Wednesday, December 05, 2007

7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

And this tautology is what is so hard for the philosopher to accept. The goal of the book, it seems, is to lead one to acceptance, to peace. Cf. PI 133. The TLP offers one method, the PI perhaps another. Or more than one. Cf. Schopenhauer: Kant “had circumnavigated the world and shown that because it is round, one cannot get out of it by horizontal movement.” (The World as Will and Idea trans. R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp (3 volumes, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1883), vol. II, p. 10).

Ostrow (p. 133) sees an ethical obligation here, since failure to remain silent would indicate a refusal to accept reality or the course of one’s own experience. Yet see what Wittgenstein says about talking nonsense in the Lecture on Ethics.

Friedlander (p. 148) notes that Wittgenstein talks about speaking (sprechen) not saying (sagen). “What is at stake here is, then, an actual intervention with speech rather than the abstract opposition of the sayable and the unsayable.” He continues, in the next paragraph: “Moreover, the opposite of silence is not necessarily speaking with sense but, rather, making noise. Speaking without sense is one way of being noisy. The ending of the Tractatus should therefore be read in conjunction with the epigraph of the book, which places the act of expression against a background of noise: “…and whatever a man knows, whatever is not mere rumbling and roaring that he has heard, can be said in three words.” The implication is that the noise of empty talk, whether it be nonsense or mere mindlessness, conceals something. To be silent means primarily not to fall prey to the rumbling and roaring of rumor. Silence is what we need in order to be attentive to what there is, to the showing of truth.”

This seems to go perhaps farther than the text warrants, but Wittgenstein’s remarks about Moore (in his comment on Heidegger) bear some of it out. As does Kierkegaard’s valuing of silence. There is still some dubious residue though, I think.

Friedlander (pp. 149-150) goes on to show how Wittgenstein’s views on silence were not simple, at least later in his life. We must not, he seems to say there, be silent about important matters (e.g. God) just because chatterboxes talk a lot of nonsense about such things. But it still seems important to him not to be one of these chatterboxes. He gave his word to a friend of his (Drury) that he would not refuse to talk to him about God or religion. It does not follow that he would have no objection to a philosopher publishing works for a general (i.e. wide, impersonal) audience on such subjects.

Then again, Nordmann (p. 156) says that “one remains silent when speaking nonsense knowingly.” As long as we do not actually say anything, we can speak as much as we like (which perhaps will not be very much, of course), so long as we know what we are doing and do not lay any “claim on what is inexpressible in speech.”

Schopenhauer Fourfold Root p. 154: “Indeed, there are some [ideas] which never find words, and alas these are the best.”

Black (p. 378) quotes Silesius: “Schweig, Allerliebster, schweig: kannst du nur gänzlich schweigen,/ So wird dir Gott mehr Gut’s, als du begehrst, erzeigen." This is translated by Maria Shrady in Angelus Silesius The Cherubinic Wanderer (Paulist Press, 1986) thus: "Silence, Beloved, be still; if you be wholly quiet, God will show you more good than you know how to desire." (p. xi) This disguises the repetition of schweigen, though, so perhaps "Silence, beloved, silence: if you can only be completely silent, then God will show you more good than you know how to desire" might be preferable.

6.54 My propositions elucidate by whoever understands me perceiving them in the end as nonsensical, when through them – upon them – over them, he has climbed out. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed out upon it.)

He must overcome these propositions, then he sees the world rightly.

More images of inversion, like a kitten escaping from a sweater by, trying to run or climb, turning the sweater inside out. What does the enlightened reader climb out of after all? Surely the very propositions that he climbs through, on, and over. And how can Wittgenstein be so sure that he will then see the world rightly? Because, whatever else might be the case, he will no longer be in the grip of philosophical/metaphysical illusion. “Overcome” is more literal and everyday than “transcend,” and gets across the idea of struggle. It is preferred therefore by Cora Diamond. See footnote 33, p. 121 of Diarmuid Costello “’Making Sense’ of Nonsense” in Barry Stocker, ed. Post-Analytic Tractatus, Ashgate, 2004.

The ladder image occurs in Fritz Mauthner’s Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1901-3), vol. I, p. 2, and in Schop WWR vol. 2, p. 80.

On p. 78 Anscombe says that “Wittgenstein used to say that the Tractatus was not all wrong: it was not like a bag of junk professing to be a clock, but like a clock that did not tell you the right time.”

Friedlander (p. 13) says: “Logically speaking, the Tractatus does not exist.”

Cf. CV p. 7: "I might say: if the place I want to get to could only be reached by way of a ladder, I would give up trying to get there. For the place I really have to get to is a place I must already be at now.

"Anything that I might reach by climbing a ladder does not interest me."

Nordmann (p. 23) quotes Lichtenberg: “we always teach true philosophy with the language of the false one.” From Georg Christoph Lichtenberg Aphorisms and Letters ed. Franz Mautner and Henry Hatfield, London: Jonathan Cape, 1969, p. 53. According to Nordmann (p. 199, note 86): “TLP 6.54 (“my sentences are nonsensical”) is nonsense par excellence and therefore self-exemplifying.”

