When one creates some logical content, like in programming, only naives think that this is a rational way of thinking. In fact, this is based on patterns and intuition.

Did Wittgenstein say anything about this?

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    Can you give us some hints as to why you think Wittgenstein would have said something to the effect that only the naive think they are creating logical content? I'm not a Wittgenstein scholar but that doesn't exactly jive with anything I remember from reading Wittgenstein.
    – virmaior
    Oct 23, 2014 at 7:56
  • only naives think that this is a rational way of thinking. In fact, this is based on patterns and intuition. -> As a programmer, I gotta say if programming is done via intuition and not reasoning, then your definition of "reasoning" probably excludes all thinking. Can you explain what you mean a little more? It is interesting, at least. Oct 23, 2014 at 14:29
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    @goldilocks As another programmer. I would agree with the OP. There is a level of operation that Heidegger calls 'expertise', like fluency in a language, and in that state, your actions are driven by taste and unconscious experience most of the time. When you have to actually 'think' consciously, you are falling back on pre-expert patterns, which the naive imagine are your normal patterns of action.
    – user9166
    Oct 23, 2014 at 19:48
  • @jobermark I don't disagree with your answer but there is an unsubtle difference between "only the naive imagine this is conscious" (your phrase) and "only naives think that this is a rational way...". I don't see a conflict between reason and intuition the way you've described, if the later refers to learned patterns that have become unconscious, they are rational mechanisms. Oct 24, 2014 at 13:14
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    @goldilocks As I read him, Wittgenstein would, in fact, say no, there is no form of rationality that does not base a language-game, and there are no language-games that are fully and implicitly logical.
    – user9166
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


Heidegger calls this point where a logical context allows intuition to function efficiently the state of being 'expert'. It dominates most of the experience of most programmers or other craftsmen most of the time, and when it fails, there is a specific feeling of 'being thrown' out of context. (For outside touchstones, expertise is the quality of 'quality' in 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and is the mechanical aspect of Integrity (the 'Te') in some interpretations of the Tao Te Ching. It is the feeling you are most effective when not thinking.)

The context of expertise is a lot like what Wittgenstein calls a language-game, only local. The rules are unclear, but everyone has adapted to them, and this co-adaptation allows most action to be based on taste and unconscious experience.

Only the naive imagine that what goes on in the writing of prose is mostly conscious. Our grammar and rhetorical sense passes below a given level of cognitive demand when we achieve real fluency, and we enter the 'game' of writing as real players. Wittgenstein would claim that all thinking, even deep philosophical reasoning has this same character, that there are no interactive processes that do not become 'language-games' in this sense for most of the participants.

The two points of view are kind of complementary takes on the same thing. Wittgenstein was focused on how much of the game-rules we do not need to learn in order to play well, and how philosophy backs off to see the rules and tell when you are adapting them to new purposes, and when you are just outside them. He is fascinated by how much we know without knowing that we know it. Philosophy becomes a game of determining when we would be better of knowing what we do and do not know, and when we would in fact not be better off learning that.

The notion of expertise is instead focused on how much of what we could be doing consciously we would rather abandon to automatic processes, and how little we communicate about this state, and therefore most of our experience. We are experts at living, and real understanding explains that expert realm, not just the underlying pre-expert mechanical details. (The emphasis in computing is then on creating convincing phenomena that keep someone in a state of expertise most of the time without abandoning them completely when they are 'thrown'. You want things to be automatic, but not so automatic that one is thoroughly unaware of the underlying rules when one has to think through an unfamiliar situation.)

  • I'm sorry. What on earth do you mean by mechanical aspect of Te 徳 ? The word means excellence or virtue.
    – virmaior
    Oct 24, 2014 at 4:56
  • I haven't read Heidegger on this but on some others things (e.g. Being and Time) and he tends to use words in transplanted ways -- or (I think) unique compounded German words that loose their unique connotation when translated. I just mention this because intuition here strikes me as one of those and googling around implies he actually refers to several different kinds of "intuition". What you've described here is probably not so different than contemporary mainstream psychologies of expertise. Oct 24, 2014 at 13:19
  • @virmaior The word means something that does not translate. There are interpretations of Lao Tzu from positions other than complete religious acceptance. Such translators interpret it in the way I am referencing tend to translate it as 'integrity' or some other word referring to completeness, over sheer value (see Victor Mair's). "The master does not act, and things are accomplished." captures the basic feeling behind 'flow' and expertise.
    – user9166
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:28
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    @goldilocks I am just attributing to Heidegger because my sources (from the early 1990's) do so. They may be reaching. There is a spate of books on interface design from that era that shifted the domain away from aesthetics and goal-orientation and toward psychological considerations and contextual learning.
    – user9166
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:40
  • @jobermark No, really the translations of 徳 as "integrity" is out of the norm even for a philosophical translation. A better non-religious translation is "power" as suggested by Roger Ames and David Hall. This seems to only be the translation of Mair -- amazon.com/Tao-Te-Ching-Classic-Integrity/dp/055334935X -- who isn't a philosopher. The normal chinese word for integrity is 忠 which occurs in documents as old as the Tao Te Jing...
    – virmaior
    Oct 25, 2014 at 1:24

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