Wittgenstein and Media Studies

Before I go too far down the slippery slope of snarkiness, with that last post, let me elevate the discourse a bit and say that one essay I've always found helpful in thinking through these issues is Maxime Chastaing's "Wittgenstein et le probleme de la connaissance d'autrui" - originally in Revue Philosophique de la France et de l'Etranger (1960), but translated in part and included in Bourdieu and Passeron's Craft of Sociology. Chastaing illustrates several of Wittgenstein's observations by demonstrating how certain philosophers' word games end up mistakenly positing a logical connection between unrelated phenomona. The Media and Culture journal is just an extreme instance of forcing two different concepts together because of the same word: jam as "preserves" and jam as "wedge into a tight space" or "gum up the works" have nothing in common other than the tendency of the English language, like French and many other languages, to assign multiple meanings to the same word, dependent on context.

It seems to me that Wittgenstein doesn't get enough play in the humanities, including film studies (though Rick Altman's Film/Genre (BFI, 2000) has an interesting Wittgensteinian discussion of genre labels). Myself, I clearly need to revisit Philosophical Investigations, which is such a productive, provoking book, but one whose non-expository, nonlinear nature makes it difficult to read and absorb. I would love to find a reading group to devote ourselves to working through the text. Perhaps a project or goal for next summer?


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