Cf. also Plato’s divided line in the Republic (Book VI, especially 511b-e). Here Plato contrasts the activity of geometers with that of philosophers, philosophers being distinguished by their going back to the beginning and not basing their reasoning on any assumptions. In philosophy, in Waterfield’s translation (p. 239), “When [reason] takes things for granted, it doesn’t treat them as starting-points, but as basic in the strict sense—as platforms and rungs, for example. These serve it until it reaches a point where nothing needs to be taken for granted, and which is the starting-point for everything. Once it has grasped this starting-point, it turns around and by a process of depending on the things which depend from the starting-point, it descends to an end-point. It makes absolutely no use of anything perceptible by the senses: it aims for types by means of types alone, in and of themselves, and it ends its journey with types.” It is worth noting that Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy, which was published in 1912, specially recommends Plato’s Republic for the “student who wishes to acquire an elementary knowledge of philosophy” (along with six classics of early modern philosophy) and especially picks out Books VI and VII from the Republic. It seems likely, then, that Wittgenstein, who was first formally taught philosophy by Russell in late 1911, would have read this part of the Republic.

Also possibly relevant, from Book VII of the Republic 533c: “For if your starting-point is unknown, and your end-point and intermediate stages are woven together out of unknown material, there may be coherence, but knowledge is completely out of the question.”

And compare Schopenhauer Fourfold Root p. 120: “But it would be downright chicanery and nothing else, if the attempt were made to compare or even identify the honest and thorough analysis here given of empirical intuitive perception into its elements, such elements proving to be subjective, with Fichte’s algebraical equations between the ego and non-ego; with that sophist’s pseudo-demonstrations, requiring the cloak of incomprehensibility and even nonsense to deceive the reader; with explanations such as the ego spinning the non-ego out of itself; in short, with all the tomfoolery of scientific emptiness.” Is the TLP comparable to Fichte’s work in some such way?

White (pp. 115-117) sets out various ways in which Wittgenstein has ‘said’ things that, he says, cannot be said, e.g. in his remarks on formal concepts and the logical form of propositions that is shared with reality.

Schopenhauer WWR Vol. II, p. 80: “However, for the man who studies to gain insight, books and studies are merely rungs of the ladder on which he climbs to the summit of knowledge. As soon as a rung has raised him one step, he leaves it behind. On the other hand, the many who study in order to fill their memory do not use the rungs of the ladder for climbing, but take them off and load themselves with them to take away, rejoicing at the increasing weight of the burden. They remain below forever, because they bear what should have borne them.” See David Avraham Weiner Genius and Talent: Schopenhauer’s Influence on Wittgenstein’s Early Philosophy (Associated University Presses, London, 1992), pp. 42-43 for more on this.

Black (p. 377) also quotes Sextus Empiricus comparing a skeptic who proves the non-existence of proof to a man who kicks over a ladder after he has used it to climb to a high place.

6.53 The right method for philosophy would properly be this: To say nothing other than what can be said, thus propositions of natural science – thus something that has nothing to do with philosophy –, and then always, if another wanted to say something metaphysical, to point out to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying for the other person – he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy – but it would be the only strictly correct one.

Not the method used in the Tractatus, apparently (it does not seem to consist solely of propositions of natural science, after all), but perhaps the one used (in attempt, at least) by certain Wittgensteinians. Why does he not use it here? It is an ad hominem method, and here he wants a general approach. He, as it were, demonstrates a method, by examples. But it also is somewhat ad hominem, with Frege and Russell being the most obvious targets.

How would the strictly correct method be justified? The demonstration of a method (or methods) works, if at all, by being shown or found to be successful. If the aim is clarity, then the method would be justified by being shown to lead to clarity.

Consider the method advocated here in possible application to Frege. Frege never defines “course-of-values.” See Basic Laws vol. 2 §146. He says it cannot be defined, even though he uses the concept a lot and introduces it as early as §3. All that he can do, he says, is to give hints as to the meanings of such terms, and hope that the reader gets the idea. But in such cases, Weiner points out (see pp. 159-160 of Reck), it is possible that the author himself has failed to give a meaning to his term.

Anscombe (p. 151): “The criticism of sentences as expressing no real thought, according to the principles of the Tractatus, could never be of any very simple general form; each criticism would be ad hoc, and fall within the subject-matter with which the sentence professed to deal.” Wittgenstein is not, for instance, putting forward a verificationist criterion of meaning.

Black (p. 377): “It will be noticed, of course, that the method pursued in the Tractatus is not the ‘correct’ one.”

6.522 There is to be sure the unspeakable [unutterable, ineffable]. This shows itself, it is the mystical.

Black (p. 376) offers “the inexpressible” as a literal translation of Unaussprechliches. Does Wittgenstein mean that philosophers want to do something that cannot be done, and that this something is the mystical? Is it mystical that there should be such a problem? Or does he mean that we can call “the ineffable” or “the mystical” whatever it is (although, in fact, he has shown it to be illusory) that philosophers want to try to express? Otherwise 6.522 seems to contradict 6.5, on which it is a comment! In Letters to Ogden, p. 37, he says that das Mystiche here is the same as in the case of 6.44 but not the same as 6.45. So is it not a feeling?

