Wittgenstein takes notice, or takes notice of the way that…


 Wittgenstein reflects on the difference between two uses of the verb “to notice”:

 “I have noticed the way A enters the room; he always sticks his head in before entering.” (Wittgenstein, Brown 160)

“I noticed the way A sits and smokes.”

 The difference is this: in the latter case, there is no hint that the expression need be described in terms of “the way A enters the room…”. 

I suppose we might say that the difference is this: in the first case, the use of “I have noticed x” requires an explanation of “the way ‘what was noticed’ was performed; in the second case, there is no such requirement and it is sufficient to merely posit the fact of “noticing”.

The grammatical distinction might be put this way:

1) to notice the way that

2) to notice that

Is there a significant difference between noticing that and noticing the way that p?  Consider the following analogous case:

p: I notice that the lights were off.

q: I noticed the way that the lights were off.

P is more or less straightforward; by that I mean that it is easy to “picture” p.  We can imagine someone noticing that the lights were off.  P here could mean equally “I saw that the lights were off” or “I took note that the lights were off” or “I acknowledged that the lights were off” or more simply “The lights were off”.

Q is more complicated, apparently.  Its inherent complexity can be pointed to via the “the way that”.  What does it mean to notice the way that as opposed to merely noticing that?  Q implies that the “noticing” is, in this case, more detailed, more focused, more able to pick up on subtleties.  Think of the distinction between “noticing the blue color” vs. “noticing the way that the blue color was”.  The latter implies a uniqueness that the former cannot give sense to as manifestly.

 In any event, it’s no good to merely introduce the grammatical distinction noted here.  Wittgenstein would not have us say that “in all cases, ‘to notice the way that’ lends a more subtle sense of the thing noticed than does to merely ‘notice that'”

 

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