see MY WRITING  for explanation of this document

 Winch Notes

by
John S Moore

 

Am1 Mental domination,  Winch and Simone Weil. The strange proposal that a woman be thought of as a first rate philosopher. In Weil there is less of the urge to mental domination. There is the intense passivity of the female virgin mystic. More a cry of pain  as a figure of virtue. The desire for mental domination, so prominent in Wittgenstein is in a sense immoral. Yet such a desire seems to be a precondition of the highest type of creative originality. Is it just that in a position of power and domination one is in a position to flourish freely? Or is there something  deeper than that?

 

Wittgenstein’s motivation.

Mental domination is the key to human advance.

The ethical mode of thought, from Fichte through George Eliot to Winch can be seen as the expression of a class position. Like against the frivolous aristos. Ethics would seem to promote  a sense of  power and happiness.

Trouble with much of Winch’s ethical work, that it does not seem to be deployed for any great cause, like fighting totalitarianism. What great moral cause was he serving? Certainly there hangs about him a slight air of the comic pedant. He is original, but prone to intellectual vices. I feel I could have been a healthy influence on him if he had accepted me as a research student.

Winch, originality. yet a form of dogmatic commitment superficially plausible.

 

AM152 Norris's tedious essay Kant Disfigured, in The Truth about Deconstruction)…. Norris is I think unfair to Wittgenstein and Winch. He sees them as expressing a position which would make it impossible for him to say what he wants to say, but perhaps that is not the point at all. In Ethics and Action, Winch seems to be describing the possibility of ethical judgement quite effectively. Why is it that thinkers so often get condemned for positions that are the precise opposite of their intentions? Suppose a Kantian position is possible. Does one have to agree with it? One may object to it on other than relativistic grounds.

 

 

Am 250, The individuality of other people can be unfathomable. Their own triumphs and satisfactions belong to a different order from my own. Orthodoxy. What is given. Me and my concerns. Winch, upstarts, criminals. Ideas of freedom for which they would lock you away crush and suppress. Do to you what they did to James Naylor. Thus one sees how people with the essentially moral view look at the Nietzschean alternative. The Protestant urge for freedom, essentially a moral urge. Based on its own conception of truth. Yet its opponents may see it as wickedness and blasphemy, miserable crime. The person whose belief it is has no right to liberty or even life.

Liberty protects itself by power, not by abstract argument. Law and democracy are to some extent a protection against those who would mercilessly crush us as antisocial vermin. It is only our power that entitles us to any respect.

I think not only of prohibition but of the recent excesses of feminism. Morality.

 

Ap 273, Winch’s philosophy can have the effect of keeping us in a world where conventional meanings apply. The philosophical arguments that analyse them away can seem to be confused and unjustified. Dissociation itself can seem to be unjustified analysis.

 

Ap 290,  Philosophy and its significance. Efforts to think beyond the limitations of the ordinary. Illegitimate logical and grammatical error, say Wittgenstein and Winch. But look at the value of philosophy for eighteenth century Britain. The culture was philosophy driven

 

Ao 246,  Winch and his explorations of strange logics of language. Coercive powers of language, almost magical powers. Moralities of the weak, hostile coercive demiurgic doctrines. Not to be just ignored. Taken seriously they have to be refuted.

 

An 158, Academic life, All that hard work. No time for originality. All that deference. Academic freedom, a special concept enabling various forms of repressive culture (like political correctness) to flourish inside the universities. Academic life with its rewards and its prizes and its privileges. Articles published, as steps on a ladder. Some study in some subjects is objectively valueless. Universities are large institutions that have their own life and do some good hopefully less harm. Its attraction to me such as it is, a route to fame, influence for my own ideas. Attraction for a lot of people, money well paid position Comforts, temptation, satisfactions which undermine the original ambition and genius.

 

Al 343, My last visit to Winch . The advice on careers which seemed so negative. Yet conceivably in me there was what one might call a vocation  which was not necessarily visible. Not everything’s picked up.

