One problem I think many people have when looking at events going forward is having an assuredness about the correctness of their thinking and the solidity of the foundations of their belief system. In general most people are so tied into a very localized, situational understanding of the world, that it is very difficult them to extrapolate outside of the system.
So if you look at changes beyond our current here and now, people are lost at sea.
This of course is why people look to the philosophers. To find a deeper meaning to our place in the world.
The problem is that while the Nihilists may have been fended off for the moment, Wittgenstein has not.
Was Wittgenstein Right?
Paul Horwich, New York Times Opinion, 3 March 2013 (hat tip: NC)
The singular achievement of the controversial early 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was to have discerned the true nature of Western philosophy — what is special about its problems, where they come from, how they should and should not be addressed, and what can and cannot be accomplished by grappling with them. The uniquely insightful answers provided to these meta-questions are what give his treatments of specific issues within the subject — concerning language, experience, knowledge, mathematics, art and religion among them — a power of illumination that cannot be found in the work of others.
A reminder of philosophy’s embarrassing failure, after over 2000 years, to settle any of its central issues.
Wittgenstein claims that there are no realms of phenomena whose study is the special business of a philosopher, and about which he or she should devise profound a priori theories and sophisticated supporting arguments. There are no startling discoveries to be made of facts, not open to the methods of science, yet accessible “from the armchair” through some blend of intuition, pure reason and conceptual analysis. Indeed the whole idea of a subject that could yield such results is based on confusion and wishful thinking.
If [we think otherwise], then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein. For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking. So it should be entirely unsurprising that the “philosophy” aiming to solve them has been marked by perennial controversy and lack of decisive progress — by an embarrassing failure, after over 2000 years, to settle any of its central issues.
As Wittgenstein put it in the “The Blue Book”:
Our craving for generality has [as one] source … our preoccupation with the method of science. I mean the method of reducing the explanation of natural phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws; and, in mathematics, of unifying the treatment of different topics by using a generalization. Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness. I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is “purely descriptive.
I am not overly enamored with taking this concept too far. I don't think science is meaningless, I just think it is very hard to derive higher truths from it. You can figure out how to make things work in peculiar ways, but it won't tell you if its a good idea. Which