Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Grammar of Surfing

Good stormy morning everyone! I had to cancel a lesson today due to an unruly sea. So instead I am wrapping my head around Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and Stanley Cavell's comments thereof. Every time I pick the book up it makes me think about surfing and how I am always explaining to my students that learning surfing is learning a new language. In Wittgensteinian terms surfing is a language, or surfing has a grammar all of its own. I want to share this quote from Cavell's Excursus on Wittgenstein's Vision of Language with you all because I think it clearly represents what I am up to in the way that I 'initiate' people into the grammar of surfing:

"Instead, then, of saying either that we tell beginners what words mean, or that we teach them what objects are, I will say: We initiate them, into the relevant forms of life held in language and gathered around the objects and persons of our world. For that to be possible, we must make ourselves exemplary and take responsibility for that assumption of authority; and the initiate must be able to follow us, in however rudimentary a way, naturally (look where our finger points, laugh at what we laugh at, comfort what we comfort, notice what we notice, find alike or remarkable or ordinary what we find alike or remarkable or ordinary, feel pain at what we feel pain at, enjoy the weather or the notion we enjoy, make the sounds we make); and he/she must want to follow us (care about our approval, like a smile better than a frown, a croon better than a croak, a pat better than a slap). "Teaching" here would mean something like "showing them what we say and do", and "accepting what they say and do as what we say and do", etc.; and this will be more than we know, or can say."

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