WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHEN WE THINK ABOUT 1 WILLIAM FLESCH The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, puzzling over the (literally) infinite subtlety required for our effortless ability to understand, interact, play with, hate, love, resent, and care about each other, said that in the last analysis what makes these things possible is "agreement...in forms of life." Übereinstimmung might be better and more literally translated (as Stanley Cavell points out) not quite as "agreement" but as a kind of harmonizing. We are similar to each other in profoundly complicated ways, and it is part of our similarity (and what makes this "complicated form of life" what it is) that this similarity explicitly matters to us--and that it matters to me that it should matter to you as well. Why is this? The ultimate answer, as the word phrase "forms of life" implies, is biological: "What has to be accepted, the given, is--so one could say--forms of life." But can studying biology, can discovering unobvious dimensions of the complicated form of life that we are, give us any important insights into the human experience of literature (and the other arts)? To the extent that literary theory and literary criticism always seek
symploke – University of Nebraska Press
Published: May 18, 2011
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