[L] Fwd: [Wittrs] Re: [quickphilosophy] Tractatus Biographical Stuff

  • From: wittrs wittrs <pfsincl@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 3 Jul 2010 14:14:43 -0400

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From: <wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, Jul 3, 2010 at 1:48 PM
Subject: [Wittrs] Re: [quickphilosophy] Tractatus Biographical Stuff
To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Because Walter will be away for two weeks, and atomism is coming up when he
gets back, I thought I would use the time to talk about some biographical
information about the Tractatus. I'll send a few posts in over the next
couple of days. Today is just two excerpts that might enlighten the idea of
what Wittgenstein means by "world" in the first proposition. (Tomorrow I'll
throw some stuff in from Ray Monk)

LETTER WITTGENSTEIN WROTE to Ludwig von Ficker, editor of "Der Brenner",
regarding the Tractatus:

"The book's point is an ethical one. I once meant to include in the preface
a sentence which is not in fact there now but which I will write out for you
here because it will perhaps be a key to the work for you. What I meant to
write, then, was this: My work consists of two parts: the one presented here
plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that
is the important one. My book draws limits to the sphere of the ethical from
the inside as it were, and I am convinced that this is the ONLY rigorous way
of drawing those limits. In short, I believe that where many others today
are just gassing, I have managed in my book to put everything firmly into
place by being silent about it. And for that reason, unless I am very much
mistaken, the book will say a great deal that you yourself want to say. Only
perhaps you won't see that it is said in the book. For now, I would
recommend you to read the preface and the conclusion, because
they contain the most direct expression of the point of the book."

EXCERPTS FROM A 1929 PAPER on Ethics (which Wittgenstein later called

"Now the answer to all this will seem perfectly clear to many of you. You
will say: Well, if certain experiences constantly tempt us to attribute a
quality to them which we call absolute or ethical value and importance, this
simply shows that by these words we don't mean nonsense, that after all what
we mean by saying that an experience has absolute value is just a fact like
other facts and that all it comes to is that we have not yet succeeded in
finding the correct logical analysis of what we mean by our ethical and
religious expressions. Now when this is urged against me I at once see
clearly, as it were in a flash of light, not only that no description that I
can think of would do to describe what I mean by absolute value, but that I
would reject every significant description that anybody could possibly
suggest, ab initio, on the ground of its significance."

"That is to say: I see now that these nonsensical expressions were not
nonsensical because I had not yet found the correct expressions, but that
their nonsensicality was their very essence. For all I wanted to do with
them was just to go beyond the world and that is to say beyond significant
language. My whole tendency and, I believe, the tendency of all men who ever
tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries
of language."

"This running against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely
hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about
the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can
be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But
it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot
help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it."

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Personal Website: http://seanwilson.org
SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
Discussion Group: http://seanwilson.org/wittgenstein.discussion.html

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