By Robert Hanna
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VIII.4 Is the Tractatus’s Point an Ethical One?
VIII.5 The Meaning of Life
VIII.6 Three Basic Worries About the Tractatus
VIII.7 Natural Science and the Worry About the Simplicity of the Objects or Things
VIII.8 Natural Science and the Worry About the Logical Independence of Atomic Facts
VIII.9 Tractarian Mysticism and the Worry About Metaphilosophy
IX. Carnap, The Vienna Circle, Logical Empiricism, and The Great Divide
IX.1 Carnap Before and After the Tractatus
IX.2 Carnap, The Vienna Circle, and The Elimination of Metaphysics
IX.3 The Verifiability Principle and Its Fate
IX.4 The Davos Conference and The Great Divide
X. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 1: Preface, and §§1–27
X.1 From the Tractatus to the Investigations
X.2 The Thesis That Meaning Is Use
X.3 A Map of the Investigations
X.4 The Critique of Pure Reference: What the Builders Did
XI. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 2: §§28–242
XI.1 The Picture Theory and the Vices of Simplicity
XI.2 Wittgenstein’s Argument Against The Picture Theory: A Rational Reconstruction
XI.3 Understanding and Rule-Following
XI.4 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: The Basic Rationale
XI.5 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction
XI.6 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: Why Read Kripke Too?
XI.7 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction
XI.8 How to Solve The Paradox: Wittgenstein’s Way and Kripkenstein’s Way
XI.8.1 Wittgenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction
XI.8.2 Kripkenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction
XII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 3: §§242–315
XII.1 What is a Private Language?
XII.2 The Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction
XII.3 Is Wittgenstein a Behaviorist? No.
XII.4 Wittgenstein on Meanings, Sensations, and Human Mindedness: A Rational Reconstruction
XIII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 4: §§316–693 & 174e-232e
XIII.1 Linguistic Phenomenology
XIII.2 Two Kinds of Seeing
XIII.3 Experiencing the Meaning of a Word
XIII.4 The Critique of Logical Analysis, and Logic-As-Grammar
XIV. Coda: Wittgenstein and Kantianism
XIV.1 World-Conformity 1: Kant, Transcendental Idealism, and Empirical Realism
XIV.2 World-Conformity 2: Wittgenstein, Transcendental Solipsism, and Pure Realism
XIV.3 World-Conformity 3: To Forms of Life
XIV.4 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 1: Kant’s Critical Metaphilosophy
XIV.5 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 2: Wittgensteinian Analysis as Critique
XV. From Quine to Kripke and Analytic Metaphysics: The Adventures of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction
XV.1 Two Urban Legends of Post-Empiricism
XV.2 A Very Brief History of The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction
XV.3 Why the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction Really Matters
XV.4 Quine’s Critique of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, and a Meta-Critique
XV.5 Three Dogmas of Post-Quineanism
XVI. Analytic Philosophy and The Ash-Heap of History
XVI.1 Husserl’s Crisis and Our Crisis
XVI.2 Why Hasn’t Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy Produced Any Important Ideas in the Last Thirty-Five Years?
XVI.3 On Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being, Or, It’s The End Of Analytic Philosophy As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
XVI.4 Thinking Inside and Outside the Fly-Bottle: The New Poverty of Philosophy and Its Second Copernican Revolution
This installment contains section VIII.4.
But you can also read or download a .pdf version of the complete book HERE.
VIII.4 Is the Tractatus’s Point an Ethical One?
In 1919, in a letter to Ludwig von Ficker, editor of the journal Der Brenner, Wittgenstein glossed the Tractatus as follows:
The book’s point is an ethical one. I once meant to include in the preface a sentence which is not in fact there but which I will write out for you here, because it will perhaps be a key to my work for you. What I meant to write then, was this: My work consists of two parts; the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part which is the important one. My book draws limits to the sphere of the ethical from the inside as it were, and I am convinced that this is the ONLY rigorous way of drawing these limits. In short, I believe that where many others today are just gassing, I have managed in my book to put everything firmly in place by being silent about it.[i]
This letter has often been dismissed by commentators as an intentionally misleading attempt by Wittgenstein to get a non-philosopher interested in publishing the Tractatus.
And it’s true that at the time, he was having difficulties getting the Tractatus published.
