You know how much Wittgenstein wanted to know “what does it mean to say something”. I have the same preoccupation, but I am not a philosopher. Sometimes the best way to answer a question is not exactly to keep thinking about it. Knowing that and inspired by some crazy characters in Knut Hamsun’s novels I have my own method of research. I from time to time write or talk to people that I don’t know very well but showed some sympathy - or interest or even friendship - for example, and tell them about my supposed life or about some episode that I imagine may surprise them or leave them a bit curious or embarrassed. I do that in trains and in planes too, not just when I am in town. In a way I am always trying to communicate in those circumstances with people at a deep level, even if it doesn’t look so. What I say is not the most important thing to be considered in such cases. What is relevant is that I dared to talk, that I dared to say it, whatever it was that I said. Then, in a very relaxed mood, aware of my game, I wait for an answer or look at their faces, trying to understand what they feel and what they think. I have to confess that the results are not encouraging. To “hear something” seems to be a disturbing experience, apparently. And if to hear something may be disturbing, I have to conclude that to say something is somewhat risky. More risky when you talk to people you vaguely know, for sure, because even when you don’t say anything particularly important it seems that words may look and may be felt as intimidating. There is a syntax of behavior that is in fact very similar to the syntax that regulates our use of words. Language, we have to conclude, is without any doubt a form of behavior (Wittgenstein says that it is a “form of life”, if I remember well). So, to say something is in every circumstance the same as to do something. That’s why when you do something but people don’t want to have anything to do with you, you are left alone talking to yourself and asking yourself questions about “what is a person”, “what does it mean to be a human being”? I will keep you informed of my research. It gives me so much pleasure to tease and embarrass people that I will most probably progress in a near future a bit more in my understanding of the problem.
Johannes Edward Soice