Dogmatic Bumbler Compounds His Errors




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How Not To Dig Yourself Out Of A Hole 101


Visitors might wonder why I am spending so much time on this no-mark. Well, he is a prominent member of a party I wish to influence, and in that position he is well placed to affect negatively the transmission of my ideas into that organisation. [Added Later: this is no longer the case! Mr G has now left the UK-SWP. Anyway, ever since the SWP bent over backwards to defend an individual accused of rape, I no longer wish to influence them, or be indirectly associated with them.] Hence, it is important to show him up for what he is.


Some might also wonder at the hostile tone I have adopted. Several years ago, I entered into a month long 'debate' with Mr G, which began comradely enough, but he soon started to pull the sort of tricks you will see below -- and worse -- with some serious abuse directed at me for even thinking to question 'dialectical orthodoxy'. One month later I stopped trying to beat some materialist good sense into his brick-lined head, and told him I would debate with him no more. Now, I cut the crap, and just go for the jugular. Any fair-minded person will understand why.




Mr G has returned with a few more ill-informed comments about a book he hasn't read (or, at least, not with any comprehension):


I had a dog-eared copy of the Tractatus and was re-reading Russell's introduction, and then some of the sections he refers to on 'mysticism' etc. [Link added.]


However, Wittgenstein wanted Russell's Introduction removed, so violently did he disagree with it (but the publishers refused), and the famous mystical passages were added later, after his experience of the First World War. He never returned to them, and they sit very awkwardly with the themes explored in that book (in fact, they are diametrically opposed to them).


I would say that most of this debate is about whether or not Wittgenstein should be taken as suggesting that all questions about 'life, the universe, god and everything' are logical nonsense, or whether he is saying that whilst these questions cannot be spoken about (only made 'manifest' or 'shown') it is actually science and logic that are limited in dealing with these issues (perhaps such issues are far more important then the things we can speak logically about).


Wittgenstein reserves the descriptor 'nonsense' ("Unsinnig") for those propositions that cannot be expressed as truth functions of elementary propositions (or which misconstrue formal propositions for the latter, or which contain words that have not been given a meaning, or which cannot be given one). They have nothing to do with scientific hypotheses or with the propositions of logic (the latter are Sinnlos, not Unsinnig), nor with questions about life the universe and everything. Only a dilettante like Mr G (who has not read the Tractatus, or even a reliable commentary) would draw such maverick conclusions.


It's all rather more interesting then the pea-brained Rosa complaining that ordinary people don't understand that 'ad hominem' arguments are sometimes justified, apparently down to their not understanding 'logic' (although she offers no justification as apparently claiming that she's motivated by 'working class hatred' is supposed to trump everything).


Of course, in my response to the moderator at Lenin's Tomb, I had alleged that Internet poseurs who refer to ad hominem arguments seldom do so from a secure background in logic (as Mr G has bravely demonstrated, yet again), and I went on to claim that if such arguments expose inconsistencies they are eminently valid. In his logically-challenged state, Mr G cannot respond to this, so he bad-mouths me some more -- his only argument, it is worth noting.


As to being motivated by working-class hatred (of the sort of ruling-ideas that have colonised his rapidly emptying head), Mr G has nothing to say, except that he thinks that I think that it trumps his love of such ruling-ideas. Well, to a Marxist it should; but to him it plainly doesn't.


I think we can all draw the right conclusion here.


But now we return to the airy-fairy 'thoughts' of the Waffle-Meister himself (I think he imagines we find them informative):


Wittgenstein reminds me of someone who feels trapped by dominant sets of assumptions and is wriggling his way out of them throughout his entire career. Those dominant assumptions were the ideas of the modern world: not the ancient. But I think many of his deepest thoughts powerfully express the predicaments of modern thought in ways which Marxists could benefit from investigating.


No proof is offered for this latest set of vague allegations, just an impression created in the mind of someone who, based on the evidence he has revealed to date, knows as much about Wittgenstein as he does about brain surgery -- in fact, probably less.


Far from being trapped, Wittgenstein has shown the way out of the maze Mr G is still -- even now -- stumbling about in.


One drawback of more traditional forms of Hegelian Marxism is that it has tended not to take the revolution in philosophy that occurs in the late 19th century seriously (preferring to see everything as a long running contest between idealism and materialism: Rosa is of course still heroically battling Plato). I think this is a little like debates about the novel, which for some people are fixed in the early part of the 19th century.


No revolution in philosophy, just the dog returning to the ruling-class vomit: yet more a priori thought-forms, doctrinaire and anti-scientific dogma.


[And where precisely am I 'still battling Plato', exactly? As usual, Mr G failed to substantiate this latest odd allegation.]


The struggle to escape philosophy is a fascinating ideological episode, but seems to have been ultimately, a failure. If this is inevitable, if this is ideological, or if there are more substantive problems it would be interesting to find out. Rosa et al, because of their reading of Wittgenstein think these are not even questions and therefore they can't have answers. As a Marxist I differ.


