Dissertation, Columbia University (1999)

William Day
Le Moyne College
Despite their differences, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Leo Strauss share two key philosophical commitments. They recognize that philosophy cannot establish or discover a conceptual structure to which one might appeal to justify what one says. And they agree that the task of philosophical writing is to convey a way of thinking set apart from that which seeks to establish or discover conceptual structures. Yet each knows that his writing, in the absence of a universal ground of appeal, will mostly fail to convey that way of thinking, and so will be, to that extent, esoteric. What differentiates them is their rendering of philosophy's inherent esotericism. Wittgenstein's late interest in aspect-seeing and aspect-blindness grows out of his well-documented despair that his writing would fall before uncomprehending eyes. The correlation here rests on noticing, contra Stephen Mulhall, that Wittgenstein's aspect-seeing remarks are inspired by aesthetic matters, not least by the 'subjective universality' of aesthetic judgments. Indeed, Wittgenstein's appeals to grammatical criteria are rightly understood, not as appeals to rules in a game, but as cousin to the form of justification in aesthetics. But then, as in aesthetic justification, there may be no reason for a speaker's inability to convey to another the connections he or she may see. Emerson, whose approach to writing comes into view alongside parallel strategies in jazz and film, begins with the fact that he can write the way he does---relying on the transformative possibilities of words whose multiple meanings he acquired the way anyone does---and concludes that no one is precluded from finding in his writing a model for transforming thinking. Strauss begins with the fact that esoteric writing works the way it does---conveying the writer's true thoughts to some while withholding them from the majority---and concludes that such writing reveals a natural order of rank among readers. Yet nothing in the nature of writing philosophy as Strauss understands it compels one, in the end, to accept Strauss's conclusion.
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References found in this work BETA

Persecution and the Art of Writing.Leo Strauss - 1952 - University of Chicago Press.
X—Wittgenstein's Builders.R. Rhees - 1960 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60 (1):171-186.

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Jazz Improvisation, the Body, and the Ordinary.William Day - 2002 - Tidskrift För Kulturstudier 5:80-94.

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