Thursday, September 28, 2006
§105. All testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system. And this system is not a more or less arbitrary and doubtful point of departure for all our arguments: no, it belongs to the essence of what we call an argument. The system is not so much the point of departure, as the element in which arguments have their life.
§106. Suppose some adult had told a child that he had been on the moon. The child tells me the story, and I say it was only a joke, the man hadn’t been on the moon; no one has ever been on the moon; the moon is a long way off and it is impossible to climb up there or fly there. – If now the child insists, saying perhaps there is a way of getting there which I don’t know, etc. what reply could I make to him? What reply could I make to the adults of a tribe who believe that people sometimes go to the moon (perhaps that is how they interpret their dreams), and who indeed grant that there are no ordinary means of climbing up to it or flying there? – but a child will not ordinarily stick to such a belief and will soon be convinced by what we tell him seriously.
§107. Isn’t this altogether like the way one can instruct a child to believe in a God, or that none exists, and it will accordingly be able to produce apparently telling grounds for the one or the other?
(Wittgenstein, On Certainty. Written long before Armstrong, of course)
It occurs to me that this is why a general belief in Christianity and the church collapsed in the 1960’s in England (the reception to John Robinson). The church no longer took itself seriously, and so nobody believes it anymore.