Anscombe (p. 19): “There is indeed much that is inexpressible—which we must not try to state, but must contemplate without words.” See comment on 1.1.

Friedlander (p. 143 note 19) argues that Ogden’s translation of “Es gibt as “There is” is preferable to P&McG’s reference to things that make themselves manifest, since that “makes the ending most problematic.”

Nordmann (pp. 50-51) argues that unaussprechlich should be translated ‘inexpressible in speech.’ It is not the same as ‘unsayable’, since a proposition can say (as in 5.542’s “’p’ says p”), but refers rather to the ability (or inability) of a human subject to get something out in language. 4.115 is the only place in the TLP where Wittgenstein mentions the sayable and the unsayable. Nordmann contrasts the expressible in speech with what is expressible in music, gesture, or conduct. He sees this remark as following from the denial of what needs to be denied (its contrary) in order to avoid the contradiction in 6.41 (see p. 194). Yet he also sees this remark itself as nonsensical because it fails to establish a subject-predicate relation, and is therefore ungrammatical. See p. 198. Nevertheless, he persists. On pp. 198-199 he writes: “That the words “there is indeed the inexpressible in speech” are nonsensical and have no sense makes the point that there is, indeed, the inexpressible in speech.”

6.521 The solution of the problem of life is perceived in the vanishing of this problem.

(Is not this the reason why people to whom the meaning [Sinn] of life has become clear after long doubt could not then say in what this meaning consists?)

Anscombe says (p. 170) that this shows that Wittgenstein does not think all thoughts of the meaning of life are nonsense. After all, how could it become clear unless it could at least be shown?

6.52 We feel that even if all possible questions of natural science were to be answered, our life problems [existential problems?] would still not have been touched at all. Of course there would then be no more questions remaining; and just this is the answer.

It is? One possible interpretation: These questions, the life ones, are illusory. They are not questions, but feelings of a certain kind. Feelings that feel as though they will go away when an answer is found, but that can be shown to be unanswerable by any possible answer. And so we see that the feelings are misleading. Will they then go away? Maybe, maybe not. But we can at least deal with them honestly, knowing them for what they are (not).

6.51 Skepticism is not irrefutable, but rather manifestly nonsensical [offenbar unsinnig], if it would doubt where nothing can be asked.

Since doubt can only exist where a question exists; a question only where an answer exists, and this only where something can be said.

The ‘if’ might be worth noting here. Wondering about the meaning of life would then be manifestly nonsensical too. Cf. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: “To know what questions may reasonably be asked is already a great and necessary proof of sagacity and insight. For if a question is absurd in itself and calls for an answer where none is required, it not only brings shame on the propounder of the question, but may betray an incautious listener into absurd answers, thus presenting, as the ancients said, the ludicrous spectacle of one man milking a he-goat and the other holding a sieve underneath.” (A 58/B 82-83)

6.5 If it requires an answer that one cannot articulate, then one also cannot articulate the question.

The riddle does not exist.

If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.

The second sentence refers back to 6.4312. 6.5 supports my interpretation of 6.4312. But is even 6.5 meant to be nonsense? What are we told here, after all? In Letters to Ogden, Wittgenstein says (p. 37) that his reference here to “the riddle” “means as much as “the riddle ‘par excellence’”.” Joachim Schulte on p. 132 of his essay in Stern and Szabados eds. Wittgenstein Reads Weininger suggests that the reference here and in 6.4312 might be allusions to Weininger. On pp. 128-129 Schulte quotes Weininger to the effect that “the deepest problem in the universe” is constituted by the riddle of life together with the riddle of the world. The riddle of the world is said to be the riddle of dualism, while the riddle of life is the riddle of time. Weininger links the fact that life is not reversible with the meaning of life, and claims that, “The unidirectionality of time is … identical with the fact that the human being is at bottom a being that wills.”[1] Of course, as Schulte notes, there is a lot of irony and paradox in Weininger. Wittgenstein discusses the unidirectionality of time in Notebooks 12 October 1916.

[1] Weininger On Last Things, p. 89.

6.45 The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a – limited – whole.

The feeling of the world as a limited whole is the mystical.