 

Al 378, Bad day, waiting for parcels and composing letter to Winch. In a way I am happy to write to him, it is a kind of catharsis.

Think of all the moral forces that were ranged against me at that time. Being on the receiving end of moral judgement. Feeling the hostility of society, there was a rejection of society itself because I felt it threatened me with hostile moral judgement. The moral condemnation to which I was exposed was exceptional. With no intention  of yielding to it, the alternative was isolation or misanthropy.

I could accept no guidance. Living in a state or reprobation, expected to yield to something I could not yield to, which would be absolutely intolerable.

Thus particularly I would learn nothing from my elders. I became ageist.

 

Ak 225, Matticks’s book (Social knowledge: An essay on the nature and limits of social science) He writes from the viewpoint of a convinced Marxist, sure that Marxism is a form of objective science. So his criticisms of  are not really good except from a Marxist perspective, which is what they give. He says Marx offers a ‘critique of political economy’ i.e. looks at it as an anthropologist looks at primitive societies. Marxist, like Christian, apologetics. Getting all the concepts right, sorting out objections. He does not go deeply enough into the implications of Winch’s argument, he says Marx takes account of Winch’s position then goes beyond it.


“My wish is not so much for the improvement of the social sciences as for the imaginative rejection of the conditions of present day society by their victims” he says on the last page. Giving the game away.

 

He is interested in Winch, but when it comes to Marx his main wish is to expound him. A Catholic could do something similar, explaining the ground for Catholicism’s objective claim. He states the ground, he does not prove it.

 

Ah 290, Winch’s book on Simone Weil. As a book it is a bit of a mistake. It seems pedantic and tedious. Simone Weil’s student dissertation surely not deserve such treatment. Simone Weil, it would be acknowledged, is a very different kind of thinker from Wittgenstein., but he treats her in the way he treats Wittgenstein. An element of tunnel vision.

I would not say Simone Weil is without interest, she is actually quite interesting. But some of the bits he picks on are not for anyone except for SW worshippers. And it seems that much of what he says could be said far more simply. He has been so used to untangling the gnomic utterances of Wittgenstein that he seems not to see where a different method would be appropriate.

But I think there is actually something to be learnt from the book. Something to do with why there is no such thing as a woman philosopher, though there is many a woman mystic.

Look at this through the eyes of a Weininger.

I was analysing philosophy in terms of the philosophers will to power. Thus one may think of in terms of male aggression

Simone Weil’s horror of aggression seems to spring from a feminine virginal recoil against such aggression. Definitely a kind of mystic, even a saint. She should be canonised. Much more of a saint than the Machiavellian Mahatma Gandhi. In an intellectual sense when offers a way out for those tempted by fascism. But this inspiration can only be feminine, it is shrinking away form aggressive violence.

 

Af 322, Winch  is under the spell of Wittgenstein which is all right because Wittgenstein appears to him to have advanced philosophy by means of logically compelling argument. It is not arbitrary attachment to a guru.

 