Even so, I think that it would be a big mistake not to take these remarks seriously, as a self-commentary on the following propositions about aesthetics, ethics, and the meaning of life in the Tractatus and the Notebooks:
5.621 The world and life are one.
6.37 A necessity for one thing to happen because another has happened does not exist. There is only logical necessity.
6.373 The world is independent of my will.
Even if everything we wished were to happen, this would only be, so to speak, a favour of fate, for there is no logical connection between will and world, which would guarantee this, and the assumed physical connection itself we could not again will.
6.4 All propositions are of equal value.
The sense of the world (Sinn der Welt) must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it does happen. In it there is no value–and if there were, it would be of no value.
If there is a value which is of value, it must lie outside all happening and being-so. For all happening and being-so is accidental.
What makes it non-accidental cannot lie in the world, for otherwise this would again be accidental.
It must lie outside the world.
Hence also there are no ethical propositions.
Propositions cannot express anything higher.
6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed.
Ethics is transcendental.
(Ethics and aesthetics are one.)
6.423 Of the will as the subject of the ethical we cannot speak.
And the will as a phenomenon is only of interest to psychology.
6.43 If good or bad willing changes the world, it can only change the limits of the world, not the facts; not the things that can be expressed in language.
In brief, the world must thereby become quite another. It must so to speak wax or wane as a whole.
The world of the happy is a quite another than that of the unhappy.
6.431 So too at death the world does not change, but ceases.
6.4311 Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through.
If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present.
Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.
6.4312 The temporal immortality of the human soul, that is to say, its eternal survival after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but this assumption in the first place will not do for us what we always tried to make it do. Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive forever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? The solution to the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.
(It is not problems of natural science which have to be solved.)
6.432 How the world is, is completely indifferent for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.
6.5 For an answer which cannot be expressed, the question too cannot be expressed.
The riddle does not exist.
If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.
6.52 We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer.
6.521 The solution to the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem.
(Is this not the reason why those who have found after a long period of doubt that the sense of life [Sinn des Lebens] became clear, could not say wherein this sense consisted?)
6.522 There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.
7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must silent.
What really is the situation of the human will? I will call “will” first and foremost the bearer of good and evil. (Notebooks, p. 76e)
Let us imagine a man who could use none of his limbs and hence could, in the ordinary sense, not exercise his will. He could, however, think and want and communicate his thoughts to someone else. He could therefore do good or evil through the other man.
Then it is clear that ethics would have validity for him, too, and that he in the ethical sense is the bearer of a will. (Notebooks, pp. 76e-77e)
The World and Life are one.
Physiological life is not of course “Life.” And neither is psychological life. Life is the world.
Ethics does not treat of the world. Ethics must be a condition of the world, like logic.
Ethics and aesthetics are one. (Notebooks, p. 77e)
It seems one can‘t say anything more than: Live happily!
The world of the happy is a different world from that of the unhappy. The world of the happy is a happy world.
I keep on coming back to this! simply the happy life is good, the unhappy bad. If I now ask myself: but why should I live happily, then this of itself seems to me to be a tautological question; the happy life seems to be justified, of itself, it seems that it is the only right life.
But this is really in some sense deeply mysterious! It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed!
What is the objective mark of the happy, harmonious life? Here it is again clear that there cannot be any such mark, that can be described.
This mark cannot be a physical one but only a metaphysical one, a transcendental one. (Notebooks, p. 78e)
Ethics is transcendental. How things stand, is God. God, is how things stand.
Only from the consciousness of the uniqueness of my life arises religion … and art.
And this consciousness is life itself.
Can there be any ethics if there is no living being but myself? If ethics is supposed to be something fundamental, there can.
If I am right, then it is not sufficient for the ethical judgment that a world is given. Then the world in itself is neither good nor evil.
Good and evil enter only through the subject. And the subject is not part of the world, but a boundary of the world.
As the subject is not a part of the world but a presupposition of its existence, so good and evil which are predicates of the subject, are not properties in the world. (Notebooks, p. 79e)
For Wittgenstein, willing (wanting, preferring, choosing, etc.) and feeling (including emotional attitudes) are essentially the same.
That’s one reason why ethics and aesthetics are one.
And another reason is that for Wittgenstein neither aesthetics nor ethics has a propositional, conceptual, fact-representing, or logical component.
More generally, the metaphysical subject or ego has two essentially different capacities:
(i) an intellectual, propositional, conceptual, fact-representing, and logical capacity, and
(ii) a non-intellectual, non-propositional, non-conceptual, non-fact-representing, feeling, willing, and ethical capacity.
But although these intellectual and non-intellectual capacities are exercised with respect to the same set of objects (the world of facts, or life), their contents are wholly divergent.
So Wittgenstein’s ethics is thoroughly non-intellectualist, non-propositionalist, and non-conceptualist.
Moreover, the world of facts is modally independent of feeling and willing, and cannot be changed by the will.
That is: what’s nowadays called “mental causation,” whereby a mental event is a sufficient cause of some physical event, is impossible, because all connections between facts in space and time (as per Hume) are either logically necessary or logically contingent, never non-logically (i.e., synthetically) necessary:
5.135 In no way can an inference be made from the existence of one state of affairs to the existence of another entirely different from it.
5.136 There is no causal nexus which justifies such an inference.
5.1361 The events of the future cannot be inferred from those of the present.
Superstition is the belief in the causal nexus.
But all value, all good and evil, inheres in the will of the metaphysical subject or ego.
This means that Wittgenstein is positing a radically sharp fact-value dichotomy:
(i) the world as represented through propositions and science is wholly factual and logically-governed, but without any value,
(ii) whereas the will has fundamental value,
(iii) yet the value properties of the will are not properties that can be represented propositionally,
(iv) because although my will is always directed towards my own life, which (given solipsism) is the same as my world,
(v) those value properties attach only to the metaphysical subject or ego, which is not part of the world, but instead a fundamental, unique a priori presupposition of the world‘s existence and specific character.
This radical fact vs. value (or its capacity-based equivalent: intellectual vs. non-intellectual) dichotomy has two crucial consequences.
The first is that natural science (the totality of contingent truths about the world of facts) and logic are absolutely value-neutral.
So even if the world were to be completely described by the natural sciences and all of its logical truths made manifest, the problem of the value of rational human life in general, and the value of my life in particular, hence the meaning of life, would not have been touched.
This problem of the value of (my) life, and of the meaning of life, which is the basic problem of aesthetics and ethics, consists precisely in how the subject or ego is to be good and/or happy, and natural science and logic have nothing to do with it.
Second, the aesthetic and ethical problem or the problem of the value of (my) life, and of the meaning of life, i.e., how I am to be good and/or happy, is radically unlike any scientific problem that can be propositionally formulated and then (at least in principle) solved.
Indeed, Wittgenstein suggests that the fundamental barrier to solving the problem of the value of (my) life is to treat the issue of my goodness or my happiness as if it were sort of natural-scientific problem to which factual answers could be given.
On the contrary, it’s only when I’m able to realize fully that the problem of the value of (my) life isn’t a problem in the factual or natural-scientific sense, and that there simply is no such problem of the value of (my) life in this sense, can my will be converted into a possible bearer of goodness and/or happiness.
In other words, just like Kant, Wittgenstein “had to deny [scientific] knowledge (Wissen) in order to make room for [moral] faith (Glaube)” (CPR Bxxx, boldfacing in the original).
In Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant calls this conversion a “revolution of the heart” and a “revolution of the will,” namely, a fundamentally life-changing Gestalt-shift in a person’s “attitude” or “disposition” (Gesinnung) towards himself/herself/themselves and the world.
According to Wittgenstein, how does this conversion happen?
There are two parts to this.
First, we must realize that the world of facts, and its a priori essence, logic, are in themselves valueless.
This is closely connected to recognizing the senselessness of the propositions of the Tractatus and “throwing away the ladder” in proposition 6.54, about which I’ll more to say later in this chapter.
But second, Wittgenstein‘s idea is that because we cannot change or in any way affect the facts in the world, we must instead change our volitional stance towards the world as a whole.
This, in turn, can determine a radically different world.
On the metaphysical side, Wittgenstein is saying here that the willing subject or ego can jointly re-constitute the objects or things and its own language alike, and thus bring about the existence of a distinct world of facts, which again cannot themselves be changed or affected by our will.
This is my will conceived as the “world-will,” aka what I called Wittgenstein‘s “solipsism of the willing subject or ego.”
But on the first-personal side, Wittgenstein is saying that to change the world and my own life is not to change any facts whatsoever, but instead fundamentally to change the internal configuration of my will so that it becomes internally coherent or harmonious (goodness, happiness) rather than internally incoherent or discordant (badness, unhappiness).
Or in other words, to change the world and my own life is not to change any facts whatsoever but rather to carry out a complete personal transformation, by conversion to some essentially new set of values or commitments.
The similarity of this line of thinking to Existentialist themes in, e.g., the works of Augustine, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kafka, Heidegger, Camus, De Beauvoir, and Sartre, should be obvious.
[i] Quoted in R. Brockhaus, Pulling Up the Ladder: The Metaphysical Roots of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1991)., p. 296.
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