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Ludwig Wittgenstein
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Plato Offline
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Ludwig Wittgenstein
I want to talk about Ludwig Wittgenstein.

[Image: Ludwig_Wittgenstein_by_Ben_Richards.jpg]

This dude is an interesting character. He became interested in philosophy as an Engineering student at Manchester university.

After tackling a mathematical problem in his studies he became interested in the foundations of mathematics.

This became an obsession - and soon he was in Cambridge studying with the most famous philosopher in the world, Bertrand Russell.

[Image: bertrandrussell2.jpg]

To quote Bertrand Russell, within a few months, the student had become the teacher. And the teacher had become the student.

Most fans of Wittgenstein obsess over his later work. But I prefer his first book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

[Image: tractatus-logico-philosophicus-ludwig-wi...-art1.jpeg]

Instead of completing a philosophical thesis - Wittgenstein handed in this book to his examiners. Despite it being a revolutionary work and one of the most important pieces of philosophy published that century - his supervisors were initially reluctant to award him his doctorate. Since the work didn't fulfill the usual requirements of an academic thesis.

Later he was awarded his doctorate. Not that Wittgenstein cared much since he was the son of one of the wealthiest industrial magnates in Europe (he gave away his fortune, by the way) and he had given up philosophy.

In his mind - the book above answered all the important questions in philosophy, and nothing more needed to be said.

The key idea that the book tries to express is quite mystical. It is the philosophical version of trying to catch your shadow.

Imagine you were blind and trapped inside a sphere since birth. You cannot see the thing that traps you - but you can feel it.

You can feel it - but you wouldn't have the concepts to hand to express what it was you could feel.

Well - it was in this sense - that Wittgenstein wanted to examine language itself and the concepts that could (or could not) be expressed by language.

Wittgenstein wasn't fascinated by what language could be used for. He was interested in what language could not be used for.

This is an important point. Since I feel a lot of students take Wittgenstein to be obsessed wit the workings of language. When in fact - he was obsessed with the opposite.

He was obsessed with finding the limits of language.

Of course - in doing so - he realised that he was using language to examine what it was that language could not express.

Which is a contradiction. This is the bit where Wittgenstein is essentially trying to catch his own shadow.

As such - in this strange work - Wittgnenstein was trying to tightly draw in the limits of what it is that we can express. And in doing so - try to leave behind a space that could be filled by art, music, faith and religion.

Wittgenstein never made any claims as to what art and religion could communicate. Since that would go against the point he was trying to make.

But what he was trying to do - was say that art and religion have important truths that cannot be expressed in mere words.

What are those important truths? It is literally impossible to say.

This work was seen as a book attacking the idea of metaphysics and the search for philosophical truth. And the book does do that - at first glance.

But only because it is trying to invite the reader to walk through a door to who knows where. And to who knows when.

At the end of the book Wittgenstein says, "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical".

Ultimately - this is not a book of philosophy. But a book of mysticism.

Or probably not - since to try and use language to express the ideas that Wittgenstein is attempting to communicate, is to fundamentally misunderstand his point in the first place.

[Image: meanwhile-in-the-philosophy-department.jpg]
(This post was last modified: 01-11-2015 08:35 PM by Plato.)
01-11-2015 08:14 PM
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L M McCoy Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
good informative post.
01-11-2015 08:30 PM
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Plato Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Yeah - I wanted to do a post because I think the key insight that Wittgenstein was trying to share is easy to understand. And should offer comfort for those trying to find meaning and truth through art and religion.

And I say that despite being an atheist myself.
01-11-2015 08:32 PM
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Paracelsus Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
If you look into books like Karen Armstrong's The Case For God, one finds that philosophy and religion have a very deep vein of this sort of thought historically, moving right back to the very earliest forms of religious faith, be it Western or Eastern. Much of it springs from the old, old religious principle that one has to enter into a state of unknowing - being present in the moment but having no fucking clue at all why things are as they are - to touch the divine.

In essence Armstrong makes the contention that it was recognised by philosophy -- in particular the ancient Greeks -- that there two alternative paths to finding one's way to the truth: logos, the use of logic, the how of existence (which is not the same as the Christian Logos) ... and mythos, knowledge without words. (The Greeks even had a word to define the state one reached when words literally failed people and they had a sense of being outside one's self but connected to everything: ekstasis.) It emphasises that religious texts require constant reinterpretation and rereading so as to keep the reader alive to his faith.