But, as a mystic, Mr G differs markedly from the characters who wrote this:


For philosophers, one of the most difficult tasks is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they had to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.


We have shown that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers would only have to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, to recognise it as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life. [Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, p.118. Bold emphases added.]


In a different idiom, that could have been written by Wittgenstein himself.


And now, Mr G has appended a long list of passages from the Tractatus he alleges depict an ontology, all the while failing to note Wittgenstein's own statements that the things he says apply to the depiction of the world, that is, to logic and language.


And then we get this plaintive cry:


Rosa who continues to run away from arguments by posting slander on her website which it is not possible to reply to, now seeks to close down all debate on the subject. I'm interested in finding out more about Wittgenstein so I am continuing a discussion with someone else. I'm uninterested in your dogmatic and ridiculous misreadings of what I say (in one part Rosa seems to suggest that Wittgenstein is a dog returning to his vomit....)

But anyway if anyone is interested in having a discussion about the significance of Wittgenstein's remarks here (which clearly demonstrate that Rosa is quite wrong to dismiss as absurd suggestions that there were conservative strains in his thinking, including his published thinking) I'm happy to continue. Rosa has however disqualified herself from serious discussion of the subject by her utterly unfraternal and unsocialist behaviour." [Bold emphasis added.]


Notice the lack of honesty again; when I allege that a return to traditional thought is like a dog returning to its vomit, Mr G deliberately links this to Wittgenstein, when it is perfectly clear that I am referring to the nineteenth century thought about which he was speaking.


[And he wonders why no one takes him seriously, or wants to 'debate' with him.]


Alas, Mr G ignores what he doesn't like, and continues to thrash about in the stygian gloom of his own making. He also plainly thinks that the sort of fabrication and dishonesty he indulges in all the time is being 'fraternal' and 'socialist'.


The good thing is that the more he does this, the more visitors I get at my site. He is a sort of agent provocateur in reverse. Bless his cotton socks.


And now we get this (which is further proof how much this mystic is rattled):


No Rosa. When I said the LATE 19th century I was referring to the phenomenological and linguistic turns in philosophy which produce Husserl, Frege, and what I suppose, ultimately, one might call analytical philosophy (although the phenomenological 'other half' of this development are not usually seen in this way but see Dummett's 'Origins of Analytical Philosophy'). Wittgenstein clearly comes along in the wake of all this. It was this that I described as a philosophical revolution and which you misread, and called 'a dog returning to its vomit'.

Is there any point in a debate which involves this constant misrepresentation? I personally have my doubts. But if anybody is interested in these questions I would genuinely welcome a debate (as opposed this absurd slanging match). [Spelling corrected.]


He fails to note that Wittgenstein didn't write in the late 19th century, so his inference above that I meant my slur on traditional thought to apply to him is wholly unfounded, despite what he says he now meant.


[He needs to read more widely, too; Dummett's 'Origins' gives a very slanted view of the history of Analytic Philosophy -- as I have pointed out in my Essays (where I also reference many books and articles that balance things out).]


Two years ago I was trapped in a long (a very long) and similarly fruitless 'debate' with this charlatan; so I will not debate with him again (as I have told him). I am happy however to expose his dissembling and dishonesty. He, too, seems happy to provide me with yet more examples of the same, by the hour.


[Another example of his brainlessness is that the discussion thread from which all this emerged was actually about alleged voter fraud in Tower Hamlets! Does even this bumbler think that comrades who want to read about this alleged fraud are really all that interested in the aimless ramblings of a rank amateur Wittgenstein non-scholar? Or that they want to 'debate' the Tractatus (for goodness sake!) with him there? Delusions of grandeur, or what?]


And now, the kid rises from the canvass; like Cool Hand Luke, he just don't know when he's beat -- except this plonker is happy to lead with his chin:


I don't quite understand how I'm supposed to have 'forgotten' to mention that Wittgenstein was a 20th rather then a late 19th century philosopher. One might have thought that you would get the reference to the late 19th century in the first place (hardly the period of 'Traditional Philosophy' rather the gestation of the 'new'). So Dummett needs balancing. How very interesting. Perhaps you could simply say what you actually think. [Spelling corrected.]


More dissembling. The good people who have read this response of mine can check its original wording of Mr G's rash comments, and decide for themselves whether I was referring to Wittgenstein's work when I spoke of that dog returning to its vomit, just as they will be able to see how Mr G dishonestly asserted that I had.


[Is it even likely that I would do this given my deep respect for Wittgenstein's work?]


He wants me to say what I think. Why should I share any thoughts with this fraud (except those that expose him for the fraud he is)?


