Tuesday, December 04, 2007

6.43 If good or evil willing alters the world, then it can only alter the limits of the world, not the facts; not that which can be expressed through language.

In short, the world must then thereby become an altogether different one. It must, so to speak, wane or wax as a whole.

The world of the happy is a different one than that of the unhappy.

But how can it be? Is this a kind of reductio? It shows that good or evil willing cannot alter the world. This is also shown by the fact that, if it were otherwise, such willing would change something that cannot be expressed through language. But there is no such thing, we cannot possibly make sense of this idea. And what cannot be said cannot be thought, or believed, or etc. Pears and McGuinness have “happy man” even though Wittgenstein explicitly asked Ogden to remove the word “man” from the translation (see Letters to Ogden p. 35).

Cf. Notebooks p. 73.

Schopenhauer contrasts altruism with egoism in a way that comes readily to mind when reading TLP 6.43. Egoism concentrates, while altruism expands. See WWR I: 373-4, and Young Schopenhauer pp. 229-231. “That Wittgenstein’s waxing/waning metaphor so strongly recalls Schopenhauer’s expansion/contraction metaphor makes it look as though Wittgenstein’s person of ‘good will’ is the Schopenhauerian altruist and the person of ‘bad will’ is the Schopenhauerian egoist. In fact, though, I think, only the second half of this equation holds. What Wittgenstein really means by the ‘good exercise of the will’ is a version of asceticism, of Schopenhauer’s ‘denial of the will.’”[1] So it is not about altruistic willing, but rather giving up willing altogether, as far as that can be done.

According to Schopenhauer, we need not only detachment from desire (Stoicism) but the abandonment of desire (Cynicism). Wittgenstein seems to have lived like a Cynic, choosing poverty and asceticism.[2]

Mounce (p. 96): “Wittgenstein does not mean that the ethical attitude is itself a matter of temperament. On the contrary, one’s temperament is just another of the facts towards which one has to adopt an ethical attitude.” [But, Friedlander asks, “what is an attitude toward the world, and in what sense is it not part of psychology?” (pp. 197-198)] The stuff about the world of the happy is only an analogy, Mounce insists.

Anscombe calls the will that alters the limits of the world but effects nothing in it “chimerical” (p. 172). Will, like intention, she suggests, resides in what we do. See PI 644. In a footnote on p. 172, she says that Schopenhauer identifies the world with my will, and regards them both as bad. Wittgenstein sees the world as good and independent of my will. Schopenhauer’s idea of a good will is one that denies itself. Similarly, Wittgenstein’s good will is not concerned with how things are, it accepts the world as it is, however it is, “and in that sense is like Schopenhauer’s good will.”

[1] Young Schopenhauer p. 230.

[2] See Young p. 232. Young cites Schopenhauer WWR II: 155-6.


Anonymous said...

i am still puzzled and one should probably ask the natives about some meanings in the original; somehow i am enclined to read god/evil willing as free and coerced action; thus it correlates with happiness/free and unhappiness/unfree and (?) with less or more facts; people who dont believe in free will get a world with more facts. perhaps in english instead of 'evil' it should be 'bad'; consider also how the french use 'mauvaise volonte'.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 'bad' would work instead of 'evil'. In fact, that's what both Ogden and Pears & McGuinness have. But he is talking here (or has just been, at least) about ethics, and the words are the same as those used in Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, so I think 'evil' is OK.

I don't see anything about free will here though.

Anonymous said...

as i see it he has been 'talking about ethics' only in a negative sense and the point is that free will is a conceptual problem independent of any evaluations; good/evil are not evaluative here and good/evil willing describes spontaneous/forced actions; otherwise i dont really see what acting 'with bad will' would mean.
(note the nuance 6.423:der Wille /6.43:das Wollen)

DR said...

So whether one acted with a good or bad will, spontaneously or forced, one would be acting. Why could action not change the facts? Surely it would.

Anonymous said...

of course acting changes the facts but not any mental stance that goes along with it; different limits appear when you conceive differently which acts are free/unfree

DR said...

I'm not sure where the reference to "acting with bad will" (which you say you cannot make sense of except as coerced action) comes from. Wittgenstein talks about bad (or evil) willing, not acting with a bad will--although I don't see why he couldn't have written about that too.

Whether we have free will or not might well be a matter of how you look at things, though, in Wittgenstein's view. I believe he later said that the question of free will and determinism amounts to the question "Am I a living horror?" (It's possible he was talking of predestination, though, or that I am thinking of O. K. Bouwsma rather than Wittgenstein himself.)

I still don't see any reason to read 6.43 as being about free will, except that you are somehow inclined to read it this way and wonder whether German is like French here. I think the answer to that (does German parallel French on this?) is No. But I'd be interested to see whether any native German speaker can confirm this.

Cedric said...