Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (2):223-249 (2007)

Using the later Levinas as a point of departure, this article tries to provide an account of the ethics of Wittgenstein's Tractatus . Although there has not been written much on this topic, there seems to be an increasing awareness among philosophers that there are interesting points of convergence between Levinas and the early Wittgenstein. In contrast to most (if not all) other accounts of the relation, however, this article argues that the truly significant convergence emerges only when one abandons the received interpretation of the early Wittgenstein, and instead opts for something more akin to the ‘new Wittgenstein’ interpretation introduced by Cora Diamond and James Conant, among others. On the received interpretation, Wittgenstein places ethics in a realm of ineffable being and truth, and thus remains within what Levinas calls ontology. But on Conant's and Diamond's reading of Wittgenstein, there really are no profound ethical truths that we cannot state, but only ‘show’; all the sentences of the Tractatus that appear to claim otherwise are ultimately completely nonsensical. This article argues that the Tractatus has an ‘ethical point’ in a quite Levinasian sense, precisely because of the way it unveils its sentences as utterly nonsensical; for this can be seen as a Wittgensteinian attempt to ‘unsay’ the ‘said’, in order to let the ‘saying’ itself be heard. Key Words: ethics • Emmanuel Levinas • nonsense • the Other • said • saying • Ludwig Wittgenstein.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453707074141
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References found in this work BETA

Violence and Metaphysics.”.Jacques Derrida - 2005 - In Claire Elise Katz & Lara Trout (eds.), Emmanuel Levinas. Routledge. pp. 1--88.
Ethics, Imagination and the Method of Wittgenstein's Tractatus.Cora Diamond - 2000 - In Alice Crary & Rupert J. Read (eds.), The New Wittgenstein. Routledge. pp. 149-173.
Elucidation and Nonsense in Frege and Early Wittgenstein.James Conant - 2000 - In Alice Crary & Rupert J. Read (eds.), The New Wittgenstein. Routledge. pp. 174--217.
Must We Show What We Cannot Say?James Conant - 1989 - In R. Fleming & M. Payne (eds.), The Senses of Stanley Cavell. Bucknell. pp. 242--83.

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