Take the Socratic lecture, for example: Socrates is described to us as approaching a person and asking them a fundamental question, such as "What is justice?" And Socrates then undercutting the assumptions of that answer. While this Socratic method is presently used as a torture device in universities in the present day, in Socrates' time its purpose was to make both speakers aware of the terrible limits of language. It was an exercise meant to help a person's philosophical or religious thought. St. Denys, one of the early patriarchs, used this method: he would begin his way of prayer by telling himself that God was good, then undercutting that proposition by pointing out that God was not good since human language could not encompass him, and so back and forth so as to reach a mental state which matches what Wittgenstein was talking about. For various reasons, this approach has fallen out of favour in all but the most mystical branches of the Christian Church, and Islam (bar the Baha'i, maybe) has all but abandoned it in favour of stupid literalism that results in bullshit 40-virgin heavenly harems accessed by exploding airplanes. Maybe the Jews still understand it best: an old proverb goes "What is Torah? It is the interpretation of Torah." And in the Eastern religions, it has also largely failed -- bar perhaps Zen, which is not really a religion as such (being an outgrowth of Buddhism) and which encourages a similar state of unknowing via mindful presence in the moment.

Consider Wittgenstein's last fundamental principle: "Whereof one cannot speak, one must be silent." Consider the way this echoes a quote out of (I think) Baruch in the Bible: "What is not given to you, do not inquire into; what is too sublime for you, do not try to understand".
(This post was last modified: 01-11-2015 09:03 PM by Paracelsus.)
01-11-2015 08:46 PM
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Plato Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Interesting shit.

I see a lot of similarity in the work of Wittgenstein and Heidegger. Even though they inspired schools of thought that see themselves as diametrically opposed.

Heidegger's greatest interest was in the work carried out by the pre-Socratics. In their interest in existence (what Heidegger calls 'Being') itself - he saw a path to truth which had been overlooked in the following 2,500 years.

And later in his career, after "the turn", he interrogated art as a way of trying to capture this style of thinking - which rebelled against the notion of interrogating nature in the search for answers.

He thought that the contemplation of 'being' would offer more insight than the interrogation of 'being'.

Since one was a dialogue which could only be carried out through language. Whilst the other approach could reach for truths that lay beyond language.

Which is why Heidegger went from writing 600 page books about 'Being and Time' - to contemplating poetry and paintings, such as the following work by Van Gogh:

[Image: a-pair-of-shoes-van-gogh-reproduction-pa...4437-p.jpg]
(This post was last modified: 01-11-2015 09:22 PM by Plato.)
01-11-2015 08:58 PM
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Krusyos Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Great post. Paraclesus also made some interesting observations. He points out the great failure of Western Christianity: inability to comprehend that there are some things logic cannot encompass. The absurdity of scholasticism does not account for that which cannot be expressed with logic. However, Paraclesus seems very dismissive of most Christianity, perhaps not realizing that the Orthodox church has always taken a firm stance against the exclusive use of logic in theology and philosophy. The Orthodox Church has preserved the Sacred Tradition, and in that Sacred Tradition also an understanding of when the mind fails and the soul must take the driver's seat. The large monastic community of the Orthodox church attests to this. Most of their time is spent in contemplation, meditation, and prayer upon that which they do not know. Only a small portion of their day is spent in theological texts and the exhaustive logic-chopping found in theology books trying to explain the inexplainable.
01-12-2015 01:38 PM
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Paracelsus Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
(01-12-2015 01:38 PM)Krusyos Wrote:  Great post. Paraclesus also made some interesting observations. He points out the great failure of Western Christianity: inability to comprehend that there are some things logic cannot encompass. The absurdity of scholasticism does not account for that which cannot be expressed with logic. However, Paraclesus seems very dismissive of most Christianity, perhaps not realizing that the Orthodox church has always taken a firm stance against the exclusive use of logic in theology and philosophy. The Orthodox Church has preserved the Sacred Tradition, and in that Sacred Tradition also an understanding of when the mind fails and the soul must take the driver's seat. The large monastic community of the Orthodox church attests to this. Most of their time is spent in contemplation, meditation, and prayer upon that which they do not know. Only a small portion of their day is spent in theological texts and the exhaustive logic-chopping found in theology books trying to explain the inexplainable.

