The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the eighth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Ben Roth.


Concerning Wittgenstein’s 284th Philosophical Investigation

“And now look at a wriggling [insect] and at once these difficulties vanish and pain seems able to get a foothold here, where before everything was, so to speak, too smooth for it.”

The ants emerge, bearing their dead.
Subterranean already, they do not bury,
but inter instead above.

We are warring; I am winning.
The throes of thoraxes
yield satisfaction, not sympathy.

I erect white domes. At another scale,
such structures would house Olympiads.
But these pettier: poison.

Erect? I mean unpackage.
The ants, they feast, then return below.
Well-dined, well-duped, well-dead.

The healthy must rid the nest of blight.
If each can bear multiples,
their current feats are less fearsome:
one beast, one burden.

Do legs become arms?
If so, two arms, four legs.
I have looked closely, on all fours myself.
Do arms become legs?

The ants emerge, bearing their dead.
The lost are left in light. My kitchen floor:
a field of battle, an Elysian afterlife.

Simulacra of pain: I am unmoved.
Appearance of ritual: I am confused,
I am brought low,
I am, almost.


Dr. Ben Roth received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. His philosophical interests include continental philosophy, philosophy of literature, and aesthetics. Dr. Roth currently works for the Harvard College Writing Program.