[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Ostrow Sums Up the Tractatus

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2010 14:07:49 -0000

From Matthew Ostrow's helpful Wittgenstein's Tractatus: A
Dialectical Interpretation.

What W considers as characteristic of the philosophical approach?is
just its tendency to misinterpret that feeling of disquiet, to
misconstrue what is appropriate as a response.  Our unease in the world
crystallizes into unresolvable philosophical perplexity.

This whole issue can be seen to underlie the following important

At the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion
that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural
phenomena. (6.371)

So people stop short at natural laws as at something unassailable, as
did the ancients at God and Fate.

And they both are right and wrong.  But the ancients were clearer, in so
far as they recognized one clear terminus, whereas the modern system
makes it appear as though everything were explained (6.372)

W claims that at the basis of the modern view is a "illusion."
He is not suggesting, then, that the pursuit of philosophy is to be
replaced by a kind of scientism, a belief that the deepest yearnings of
human beings can finally be met in the context of scientific progress. 
But neither are we to turn to nonscientific modes of explanation.  The
ancients are here commended not for having a superior explanatory
system, but for recognizing, in the worlds of the later W, that
explanations come to an end somewhere: rather than serving as the basis
of an ultimate "super account," the appeal to God or fate is,
for the Tractatus, an acknowledgement that there is a point at which
nothing more can be said?.

Over and over, the text attempts to expose the different guises of
philosophical disquietude: as the demand that the picture's
fundamental relation to the world be once and for all secured, as the
need for a theory of types to prevent nonsense, as the attempt to set
down a formal specification of the laws of thought.  And over and over
we are to see in response how, in the words of 5.473, logic must take
care of itself.  We are to see, that is, how there is after all nothing
for us to do to satisfy these kinds of concerns, how it is the concerns
themselves that are the source of our fundamental unease. In gaining
clarity about our philosophical confusions we can then be said to be
liberated from the problem of life, the sense that our fundamental
relationship to the whe world is something that requires a
straightforward solution.  Thus W intersperses remarks about the
disappearance of philosophical problems with claims about the
appropriate way of living in general:

The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the
problem. (Is 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?) (6.521)

If, for the Tractatus, philosophy comes to stand for our fundamental
estrangement from the world, it is then in the disappearance of
philosophy that our redemption lies.

Other related posts: