My misleading description of “description”


Earlier I made a post about the distinction between explanation and description as it relates to Wittgenstein’s later philosophy.  Upon rereading that post, I realize now that part it is misleading.  Towards the end of the post I said:

Description seems theoretically innocent, merely observational for the sake of looking [call the italicized r]…explanation seems rigid, logical, rule-bound and systematic.  The former opens the possibility of examing the meaning of a term in a new way, whereas the latter considers all such instances to be merely anomalous. 

A lot of that paragraph is misleading, but I want to direct my critical attention to the italicized text. 

p: “to describe” in the expression: “philosophers should describe, not explain meaning” is analogous to q: “the sense of ‘to describe’ as distinct from ‘to explain’ with regard to the former’s passivity relative to the latter’s

q should be taken as my own interpretation of what I actually said. 

It might be said that initially I liked r as a way to get at the semantic play (that is, ongoing exhange, or tug) between Wittgenstein’s sense of philosophical description and his sense of philosophical explanation.  Then I realized r implied q, or was consistent with it enough to make me think that I wasn’t thinking about the difference between Wittgenstein’s use of “description” and his use of “explanation” but rather “description as a more passive and unassuming way to resolve linguistic difficulties”

Anyway, I’m glad I cleared that up.

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