AD 273 Culture and Value. Winch  as translator, Wittgenstein as guru. If one studies this sort of thing, why not Crowley? As objects of study there is an arbitrariness here. But much of what he says I can relate to my own predicament. Is  in anything like such a predicament?  Winch is clearly a Wittgensteinian, from that point of view it must be an honour for him to translate Wittgenstein. But as a follower, translator and expositor, his position is very different from that of Wittgenstein himself. He has a clear job of work to do, and is not aiming for the kind of power Wittgenstein is aiming for. Something slightly painful in my feelings about Winch. If one is to have effective intellectual communication, one needs intellectual society. But what would someone like me have in common with someone like Winch? As well as strictly philosophical issues there are questions of general values. What assumptions would I share with him? Consider the bookshop where I bought the book. A good collection, it would seem there are a lot of people round here with refined intellectual interests. But then I think of myself and it seems it does not represent anything so satisfactory. My reading is not a mere joy of intellectual exercise, partly it is an attempt to resolve certain problems and difficulties I would not say that the remarks in Culture and Value strike me as especially profound, though they are of considerable interest. What Wittgenstein says on the beauty of mathematics as dependant on philosophical assumptions. He has a musical culture that I do not share, but then I am not German. He describes Ramsey as a bourgeois philosopher. One learns philosophy, one learns to question. At university I enjoyed it so much I wanted to continue with it, make a living out of it. But when one leaves, one is expected to leave, become a bourgeois. But that has no appeal. To be a bourgeois careerist, that is to be committed to a one-sided set of values. Some types of philosophy, such as the Marxist, may have something to say about the life you lead. Wittgenstein seemed to believe philosophy had wider application,  Winch said he himself did. Wittgenstein, may have been anti bohemian, that may have been a quirk of his time, like Spengler's advice we should all become engineers. In Culture and Value, Wittgenstein shows himself as anti scientific and religious. Winch may see himself as a servitor of wisdom. In knowing his place he has a happy enough position. Wittgenstein did not know his place. He was not particularly learned, in some fields he was vastly ignorant. He could build up a superman charisma

 

UU 15 Wittgenstein to Winch, forms of life. Linking up Wittgenstein with an idealist tradition from Hegel, through Croce and Collingwood. Idealism a form of reductionism. Leading either to scepticism, or to some form of dogmatism. Croce's idealistic idea that all history is the history of judgements. Wittgenstein's idea of forms of life and language games. From Wittgenstein's position, Croce's idea is just a form of reductionism, reducing one language game (historical facts) to another (judgements and opinions about historical facts). However some strains in Wittgenstein's thinking do have an idealistic tendency. Language games forms of life. Some people seem to suggest a kind of linguistic reductionism and relativism. Making opinions serve the place of facts and realities. Forms of life, We find that almost any set of attitudes and opinions can be justified. The ultimate point of reference is just the concept of the language game, thus in a sense all religions are true. For the idealist, all impressions are true, and impressions make up reality. For the Wittgensteinian philosopher, language is itself a kind of ultimate. Questions of truth or untruth only arise within language games. 'Sociologism'. Thinking philosophically, it is hard to find a rational criterion for distinguishing between the truth or acceptability of different language games. Sociologism undermines the possibility of criticising ideologies and ways of life. In a sense it makes them all 'valid'. There is no ordinary language criterion here to fall back on. Nothing to give us a central point of reference in judging ideologies. Collingwood is very anti psychology as a science. For the science of psychology and his conception of history are antithetical. On the Collingwood/Croce/Winch idea it is very hard to accept that some 'forms of life' are honest and to be taken at face value, whereas some are not. I would say that this type of philosophy, like other forms of idealism simply lets in too much error I would want to exclude. I think this is too high a price to pay. I think we have to establish a criterion of judgement, which while retaining the advantages of the tolerant and permissive attitude to the great variety of 'forms of life' yet minimises some of its disadvantages, the dangers of paralysing scepticism and arbitrary dogmatism. An invented formula that is like a sovereign in a nation, putting an end to anarchy and civil war, and enabling all the various classes, interests and occupations in the country to get on with their own business to the benefit of all. There is nothing in the Wittgensteinian position to repudiate such a criterion. There is nothing in Wittgenstein to suggest that such relativism or reductionism is necessary. The philosophy points out the great variety of language games to be found in ordinary language. Ordinary language does not offer any guidance in the case under discussion, but is there any reason why we should not create a concept of 'reality' to cope with our difficulties?

 

Uu 33, Different faces of Wittgenstein. Ryle v .Winch 's extension into an almost metaphysical realm. Idea of language games. Shift from the emphasis on solving philosophical problems, to justifying 'forms of life' in terms of quite permissible language games, letting in religion. Language games treated as one criterion of reality. This is a form of idealism. The great point is that any new philosophy inevitably creates a kind of metalanguage. Ordinary language games may provide the primary condition of logical soundness, but in thinking of the concept of language games as whole we have no such guidance. There is nothing to say we may treat language games as a criterion of reality.

