Thursday, October 26, 2006

1. The world is everything that is the case.

Using "all" for alles introduces an ambiguity (as if other things might be the case too, but happen not to be). "Everything" is slightly unfortunate, given 1.1, but then that removes a possible misreading of 1, which is part of what it is for.


Gordon C. F. Bearn says, in Waking to Wonder: Wittgenstein’s Existential Investigations (SUNY Press, Albany, 1997), p. 47 (and note 51 on pp. 227-228), that the comma after alles in ‘Die Welt is alles, was der Fall ist,’ strengthens the sense given here that there is nothing else beside the world. So maybe it should be "The world is all that is the case," or even "The world is the only thing that is the case." On p. 49, Bearn notes that, “If what is the case might not have been, then logically prior to whatever is the case is whatever might either have been or not have been the case. (In the Tractatus these are states of affairs, combinations of objects.” This reminds me of Kant—see note to TLP 1.1.


This first proposition sounds like a metaphysical truth of some importance, but could it be instead a merely stipulative definition? Or something else, something more problematic? We can only read on and hope that it becomes clear.

Julian Young says: “In the first book of The World as Will … Schopenhauer says that the problem of philosophy is to say ‘what’ the world is. (WR I: 82). Sometimes he says that it is to solve the ‘riddle’ (R├Ątsel) of what the world is. Given the rootedness of this word in German folk tales where solving a ‘riddle’ is often a matter of life and death, this suggests that an answer to the question, rather than merely satisfying the curiosity of armchair investigators, will have existential implications, will have an effect on our lives.”[1] The world presents itself to us as a mystery or riddle. As when decoding a cipher, we can be confident that we have the right solution when the result makes sense, even if we cannot compare it with something else and see that they match. See vol. II pp. 390-392. Our solution must, as it were, justify itself. And experience generally is explained by Schopenhauer’s theory, he believes. It explains nothing beyond the world though, or beyond our experience of the world. Demanding more would be asking for “something that the human intellect is absolutely incapable of grasping and thinking.”[2]

In Book III Schopenhauer says that what is characteristic of the stance of art is that in this stance we consider only the what, not the where, when, why or whither in things. This implies that philosophy has something in common with art, and especially (perhaps) poetry. Young gives the reference here as WR I: 178. Connect this also, perhaps, with TLP 6.432 and 6.44. In Book Three §34 Schopenhauer quotes Spinoza: “The mind is eternal in so far as it understands under the aspect of eternity.” (Ethics V. 31, note). Later (same section, p. 104 in the Everyman edition), Schopenhauer writes: “Anyone who immerses himself in the contemplation of nature so that he continues to exist only as the pure knowing subject, becomes directly conscious that, as such, he is the condition, that is, the one who bears the burden of the world and all objective existence; for this now shows itself to be dependent upon his existence.”

The full quotation from Schopenhauer is that in aesthetic experience:


“we no longer consider the where, the when, the why, and the whither in things, but simply and solely the what. Further, we do not let abstract thought, the concepts of reason, take possession of our consciousness, but instead of all this, devote the whole power of our mind to perception, sink ourselves completely therein, and let our whole consciousness be filled by the calm contemplation of the natural object actually present, whether it be a landscape, a tree, a rock, a crag, a building, or anything else. We lose ourselves entirely in this object, to use a pregnant expression; in other words, we forget our individuality, our will, and continue to exist only as pure subject, as clear mirror of the object, so that it is as though the object alone existed without anyone to perceive it, and thus we are no longer able to separate the perceiver from the perception, but the two have become one. … What is thus known is no longer the individual thing as such, but the Idea … at the same time, the person who is involved in the perception is no longer an individual, for in such perception the individual has lost himself; he is pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge It was this that was in Spinoza’s mind when he wrote ‘mens aeterna est, quatenus res sub aeternitatis specie concipit’ (Ethics, V, prop. 31, schol.)” (WWR vol. I, pp 178-79)

Cf. Notebooks 7/10/16 and TLP 6.45

(Idle thought: compare LW on looking at a stove with Descartes meditating by a stove.)

According to Schopenhauer, genius consists in pre-eminent capacity for such contemplation. (see §36, p. 109 in Everyman) “[A]rt pauses at this particular thing; it stops the wheel of time, for art the relations vanish; only the essential, the Idea, is its object.

