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 g√§nzlich 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.


Jim H. said...

For my take on the dire implications of W's dicta in the history of the 20th Century, see here and the two following posts at my blog: Wisdom of the West.

Anderson Brown said...

T. B.-L., I've cited you and text-linked to you today on Anderson Brown's Philosophy Blog Have a good day AB

Bohemian said...

6.522 Nevertheless, the inexpressible exists. It simply appears, without reason.

7 Whereof one cannot find the words to speak, thereof one must needs remain silent.

So, if the sentences I have spoken make no sense, have I said anything at all?

DR said...

I would say that you have said nothing if your sentences make no sense, yes. In that sense it could be argued that much, perhaps even all, of the Tractatus says nothing. But perhaps it shows something. I think some people would say this.

Anonymous said...

I feel that the paradox is that one must realize that one is talking nonsense. I can´t understand that.

Andrew Louis said...

Doesn't all language begin with speaking nonsense? All noise may make sense to the noise maker, and the point of the noise is to relate whatever the noise applies to, to the receiver of the noise.

Realizing one is talking nonsense seems to me to realize that others don't understand....

DR said...

I wouldn't say that language begins with nonsense. There is no sense before (or without) language, just as there is no wheel before the wheel has been invented, but something that is not a wheel is not (thereby) a fake wheel. Nonsense, to my mind, is a kind of fake sense. That can only exist after language has come into play. Realizing that one is talking nonsense is realizing that there is something phony about one's words--they are, perhaps, mere thundering and roaring.

Carter Kaplan said...

Hi Duncan:

Fascinating blog! Going through these notes has been a pleasure.

Interesting how reading and writing about W is like reading and writing about poetry.

I tried e-mailing you but don't know if it got through. I've posted a review of one of your books at my blog (I guess blogs are the thing, eh?). Also, I've published a novel about a mad theologian; can be viewed at Amazon.

Happy Holidays!