But this too is impossible, nonsense. Isn’t it? Wittgenstein says ““das mystiche” is an adjective belonging to “Gefühl” here, and considers the translation “the mystical feeling,” although he prefers simply “the mystical,” see Letters to Ogden, pp. 36-37. See notes on 1 for Spinoza and Schopenhauer on this kind of contemplation.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

6.44 The mystical is not how the world is, but rather that it is.

And this is beyond language, haven’t we seen above? Indeed, isn’t “There is a world” nonsense? Frege distinguishes between mere existence and actuality, between existence and existence in a spatio-temporal field, causal chains, etc. (See Sluga’s book on Frege, pp. 88-90.) In Frege’s terms, ‘is’ in ‘There is a world’ could only be used in the very thin sense, and it isn’t clear what this sense is. “Affirmation of existence is indeed nothing other than denial of the number zero. Since existence is a property of concepts, the ontological proof of the existence of God fails in its aim.” (Foundations of Arithmetic, §53.) Saying ‘A world exists’ is saying something about the concept world, namely that it is instantiated, while saying ‘The world exists’, if “the world” is meant to be the name of something specific, makes no sense. “With a concept the question is always whether anything, and if so what, falls under it. With a proper name such questions make no sense. We should not be deceived by the fact that language makes use of proper names, for instance Moon, as concept words, and vice versa; this does not affect the distinction between the two. As soon as a word is used with the indefinite article or in the plural without any article, it is a concept word.” (Foundations of Arithmetic, §51).

6.4321 The facts all belong only to the assignment, not to the correct response to it.

If we see life in these terms, that is. “Correct response” instead of “solution” because in Letters to Ogden, p. 36, Wittgenstein says the word should be appropriate for, e.g. the digging of a hole when someone tells someone to dig a hole.

6.432 How the world is, is completely indifferent for what is Higher. God does not disclose [or: manifest, reveal] himself in the world.

What believer could accept this? God is not manifest in the world, and couldn’t care less what happens in it? Is this pure atheism, or a kind of philosophical theism taken to its limit?

6.4312 The temporal immortality of the soul of man, meaning therefore its eternal survival even after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but in the first place this assumption does not at all do what people have always wanted to achieve with it. Is a riddle thereby solved, because I survive eternally? Is eternal life, on this account, then not just as mysterious as the present one? The solving of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside of space and time.

(It is indeed not problems of natural science that are to be solved.)

Ah, but is the solution to this riddle found in the disappearance of the riddle? See CV, p. 27 (1937), and p. 74 and p. 75. Is there a riddle really? Or is the experience of life as a riddle more like an unpleasant feeling in response to awareness of the mystery of life. And that awareness itself might not seem to be anything (awareness of anything) if we think it through. “Mystery” might perhaps be better than “riddle” here. Wittgenstein, in Letters to Ogden, p. 36, says: “I don’t wish that there should be anything ridiculous or profane or frivolous in the word when used in the connection “riddle of life” etc.”

6.4311 Death is not an event in life. One does not live through death.

If one understands eternity not as an endless period of time but as timelessness, then he who lives in the present lives eternally.

Our life is just as endless as our field of vision is limitless.

I.e., not really, but in some, not very comforting, sense. I think nonsensical ideas are being deflated here, but quite possibly ones to which Wittgenstein felt very drawn. Hence the ethical, practical nature of the ironic debunking of treasured idols. The irony here is not sarcasm but a pretty much essential means to the kind of goal Wittgenstein is aiming at. He must say nothing false, but speak only truth and nonsense. The nonsense is revealed as nonsense by being pushed through to its painful conclusion. This involves a kind of inversion, as does irony. Wittgenstein suggested “without limit” instead of “limitless,” but only on the grounds that “limitless” is not normal English. I think it is though, so I have left it in. It is a more literal translation of the German grenzenlos.

6.431 As too at death the world does not change, but rather stops.

Why say “the world” here instead of “my world”?

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.

6.423 Of the will as the bearer of the ethical, nothing can be said.

And the will as a phenomenon is interesting only to psychology.

Very Schopenhaurian/Kantian. But then so is the kind of ethics he is talking about, and perhaps criticizing. See Wiggins (2004, in Philosophy) on this passage. Some of Schopenhauer’s thoughts on ethics: The aim of all art is to communicate platonic Ideas, not concepts. Allegorical paintings are mere hieroglyphics. These Ideas are the various grades of the will’s objectification. “[T]he Idea can be known only by perception; but knowledge of the Idea is the aim of all art.”[1] Poetry uses abstract concepts, but skillful poets combine them in such a way that, given imagination in the reader, the desired idea is communicated.

“The poet comprehends the Idea, man’s inner nature apart from all relations, outside all time, the adequate objectivity of the thing-in-itself at its highest grade. Although even in the historian’s perspective, the inner nature, the significance of the phenomena, the germ within all those husks, can never be utterly lost (and he, at least, who seeks it, may still find it and recognise it), what is significant in itself and not in its relations, the real unfolding of the Idea, will be found far more accurately and distinctly in poetry than in history; and therefore, however paradoxical it may sound, far more actual genuine inner truth is to be imputed to poetry than to history.”[2]

“The poet is … the universal man; … And no one has the right to prescribe to the poet what he ought to be – noble and sublime, moral, pious, Christian, one thing or another – still less to reproach him because he is one thing and not another. He is the mirror of mankind, and brings to its consciousness what it feels and does.”[3]

“For both in poetry and in painting we demand the faithful mirror of life, of man, of the world – only made more clear by the presentation and more meaningful by the arrangement.”[4] Cf. 6.43 and Bearn (Waking to Wonder) on how the world of the happy differs by being more meaningful.

