Wittgenstein 8. Final Thoughts
The following is the quote from Culture and Value (a selection from the personal notes of Ludwig Wittgenstein made by Georg Henrik von Wright):
“People nowadays think, scientists are there to instruct them, poets, musicians etc. to entertain them. That the latter have something to teach them; that never occurs to them.”
That was one of the primary drivers of Wittgenstein’s thinking. Despite being on the scientific point of view in general, I agree that science today is elevated to a position that the Bible had before — the source of answers to all questions.
That was what Wittgenstein observed and felt and fought. He was against generalities in favor of specifics. Maybe even the word “game” he has chosen (to describe language) was to emphasize “taking it easy while talking about anything.” This and that the word “games” implies action. Language is a tool to support human actions. And Wittgenstein did not want to be an armchair philosopher; he wanted to change the world.
He was unusual in his ways of life and thinking. His strangeness attracted attention, along with his prophetic literary style. Such a style requires an interpretation and, naturally, the reader comes with the interpretation that makes sense to them. The reader becomes a co-author. It is similar to the abstract art, where there is no specific ordinary image — just splashes of colors and entangled lines that trigger in the viewer some feelings, or thoughts, or images that become the creative result of the collaboration between the artist and the viewer.
Such a style captivates us because pattern recognition is the primary human activity. We try to reduce and generalize our experience all the time. And Wittgenstein gives us very high-level statements that tempt us. We are excited to check if they are true, which would mean a new higher level of generalization. And Wittgenstein even claims of solving all problems of philosophy. How can we avoid reading whatever he produces as proof?
He did not want to diminish scientific achievements. After all, he was doing science himself. He wanted to keep the science in a respectable position, but have it as one of many possible views of the world. He was also aiming at the philosophers who were scientists only in name. Like the late generation of Greek sophists, who pushed the technique of arguing too far and separated it from the original purpose of presenting the case in a clear form in court. They just wove the words, sentence after sentence, producing seemingly authoritative but devoid of any sense speech. That is why his primary audience he claimed was not professional philosophers but anybody who honestly (this is the key) thought about the biggest problems of mankind and especially about the relation between language and its role in our thinking.
With that, I would like to leave the topic of my discovery of Wittgenstein with a few quotes from him.
Philosophical Investigations, 129. “The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something — because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. — And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.“
Philosophical Investigations, 650: “We say a dog is afraid his master will beat him; but not, he is afraid his master will beat him tomorrow. Why not?“
The Big Typescript, 406–407: “What makes a subject difficult to understand — if it is significant, important — is not that some special instruction about abstruse things is necessary to understand it. Rather it is the contrast between the understanding of the subject and what most people want to see. Because of this the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not difficulty of the intellect but of the will.“
Culture and Value: “If life becomes hard to bear we think of a change in our circumstances. But the most important and effective change, a change in our own attitude, hardly even occurs to us, and the resolution to take such a step is very difficult for us.“
Culture and Value: “Nothing is more important than the formation of fictional concepts, which teach us at last to understand our own.”