Wittgenstein's Conception Of Philosophy

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Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2009 09:31 am
Wittgenstein's Conception Of Philosophy
It would probably be safe to say that Wittgenstein had at least a somewhat controversial conception of what Philosophy Is. Many of the detractors to Wittgenstein's conception ask how can Philosophy do its job if it merely attends to language. Isn't Wittgenstein simply ignoring the big questions of Philosophy which Philosophers have grappled with for centuries?

Wittgenstein himself was well aware what was expected from the discipline of Philosophy and he said as much "What is philosophy? . . . We want a final answer, or some description of the world, whether verifiable or not" (Wittgenstein's Lectures: Cambridge, 1930-1932, p. 21). He also acknowledged some of the criticism that his method of undertaking Philosophy removed the wonder from Philosophy "seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important

Bertrand Russell became quite vocal about this denouncing Wittgenstein in a rather vigorous manner. Russell remarked about what he felt Wittgenstein was teaching in a negative manner.
''The new philosophy seems to me to have abandoned, without necessity, that grave and important task which philosophy throughout the ages has hitherto pursued. Philosophers from Thales onward have tried to understand the world. . . . I cannot feel that the new philosophy is carrying on in this tradition. It seems to concern itself, not with the world and our relation to it, but only with the different ways in which silly people can say silly things. If this is all that philosophy has to offer, I cannot think that it is a worthy subject of study.''

Wittgenstein also had some rather unsavoury words for Russell and said of him that he "seems to have grown tired of serious thinking and to have invented a doctrine which would make such an activity unnecessary." This dispute with Russell characterises the clash that Wittgenstein had with much of the world of Philosophy.

Russell's quote seems to be a rather unfair appraisal of Wittgenstein and his views, with Russell quite unfairly misrepresenting them. Russell complained that Wittgenstein concerned himself, not with the world, but only with words--as if these concerns were exclusive of one another. Wittgenstein, however, did not share that view. He held, rather, that the way to arrive at a correct philosophical view of the world is by means of an investigation of words that will remove our misconceptions and leave us with an unspoiled view of reality.

Wittgenstein didn't feel that he could make us more informed or provide us with new truths about the World, that is certain and he is very clear about that. "All I can give you is a method; I cannot teach you any new truths" (Wittgenstein Lectures 1932-35, p. 97). He felt that our linguistic misconceptions give us a distorted view of the world, he remarks how a Philosophical misconception is "like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off"

Wittgenstein didn't think Philosophy could make us better informed about the world, but rather that it could set us straight about the world. He was the man that attempted to allow us to the ''see the world aright''(Tractus Logico-Phiosophicus, Prop 6.54).

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Victor Eremita
 
Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2009 01:04 pm
@RDanneskjld,
The later Wittgenstein once wrote, "My work has expanded from the foundations of logic to the essence of the world." So I believe Wittgenstein redeemed himself, while Russell remained a jackass; In the 30s and 40s, Wittgenstein came to see that Kierkegaard's conception of philosophy was the right one, and that pondering "The Big Questions" was the right thing to do. Here's two passages from Culture and Value:
Quote:

Christianity is not based on a historical truth; rather, it offers us a (historical) narrative and says: now believe! But not, believe this narrative with the belief appropriate to a historical narrative, rather: believe through thick and thin, which you can only do as a result of a life. Here you have a narrative, don't take the same attitude to it as you take to other historical narratives. Make a quite different place in your life for it.-There is nothing paradoxical about that! (32E)

I believe that one of the things Christianity says is that sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life. (Or the direction of your life.) ... The point is that a sound doctrine need not take hold of you; you can follow it as you would a doctor's prescription.-But here you need something to move you and turn you in a new direction . . . Once you have been turned round, you must stay turned round. Wisdom is passionless. But faith by contrast is what Kierkegaard calls a passion. (53E)
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2009 02:37 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
In the 30s and 40s, Wittgenstein came to see that Kierkegaard's conception of philosophy was the right one, and that pondering "The Big Questions" was the right thing to do.

Wittgenstein had always pondered 'The Big Questions', even during his pre Tractatus day's this can be seen in his 1914-1916 Notebooks, we must remember that Wittgenstein hung on to the possibility of suicide throughout his whole life spending many hours thinking about the meaning of life and was also a firm believer in God, but he did not think these things where part of Philosophy. Such musings from his early Notebooks include:

What do I know about God and the purpose of life?
I know that this world exists.


And in this sense Dostoievsky is right when he says that the man who is happy is fulfilling the purpose of existence.