Perhaps here also see Schopenhauer Fourfold Root p. 211: “Now the identity of the subject of willing with that of knowing by virtue whereof (and indeed necessarily) the word “I” includes and indicates both, is the knot of the world, and hence inexplicable.” Again, pp. 211-212: “But whoever really grasps the inexplicable nature of this identity, will with me call it the miracle “par excellence.””

[1] Everyman edition of Schopenhauer’s WWR, p. 153.

[2] Ibid., p. 155.

[3] Ibid., p. 157.

[4] Ibid., p. 158.

Monday, December 03, 2007

6.422 The first thought at the setting up of an ethical law of the form “thou shalt….” is: And what then, if I don’t do it? It is clear, however, that ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the ordinary sense. Therefore this question as to the consequences of an act must be irrelevant. – At least these consequences should not be events. Since something must be right in the putting of this question. There must certainly be a kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but these must lie in the action itself.

(And this too is clear, that the reward must be something agreeable, the punishment something disagreeable.)

“Ethics” here means ethics in the relevant sense. If anyone wants to talk of ethics in some other sense, that is not contradicted here but ignored. Why must there be something right in the question? Perhaps because its form matches the form in which the Thou shalt is expressed, so it is, as it were, called for. It must somehow, in some sense, be appropriate.

6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be articulated.

Ethics is transcendental.

(Ethics and aesthetics are one.)

Is “It is clear” always a mark of irony in the Tractatus? Ethical and aesthetic value are beyond words, since no words we have will do, since what will satisfy is nothing in the world, i.e. nothing at all. But is this really true? Or is it only that no theory will satisfy us, just as physics is OK but the meta-theoretical “There are laws of nature” cannot work?

Some notes and quotes on Schopenhauer’s ethics: According to Schopenhauer, every living being is essentially egoistic, and yet in truth there is only one will, since the principle of individuation applies only to the phenomenal. Wrong is what we call one will’s encroaching on another, seen at its extreme in cannibalism. Right is a negative term, meaning only the opposite of this. What is on the side of our will we call ‘good’, and what is opposed to it we call ‘bad’ or, rarely, ‘evil’. “[T]hus every good is essentially relative, for it has its essential nature only in its relation to a desiring will. Absolute good is, therefore, a contradiction in terms …”[1] The highest or ultimate good would be something that so satisfies the will that it never wanted again, but it is the nature of the will always to desire more, never to be satisfied. So there can be no such thing: the concept is self-contradictory.

“A theory of morals which is not properly argued – in other words, mere moralizing – can effect nothing, because it does not motivate. A theory of morals which does motivate can do so only by working on self-love. But what springs from this latter has no moral worth. It follows that no genuine virtue can be produced through moral theory or abstract knowledge of any kind, but that such virtue must spring from that intuitive knowledge which recognises in the individuality of others the same essence as in our own.”[2] (This seems to have been Wittgenstein's view of moral philosophy. At least his remarks to O. K. Bouwsma later in his life about what possible value teaching moral philosophy could have strike me as compatible with what Schopenhauer says here.)

“Truly, it would be very bad if the chief business in human life, its ethical value, that value which counts for eternity, were dependent upon anything of which the attainment is so much a matter of chance as is the case with dogmas, religious doctrines, and philosophical theories.”[3]

“[I]n themselves all deeds (opera operata) are merely empty figures, and only the disposition which leads to them gives them moral significance.”[4]

Goodness does come from knowledge, but not a knowledge that can be communicated. Only the concept of this knowledge can be conveyed.

The negation of wickedness is justice. “When we examine the kernel of this justice, we find in it the intention not to go so far in the affirmation of one’s own will as to deny the manifestations of will in others by compelling them to serve one’s own. One will therefore wish to do as much for the benefit of others as one enjoys at their hands. The highest degree of this disposition to justice (which, however, is always allied with real goodness whose character is now not merely negative) leads a man to doubt his right to inherited property; to want to maintain his body solely by his own energy, mental and physical; to feel every service rendered by others, every luxury, as a reproach; and ultimately, of his own free will, to embrace poverty.”[5] (Again very reminiscent of Wittgenstein's chosen way of life after World War I.)

“I by no means wish to conceal a criticism that relates to this last part of my exposition, but rather to point out that it inheres in the nature of the material, and that it cannot be helped. [cf. Frege--DR] It is this, that after our study has finally reached the point at which in perfect holiness we see the denial and surrender of all volition – and thereby the redemption from a world whose whole existence presented itself to us as suffering – this appears to us as a transition into empty nothingness.”[6]

“Every nothing is such only when thought of in relation to something else, and presupposes this relation [i.e. negation], and thus also this something else. Even a logical contradiction is only a relative nothing. It is not a thought of reason, but it is not on that account an absolute nothing; for it is a combination of words; it is an example of the unthinkable, which is necessary in logic in order to prove the laws of thought. So, if for this purpose we seek such an example, we will hold fast to the nonsense as being the positive which we are in search of, and pass over the sense as the negative.”[7]

