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February 06, 2008


N. N.

I don't know if he'll be reading these comments, but I'll address my response to professor Blackburn.

In retrospect, the tone of my post was too polemical, and for that I apologize (it's still a surprise to me that anyone reads my blog). Nevertheless, I still disagree with your statement that Suits engages Wittgenstein "at the highest level." If there is, as Tom Hurka seems to admit, a "lack of fit" between Suits's definition and the English use of 'game,' then Suits doesn't engage Wittgenstein at all. The passages I quote from the Investigations show that Wittgenstein allows for definitions such as Suits's, i.e., definitions "for a special purpose" (§69). Concerning Suits's definition itself, Wittgenstein would surely remark that "His concept [is] not the same as mine, but akin to it" (§76). (Incidentally, I didn't say anything about "what a concept may be"; I merely repeated what Wittgenstein says in §76.)

As for the charge that my post is "a new low in a priori armchair philosophy," let me respond by pointing out that I did not spend any time discussing Suits's definition (though I believe it can be criticized as a definition of what we call 'games'; see the comments to the post). The point of my post was not to criticize Suits's project (I say in the final paragraph that such a definition of game can be philosophically interesting), but to criticize the claim that Suits "decisively refutes" Wittgenstein's account of what we call 'games.' Granted, I rely solely on Hurka's account of Suits's position, but given Hurka's familiarity with and sympathy for The Grasshopper, I thought it acceptable to do so. After all, it's only a blog post.


Paul Lemonk

'Granted, I rely solely on Hurka's account of Suits's position, but given Hurka's familiarity with and sympathy for The Grasshopper, I thought it acceptable to do so.'
Hic jacet lepus. It is never acceptable to discuss a book one has not read.

'After all, it's only a blog post.'
A terrible thing to think or to post. It's a little bit like saying 'these thoughts of mine which I am sharing with you were poorly thought and poorly wrought, but it doesn't really matter because I'm only posting them on my blog'. Apparently, you don't seem deeply engaged by what you write. The medium or the media makes no difference. Every word counts. Or every word should always count.

'In retrospect, the tone of my post was too polemical'. Indeed. But the real problem is not that the tone of your post was too polemical, but that the contents of your post was too 'unanalytical', and therefore 'unphilosophical'. Pity. Especially as you are a student of Wittgenstein.

The remarks in your original post come across as the irritated reaction of a nettled disciple. Nevermind. We all make mistakes. And after all, none of this really matters, unless it does.

N. N.

Paul Lemonk,

All your knowledge of thinkers is due to primary sources, then? And, in your opinion, it's never acceptable to take the word of a reliable secondary source? I think it is acceptable, especially in this setting. If Hurka is incorrect, say so. Then I would have a reason to read Suits's book.

I notice that your reply to me does not contain any substantive objections. What, for instance, is your opinion on the interpretation of Wittgenstien I am defending? Do you believe that Suits's definition fits the English use of 'game' perfectly? If it does not, does that affect the claim that Suits refutes Wittgenstein's account of 'game'?


Perhaps it would be wisest to let this discussion fade away, but I can't resist offering some defence of n.n. He has already apologized for his tone, which was in no way untypical of blog posts, and explained that he thought, in effect, that only a few friends were listening. He now knows better, and I can't see any reason to continue berating him about this.

Secondly, I think the importance of the fact that he has not read Suits' book is being exaggerated. I took his argument to be of the form: "If Suits is saying x (as has been reported), then he cannot be refuting Wittgenstein's claim, because Wittgenstein's claim is not y but z." There was no dishonesty about what he had or had not read, and his focus was on Wittgenstein (whose work he has read). Arguing along these lines without first reading Suits is not the acme of scholarship, but nor is it an unprecedented low. It is precisely the kind of unpolished and incompletely researched work that one would expect to find on a blog.

Paul Lemonk

I will answer you both in time, but cannot do so now. Or maybe this exchange will just fade away, as Duncan suggested. So many words would be necessary to dispel misunderstandings and create the conditions of a real discussion. But to all of this I will always prefer becoming silence.

Justin R. M.

Looks like we need to lighten the mood. I came across this while browsing around on YouTube. Apparently Nigel's voice is ripe for horrible techno. Enjoy!

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