Haiku after Wittgenstein

I am already

riding this bicycle o-

ver the roadside curb

 

“Wittgenstein, in a well-known passage in the Philosophical Investigations, describes what happens when someone, watching another person writing down a sequence numbers, suddenly grasps how the series is developing: ‘Now I can go on!’ The principle of the series will be expressible in a formula: yet it is not, says Wittgenstein, that ‘a formula occurs to [the observer]’ when the observer successfully continues the series. Understanding is not in that sense a ‘mental process,’ the summoning up of a key principle by conscious thought, it is the skill or confidence to go on, to follow the series through: a skill in the exercise of a habit, if you like. It is as Wittgenstein goes on to argue, like the experience of reading. We don’t apply a procedure in our minds, a series of operations that allows us to move from seeing a sign to making a noise or at least imagining making a noise; we simply exercise a skill, closer to knowing how to ride a bicycle than performing a calculation.” Rowan Williams, The Edge of Words (2016) 68-69

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Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Portland OR and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. His blogs include poemswithoutborders.com He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

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