“We may, therefore, accurately define it as the way of viewing things independent of the principle of sufficient reason, in opposition to the way of viewing them which proceeds in accordance with that principle, and which is the method of experience and of science.”[3]

“[T]he logical method of mathematics is repugnant to genius…”[4]

The sense of the beautiful comes when we contemplate in the will-less way described above imperceptibly, without struggle. Everything is beautiful, as Dutch still-lifes show. It’s a matter of how you look at things.

The sense of the sublime, in contrast, involves a conscious overcoming of the will. Empty, lonely places are best suited to such a sense, and the capacity to endure solitude is to some extent a measure of one’s intellectual worth. The opposite of the sublime is the charming (which includes the negative charming, i.e. the disgusting).

In relation to Wittgenstein’s feeling of being absolutely safe (which he links with ethics in his lecture on ethics): “Goethe says [The Elective Affinities I, Chap. 6:] ‘No ill can touch him who looks on human beauty; he feels himself at one with himself and with the world.’”[5]

Compare with TLP 6.45.

More Schopenhauer: “[A]nyone who has followed me and entered into my mode of thought will not be surprised if I say that, supposing it were possible to give a perfectly accurate, complete, even detailed, explanation of music – that is to say, to reproduce minutely in concepts what it expresses – this would also be a sufficient reproduction and explanation of the world in concepts, or at least equivalent to such an explanation, and thus it would be the true philosophy.” [6]

Like Schop (and many others), LW sees a problem with Kant’s distinguishing between the knowable phenomenal and the in principle unknowable noumenal, since this very distinction implies some knowledge of the allegedly unknowable. Yet Schop too talks at length about the thing in itself, despite sometimes suggesting that he knows there is something wrong with this. See WWR trans. Payne, vol. 2, p. 197. LW avoids this problem by talking not about limits to what humans can know, but about the limits of meaningful discourse. Glock says: “Instead of issuing doctrines about where the limits of thought lie, philosophy delineates the linguistic rules which determine whether a combination of signs makes sense, that is, capable of representing the world.”[7] [sic]



[1] J. Young Schopenhauer (Routledge, New York, 2005), p. 17.

[2] WWI, trans. Haldane and Kemp, vol. II, p. 392.

[3] Everyman pp. 108-9 (Book Three §36).

[4] Ibid., p. 113.

[5] Ibid., p. 142.

[6] Ibid., p. 172.

[7] Hans-Johann Glock “Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein: Language as Representation and Will,” in Christopher Janaway (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 422-458, p. 433.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

what G.C.F. Bearn says about the comma is a phantasm of his own: in German subordinate clauses are always separated by a comma (just as in older English texts); the same construction, complete with comma, is seen in the Motto "..alles, was man weiss.."; and perhaps this Motto and its author deserve a line or two of comments.

DR said...

Good points. Thank you.

I should add a note on the motto and its author, you are quite right.

I would translate the motto as: "...and everything that one knows, that is not merely thundering and roaring that one has heard, can be said in three words." The word I translate as 'thundering' (rauschen) is related to the word for intoxication, and means making a wind-like sound: rustling, swishing, murmuring, roaring, or thundering. The word I translate as 'roaring' (brausen) is related to water. So instead of "thundering and roaring" we could say "wind and froth" or "intoxication and noise" or "air and bubbles." Juliet Floyd, in "Wittgenstein and the Inexpressible", in Alice Crary (ed.) Wittgenstein and the Moral Life: Essays in Honor of Cora Diamond, MIT Press, 2007, p. 221, note 31, says that this motto poses a riddle that is nominally answered at the end of 4.5. The three words that say all that one knows are, roughly, "so it goes."

Anonymous said...

"The world is everything that is the case."

This is not metaphysical since Witt rejects metaphysics explicitly.

Like Wittgenstein, I am an engineer and also a philosopher. So I believe (IMHO) that I understand him better than many and I would like to make a contribution.

In my view, Wittgenstein is presenting a MODEL of the world. It is not an ontology. How can we model the world? For him, the world is everything that is the case.

It is similar (but not equal) to take a map for representing a city or to take a clock to represent time. Engineers do this kind of thing all the time. Modelling is a very common activity in engineering.

So, we should accept the proposed model in order to go on. If we do not like it, the best way to reject it is to propose another (better) model.

Duncan Richter said...

Thanks. Yes, his background as an engineer may well be relevant.