“What is generally accepted as positive, which we call being, and the negation of which is expressed by the concept nothing in its most general sense, is precisely the world as idea, which I have shown to be the objectivity and mirror of the will. … Denial, suspension, conversion of the will are also the suspension and the disappearance of the world, its mirror. If we no longer glimpse the will in this mirror, we ask in vain where it has gone, and then, because it has no longer any where and when, we lament that it has strayed into nothingness, and is lost.”[8]

Cf. Heidegger and Wittgenstein’s comments about him and the Nothing, etc. Also, perhaps, Russell (in The Principles of Mathematics) on nothing: “Great difficulties are associated with the null-class, and generally with the idea of nothing. It is plain that there is such a concept as nothing, and that in some sense nothing is something.” (p. 73)

“It is necessary to realize, in the first place, that a concept may denote although it does not denote anything.” (p. 73)

“The proposition which looks so paradoxical means no more than this: Nothing, the denoting concept, is not nothing, i.e. is not what itself denotes.” (p. 75)

(So, according to Schopenhauer, the unthinkable is exemplified in logical contradiction, which is necessary to prove the laws of thought. Why? And the concept of nothing is always relative to some positive concept of being, yet which is positive and which is negative depends on how you see it, on what your purpose is, on the will. You might, after all, be looking for an example of something negative in order to make a point about negation, about logic. Perfect holiness = denial of the will = suspension of the world = having a sense of a nothingness in which being can be lost. Philosophy can express this only negatively. We might talk about ecstasy, union with God, etc., but such states cannot be counted as knowledge really, and cannot be communicated – they must be experienced first-hand.)

Schopenhauer’s ethics do not present a view from nowhere, as he seems to think. Instead they reflect his own pessimistic outlook. So argues Konstantin Kolenda in “Schopenhauer’s Ethics: A View from Nowhere,” in von der Luft pp. 247-256. If everyone’s direct experiences were consulted, neither pessimism nor optimism would win the day. (But does Schopenhauer really claim to be able to identify values objectively?)

Cf. Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil §§55-56 on the nothing as a replacement for God in Schopenhauer.

Glock notes three problems with Schop’s ethics (see pp. 442-43): 1) they seem to require both denial of the will and altruistic willing in the form of compassion (see WWR vol. 2, chapters 47-49), 2) the denial of the will is itself an act of will, “will turning against itself” (WWR vol. I, p. 412), 3) the cosmic will, the blind force, the thing in itself, “is so quintessentially undesirable, it is difficult to see how the mystical experience of feeling at one with this will should provide a kind of moral salvation.”[9]

LW avoids all these problems by distinguishing, Glock says, between good and bad willing (see Notebooks 21, 24, and 29/7/16, and TLP 6.43).]

[1] Everyman edition of Schopenhauer’s WWR, §65, p. 224.

[2] Ibid., §66, p. 230.

[3] Ibid., pp. 230-31.

[4] Ibid., p. 232.

[5] Ibid., p. 233.

[6] Ibid., §71, p. 259.

[7] Ibid., pp. 259-60.

[8] Ibid., p. 260.

[9] 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, pp. 442-43.

6.42 Hence there can also be no propositions of ethics. Propositions can express nothing Higher.

Mustn't "Higher" here be taken as nonsense? There is at least an air of self-contradiction here.

6.41 The sense of the world must lie outside of it. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it happens; there is no value in it – and if there were, then it [this value, that is] would be of no value.

If there is a value, which is of value, then it must lie outside all happening and being-so. Since all happening and being-so is accidental.

What makes it non-accidental cannot lie in the world, since otherwise this would again be accidental.

It must lie outside the world.

I’m very close to Ogden here, including the word ‘being-so’. This seems like intentional nonsense to me. Just the kind of Platonism, this time about value, that we see rejected a) throughout the Tractatus, and b) in recent dealings with such things as the law of causality. Contingent value is not what is wanted, so only a transcendent value will do. That is, only a nonsense will do. So nothing will do, in fact. Our desire is for something incoherent.

Stokhof (p. 239): “Neither the Tractatus nor the Notebooks contains any argument or reasoning to establish the existence of values or their absolute character. (Analogously, there is no argument for the absolute status of logic either.) In other words, the entire construction is based on a certain kind of experience.”

Wittgenstein might be thinking of Kant here. Cf. Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals in the chapter on the dignity of virtue (pp. 77-78 in the second edition, p. 102 in H. J. Paton’s translation, Harper Torchbooks, 1964): “Skill and diligence in work have a market price; wit, lively imagination, and humour have a fancy price; but fidelity to promises and kindness based on principle (not on instinct) have an intrinsic worth. In default of these, nature and art alike contain nothing to put in their place; for their worth consists, not in the advantage or profit they produce, but in the attitudes of mind—that is, in the maxims of the will—which are ready in this way to manifest themselves in action even if they are not favoured by success.” Attitudes of mind alone can have dignity, and these might show themselves in behavior, but they are certainly not identical with any particular kinds of behavior. Nor brain-states, etc.

6.4 All propositions are of equal value.

Literally: All propositions are equivalent. But presumably he doesn’t mean that.

