A Philosophical Joke Book?: Wittgenstein on Humour and the Function of Philosophy

Norman Malcolm recalls that "Wittgenstein once said that a serious and good philosophical work could be written that would consist only of jokes (without being facetious)." While I have no doubt that such a work might constitute good philosophy, that such a work could be 'serious' which seems troubling. After all--is not levity the opposite of seriousness? In this paper, I analyze what Wittgenstein might have meant by this remark. To properly understand him on this point, one must take into account Wittgenstein's stated goals on the proper method and purpose of philosophy--which I argue is closely related to his views on humour. Throughout I attempt to come to better understand what humor is for Wittgenstein, and how it is related to his idiosyncratic view of what philosophy purports to do. This paper has been presented at the Ohio Philosophical Association and the Lighthearted Philosophers' Society conference. An edited version of it is forthcoming in The Onion and Philosophy.

An Essay on Nonsense: Wittgenstein's Tractatus and the Bounds of Linguistic Meaning

There are historically three main trends in interpreting Wittgenstein's Tractatus: the positivist reading, the standard reading and the resolute reading. In this paper, I survey some of the literature of the last two, centering around one central theme: For Wittgenstein, are the bounds of language the bounds of sense? After describing the doctrine of substantive nonsense (through Black and Hacker) and austere nonsense (through Diamond and Conant), I analyze Frege's contextual theory of meaning and Russell's compositional theory of meaning. I argue that the subsetential notion of sense (viz., that terms have meaning independent of the context of the proposition) which Russell is committed to in his logical atomist period cannot be a model on which Wittgenstein's theory of meaning rests. Simply put, Wittgenstein is more Fregean than Russellian on this point. This is includes some of the research I did for my dissertation, which was edited for presentation in the Department of Philosophy Colloquia Series at Denison University.

The History of Analytic Philosophy: Beyond the Oxymoron

Is the 'history of analytic philosophy' a contradiction in terms? Many philosophers seem to think so. In this paper, I intend to discuss the connection between analytic philosophy and its history. In the opening sections of the paper, I discuss some methodological issues in the history of philosophy. I argue that analytic philosophy does have a history, and this context determines to a large extent the way that we think about philosophical problems. This can be demonstrated by analyzing the way we tend to analyze more recent historical texts. I offer as an example of this the three main interpretations of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I hope to show throughout that, even within the analytic tradition, the proper methodology in historical research not only requires bracketing one's own position in order to see clearly the object of one's analysis, but also allowing questions of context to answer questions that emerge from the text. This was written as an introduction to the dissertation, edited for conference presentation.

Review of Gregory Landidni's Wittgenstein's Apprenticeship with Russell

final version in Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (3), pp. 193-194. [from Project Muse]

Review of Danielle MacBeth's Frege's Logic

final version in Philosophical Books 48 (3), pp. 262�265. [from Blackwell Synergy]

The following are some old drafts which are stalled in progress. I hope that in the future I get a chance to renew research into some of the areas that I have investigated through graduate coursework; but until then, constructive and informed comments on these past drafts are always appreciated.

Linguistic Meaning and the Privacy Contraint

In this paper, I juxtapose two challenges to the idea that lingusitic meaning can be understood privately: the Quine-Davidson notion that meaning is fixed publicly, through behavioristic observations of the lingusitic agent, vs. the Wittgenstein-Kripke notion that meaning is socially constituted. I argue that each in turn leads to some unresolved problems. I then consider how these two main trends are treated by Robert Brandom (in Making it Explicit) under the distinction between "I-We" and "I-Thou" senses of sociality, and argue that Brandom's version of the social consitutition of meaning overcomes the problems that each have. This paper was initally written in conjunction with a seminar on "Normativity and Naturalism" with Stephen Turner. It has since been revised for presentation at the Society for Classical Pragmatism Studies conference on American Philosophy, and then again revised for publication (although never published).

Sellars, Derrida and the Task of Analytic Philosophy

This paper was originally written during a directed reading on Derrida with Elizabeth Hirsh. To my mind, Derrida made a lot more sense in analogy with some very recent trends in analytic philosophy. I investigate one such analogy here. In this paper I read Derrida's critique of the "metaphysics of presence" on an analogy to Sellars' "myth of the given" from "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind." Using the ground laid in another of Sellars' works, "Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man," I argue that Analytic philosophy (or, the "scientific image") is in a position to synthesize some results of the 20th century Contenental philosophy (or, "the manifest image") with fruitful results. This paper has been revised for presentation at the Florida Philosophical Association.

How Not to 'Russell' Spinoza

This paper was written during research on Spinoza's Ethics, with Roger Ariew. Upon first reading Curley's Sprinoza's Metaphysics, I was both strangely drawn and repelled by understanding Spinoza on analogy to logical atomism (viz., the philosophy of Russell and the early Wittgenstein). I argue that it is more fruitful to read Spinoza's text through more recent analytic problems, and suggest that Spinoza's non-reducible paralellism can best be understood as a very early form of the normativity objection to naturalism

Being as Becoming: Aristotle's Metaphysics

This paper was written during first reading Aristotle's Metaphysics, with John P. Anton. Here I suggest an interpretation of the central books of the Metaphysics, VI-IX. Drawing extensively from Heidegger's lectures on Aristotle, and attempt to formulate a reading of the central books of the Metaphysics as concerning being as becoming, rather than on the model of motion. This, in effect, primes Aristotle for an event ontology. And finally, in conclusion, I intend to draw a moral which ties the philosophy of Aristotle to historical debates in Analytic philosophy and its treatment (or perhaps dismissal) not only of Aristotle, but of �metaphysics� as the science of being qua being.