I'll accept the chiding on Orthodox tradition since it's outside my experience, but that's an encouraging sign nonetheless -religion, like love, when practiced properly is a verb rather than a noun. It requires discipline, patience, and focus. Consider the Old Testament story of Jacob, wrestling with the angel of God all night, and literally wringing a blessing out of the angel at dawn. Jacob receives the blessing and is transformed as a result of his struggle with the divine: he is renamed Israel, which is significant because Jacob means one who supplants while Israel means prince, lord.

Armstrong proposes that the reason the mystical thread has dropped out of (Western) Christianity comes down fundamentally to our fascination with logic and scientific method in roughly the 16th and 17th centuries.
(This post was last modified: 01-12-2015 09:36 PM by Paracelsus.)
01-12-2015 09:31 PM
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Krusyos Offline
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
(01-12-2015 09:31 PM)Paracelsus Wrote:  
(01-12-2015 01:38 PM)Krusyos Wrote:  Great post. Paraclesus also made some interesting observations. He points out the great failure of Western Christianity: inability to comprehend that there are some things logic cannot encompass. The absurdity of scholasticism does not account for that which cannot be expressed with logic. However, Paraclesus seems very dismissive of most Christianity, perhaps not realizing that the Orthodox church has always taken a firm stance against the exclusive use of logic in theology and philosophy. The Orthodox Church has preserved the Sacred Tradition, and in that Sacred Tradition also an understanding of when the mind fails and the soul must take the driver's seat. The large monastic community of the Orthodox church attests to this. Most of their time is spent in contemplation, meditation, and prayer upon that which they do not know. Only a small portion of their day is spent in theological texts and the exhaustive logic-chopping found in theology books trying to explain the inexplainable.

I'll accept the chiding on Orthodox tradition since it's outside my experience, but that's an encouraging sign nonetheless -religion, like love, when practiced properly is a verb rather than a noun. It requires discipline, patience, and focus. Consider the Old Testament story of Jacob, wrestling with the angel of God all night, and literally wringing a blessing out of the angel at dawn. Jacob receives the blessing and is transformed as a result of his struggle with the divine: he is renamed Israel, which is significant because Jacob means one who supplants while Israel means prince, lord.

Armstrong proposes that the reason the mystical thread has dropped out of (Western) Christianity comes down fundamentally to our fascination with logic and scientific method in roughly the 16th and 17th centuries.

I was just listening to a lecture when the lecturer made an interesting point about theology. He said that good theology is not a definition... it is a boundary we set up and say "if you step outside of this boundary, you are no longer describing God." Since God is unknowable, we can't come to a full understanding of him (not even in the next life, although we will be participating in his divine energies for all eternity).

Yes, he is very correct to point out the beginnings of the Enlightenment. The Middle Ages were bad enough when it came to logic chopping, but the Enlightenment really just took scholasticism to its logical conclusion and said "Fuck spirituality, all I need is my logos." We still suffer from the consequences of the Enlightenment today, namely the doctrine of equality that they engineered. This is not to say that the Enlightenment was a totally bad movement. It also kick-started science into full gear. Unfortunately, it did so to the exclusion of spirituality. History seems to be one big over-reaction after another.
01-12-2015 11:57 PM
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
I came across this anecdote and thought it shows his character more than any book ever can.

http://johnfinnemore.blogspot.co.uk/2016...-head.html

Quote:This is from a memoir of Ludwig Wittgenstein by his former pupil Maurice Drury:

'After tea Johnson played some of Bach's Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues. Wittgenstein told me he admired Johnson's playing. On the way back to Trinity he told me that at one of these afternoons Johnson had played badly, and he knew it himself, but the audience had applauded loudly. This annoyed Johnson, so by way of revenge he gave as an encore the accompaniment only of a Beethoven violin sonata, which of course was meaningless without the violin part. This gesture seemed to please and amuse Wittgenstein.'

"I'd hate myself if I had that kind of attitude, if I were that weak." - Arnold
07-06-2016 04:04 AM
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RE: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Funny how both Plato and Aristotle got banned.

As for anecdote, nothing is going trump this classic which reveal Wittgenstein's character like no other:
He would visit Russell's rooms at midnight and pace back and forth "like a caged tiger. On arrival, he would announce that when he left he would commit suicide. So, in spite of getting sleepy, I did not like to turn him out." On such a night, after hours of dead silence, Russell said, "Wittgenstein, are you thinking about logic or about yours sins?" "Both," he said, and resumed his silence.
07-06-2016 05:49 AM
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