Wittgenstein gives voice to an aspiration that is central to his later philosophy, well before he becomes later Wittgenstein, when he writes in §4.112 of the Tractatus that philosophy is not a matter of putting forward a doctrine or a theory, but consists rather in the practice of an activity – an activity he goes on to characterize as one of elucidation or clarification – an activity which he says does not result in philosophische Sätze, in propositions of philosophy, but (...) rather in das Klarwerden von Sätzen, in our attaining clarity in our relation to the sentences of our language that we call upon to express our thoughts.1 To say that early Wittgenstein already aspired to such a conception of philosophy is not to gainsay that to aspire to practice philosophy in such a manner and to succeed in doing so are not the same thing. It is therefore not to deny that, by Wittgenstein’s later lights, the Tractatus is to be judged a work that is marked by forms of failure tied to its having failed fully to live up to such an aspiration. But if it is thus to be judged, then it is to some degree a failure even by Wittgenstein’s own earlier lights. This means that if one wants to understand the fundamental turn in Wittgenstein’s thinking as he moves from his earlier to his later philosophy, and why it is that he wanted the Tractatus to be published and read together with Philosophical Investigations, one needs to understand what sort of failure this is – and that requires coming to terms with the Tractatus’s own understanding of what sort of work it was trying to be. We think that readers of the Tractatus – be they admirers or detractors of Wittgenstein – have, on the whole, failed to do this. (shrink)
Wittgenstein is usually taken to have held that the use of a term is not mentally constrained. That is utterly wrong. A use of language unconstrained by meaning is attributed by him to "meaning-blind" or "aspect-blind" creatures, not to us. We observe meaning when an aspect dawns on us; meaning is the impression (Eindruck) of a term as fitting something; hence, unlike pain, it cannot stand alone. That is a mentalistic theory of meaning: use is determined by images (Vorstellungen) that (...) play semantic roles in virtue of their aesthetic properties. Although a term may be arbitrarily interpreted, aesthetic reasons determine which interpretation be seen as right for it. (shrink)
Why worry about Wittgenstein’s Tractatus? Did not Wittgenstein himself come to think it was largely a mistaken work? Is not Wittgenstein’s important work his later work? And does not his later work consist in a rejection of his earlier views? So does not the interest of the Tractatus mostly lie in its capacity to furnish a particularly vivid exemplar of the sort of philosophy that the mature Wittgenstein was most concerned to reject? So is it not true that the only (...) real reason to worry about the Tractatus is to become clear about what sort of thing it was that the later Wittgenstein was most against in philosophy? Is the interest of the book therefore not largely exhausted by its capacity to show us what the later Wittgenstein did not think? Much of the secondary literature on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, either implicitly or explicitly, answers these questions largely in the affirmative. The aim of this paper is to suggest that the manner in which it has done so has done much to obstruct the possibility of an understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy – both early and late. The aim is not to suggest that these questions should be answered instead in the negative, but rather to furnish a prolegomenon to the possibility of a proper understanding of what – and how much – ought to be affirmed in answering them in the affirmative. As the present volume makes evident, there is currently a debate underway about how to read (and how not to read) Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. This paper will not attempt a direct contribution to that debate,2 it will attempt instead to bring out some of what might be at stake in that debate. It is natural to think that all that ought to be at stake is a fairly parochial question concerning the proper interpretation of Wittgenstein’s work during a single, relatively early phase of his philosophical development. Thus it is natural to conclude that, whatever differences may divide the parties to this debate concerning how to read the Tractatus, nonetheless, au fond these interpreters of Wittgenstein may be in broad agreement about how to read most of the rest of Wittgenstein’s work – or, at least, whatever their disagreements may be about the early work, they are ones that can be independently adjudicated, without substantial cost to anyone’s prior.... (shrink)