Black (p. 370) says that the value in every case is zero, since “nothing of value is expressed by any significant proposition (6.41c).”

6.3751 It is impossible, that is, logically impossible, for, e.g., two colors to be at the same point in the field of vision, since this is excluded by the logical structure of color.

Let us consider how this contradiction presents itself in physics. Approximately thus: That a particle cannot have two velocities at the same time; meaning that it cannot be in two places at the same time; meaning that particles in different places at one time cannot be identical.

(It is clear that the logical product of two elementary propositions can be neither a tautology nor a contradiction. The expression that a point in the field of vision has two different colors at the same time is a contradiction.)

These are rules, then, of the ‘logics’ of physics and of color. These language-games have their own grammars, the later Wittgenstein would say.

6.375 As there is only a logical necessity, so there is also only a logical impossibility.

Fair enough.

6.374 Even if all that we wished happened, then this would still only, so to speak, be a gift of fate, since there is no logical connection between will and world that would guarantee this, and the assumed physical connection itself we could surely not in turn will.

I.e. we might want it, but we couldn’t bring about by willing the power of our will to bring things about. So it must be a kind of accident if things in the world turn out how I want them to be, even in cases such as my leg getting scratched when I want to (and therefore do) scratch it. Something wrong here? See Anscombe, e.g., on causation in her essay on the reality of the past. If something is wrong, did Wittgenstein know it?

6.373 The world is independent of my will.

Schopenhauer on the will: “My philosophy … is the only one that grants to morality its complete and entire rights; for only if the true nature of man is his will, consequently only if he is, in the strictest sense, his own work, are his deeds actually entirely his and attributable to him. On the other hand, as soon as he has another origin, or is the work of a being different from himself, all his guilt falls back on to this origin or originator”[1]

The being of matter is its acting. For it, reality is actuality or having effects.

The will is not a phenomenon, so it can never be a cause. The will does not cause actions. The will (noumenon) is the body (phenomenon), so acts of the body are acts of the will. The relation is one of identity, not cause and effect. Cf. TLP 5.631.

Will is a very tricky notion for Schopenhauer. All idea, all object, is phenomenon, “but the will alone is thing-in-itself.”[2]

“Now, if we are to think as an object this thing-in-itself (we will keep the Kantian term as a standing phrase) – which, as such will never be object, because all object has in its turn already become its mere manifestation, and is no longer itself – we must borrow for it the name and concept of an object …”[3] (This looks like a bad idea, similar also to Frege’s talk of concepts. Magee says, on p. 140, that Schopenhauer was aware of a difficulty here, discusses it at length, and decides only “with some misgiving” to give it a name: will. See Magee pp. 140-144. But note, Magee thinks the problem would be solved if only Schopenhauer gave the noumenon a less misleading name, such as force or energy.)

“The will as a thing in itself is totally different from its phenomenon, and entirely free from all the forms of the phenomenal.”[4] Hence it is independent of time, space, and causality. Plurality cannot apply to it, since this concept belongs to the phenomenal, to the realm of time and space. (But surely unity cannot apply to it either, and it is not even an object in the first place.)

“I wish that by a clear exposition it had been possible for me to dispel the obscurity which clings to the subject of these thoughts; but I see very well that the reader’s own reflection on the matter must come to my aid if I am ever to be fully and correctly understood.”[5]

Anscombe sees the independence of the will and the world here and in 6.374 as undesirable consequences of the picture theory and the theses about modality that it implies. See Anscombe pp. 80-81.

[1] WWR v. 2, pp. 589-590.

[2] Everyman edition of WWR, p. 42.

[3] Ibid., p. 42, §22.

[4] Ibid., p. 44, §23.

[5] Ibid., p. 72, §27.

6.372 Thus they stop at laws of nature as at something sacrosanct, as the ancients stopped at God or fate.

And indeed they are both right, and wrong. The ancients are certainly clearer in so far as they recognize a clear conclusion, whereas in the new system it is supposed to seem as if everything were explained.

Are the moderns being said to be right within their system? Wrong to think it the only possible one? I'm not quite sure about this. Is it perhaps this: the moderns are right that it is not God or fate that explains everything, but wrong to think that everything can be explained?

6.371 At the root of the whole modern worldview [Weltanschauung] lies the mistaken view [or: illusion] that the so-called laws of nature are the explanation of natural phenomena.

Are they then no explanation, or simply not the explanation? Worthless, or merely not absolute? What is wrong with “It always does that” as an explanation, if it satisfies the inquirer and is true? Is this an attack on science, or on scientism?

6.37 There is no force such as to necessitate one thing’s happening on the strength of another thing’s having happened. There is only a logical necessity.

A somewhat loose translation. Cf. the others. The point is that the only necessity is logical necessity. But what then does ‘necessity’ mean? Is this a denial of physical laws of the form ‘If x then y [must happen]’?

Anscombe (see p. 80) says that this view about necessity is a direct consequence of the picture theory, and seems to think that it has nothing else to be said for it.

