Wittgenstein's Lion Seeking Peace


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from It is Getting Harder to Talk To One Another:

Look what you did to me @rogero. This deserves its own thread.

Even if a lion could speak, we would never understand it. —Wittgenstein

Look at how the lion contemplates peace in conversation with Bertrand Russel, or perhaps Peaceful Science:

LION: I’ve been thinking. If we invade countries now, we can achieve lasting world peace.

RUSSEL: Are you being serious right now?

LION: Of course! I mean, if no one attacks them to set up peace, how could we ever be peaceful?

RUSSEL: By…being peaceful?


(Walter Rogero) #2

So, that’s hilarious. And the point is, unless we are willing to talk with the lion, we can’t play the game with him or her.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

Even then, we might not be able to come to terms. Look at how the dialogue ends:

RUSSEL: You were right Wittgenstein.

WITTGENSTEIN: I told you that even if a lion could speak, we could never understand it.

RUSSEL: I just figured that language was universal. If I could talk to it, we can find some common ground.

So, in the end, that is our crazy bet. We hope we can talk to Wittgenstein’s lion, and some how find some common ground. I’m hopeful, but it remains to be seen how far this experiment might go.


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(Walter Rogero) #4

Wittgenstein spoke of language games. Kind of like the rules of a game. So, if you know all the vocabulary for a sport but none of the rules, then you still can’t play. For example, I know some terms about cricket, but I don’t know a single rule. I can speak of bowling and a wicket, but would not have foggiest idea what it meant to actually bowl or make a wicket (if that’s the proper term). But if I went to a cricket match (game?) then I could begin learning. I too, want to learn the rules so that I can speak with the lions.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

In fairness, maybe we are the lions. Everyone else might be the Sapiens.


(Neil Rickert) #6

And what about bowling a maiden over?


(Walter Rogero) #7

Of course, a lesson I first learned in the Twilight Zone. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Invaders_(The_Twilight_Zone)

¿But, we are speaking figuratively, no?


(Walter Rogero) #8

Is that a maneuver in Cricket? :wink:


(Neil Rickert) #9

Yes. An over is a round of bowling (six or eight, depending). And bowling is roughly equivalent to baseball pitching.

Bowling a maiden over is when the bowler completes an over (the 6 or 8) with no runs scored. But it’s an expression that is certain to confuse people not familiar with the game.


(Jon Garvey) #10

OK, here’s the standard explanation for you foreigners…

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game

Now, would you like me to explain “silly mid-on” and “square-leg”?


(Jon Garvey) #11

More seriously, whilst it’s good to consider Wittgenstein’s lion in relation to sub-cultural divisions - and equally for understanding the barriers to understanding some distant culture like the biblical authors’ - yet we mustn’t exaggerate the difficulties amongst humans, for we are “from one blood.”

On the trivial level, a village kid injured in the IndonesianTsunami is a big Manchester City fan (not a Surry cricket fan, for some reason).

More seriously, I can go to almost any culture in any country in the world and find a church where Christ is worshipped in a way I would recognise.

Unlike the case of the talking lion, the communication problems are of our own making.

Incidentally, I always used to enjoyy the Sci-Fi writing of Hal Clement, whose method was to set up a meeting between humans and some entirely alien people (such as one with massive gravity, or where the whole population died together and was replaced in some solar cycle), and work out how the misunderstandings between them could be overcome.


(Dan Eastwood) #12

Just remember to feed them first, and you will be OK. :slight_smile:


(Walter Rogero) #13

And you learn something new everyday! Thanks, Neil.


(Walter Rogero) #14

Ha! Or pray God stops their mouths… perhaps an emergency measure, but not the contingency plan?


(Walter Rogero) #15

That is my experience. In carpentry they say to measure twice and cut once, perhaps we need to listen twice and speak once… we understand.


(Walter Rogero) #16

My bases are loaded, and I’m in overtime mentally… not sure I can handle it! :laughing: