Nov 3, 2010

Wittgenstein on Wednesdays 006

Wittgenstein cartoon

Auf Deutsch:
2.033 Die Form ist die Möglichkeit der Struktur.
2.034 Die Struktur der Tatsache besteht aus den Strukturen der Sachverhalte.
2.04 Die Gesamtheit der bestehenden Sachverhalte ist die Welt.
2.05 Die Gesamtheit der bestehenden Sachverhalte bestimmt auch, welche Sachverhalte nicht bestehen.
2.06 Das Bestehen und Nichtbestehen von Sachverhalten ist die Wirklichkeit.
(Das Bestehen von Sachverhalten nennen wir auch eine positive, das Nichbestehen eine negative Tatsache.)
2.061 Die Sachverhalte sind von einander unabhängig.
2.062 Aus dem Bestehen oder Nichbestehen eines Sachverhaltes kann nicht auf das Bestehen oder Nichtbestehen eines anderen geschlossen werden.

2.033 The shape is the possibility of the structure.
2.034 The structure of the facts exists from the structures of the states of affairs.
2.04 The entirety of the existing state of affairs is the world.
2.05 The entirety of the existing state of affairs is also true when the state of affairs is not existing.
2.06 The existing and non-existing of states of affairs is the reality.
(The existence of states of affairs we also call a positive, the non-existing a negative fact.)
2.061 The state of affairs are autonomous of one another.
2.062 From the existence or non-existence a state of affairs, the existence or non-existence of another one cannot be concluded.

  • Möglichkeit -- I'm not sure if this should be understood as "possibility" in the sense of "condition," which has a kind of limitation implied, a without-which-not, or, more optimistically, as potential. I've gone with what I take to be the more standard translation of the word, but I wonder if the connotation isn't a bit off.
  • Tatsache -- This can also, interestingly, mean "matters of fact."
  • besteht aus -- I've gone back and forth on the translation of this, and also on how tricky the translation is. One option is "consists of," another "exists from." The former seems more natural in English, but has the disadvantage of translating "besteht" in a way that seems to distinguish it and distance it from the other uses of the word in this passage. Worse, in the English "cosists" is so different from "exists" as to mask the fact Wittgenstein is using the same word. "Exists of" is not an option, though, and how one plays the genitive here, "of" vs. "from," seems like it could completely shift priority from terms of the sentence. Maybe not, though, as "consists of" makes the "Sachverhalte" primary, just as "exists from" does.
  • Wirklichkeit -- How much does this word carry the idea of "Realism"? "Realism" would be translated, I think, "Realisimus," and "reality," "Realität," but one has to think that logical positivists of the day would see this as an endorsement, not a distancing. Is it, though? Rudolph Carnap, in the German, is referred to as attempting "die Kluft zwischen Sprache und Wirklichkeit zu schließen," or, "to close the gap between speech and reality," K. Hübner, of Tübingen, wrote a book in 2001 called "Glaube und Denken: Dimensionen der Wirklichkeit," and the German wikipedia pages on Logical Positivism, explaining a dispute between about the definition of "positivism" between Carnap and Karl Popper, talks about a "Konfrontation mit der Wirklichkeit," or, "confrontation with the reality." So it seems -- seems -- that Wittgenstein is using, here, a very common philosophical word. But is that really what's going on with "Wirklichkeit"?
  • geschlossen werden -- Literally means "to make closed." A loose translation might say something like "cannot be inferred," and the primary idea of the sentence seems to be this logical disconnection, but "geschlossen" and "nicht geschlossen" also have this kind of wonderful idea of "bad logic" being that which closes down the openess that is actually in the world. This, I think, could be an example of how later Wittgenstein and earlier Wittgenstein are, in certain ways, continuous.
Ludwig Wittgenstein is easily the most rigerous philosopher in getting rid of his followers. Only certain religious figures -- e.g. Jesus in the early parts of his ministry -- even come close. Wittgenstein aggressively disowns his followers and distances himself from their readings.

Jacques Derrida, by comparison, is regularly criticized for dismissing his critics with a you don't understand. Wittgenstein does this with his supporters. People agree with him, champion his work, like Bertrand Russell or the Vienna Circle, and he takes them and that and turns it, with a grumpy Ju Jitsu into criticism.

This is part of why there's such traction to the story of Wittgenstein the stern school teacher. Besides the he did what?, it works as a metaphor -- well, not quite a metaphor -- an extreme example -- of Wittgenstein as teacher: he will be you until you bleed for being so stupid.

The story about how he disinherited himself work the same way. It's been a while since I read Ray Monk's amazing biography, but, as I remember it, Wittgenstein gives up everything and gives everything away multiple times.

This man knows how to disown.

This makes it very hard to read him. How is one supposed to understand a passage like this one?
The tendency -- the move I want to make -- is to read this as a kind of logical realism. What he says here, e.g. Wirklichkeit, seems to smoothly connect with the Vienna Circle, some Logical Positivists, what Russell was working on, etc., holding to this idea of logic as reality or logically-structured reality.

For example, the idea of non-existent state of affairs, such as, "The existing and non-existing of states of affairs is the reality, " this seems to distinguish itself from simple, flawed correspondence theory ideas, where words and things connect one-to-one, word-to-thing, but which has so much trouble with words like "unicorn" or sentences like, "I am not thinking about the gibbldy gop that is not in the corner," when "gibbldy gop" is understood to be something that can't exist. At the same time, it is a realism, here, and to be distinguished from Idealism, or as the stoners with their faux pomo might say, It's all in your mind, dude, and it also shouldn't be connected with, say, the Nicene Creed's phrase about the visible and the invisible. That's something different, and doesn't relate here. This is a realism -- which I can make sense of via connection with Russell et al -- with the idea that reality is facts, is logic and it's structures.

This is how, zum Beispeil, I would make it clear that this passage or this quote might seem to sound like it connects to idealism, or spiritual, religious ideas about the non-material realm, or even, maybe, deconstructionist, poststructuralist ideas like "there is no outside the text," this passages is actually using the language it uses to engage with a number of critical contemporary questions of the period, philosophical questions and also logical ones. This is how I know that what's really going on here is this kind of logical realism.

And this sounds right.

But if Wittgenstein distances himself from that reading -- more, disowns it -- if he beats me and my amateur, bloggish reading until I/we/it bleed from the ears, if I take seriously what Wittgenstein said when he disowned the Logical Postitivsts and said that none of his early champions even understood what he said or was trying to say -- what then?

If one accepts that Wittgensteinian disowning (and there may be reasons not to, but if you do), then the connections one could make, might make, to schools of thought and pre-existing questions or lines of questions, which might explain it, evaporate. They disintegrate and disappear. And what's worse, what one is left with is the disowning itself as an anchor.
Which would mean what, exactly?

An anti-reading? Apophatic Wittgenstein? Just: I know what it's not?

Reading so it's not realism, at least no like that, and also not not a realism.

Wittgenstein's not a help, either, if one takes him seriously. At least at this early stage, Wittgenstein is no OK with someone trying to understand what he's saying by putting the words in different words -- "Wittgenstein," the text, works to forbid reading, so that all reading is always reading wrong, all interpreting is misinterpreting. He insists the words are enough. The words in the shape they have here is all, it's "Das Bestehen und Nichtbestehen von Sachverhalten ist die Wirklichkeit" and then "Amen" and that's all.


But what does one do with that?