But he would never say that such thing's where Philosophy as we can see if we compare this to Proposition 6.53 of The Tractatus written shortly after 1914-1916 note books : The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science--i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy--and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person--he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy--this method would be the only strictly correct one. Though his theory's of language changed profoundly in his later work, this text shows that his conception of Philosophy can be greatly different from what the musing's found in his personal notebooks may suggest. I think his views on these extra writings are best characterised by this line from Culture and Value Don't for heaven's sake, be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense. We can also see examples in Culture and Value where he sets out differences in what can be considered Philosophy and what can not be.

It is clear that he sets out the purpose of Philosophy is the analysis of language we can see many examples of over a number of periods where we can clearly see him hold this view :

The aim of philosophy is to erect a wall at the point where language stops anyway. (p.187) Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language. Philosophical Investigations

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language. Philosophical Investigations

Though he makes many remarks about the 'The Big Questions' in Culture and Value, it is important to remember that over half the remarks found within Culture and Value come before his completion (in 1945) of Part One of Philosophical Investigations with work on Part Two not being completely finished at the time of his death , where he clearly states that Philosophy's role is the analysis of language. He did write in regards to other issues but these were not Philosophy in the eyes.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 12:22 am
@RDanneskjld,
Yeah, I know that he was interested in the Big Questions, that's why he went from engineering to math to philosophy. And I owe Wittgenstein a debt of gratitude because he helped fund German translations of Kierkegaard's philosophy. But he was so entangled in the whole Frege, Russell thing that he was forced to write the Tractatus (which the LPs thought was good, until Prop. 6 and 7)
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 02:32 am
@Victor Eremita,
Quote:
Russell's quote seems to be a rather unfair appraisal of Wittgenstein and his views, with Russell quite unfairly misrepresenting them. Russell complained that Wittgenstein concerned himself, not with the world, but only with words--as if these concerns were exclusive of one another. Wittgenstein, however, did not share that view. He held, rather, that the way to arrive at a correct philosophical view of the world is by means of an investigation of words that will remove our misconceptions and leave us with an unspoiled view of reality.



I don ` t know what this means. As i know, the latter Wittgenstein say we ought to look at words, and how it is used in different language games. These languages are sort of like conventions of a particular linquistic community. This is a very liberating idea, but if one push it to it`s logical conclusion, the notion of reference to reality is replaced by how certain words are used by some community of people. One can already see the seed of relativism. Relativism is not such a bad idea, but very few people publically endose it.
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 04:39 am
@vectorcube,
vectorcube;73570 wrote:



I don ` t know what this means. As i know, the latter Wittgenstein say we ought to look at words, and how it is used in different language games. These languages are sort of like conventions of a particular linquistic community. This is a very liberating idea, but if one push it to it`s logical conclusion, the notion of reference to reality is replaced by how certain words are used by some community of people. One can already see the seed of relativism. Relativism is not such a bad idea, but very few people publically endose it.


Russell felt that genuine Philosophical questions existed and felt that Wittgenstein's logical clarification of language and it's uses with the aim to solve Philosophical problems 'seems to me to have abandoned, without necessity, that grave and important task which philosophy throughout the ages has hitherto pursued. Philosophers from Thales onward have tried to understand the world. . . . I cannot feel that the new philosophy is carrying on in this tradition. It seems to concern itself, not with the world and our relation to it, but only with the different ways in which silly people can say silly things. If this is all that philosophy has to offer, I cannot think that it is a worthy subject of study.' Some have felt that a lot of Russell's hostility towards Wittgenstein's later Philosophy was due to it detracting attention from Russell's work at the time, which he felt of great importance to Philosophy.
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 05:19 am
@RDanneskjld,
R.Danneskjöld;73585 wrote:
Russell felt that genuine Philosophical questions existed and felt that Wittgenstein's logical clarification of language and it's uses with the aim to solve Philosophical problems 'seems to me to have abandoned, without necessity, that grave and important task which philosophy throughout the ages has hitherto pursued. Philosophers from Thales onward have tried to understand the world. . . . I cannot feel that the new philosophy is carrying on in this tradition. It seems to concern itself, not with the world and our relation to it, but only with the different ways in which silly people can say silly things. If this is all that philosophy has to offer, I cannot think that it is a worthy subject of study.' Some have felt that a lot of Russell's hostility towards Wittgenstein's later Philosophy was due to it detracting attention from Russell's work at the time, which he felt of great importance to Philosophy.


It seems to me that Russell is not putting up much on the table. What is his argument aganist Wittgenstein` s method? Can` t really do much on just how something "feel".
 
 

 
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