Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wittgenstein's "On Certainty": A Summary

Here is a hand. How do I know? Look closely, asshole, it's clearly a hand


Look, if you really insist on doubting that here is a hand, or anything else, there's nothing really I can say to convince you otherwise. What the tits would the world even look like if this weren't a hand? What sort of system is your doubt endorsing? After all, you can't just say "It's not true that here is a hand." You have to be endorsing some other picture of the world. Let's say, "There are no hands." Then what. the fuck. do you call these things with five fingers that I have two of? Perhaps I don't really have them. Sure, okay, but let me ask you this: does that really sound more reasonable than, "I have two hands?". What would it even mean for me to make that mistake? How the fuck can a bro even be wrong, much less about something like having fucking hands? Bros use their hands all the time. Are we mistaken every time we act like we have hands? Sometimes skepticism isn't helpful, it's just you being an asshole.  




What if someone believed something even batshit crazier like, 'The world didn't even exist until 1800.' If a guy said that, it would fascinate the fuck out of you. How on earth could you explain to him that he's wrong? What the fuck could you say to something like that? "Um, bro, have you heard of a little thing called 'History'?" Of course he has, you asshat, and he has a perfectly good explanation for it. Here's an odd and mildly uncomfortable question - what makes our position any better than his at all? How could we possibly have grounds to argue with that? It's not like you were there; it's just a thing everyone's always been told. That doesn't mean you should suddenly doubt the world before 1800. Trust your intuition, it doesn't make sense to you. So maybe we win that argument, because bros are always right, but it would not be as simple as changing his opinion on this one thing; it would change the entire fucking way he sees the world. Last time I rocked someone's world that hard they gave me a PhD and said I'd "solved philosophy." Boo-yah. 


Remember when you were four and discovered how much it pissed your mom off to keep asking 'Why?' Some of them tried to keep answering, but when I was four and found a way to annoy people, there was no fucking stopping me. All aboard the Pain-In-The-Ass Express, motherfuckers, and full speed ahead. Why was that annoying? Because at a certain point, she had to say, "It just is." And when you said "Why?" again, she said, "Because that's how it is," and you made her feel kind of stupid for not knowing. So when you said, "Why?" one more time, she beat your ass and sent you to your room. But it turns out she was right; moms who raise bros are smart fucking ladies. Eventually, justifications come to an end somewhere.


So it turns out when I say things like "Here is a hand" I'm not really making a claim about the world, I'm laying down some rules for discussion. If you doubt there's a hand here, then fuck you and that's all there is to it. We can't really talk about anything now, because we can't even agree on something as simple as a goddamn hand. When we all agree here is a hand, then we can go about discussing our world in meaningful ways. Skepticism just undermines a foundation and replaces it with nothing; its paralyzing. The grounds for such radical skepticism don't exist; it presupposes and relies on the very certainty it tries to undermine.


This is more practical than you realize. There are people who actually believe that the world is only 6,000 years old. What the fuck, right? But if you've ever talked with one of them, you know that they're fucking impossible to have what you consider a 'reasonable' discussion with. It's not like they don't have answers for everything, its just that those answers don't make any fucking sense to you. Its the sort of gibberish that makes you want to scream. The problem is that you don't even play the game by the same goddamn rules. You're both certain of your positions, because those positions are logically derived from the worldview each of you endorses as your starting point, and you both look at each other's foundations and say, "Seriously, what the fuck are you talking about?" You don't even know how you would go about convincing them that you're right and they're wrong; you don't even agree on a method by which to do that.


If you flew to some part of the world where they'd never heard of an airplane or even a bird, how the fuck could you convince them you flew? They don't even know what that means. They would have all sorts of questions, and would consider your answers nonsensical or magical. When a non-believer is told that God exists, he reacts in the same way; also, a believer when he is told there is no God.


So everything we believe about the world is built on some sort of foundation. Sure, that foundation can change, but there is always something there at the base, and it is that base that enables us to talk about the world. Not everyone has the same base you do, and that has to be okay. Just know that some of your beliefs are just as unsupported as everyone else's. It's just the way it is, bro.


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Want more? On Certainty Online.

15 comments:

  1. So good. I actually found that really interesting haha.

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  2. Philosophy Brosef,
    For mailbag monday I humbly request you do a brief history of Existentialism if at all possible.

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  3. Very nice, now I know what to tell those asshole "Atheist Evangelists"!

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  4. Very nice, now I know what to tell those asshole "Christian Evangelists"!

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  5. bro, you've mistaken Moore's Proof of the External World for On Certainty. Read past the first few pages of the latter and you will see that the two works are actually different.

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  6. You should be awarded for having written the stupidest summary of Wittgenstein's "On Certainty". Who the Davy Jones do you think yourself to be, eh? Your article is 'himmelschreiend' with a pride gone haywire.

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  7. k thank you so much. I fucking hate philosophy but you make it so enjoyable to read. Thank you again bro

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  8. but the question is, do we know what that foundation is, or do we not...? For the knowledge of it determines the justification of our beliefs and such as, then again, you think you know W., but you don't!

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  9. Hey N.N,

    didnt you read a fucking word he wrote? Or do you like to end every argument you start by sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming:

    "NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA- I CANT HEAR YOU!!!!"
    don't be a child dude.

    and to the bro who wrote this article, thank you.
    you saved me some time and brain function.

    -Boom.Philosophy solved.

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  10. get real.... you need a higher IQ to actually understand Wittgenstein

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