Telling of (not about) Other Voices
'Real Presences' within a Text Address given at the Work Research Institute, Oslo, March 13th, 1997
These notes are offered as a contribution towards creating a 'dialogically-structured' form of action research (Toulmin and Gustavsen 1996). What I do want to do in these notes is to show how Wittgenstein's (1953, 1980) claims — that (i) "nothing is hidden" from us in our conduct of our own practices, and that (ii) "the origin and primitive form of the language-game is a reaction " — and the methods of philosophical investigation he outlined, can be used to great effect to make us more aware of our own rules in structuring our own everyday affairs. His methods work, not in terms of theories worked out ahead of time in seminar rooms or research laboratories by experts, but in terms of certain practical uses of language 'on the spot': they lead those involved in the practice to attend to what usually passes them by unnoticed, to attend, we might say, to what is in fact visible but usually unremarked on explicitly. Crucially, his 'reminders ' can lead us to focus on novelties, on new but previously unnoticed possibilities for 'going on' available to us in our present circumstances, but present to us only in fleeting moments. If we can allow ourselves to be 'struck' by these novelties, then we can often go on, not to solve what has been seen as a problem, but to develop new ways forward in which the old problems become irrelevant. Thus their main point is the institution within our already existing work practices of a new (dialogical) practice leading to our own increased awareness or mindfulness of the details of these practices. The material in these notes can, I hope, be viewed as a useful set of tools, or 'ways of talking' — Wittgenstein would call them reminders — that work to draw our attention to aspects of our already existing practices that it is important for us to notice.
Published online: 01 January 1998