 

II 92 Ethics and Action, by Peter Winch. Macintyre’s point that ethical codes which do not have a clear relation to self interest do not make sense, is a point well made however open to criticism. Winch produces some very strange possibilities, which are certainly forms of life but it does not seem they are fully rational ones. What is rational? What is consistent within the lifestyle? What is the correct carrying out of the rules? In assessing whatever would be irrational in an Azande we would have to take sides. Always there are disputes. Morality b. declares morality a. to be irrational. If we decide that morality a. is irrational we are taking sides. In refuting Glaucon are we merely preaching to the converted? Simone Weil, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, arguably represent a sick psychological outlook.

Plato’s refutation of Glaucon appeals to self interest and that is a good ground. Winch speaks to those so clearly committed that the argument is meaningless. Early Victorian biologists were not converted by Darwin, all their intellectual capital being invested in the old view. Darwin’s argument was irrelevant to them. And they had a valid form of life, just as did Robert Fludd. ‘But they were committed to a scientific technique’. What about the contradictions in the Azande outlook? We say we must be misunderstanding the nature of the contradiction.

Winch was right to attack sociology, he is very interesting and ingenious when he describes the possiblities of different forms of life, but wrong in the hope that much order can be saved from all this.

The form of life I live will be affected by my perception of there being so many other forms of life. The prospect of a choice between them may be unreal. I may be bound up in the language games just as part of my condition, but not necessarily. I must say that I found it hard to put his book down.

 

ss 168&  With Collingwood’s hostility to sociologistic distortion. I am in general sympathy. I think maybe his excessive dogmatism and reductionism came from the realisation that pretty solid ground is needed for the attack on such systems.

Winch modifies Collingwood but thereby reduces some of his polemical force. Winch is altogether too humane, too reasonable..

 Winch says it is no business of philosophy to promote any Weltanschaung. However, philosophy does have somehow to assert the superiority of its own perspective or it cuts its own throat.  All Collingwood could answer is that is the way we have to think now, it is the presupposition of our knowledge.

Collingwood and Winch, the priestly instinct. Often the priestly instinct is an understandable reaction against materialistic reductionism.

The advance of science seems to bring in its train all kinds of questionable ideologies One seeks a ground for the repudiation of those ideologies.

He seeks to find a criterion of reality which will leave intact various non materialistic views of the world.

He condemns all forms of reductionism as unscientific and unhistorical His attempt and Winch’s founder on the question of criteria of intelligibility.

That is probably why Collingwood was led into his style of hectoring dogmatism and why  Winch felt himself at a bit of a dead end.

Sociological reductionism Winch, it must be admitted, does provide a criterion of intelligibility to those attracted to it. Pace Winch we have no a priori justification for assuming that the reality of a historical event consists in what the participants said, or thought they were doing.

If this satisfies us well and good, but it an ideology of its own, metaphysic disguised as history. Vico, Collingwood, Winch. Winch's idea of Wittgenstein's language games. Now I certainly agree that it is a most important part of historical or sociological scholarship to establish what people were thinking and saying in their own terms. The idea though that this understanding amounts to understanding the reality of the situation they were in is a metaphysical presumption. With Vico we get this priestly or counterreformation impulse. It is an attack upon so called scientific reality. The priest does not lie. Sacerdos non mentit. The idea that human beings have the power to create their own reality. What power this should put into the hands of an intellectual, or priestly caste! Notice the curious fact that it is the highest elites in British society where religion flourishes the strongest. The power elite mistrust reason and prefer tradition, viz. the top public schools, the Roman Catholicism at Oxford, and among other elements of the establishment.

 

Aw 274 etc Colin Lyas’s book Peter Winch. Lyas recommends a book by PMS Baker ‘Wittgenstein’s Place in Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy’ about the decline of interest in Wittgenstein. That might answer a question that interests me.