I enjoyed as well the attempt to dismiss the passages from the Tractatus as the result of 'trauma' (presumably you haven't read the second half of PI although I suppose trauma might linger), neglecting the fact that the other bits of the Tractatus were composed at the same time, and seem to fit quite well actually. I am aware that Wittgenstein didn't like Russell's introduction but for the life of me can't see how this is supposed to be a criticism of me or anything I said. [Spelling corrected.]


Mr G probably hasn't read Wittgenstein's Notebooks (from 1912-1918), or perhaps hasn't even heard of them, so he doesn't know that they show how his thought was transformed in the manner I suggested. But still he pontificates.


He also thinks I haven't read the second half of the Philosophical Investigations. I'm not about to pander to his delusions by confirming or denying this accusation (made in ignorance). But, quite what this has to do with Wittgenstein's turn to mysticism post-1918, I fear that not even the dormant organ between Mr G's ears could possibly help him say.


Mr G now wonders why Wittgenstein's dislike of Russell's Introduction is relevant to his dissembling. Well, it was he who referred to it as part of his attempt to show that the Tractatus contains an ontology. Even now, dullard that he is, he will fail to see the point of my mentioning Wittgenstein's opprobrium. I will let him stew in his own ignorance. He seem to like it that way.


And now Mr G tries to revive this long dead point:


The Stalinist regimes philosophical astuteness was also good to hear about. The possibility that one of the most famous philosophers leaving the west to join their academy might have been something of a coup (being a 'red' wasn't always helpful as Voloshinov, and many others, found out) is apparently 'the least likely account'. [Spelling corrected.]


Note how Mr G just ignores all the direct and indirect evidence that Wittgenstein was a red, and opts for his own brainless 'theory': "it might have been..."


And now, more irrelevance:


All this though revolves around your refusal to acknowledge that a philosopher who believes fate more decisive than natural laws might be described as having 'conservative' strands in his philosophy, strands deriving not perhaps from his 'trauma', but from his actual thought (including an obviously deep engagement with Schopenhauer). [Spelling corrected.]


Mr G has plainly failed to grasp Wittgenstein's critique of the metaphysics of causation, which is no surprise seeing as he is a rank amateur in this regard. He still pecks away at the few crumbs he has found in Wittgenstein's book, failing to note that Wittgenstein openly says he is trying to do something radical there: bring an end to Philosophy. How less conservative can you be?


[Wittgenstein's childhood interest in Schopenhauer was something he rapidly grew out of; there are a few echoes of the latter's thoughts in his Notebooks, or in the Tractatus, and he hardly mentions that mystic much in his later work. Plainly, Mr G's superficial knowledge of Wittgenstein's corpus has let him down again.]


C'mon lets have some answers Rosa. What do YOU think of a transcendental ethics? (don't worry some are quite into it: Callinicos in his less dialectical moments, and Badiou in others, who also by the way knows a thing or two about set theory). What do you think of the idea of 'substance'? If your going to attack mysticism at least have a bit of balance. [Spelling corrected. Link added.]


Why this numpty thinks I want to share a single idea with him is rather puzzling. Has he not got the message? As I put it on the opening page of my site: I do not wish to communicate with clowns.


Got that Bozo?


Yet more ramblings from this, the uncrowned king of irrelevant remarks:


Particularly vague is the discussion of 'mysticism' which contains the phrase 'apologist for mysticism' without ever discussing the substance of this in his actual philosophy and the quoted statement 'in theory he was opposed to Marxism but in practice he supported it'. Is it not his substantive philosophical writing that is under discussion? [Spelling corrected.]




I wonder how puzzled Rosa would be if she came across Cobbett. Probably she'd imagine that he couldn't have conservative ideas because he identified with the rural poor. Also there is a failure to distinguish between the different ways in which analytical philosophy can be thought conservative (particularly poor is the attempt to present an amalgam of potential views, but it IS interesting that here we find an admission that many of his 'disciples' took his philosophy in a conservative direction: something which Rosa was busily denouncing me for pointing out. [Spelling corrected. link added.]


WTF has Cobbett got to do with Wittgenstein's alleged conservatism?


But, notice how Mr G had switched attention away from Wittgenstein and back onto Analytic Philosophy (a current about which I have said nothing). Yet more dishonesty. And, will this numpty say the same about Marx's 'disciples' in, for example, the CPSU under Stalin? I think not, since Marx had (and has) nothing to do with their egregious misuse of his ideas.


A sorry and demented exercise Rosa. I suppose I just write because when you see this kind of distortion you just get driven to. The will and the world and all that. Virtue being its own reward.


In that case, it's the hot place for this Muppet.




[Anyone who wants a clear and accurate introduction to the Tractatus -- which indirectly shows how little the above Waffle-Meister has grasped -- should look no further than Roger White's Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Continuum Books, 2006). I have also now written a detailed defence of the claim that Wittgenstein was a leftist, and for most of his life wasn't a mystic.]


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