6.36311 That the sun will rise tomorrow is an hypothesis; and that means: we do not know whether it will rise.

Cf. Wittgenstein’s later remark (in CV?) about how we might see the earth and sun from space and see that the sun will rise tomorrow. Since we don’t occupy such a vantage point, we don’t know if it will rise. But this is as much a fact about us as it is about the workings of the universe. The regularity of the laws of nature is not an hypothesis, is it?

6.3631 This process though has no logical, but only a psychological grounding.

It is clear that there exists no ground for believing that the simplest case will also be the actual one that comes to be.

But then why prefer one physics to another? Psychology again, presumably.

6.363 The process of induction consists in our assuming the simplest law that can be brought into unison with our experiences.

OK. Black (p. 365) says that this resumes the argument of 6.31, but is not consistent with it.

6.362 What can be described can also take place, and what is supposed to be excluded by the law of causality cannot even be described.

Can take place in what sense? A logical one? The law of causality gives the form of physics, but is not meant merely to describe one possible kind of physics. It is meant, after all, to be a law. So there can be laws of this kind, there can be physics as we know it, but such a general law cannot be part of physics.

6.36111 The Kantian problem of the right and left hand, that one cannot make cover each other, exists already in a plane, indeed in one-dimensional space, where the two congruent figures a and b also cannot be made to cover each other without moving them outside this space:


a b

Right and left hand are actually completely congruent. And the fact that one cannot make one cover the other has nothing to do with it.

A right-hand glove could be put on the left hand if one could turn it around in four-dimensional space.

This problem is discussed by Kant in the Prolegomena. Schopenhauer refers to it twice in the Fourfold Root, once on p. 40 and on p. 194. His claim is that the difference between a left glove and a right glove can only be seen, not explained from concepts alone. That is, it cannot “be made intelligible except by means of intuition” (p. 194). The idea is that space is thereby shown to be an a priori form of intuition, since such differences in space must be intuited.

Is Wittgenstein’s last sentence a joke, or a real solution? My version of the figure is based on Letters to Ogden p. 61, and is different from the one in the other translations.

Henk Visser in “Wittgenstein’s Debt to Mach’s Popular Scientific Lectures” Mind (1982) Vol. VCI, pp. 102-105, says that what Wittgenstein says about Kant is conspicuously similar to what Mach says on the same issue, and Mach in turn credited Möbius as the source of the idea.

Black (p. 363) says that according to Kant things such as left and right hands or gloves can be “exactly alike in all spatial respects” and yet do not fit the same space, i.e. they are different. In intuition we get the difference, but the Understanding cannot (according to Kant) grasp it. Black (pp. 363-4):

"Kant used the argument several times—and to prove opposite conclusions. It was omitted from the second edition of the Critique—because, according to Kemp Smith, Kant had realized it was based ‘upon a false view of the understanding’ (op. cit. p. 165).

"W. says that the impossibility of making counterparts fill the same space (at least without entry into a higher dimension) leaves their congruence unchallenged. But Kant would readily have agreed: W. does nothing to explain how the congruent counterparts can be numerically distinct, which was Kant’s puzzle. On the face of it, the possibility of non-identical counterparts does not square with 6.3611 (3)—unless we take W. to be suggesting that the counterparts must have different causal antecedents by which alone they can be distinguished? (And this is now close to Kant’s conclusion.)"

6.3611 We cannot compare any process with the “passage of time” – there is no such thing – but rather only with another process (perhaps with the working of the chronometer).

Hence the description of a temporal process is only possible if we rely on another process.

Exactly the same kind of thing goes for space. Where one, e.g., says that neither of two events (that are mutually exclusive) can occur, because no reason exists why the one rather than the other should occur, there it is really a matter of one not being at all able to describe one of the two events without some asymmetry existing. And if there is such an asymmetry, then we can understand this as the reason for the occurrence of the one and the non-occurrence of the other.

There is no such thing as the passage of time? Or there is no such thing as comparing a process with the passage of time? The latter sounds [even] more plausible. This all sounds like a kind of idealism. A pragmatic kind. Nordmann criticizes Wittgenstein for being “caught in the present” in the Tractatus on pp. 128-133. But, of course, it is at least possible that the idea that the world is all that is (present tense) the case is meant to be overcome and discarded. Indeed, Nordmann regards the book as being written in the subjunctive mood. It is, he thinks, a kind of reductio.

6.361 In Hertz’s way of speaking, one could say: Only regular [law-like, lawful] combinations [connections] are thinkable.

This net rules out lawlessness or chance in nature. Pears & McGuinness have “subject to law” instead of “regular.” Ogden has “uniform” even though Wittgenstein said this was wrong and told him to look up the English translation of Hertz (Letters to Ogden p. 35). I have not found the relevant passage in Hertz yet.

Black (p. 362) says the allusion to “Hertz’s terminology” is obscure. He suggests (pp. 362-3) that Wittgenstein might have had in mind something like this passage from Hertz’s Principles § 109: “There exists a connexion between a series of material points when from a knowledge of some of the components of the displacements of these points we are able to state something as to the remaining components.”