Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

In the World (Wittgenstein)


File:Agelaius phoeniceus -standing on wood-8.jpg

6.373 The world is independent of my will.

6.374 Even if all that we wish for were to happen, still this would only be a favour granted by fate; so to speak; for there is no logical connexion between my will and the world, which would guarantee it, and the supposed physical connexion itself is surely not something that we could will.


6.4 All propositions are of equal value.

6.41 The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: i
n it no value exists -- and if it did exist, it would have no value.

If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. For all that happens and is the case is accidental.

What makes it non-accidental cannot lie within the world, since if it did it would itself be accidental.

It must lie outside the world.

6.42 So too it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics.

Propositions can express nothing that is higher.

6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words.

Ethics is transcendental.

(Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921

File:Agelaius phoeniceus 0110 taxo.jpg

Here is a blackbird. How many ways are there to look at a blackbird?

What are the word associations of "blackbird"?

Are neural entanglements possible, with so common and simple a word?

Could such a word be imagined to have unintended, even unsuspected connotative aspects?

Is there a difference between a good poem and an exquisite mechanical toy?

Are those nominations, "poem" and "mechanical toy", merely indications of two aspects of the same thing?

A language is a picture of a world.

In a language game all the plays made by each player of the game are in some sense tricks.

One may imagine language as an element in the infinite game of life, the game whose sole object is to keep playing. Competition, in this regard, would represent a false image. In a game of catch, the object is to keep the game going, not to win. Is there a winner in a game of solitaire?

The object of the language game is to keep the world going.

File:Agelaius phoeniceus 0123.JPG

6.431 So too at death the world does not alter, but comes to an end.

6.4311 Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.

The grave of Wittgenstein, at the parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, is interesting in that it is, at Wittgenstein's wish, not imposing at all, yet receives constant stealthy attention from mystery visitors who scatter pennies and other small objects (a lemon, a porkpie, a a cupcake) upon it, at various times, in curious patterns. Sometimes these votive objects bear an oblique symbolic relation to Wittgenstein's work. In the photo below, Tractatus 6.54 is recalled by the miniature ladder someone has left. These collections of seemingly random objects have replaced one another repeatedly over the years, giving the grave of Wittgenstein, like certain other reminders of the steady presence of the infinite within the finite and the eternal within the temporal in this obscure duck-rabbit picture we call the world, a continuous quality of aspect change.

6.521 The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem.

(Is not this the reason why those who have found after a long period of doubt that the sense of life became clear to them have then been unable to say what constituted that sense?)

6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science--i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy -- and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person--he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy--this method would be the only strictly correct one.

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

File:Wittgenstein Gravestone.jpg

Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoenicius) standing on wood: photo by Bob Jagendorf, 2008
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoenicius): photo by Walter Siegmund, 2008
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoenicius): photo by Walter Siegmund, 2008
Grave of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ascension Burial Ground, Cambridge: photo by Andrew Dunn, 2004


Anonymous said...

Oh Thomas thanks for this. I do so love how you open windows within me and educate me.How you make my brain think. Something which it does not do enough of!

TC said...

Oh, something tells me it (your brain) does plenty, SarahA, and the teaching goes both ways (in the dark of course).

Thank you all the same, especially about the windows.