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Description in Philosophy
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Description in Philosophy
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From the Jacket

Husserl and Wittgenstein broke off from the traditional attitude towards philosophy; they presented no ideologies, systems or theories but aspired to describe what one sees. In the present book, Dr. Krishna Jain discusses the manner in which they pursued the concept of descriptive philosophy in their own philosophical set up and also analyses the hazards which inevitably arise in the way of faithful description and with the idea of faithful description itself.

Dr. (Mrs.) Krishna Jain did her post graduation in Philosophy from Miranda House, Delhi and is presently teaching in Janki Devi College, Delhi University.

Preface

The word ‘description’ had always been haunting the twentieth century philosophers. The first clear use of it is found in Russel’s works, although he was not a descriptive philosopher. Descartes, Locke and Kant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were non-descriptive philosophers are were primarily concerned with the validity of claims to know. Their interest centred around the ‘foundation’ of knowledge. Their faith in the notion of philosophy as a foundational discipline, however, resulted in constructing system.

Husserl and Wittgenstein broke off from the traditional attitude towards philosophy. They introduced ‘new maps of the terrain’ by initiating new ways of looking at it. Their attempt was not to “ground” this or “criticize” that but to describe what “lies before us”. They presented no ideology or systems or theories but aspired to describe what one sees. They believed that philosophy was overloaded with jargons and theories and felt there was a need to simplify it. They considered it a ritual which was to be performed by philosophers, and took upon themselves the humble task of description in philosophy. Pre-historic world and primitive society have been seen by them as an indispensable soil bed without which philosophical description in not possible. Philosophy in their works turns towards what is original, natural and native.

The descriptive philosophy is not dependent on some assumed “a priori” constraint. It is first person’s rather than third person’s inquiry of the surrounding. Descriptive philosophy, one could say, is “therapeutic” rather than “constructive”. The focus in philosophical description is one the analysis of language and experience. It may be perceived as a methodology having two aspects, viz pure seeing (seeing without prejudice) and its expression in language. But a gap between them is inevitable as the language cannot capture all human experiences in its net and pure description will always, therefore, remain a myth.

We are concerned here not with the impossibility of philosophical description but with the hazards which inevitably arise in the way of faithful description and with the idea of faithful description itself. We are also not concerned with the similarities and dissimilarities between Wittgenstein’s analytical philosophy and Husserl’s phenomenology but with the manner they pursued the concept of descriptive philosophy in their own philosophical set up.

Philosophical description as a method practiced by them requires a certain framework, a certain ‘matrix’ which make description possible. Without some anchorage like forms of life or life world, philosophical description would be utterly devoid of philosophical import. Wittgenstein and Husserl although depart from the classical world views in their descriptive programme, yet they both, in the last analysis, abandon description. The piecemeal strategies with which they started are eventually swallowed up, not in speculation, but in the matrix which gave them birth. In a sense this matrix in spite of being indispensable, sets the limit for description.

It is my pleasant duty to express profound regards and gratitude to Dr. (Mrs.) Margaret Chatterjee, formerly Professor and Head of the Department of philosophy, Delhi University who as my research supervisor was a source of constant help and encouragement. I am indebted to Dr. (Mrs.) S. Jain, my teacher and former Principal of Janki Devi College who inculcated in me the desire to indulge in research activities. I am also grateful to Major B.K. Singh and his wife Suchita for their help in preparing the press copy. Finally, I don’t have adequate words to express what I owe to my husband Dr. V.K. Jain without whose cooperation and assistance it would not have been possible to complete the present work.

 

Contents

 

  Preface 7
1 The Concept of Description 13
2 Description in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus 39
3 Description in Wittgenstein’s Later Works 55
4 Description in Husserl’s Philosophy 83
5 Limits of Description 113
6 Hazards of Philosophical Description 135
  Bibliography 153
  Index 167

Sample Page


Description in Philosophy

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From the Jacket

Husserl and Wittgenstein broke off from the traditional attitude towards philosophy; they presented no ideologies, systems or theories but aspired to describe what one sees. In the present book, Dr. Krishna Jain discusses the manner in which they pursued the concept of descriptive philosophy in their own philosophical set up and also analyses the hazards which inevitably arise in the way of faithful description and with the idea of faithful description itself.

Dr. (Mrs.) Krishna Jain did her post graduation in Philosophy from Miranda House, Delhi and is presently teaching in Janki Devi College, Delhi University.

Preface

The word ‘description’ had always been haunting the twentieth century philosophers. The first clear use of it is found in Russel’s works, although he was not a descriptive philosopher. Descartes, Locke and Kant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were non-descriptive philosophers are were primarily concerned with the validity of claims to know. Their interest centred around the ‘foundation’ of knowledge. Their faith in the notion of philosophy as a foundational discipline, however, resulted in constructing system.

Husserl and Wittgenstein broke off from the traditional attitude towards philosophy. They introduced ‘new maps of the terrain’ by initiating new ways of looking at it. Their attempt was not to “ground” this or “criticize” that but to describe what “lies before us”. They presented no ideology or systems or theories but aspired to describe what one sees. They believed that philosophy was overloaded with jargons and theories and felt there was a need to simplify it. They considered it a ritual which was to be performed by philosophers, and took upon themselves the humble task of description in philosophy. Pre-historic world and primitive society have been seen by them as an indispensable soil bed without which philosophical description in not possible. Philosophy in their works turns towards what is original, natural and native.

The descriptive philosophy is not dependent on some assumed “a priori” constraint. It is first person’s rather than third person’s inquiry of the surrounding. Descriptive philosophy, one could say, is “therapeutic” rather than “constructive”. The focus in philosophical description is one the analysis of language and experience. It may be perceived as a methodology having two aspects, viz pure seeing (seeing without prejudice) and its expression in language. But a gap between them is inevitable as the language cannot capture all human experiences in its net and pure description will always, therefore, remain a myth.

We are concerned here not with the impossibility of philosophical description but with the hazards which inevitably arise in the way of faithful description and with the idea of faithful description itself. We are also not concerned with the similarities and dissimilarities between Wittgenstein’s analytical philosophy and Husserl’s phenomenology but with the manner they pursued the concept of descriptive philosophy in their own philosophical set up.

Philosophical description as a method practiced by them requires a certain framework, a certain ‘matrix’ which make description possible. Without some anchorage like forms of life or life world, philosophical description would be utterly devoid of philosophical import. Wittgenstein and Husserl although depart from the classical world views in their descriptive programme, yet they both, in the last analysis, abandon description. The piecemeal strategies with which they started are eventually swallowed up, not in speculation, but in the matrix which gave them birth. In a sense this matrix in spite of being indispensable, sets the limit for description.

It is my pleasant duty to express profound regards and gratitude to Dr. (Mrs.) Margaret Chatterjee, formerly Professor and Head of the Department of philosophy, Delhi University who as my research supervisor was a source of constant help and encouragement. I am indebted to Dr. (Mrs.) S. Jain, my teacher and former Principal of Janki Devi College who inculcated in me the desire to indulge in research activities. I am also grateful to Major B.K. Singh and his wife Suchita for their help in preparing the press copy. Finally, I don’t have adequate words to express what I owe to my husband Dr. V.K. Jain without whose cooperation and assistance it would not have been possible to complete the present work.

 

Contents

 

  Preface 7
1 The Concept of Description 13
2 Description in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus 39
3 Description in Wittgenstein’s Later Works 55
4 Description in Husserl’s Philosophy 83
5 Limits of Description 113
6 Hazards of Philosophical Description 135
  Bibliography 153
  Index 167

Sample Page


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