Some things are hard to put into words, including profound experiences that inform our way of judging the world. This paper explores the intersection of the problem of putting such experiences into words and the problem that some disagreements hinge on unshared experiences. I suggest that two ways of dealing with these difficulties--which I call mysticism and extreme anti-mysticism--are both false. I consider in detail examples involving Wittgenstein's "wondering at the existence of the whole world", J.M. Coetzee's character Elizabeth Costello and her horror at the treatment of animals, and a correspondence between Freud and Romain Rolland about the "oceanic feeling." Often, what we need is not simply to put our experience into words but rather to find a way to give the other a similar experience.Comments will be greatly appreciated.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
The Difficulty of Experience
I've just posted a draft of a paper I've been working on for awhile. Here it is. And here's a description: