[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Ostrow Sums Up the Tractatus

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2010 14:11:04 -0000

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

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

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.

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