This paper comes in three parts. In the first part, I explore the question of the relation between the philosophies of the early and the later Wittgenstein as they are standardly distinguished, with the aim of raising some questions about whether that standard distinction might not obstruct our view of certain significant aspects of the development of Wittgenstein’s thought. In the second part, drawing on the work of Marie McGinn and Warren Goldfarb, I distinguish two senses in which these two (...) commentators have been moved to call upon the expression ‘piecemeal’ in their respective attempts to characterize an important feature of Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophical method. In the third part, I draw upon this distinction to help bring into focus a significant shift in Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophical method which occurs fully within the so-called “later” period—a shift which has in no small part remained invisible due to the manner in which the opposition between an early and a later Wittgenstein has hitherto been conceived. (shrink)
The document before you is by a member of a fanatical sect of heretical Ludwig scholars. Through a twist of fate it has fallen into my hands. I hesitate to make it public, since its circulation may do more harm than good. What speaks against publication is that it has the power to corrupt young minds. I do not take a light view of the dangers it poses in this regard. What speaks in favor of publication is the fact that (...) these people must be stopped. Through their pamphlets and brochures they continue to attract more converts everyday. The importance of this document lies in the fact that it brings to light some of the more esoteric doctrines of the sect, revealing the vulnerable theological underbelly of their creed. It also speaks of quar- relling within the inﬁdel camp. There are even suggestions that the author fears that he himself may be excommunicated by an up-and-coming generation of zealots. He pleads here for a mild interpretation of their creed. (Oblivious to the stench of his own blasphemies, he even imagines entering into dialogue with mainstream Ludwig scholars!) My main aim in making this text generally available is that more learned men than I may make a study of it. A sound theological thrashing of the author’s own (according to him, mild!) version of the creed is devoutly to be wished. But my fondest hope is that, in the hands of one of our ﬁner Ludwig scholars, it might become a weapon that can be turned against the inﬁdel camp. I have a Trojan horse maneuver in mind here. A cunningly crafted pseudonymous publication, addressing some of the niceties of their more peculiar doctrines, under the pretence of attempting to heal the looming schism in their sect, ought to be able to bust it wide open. One particularly confusing feature of the document is that the author occasionally adopts a heavily ironical tone, actually going so far as to refer to himself as an inﬁdel, etc., though without apparently the least appreciation of the fact that the heavier he allows his irony to become, the closer he comes ﬁnally to speaking the truth.. (shrink)
The following is a transcript of a discussion about the question between Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and James Conant. The discussion was part of a series of discussions on more or less philosophical subjects broadcast on Chicago Public Radio. This discussion is anchored by Gretchen Helfrich. Two listeners (Chris and Edwin) also took part.
A central debate in early modern philosophy, between empiricism and rationalism, turned on the question which of two cognitive faculties—sensibility or understanding—should be accorded logical priority in an account of the epistemic credentials of knowledge. As against both the empiricist and the rationalist, Kant wants to argue that the terms of their debate rest on a shared common assumption: namely that the capacities here in question—qua cognitive capacities—are self-standingly intelligible. The paper terms this assumption the Layer-Cake Conception of Human Mindedness (...) and focuses on Kant’s argument against the empiricist version of the assumption, in particular, as that argument is developed in the B version of the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason. The paper seeks to show how a proper understanding of the structure of the B Deduction reveals its aim to be one of making sense of each of these two capacities in the light of the other. For the front of the argument that is directed against the empiricist, this means coming to see how a reading of the text that is informed by the layer-cake conception is mistaken. For the front of the argument which is directed against the rationalist, this requires coming to see how a mere inversion of the central claim of such a reading would be equally wrong. It would require seeing how a discursive faculty of understanding able to traffic in nothing more than empty concepts would no more amount to a genuinely cognitive power than would a faculty of intuition able to traffic in nothing more than blind intuitions. That is, it requires seeing how each of these faculties depends on its relation to the other to be the sort of faculty that it is in a finite rational being. (shrink)
Philosophers ... always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces, through which alone seeing becomes seeing something, are supposed to be lacking; they always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense.
As we have seen, the crucial step in Nietzsche’s argument for his early doctrine is summed by in the following remark: ‘If we are forced to comprehend all things only under these forms, then it ceases to be amazing that in all things we actually comprehend nothing but these forms’ (1979, pp. 87–8). Before eventually learning to be suspicious of it, Nietzsche spends a good deal of time wondering instead what it would mean to live with the conclusion that (what (...) he calls) “the Kantian philosophy” apparently thus forces upon one, if one allows oneself to take this step. The different ways of living with its implications that Nietzsche goes on to distinguish in his early writings play an important role in his own subsequent retrospective understanding of the stations of the dialectic through which his thought had to traverse in its movement towards his mature perspectivism. Nietzsche contrasts these, in turn, with different possible versions of stage-two perspectivism. It is these finer discriminations that Nietzsche makes among the possible ways of occupying the second and third stages of the dialectic that will briefly concern us in this part of the paper. (shrink)
If someone believes himself to have discovered the solution to the problem of life … then in order to refute himself he need only reflect that there was a time when this ‘solution’ had not been discovered; but it must have been possible to live then too…. And that is the position in which we find ourselves in logic. If there comes to seem to be a ‘solution’ to logical (philosophical) problems, we should need only to caution ourselves that there (...) was a time when they had not been solved (and even at that time people must have been able to live and think). (shrink)
Am Beispiel des Films „Lady in the Lake” führt der Aufsatz Aspekte vor, die die Welt eines Films auszeichnen. „Lady in the Lake”, argumentiert der Autor, scheitert in fundamentaler Hinsicht daran, ein Film zu sein. Bei der Beschreibung dieses Scheiterns werde deutlich, was einen Film ausmache. Der Kern des Scheiterns bestehe darin, dass es „Lady in the Lake” nicht gelinge, dem Zuschauer die Erfahrung einer visuellen Absorption zu ermöglichen. Dadurch, dass die Schauspieler im Film den Zuschauer direkt adressieren, unterminieren sie (...) das Vermögen des Zuschauers, sie als Figuren wahrzunehmen, die die narrative Welt eines Films bewohnen. (shrink)
If, as the title of this book suggests, the state of Tractatus commentary has at times recently resembled something close to a state of war, then it has most of all resembled a war of attrition. Against this background, Roger White's "Throwing the Baby Out with the Ladder" makes for refreshing reading. To be sure, White repeats some of the familiar misconceptions of what resolute readers do or must claim that have marred the debate over the adequacies or inadequacies of (...) such an approach to the Tractatus (TLP). But he also introduces some novel and interesting lines of criticism that merit serious attention. Foremost among the latter is White's treatment (in Section III of his paper) of three engaging examples that he sees as making trouble for resolute readers, and for their opposition to the standard idea that the lesson of the Tractatrrs could consist in its communicating, and our grasping, ineffable insights by way of its nonsense-sentences. (shrink)
Gerald Bruns’s “Stanley Cavell’s Shakespeare” is a consistently sympathetic and thoughtful response to Cavell’s difficult essays on Shakespeare.1 Nevertheless, while Bruns’s exposition of Cavell’s thought places it in a pertinently complex region of philosophical and literary concerns, it is hampered by its relative isolation from much of Cavell’s other work and from certain abiding conflicts within contemporary philosophy which inform that work. The resultant misunderstandings of Cavell’s thought are perhaps as inevitable as they are widespread—a function of the way in (...) which the modern American university carves up and compartmentalizes the world of humanistic learning—and are on the verge of becoming entrenched among commentators on his work. Much of Cavell’s work has been concerned to resist some of the costs of this process of compartmentalization or professionalization. The problems this resistance poses for the reception of the work are perhaps nowhere more pervasive than in the case of Cavell’s collection of essays on Shakespeare, Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare, in part because of Cavell’s sense of the figure of Shakespeare, of what this corpus of writing represents. In light of, and in appreciation of, Bruns’s serious and resourceful effort to get Cavell’s thought on these matters straight, it is worth trying to get it clearer. James Conant, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, is currently a fellow at the Michigan Society of Fellows. His “Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein and Nonsense” is included in Pursuits of Reason: Essays in Honor of Stanley Cavell. (shrink)