban the smoking of electronic cigarettes in public places. His attempted justification for this amounts to a private ambition to occupy the highest of the moral high ground. He says:

“Taking concerted, collective action to address public health concerns remains one of the most powerful contributions any government can make to the welfare and wellbeing of its population. Alcohol and tobacco contribute to many life-threatening illnesses and are major causes of persistent inequalities in health. I have concerns about the impact of e-cigarettes on the enforcement of Wales’ smoking ban. That’s why we are proposing restricting their use in enclosed public places.” He added that he fears e-cigs “normalise smoking.”

There’s the socialist mantra for you: he’s not even talking about ill-health, but about “inequalities” in health. Indeed, in the ideal socialist state everyone of whatever class or income bracket would be required to just as healthy – or just as sick – as everyone else.

Well, Mr Drakeford, smoking is normal: it’s one of the things that normal people do – despite your lofty disdain and disapproval. Besides being outrageous, his proposal to ban these e-cigs is irrational, for, unlike passive smoking, they do not harm anyone’s health. I notice he mentions booze as well. Using the same argument, he might as well propose to ban lemonade because drinking non-alcoholic drinks could encourage some to take to the gin bottle. “I have concerns about the impact of e-cigarettes…” But is such a snooty personal prejudice an excuse to embark on a programme of state-sponsored puritanism. This is the sort of thing that went on under the dictator Oliver Cromwell.

If ever we could want to ban something, we might choose pompous statist nannying – starting with the Welsh