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Abstract: Images of reading are pervasive throughout Philosophical Investigations and they show how different forms of reading and purposes for reading express and sustain different forms of life.  This essay examines several of these images of reading that it loosely organizes around a striking remark from §635 in which Wittgenstein speaks of the ability to bring together scattered details of an obscured image into a familiar whole and says of this ability that it is “as if I could read the darkness.”  The essay argues that the Investigations shows that this ability to “read the darkness” or to grasp significance in fragments is both essential to our possession of language and a main source of the characteristic griefs that beset our lives in language.  The essay concludes by considering the distinctive difficulty of the Investigations and suggesting how that difficulty may be understood as intrinsic to its philosophical aims.

About: Steven G. Affeldt, is Associate McDevitt Chair in Religious Philosophy & Faculty Director of the Manresa Program at Le Moyne College.  Affeldt received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University.  His work explores and charts intersections of ethics, social/political philosophy, and aesthetics.  Drawing on a wide range of figures that include Plato, Augustine, Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, his work elaborates ways in which philosophy and philosophical texts may be redemptive—possessed of the power to inspire, inform, and effect liberating transformations of both individuals and societies.  He has published influential articles on Rousseau, Wittgenstein, and Stanley Cavell and is currently working on a monograph explicating reasons for, and critical ramifications of, a decisive turn in Cavell’s work, following The Claim of Reason, from regarding philosophy as a Modernist enterprise to regarding it as a Romantic quest.  Prior to accepting his current position at Le Moyne College, Affeldt was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago and held faculty appointments at Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, and the New School University.

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