[lit-ideas] Re: testing waters

  • From: karltrogge@xxxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2009 15:23:57 +0200

On 26-May-09, at 3:34 AM, Richard Henninge wrote:

The end of the Tractatus (6.53, 6.54 & 7), with this note: that Wittgenstein's verb "clarify" (German "erlaütern"), unusually intransitive in this usage, has the same etymology as the first syllable in his first name, "LUDwig," with a basic meaning of "washed, cleaned" and thus "purified, brilliant," like cleaning diatoms, to reveal their structure, by removing all the soft living matter obscuring them, concealing them.

(You will please excuse the extreme tardiness of this comment which has for too long been saved as a draft awaiting a time when I could 'wash and clean' it to make it fit for posting. I would not be sending it - so late - at all, except that the progression of discussion for which I was hoping has not occurred. Here is a little prod.)

Richard Henninge's poetical summation of the end of Wittgenstein's TRACTATUS LOGICO-PHILOSOPHICUS provides a fitting point from which to jump to his (that is, Wittgenstein's not Henninge's) next published work PHILOSOPHISCHE UNTERSUCHUNGEN (Philosophical Investigations).

For, 'purified and brilliant' as the epigrams in TRACTATUS LOGICO- PHILOSOPHICUS are, is not something rather important lost when one 'removes all the soft living matter' from a diatom, particularly if one is interested 'bio-logically' in the diatom - in other words (and here I will betray my hand), as a 'form of life'?

I would think that Wittgenstein was aware of this and thus moved on in the PHILOSOPHISCHE UNTERSUCHUNGEN to argue against "die Verhexung unsres Verstandes durch die Mittel unserer Sprache" (the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language - remark 109).

"Wir erkennen, daß, was wir »Satz«, »Sprache«, nennen, nicht die formelle Einheit ist, die ich mir vorstellte, sondern die Familie mehr oder weniger miteinander verwandter Gebilde. -Was aber wird nun aus der Logik? Ihre Strenge scheint hier aus dem Leim zu gehen. - Verschwindet sie damit aber nicht ganz? - Denn wie kann die Logik ihre Strenge verlieren? Natürlich nicht dadurch, daß man ihr etwas von ihrer Strenge abhandelt. - Das Vorurteil der Kristallreinheit kann nur so beseitigt werden, daß wir unsere ganze Betrachtung drehen. (Man könnte sagen: Die Betrachtung muß gedreht werden, aber um unser eigentliches Bedürfnis als Angelpunkt.)"

In G.E.M Anscombe's English (remark 108): "We see what we call 'sentence' and 'language' has not the formal unity that I imagined, but is a family of structures more or less related to one another.-- But what becomes of logic now? It's rigour seems to be giving way here.--But in that case doesn't logic altogether disappear?--For how can it lose its rigour? Of course not by our bargaining any of its rigour out of it.--The PRECONCEIVED IDEA of crystalline purity can only be removed by turning our whole examination round. (One might say: the axis of reference of our examination must be rotated, but about the fixed point of our real need.)"

The diatoms' structure does not disappear, but if our 'need' is 'bio- logical' (that is, in the soft living matter obscuring it) it ceases to be the focus of our concern, and we rotate the axis of our examination. The result of our attempt at exploration of language along this axis but 'from the other side'?

"Die Sprache ist ein Labyrinth von Wegen. Du kommst von einer Seite und kennst dich aus. Du kommst von eine andern zur selben Stelle, und kennst dich nicht mehr aus."

"Language is a labyrinth of paths. You approach from ONE side and know your way about; you approach the same place from another side and no longer know your way about." (Anscombe again, remark 203)

(This is lengthy for an e-mail posting - at least I for one cannot read electronic text with the same closeness as I can read a printed page - and other matters are pressing so I will end here. I hope that I will find time to participate in any discussion which may arise.)

Karl Trogge,
'auf der Englische Planke' in northern Germany

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