Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ludwig Wittgenstein - Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus II

"It was not an easy task for me to write anything on Wittgenstein. The problem is, after reading about a page and a half of any of his works my mind shuts down completely. I fall asleep or start daydreaming. It’s some kind of automatic defence mechanism. When we had the Wittgenstein picnic in Jesmond Dene a year and a half ago, I only managed to stay awake throughout by being seriously physically uncomfortable, sitting on the cold, hard ground. So in preparing for this talk, I have circumvented reading any Wittgenstein by making use of two books on Wittgenstein ... My problem with Wittgenstein is really very simple: he completely misses the point.
Wittgenstein thinks that religion and morality are beyond the limits of language, beyond what can be said. This is very easy to refute, although it cannot be said, only shown: [hold up William James]. The fact that William James has managed to write a book on religion that makes sense to a total and utter atheist like myself is enough to show that Wittgenstein is wrong.
There is nothing in the structure or nature of language that stops us from talking about religion or morality. The structure of language has nothing to do with the limits of our knowledge about religion or morality.
I have serious problems with Wittgenstein’s approach. Why does he pretend to just describe and do all his theory implicitly? Why does he refuse to set down his views in a structured format? Surely his approach leads to inconsistencies in his work and makes life more difficult for someone who tries to follow his reasoning?
I don’t see how a study of the structure of language has any bearing on philosophy. If you’re after the conditions of being, study the conditions of being. Language is a product of being, not a condition.

Secondly, there’s nothing you can’t talk about, as long as you do it properly. It’s perfectly valid to discuss morality, aesthetics or even religion. Certainly the limits of language won’t prevent you from saying anything a human can know about any subject.

Thirdly: I’m happy that I have done this Investigation. Until today, I hated Wittgenstein more or less instinctively. At least now I have given a rational defence of my dislike.

Finally: I hope that this has shown all Wittgensteinians to be forever silent. Can I leave now?"

No comments:

Post a Comment