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January 21, 2010

Comments

Sarah_Bakewell

I love seeing a good word put in for diplomats, and there's nothing worse than a cold superior silence ending a discussion.

I can't help quoting Montaigne on the many ways conversation can go wrong, including a relapse into Wittgensteinian silence:
"What is the use of your setting out in quest of that which is, with a man whose pace and gait are no good? ... One goes east, the other west; they lose the main point and mislay it in the throng of incidentals. One man catches at a word or a smile. One is no longer aware of his opponent's points, so involved is he in the course of his argument, and he is thinking about following himself, not you. One man, finding his back too weak, fears everything, denies everything ..., or, at the height of the debate, rebels and is flatly silent, through spiteful ignorance affecting a haughty contempt or a stupidly modest avoidance of contention."

No one could call Wittgenstein spitefully ignorant, but I've never liked the way his silence is held up as proof that he must have discovered something the rest of us can't even glimpse. Perhaps he just ran out of things to talk about.

Anyway thanks for a great post! Sarah

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