26 July 2007

Why I Write Such Bad Posts

In my original notion of how the post would run, my "Kant and Monowittgensteinianism" post was going to take the fact that Hacker attributes transcendental idealism (or at least transcendentally ideal notions of time and space) to Early Wittgenstein to indicate that this was one of the Ineffable Doctrines the Standard Reading was committed to attributing to Early Wittgenstein. (John Holbo also suggests that Early Wittgenstein was a transcendental idealist/empirical realist in his "Prolegomena to a Reading of the Tractatus", which I quite liked; I am sure I am forgetting others who have suggested much the same.) I then planned to show (with the help of a passage from the Notebooks which, it turns out, doesn't exist) that Early Wittgenstein was not a transcendental idealist, and that what appeared to be an endorsement of TI in the Tractatus was merely one of the rungs to be overcome; one was to see the realism/idealism mess as so much metaphysical blather by seeing how TI collapsed. My thought was that if there was anything on Conant's "First List", any doctrine apparently endorsed by Early Wittgenstein which was actually held to be utter nonsense by him, then this was a big point for resolute readers. So, show how TI fit the bill, and, bang, suddenly the resolute readers have one of their biggest issues resolved in their favor. The fact that the Notebooks passage I was (in theory) relying on doesn't exist, and Hacker is just reading the Tractatus wrong when he attributes TI to Early Wittgenstein (even by Standard Reading lights) meant that the post should've been scrapped.

It was when I gave up on finding the passage in the Notebooks that I titled the post "Junk Draft". I figured that I liked having something that long on my front page (which I see every time I go to post something, since I only have the main page bookmarked), and nobody would see the unwieldy beast anyway since I hadn't posted the URL anywhere. I figured that once I'd scrapped the post, taken out anything salvageable, and found something suitable to do with it, I'd go ahead and try to attract some readers. That I had a reader before I had anything I'd consider a proper post was not as planned. (Wanting to keep being "secret" after being found out by one person was dumb, though. I don't know what I was thinking, there. If they'll read the bad posts, they will probably stick around in case there's good ones; if they hate the bad posts, then they might see enough potential to read new posts; if they hated the bad posts enough to not want to read anything else I write then I probably wasn't going to satisfy them in the end anyway. And as the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity.)

In retrospect, I'm not entirely sure what most of the stuff about Kant in that post was there. I think I meant to show how TI collapses in Kant's system, and then point out something analogous happening (self-consciously) in the Notebooks. The problem here was twofold: One, that Notebooks passage still doesn't exist; Two, one can't just explain Kant's system of transcendental idealism offhand; that sucker will absolutely swallow up anything you try to put it next to by its sheer mass. The Kant material had no good reason for being in that post, though there's nothing in there that I should want to retract.

On the subject of posts going badly: The 4300-word post on Hegel seemed like a good idea at the time. I ran across the "In thought I am free, for I am not in an other" line and wanted to try to tease out what it meant in context, but I suspect I just ended up speaking Hegelese for seven pages. There's never any call for that. In my defense, I was running a low-grade fever at the time.

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