Winch on religion as language game. Tendency we have nowadays to see religion politically. Religion as something aggressive like fundamentalism. Not a deepening of experience and excitation of creative motives.

If there are flaws or weaknesses in Winch perhaps there are flaws or weaknesses in Wittgenstein.

There is an honesty in the exploration of different language games. He is more honest than his opponents, but it can seem to lead to a sort of paralysis. We explore diversity at the expense of decisiveness. We may have an eye on  our own purpose but we can get lost  in the distinctions we make and keep in mind.

Winch relates to a lot of literature, but it is not literature to which I feel personally attracted. His sensibility is a bit strange. Forster's Howard's End, Melville’s Billy Budd, lesser known Ibsen, Benjamin Britten.

This Christian ascetic side was one side of Wittgenstein’s cultural interest, but Winch tends to ignore the other, the praise of Weininger, Spengler, Nietzsche even Hitler. Wittgenstein was not entirely a man of earnest morality.

Winch caught up in the sheer fascination of Wittgenstein’s work. Lacking the virile energy

Something to stop Winch being a great philosopher.  Circumscribe, insulate, fence off. Winch’s a philosophy that is not inconsistent. He would cut off discussion with ‘I don’t want to play that game’. He has his own language game that he applies, it is quite tolerant and inclusive, and not vulnerable to paradox and self contradiction.

The weakness I perceive also involves a sort of personality flaw. There is massive self confidence in what he is doing. But there is like a cutting off of dialogue.

How philosophy affects the personality. A hard carapace in protection of a language game, a form of life to which  committed.

‘I don’t want to play that game’ Because it would lead into contradiction.

The defence of religious language, curiously outdated. How all religion has become politicised in recent years.

Winch’s defence thereof, curiously outdated.

Lyas, Avoidance of talk of language games does not clarify. Winch did speak of games. The view  on religion does change it, I think. There is more conflict within religious discourse than is perhaps allowed for. Motive, Catholic v Protestant. Also, generally, dialectical opposition. All very well to pursue a language game but opposite ones may be constructed.

Winch neglecting power. There, perhaps, is something wrong in his treatment of religion. Taking Weil seriously for her philosophical errors, because he likes some of her religious earnestness.

Like Heidegger after renouncing Nietzsche, waiting for some revelation.

Weil's virginal defensiveness, Winch’s, curiosity is it? Religious language. A sort of perversity. The influence of Rush Rhees upon him.

 

Az 171 Winch’s paper Understanding a Primitive Society’. Actually very good, though it is not till the end that you see the point.

Extension of the concept of rationality to incorporate learning from a primitive society.

One apparent weakness could be the location of authority in normal practice. His comments on the Black Mass suggesting there is something irrational in it.

I think of Empedocles Love and Strife, with Winch as advocate of Love.

The objective constraints on birth copulation and death, citing Vico.

He writes of the ‘pointlessness of much of our existence’, this being something for with a religious solution is requisite.

Unorthodox heretical and individual forms of religion.

The attack on Frazer. On the idea of magic as mistaken science or technology.

Winch talks about an extension of our concept of rationality. I would suggest we might take it further.

Wittgenstein’s attack on Frazer, on his conception of the priest.

Reinterpretation of magic,  Social construction.

The idea of religion as having a logic or grammar of its own that answers to certain question about meaning. Given the idea that meaning is lacking.

Monotheism as adding a dimension to life, as succeeding in solving certain problems. And ignoring the sense of oppression to which that can give rise as if that were  a failure in understanding.

Winch does talk about oppression in his referring to Simone Weil writing about factory work.

Magic as having its purpose. Seeing it against the framework of orthodoxy. Seeing it as mere technology. Countering that view by seeing it as religion. People who are in favour of religion, their ideological agenda.

Primitive magic as like modern magic. The same service of the will. Like the egoistic will. More than mere technology, like as spiritual defiance.

The need for religion, the need for magic. Religious orthodoxy as constraint on the will.

 

Link:-    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Winch

 


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