back to the rough ground

We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

From in Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein, part I, 107.

In this iconic passage, Wittgenstein is speaking of the failed effort by the logical positivists to develop or describe an ideal language, one that had a perfect logical consistency. We need the messiness of metaphor, irony, etc. to make language useful to our actual human needs.

[Note: See this passage for an earlier version of Wittgenstein’s assessment regarding the limitations of language.]

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