Creative Commons License

Monday 21 February 2011

Fitted-ness in the Lecture on Aesthetics

The beginnings of this concept can be seen in lecture one and section 8 (L1, S8) where Wittgenstein says that, “it is remarkable that in real life, when aesthetics judgements are made, aesthetic adjectives such as ‘beautiful’, ‘fine’ etc. Play hardly any role at all... The words you use are more akin to ‘right’ and ‘correct’...”
Aesthetic words are used first only as ‘interjections’ it is later on, in learning, that we start using them rarely to describe experiences. Is this just a culturally depend ‘turn-of-phrase’ then? In one sense perhaps, but there is here the first sign of the sense of a word ‘fitting’ its purpose and this too can be culturally significant in many ways. Indeed, how else would it be significant? Unless we mean here that words extend beyond their cultural usage and into some metaphysical realm of use, which I hardly think is the right choice of phrase here.
Gestures of approval (L1, S12) only enter into our discussions when we start to speak of a ‘right’ way to read a poem or interpret a painting etc.
The Tailor
If you haven’t learnt the rules you won’t be able to make an aesthetic judgement. What could you make? An aesthetic guess. The example of the tailor (L1, S13 & 15) seeks to highlight this. When cutting out a suit, for it to be a good suit, one must know the rules of how long, how wide the cuts must be. “In learning the rules you get a more and more refined judgement. Learning the rules actually changes your judgement.”
Although, Wittgenstein then makes a bracketed claim that possessing neither the appropriate nature nor education might not stop one from making a correct claim. Rather than simply a lucky guess we might interpret this as an example of concepts seeping into/through culture. Especially one as far-reaching as music where a lack of specific training doesn’t stop one understanding misplaced beat or rhythm and so forth, it is not then all a matter of rules or simple human nature.
There is also a distinction made (L1, S15) between an attitude which strictly follows the rules, “I say: No. It is right. It is according to the rules.” And an attitude that develops a ‘feeling’ for the rules, i.e. one in which I actively interpret the rules.
Rules of harmony: It is not the interjections one uses to show appreciation, but the way one chooses, selects, etc. (L1, S19) Being able to see how it will fit shows both knowledge and appreciation of the material. To properly describe what appreciation consists in we must also describe the complete environment, thus making it an impossible task. “There is an extraordinary number of different cases of appreciation.” (L1, S21) Limits of knowledge? I could always know more. This isn't a limit as such. However, it just isn’t reachable. We don’t start from the basis of absolute knowledge before making judgements, with start with simplistic or naive judgements and develop these.
On the 'correctness' of the tailor’s judgements. (L1, S23) However, we don't talk of correctness here, merely being 'too short' or 'too long' or whatever. “The words we call expressions of aesthetic judgement play a very complicated role, but a very definite role, in what we call a culture of a period.” (L1, S25) “What belongs to a language game is a whole culture.” (L1, S26) “In order to get clear about aesthetic words you have to describe ways of living.” (L1, S35)
Aesthetics cannot be thought of as a science for saying what sort of things are beautiful, it is far too hard to find boundaries in these descriptions, would it also tell us “what sort of coffee tastes well.” (L2, S2)
The realms of 'utterance of delight' and that of Art, which are quite different but seem similar.
'Causes' seem to imply an addition of something else. Fitting or clicking (see below) doesn't seem to require this extra dimension. If we say that we 'know the cause' we are misleading if we consider this to be the explanation for our action. 'Why?' and 'because' are used when we are explaining our (aesthetic) discomfort, but hardly ever 'cause'. Knowing a cause is akin to tracing a mechanism. The explanation is a grammatical one.
“We have the idea of a super-mechanism when we talk of logical necessity.” (L3, S25) There is no 'super' there are only mechanisms of connection.
An aesthetic explanation (impression) is not a causal explanation. (L2, S 38) and it is “not one corroborated by experience or by statistics as to how people react.” (L3, S 11)
The 'fit' is something like a criterion, which indicates that e know the right thing has happened in the correct place/time (fit here called 'click'. L3, S2) The fitting or clicking is one satisfies one.
And finally,
“We are again and again using this simile of something clicking or fitting, when really there is nothing that clicks or fits anything.” (L3, S 5)

Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief, ed. Cyril Barrett (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966).