Garry Hagberg on the therapeutic character of Wittgenstein’s philosophy
The analogy between philosophy and therapy is apt because the self-investigative work required to unearth the only-indirectly manifested influences on our thought, such as misleading analogies, grammatical similarities, the falsifying and oversimplifying conceptual pictures that result from these — taken together, the deep — i.e., deep-in-language — sources of the impulses to speak in a metaphysical voice in accordance with the dictates of captivating pictures — takes time.
from “Wittgenstein, the Human Face, and the Expressive Content of Poetry,” available in full online HERE
Peter Winch on Wittgenstein on courage in philosophy
“You could attach prices to thoughts. Some cost a lot, some a little. And how does one pay for thoughts? The answer, I think, is: with courage.” [from Culture and Value, p. 52e]
[Winch’s commentary:] It is striking and important that he [Wittgenstein] uses an “ethical” concept courage here in discussing an apparently “logical” question. It takes courage to call in question familiar ways of thinking, to take seriously the idea that we are not compelled to think in accustomed ways, that there are other possibilities. It is not just that this is likely to be, as a purely internal matter, psychologically strenuous, though that is certainly not to be taken lightly, but that to strike out on new intellectual paths is also prone to bring us into conflict with other people, to expose us to the prospects of long, difficult argument, disruption of friendships and relations with collaborators, or worse.
from Peter Winch, “Persuasion,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 17 (1992): 128-129.
Today Stephen Mulhall is delivering the first of this year’s series of Stanton Lectures, hosted by the University of Cambridge.
The series is entitled:
The Great Riddle: Wittgenstein and Nonsense, Theology and Philosophy.
And the schedule runs as follows:
- 20 January: Nonsense and Theology: Exhausting the Options?
- 27 January: The Flounder and the Fisherman’s Wife: Tractarian Ethics, the Mystical and the Religious
- 3 February: Grammatical Thomism: Five Ways of Refusing to Make Sense
- 17 February: Analogical Uses and the Projectiveness of Words: Wittgenstein’s Vision of Language
- 24 February: Perfections and Transcendentals: Wittgenstein’s Vision of Philosophy
- 3 March: Authority and Revelation: Philosophy and Theology
The lectures are available for listening/downloading HERE!
Stephen Mulhall introduces Wittgenstein (Part I)
If you’ve got twenty minutes, you can catch the first half of a presentation Stephen Mulhall has given introducing the philosophy of Wittgenstein. It’s a contribution to St John’s Video Timeline Project. Mulhall’s a leading interpreter. (He’ll also be giving Cambridge’s Stanton lectures next year, which will commence on 20 Jan 2014, and will no doubt prove rewarding.)
Stephen Mulhall on Wittgenstein’s Method
“What does Wittgenstein take to be distinctive of a philosophical interest in things? What is the typical character of a philosophical question or problem? According to the discussion of philosophical method in sections 89–133 of the Investigations, a philosopher is interested in the essence of things; she is driven by an urge to comprehend not the facts of nature but rather the basis or essence of everything empirical – the space of possibilities within which what happens to be the case locates itself. A philosophical question is thus one to which the acquisition of further empirical knowledge is irrelevant: the philosopher does not seek new knowledge in order to alleviate ignorance; she seeks understanding in order to relieve a sense of confusion about what she already knows. And whereas traditional philosophers tend to conceive of the essence of things as hidden from view, hence as having to be revealed, say by penetrating the veil of mere appearance, Wittgenstein suggests instead that essence finds expression in grammar – in the kinds of statement that we make about the relevant phenomenon. In short, our philosophical inquiries into essence can and must take the form of grammatical investigations; the essence of things can be rendered surveyable simply by a rearrangement of what any speaker always already knows – how to use words, what to say when.”
“Wittgenstein’s view seems to be that the kinds of statement that we make about a phenomenon, and the kinds of statement that we do not make, make manifest the kind of phenomenon it is; if we clarify the criteria we employ for counting something as a phenomenon of the relevant kind, we thereby clarify that without which such a phenomenon would not be the kind of thing it is. What we judge that it does (not) make sense to say about something makes manifest its essential possibilities, the kinds of features it must possess if it is to count as the kind of thing it is, as well as those features it may possess (and the kinds of variation of feature to which it might intelligibly be subject) without ceasing to count as that kind of thing. To know this is, in effect, to grasp our concept of that thing; and what more might there be to knowing the essence of a thing than that?”
from “Wittgenstein on Religious Belief,” The Oxford Handbook to Wittgenstein, Eds. Oskari Kuusela and Marie McGinn, (OUP, 2011), 757-8.
Ludwig Wittgenstein on the Resurrection
I read: ‘No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.’ — And it is true: I cannot call him Lord; because that says nothing to me. I could call him ‘the paragon,’ ‘God’ even — or rather, I can understand it when he is called thus; but I cannot utter the word ‘Lord’ with meaning. Because I do not believe that he will come to judge me; because that says nothing to me. And it could say something to me, only if I lived completely differently.
What inclines even me to believe in Christ’s Resurrection? It is as though I play with the thought. — If he did not rise from the dead, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. He is dead and decomposed. In that case he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and once more we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation. We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven. But if I am to be REALLY saved, — what I need is certainty — not wisdom, dreams of speculation — and this certainty is faith. And faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can say: Only love can believe the Resurrection. Or: It is love that believes the Resurrection. We might say: Redeeming love believes even in the Resurrection; holds fast even to the Resurrection. What combats doubt is, as it were, redemption.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, Ed. G.H. von Wright, Trans. Peter Winch, (University of Chicago Press, 1980), 33e.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Letter to Drury
“I have thought a fair amount about our conversation on Sunday and I would like to say, or rather not to say but write, a few things about the conversations. Mainly I think this: Don’t think about yourself, but think about others, e.g. your patients. You said in the Park yesterday that possibly you had made a mistake in taking up medicine: you immediately added that probably it was wrong to think such a thing at all. I am sure it is. But not because being a doctor you may not go the wrong way, or go to the dogs, but because if you do, this has nothing to do with your choice of profession being a mistake. For what human being can say what would have been the right thing if this is the wrong one? You didn’t make a mistake because there was nothing at the time you knew or ought to have known that you overlooked. Only this one could have called making a mistake: and even if you had made a mistake in this sense, this would now have to be regarded as a datum as all the other circumstances inside and outside which you can’t alter (control). The thing now is to live in the world in which you are, not to think or dream about the world you would like to be in. Look at people’s sufferings, physical and mental, you have them close to hand, and this ought to be a good remedy for your troubles. Another way is to take a rest whenever you ought to take one and collect yourself. (Not with me because I wouldn’t rest you.) As to religious thoughts I do not think the craving for placidity is religious: I think a religious person regards placidity or peace as a gift from heaven, not as something one ought to hunt after. Look at your patients more closely as human beings in trouble and enjoy more the opportunity you have to say ‘good night’ to so many people. This alone is a gift from heaven which many people would envy you. And this sort of thing ought to heal your frayed soul, I believe. It won’t rest it; but when you are healthily tired you can just take a rest. I think in some sense you don’t look at people’s faces closely enough.
“In conversations with me don’t so much try to have the converstations which you think would taste well (though you will never get that anyway) but try to have the conversations which will have the pleastantest after-taste. It is most important that we should not one day have to tell ourselves that we had wasted the time we were allowed to spend together.
“I wish you good thoughts but chiefly good feelings.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View? Ed. Peter Winch, (Routledge, 2007), 125-6.