M. O’C. Drury on Wittgenstein and the history of philosophy

M. O’C. Drury on Wittgenstein and the history of philosophy

It is said that Wittgenstein knew little about the history of philosophy and spoke with some contempt about what had previously been called metaphysics. This is not true. Certainly he would not allow a philosophical discussion to be side tracked by irrelevant references to the statements of previous thinkers. And he thought it dangerous for a student of philosophy to spend a lot of time puzzling over say Kant or Hegel, when he should be thinking about what really puzzles him. Isn’t it a great relief to read a philosophical text such as Wittgenstein’s which is not weighted down by a mass of learned historicity? But that Wittgenstein was in any way arrogant towards the past or thought that he, or any of us, because we lived in the twentieth century were therefore more advanced in our thinking that is the very reverse of his belief. He shewed always a most remarkable and rare humility towards the past.

from “1967 Dublin Lecture on Wittgenstein,” in The Danger of Words and writings on Wittgenstein, (Thoemmes Press, 1996), 2.

Rush Rhees on Wittgenstein’s Investigations

Rush Rhees on the demands and scope of Wittgenstein’s Investigations

Wittgenstein did go through the [PhilosophicalInvestigations with me – some parts of it several times – before it was published. And although such understanding of it as I have has come more since his death, I should have understood less if I had not heard him read it and had him discuss it with me. This does not mean that I could speak about it with any authority at all. It means only that I agree that I could not get the hang of it and must give it up, if I had not had that help. (There are others who were not so lucky as I was, and who have no doubt understood it better, though.) Earlier drafts of various passages in it go back pretty far. Wittgenstein constantly tried to make his remarks more forceful, and also to shorten them. This meant that he demanded more from his readers. And of course most of his readers have not given what was needed. Here I am thinking above all of the bearing which these remarks in the Investigations have on other questions in philosophy and in logic. He thought that the same ‘line of thinking’, and in many ways the same problems, which come up in logic and the philosophy of mathematics, and also in metaphysics – the idea of the creation of the world and the idea of a Saviour – that these are really the same problems which he is discussing here in the Investigations. Wittgenstein himself had a genius for perceiving identities of this sort: it went together with his genius for recognizing problems where few or no one else would recognize them. And he thought that anyone who thought about what he has said in the Investigations, would come to realize that connexion – if he was giving any deep thought to them. I think it is clear that he was asking for more than most readers would be able to give or to do. And in some measure he may have expected this. (The idea that the Investigations is just an essay in philosophical psychology is one of the easiest and most short-sighted.)

from Wittgenstein and the Possibility of Discourse, 2nd Ed., Ed. D.Z. Phillips, (Blackwell, 2006), 257.

Garry Hagberg on philosophy as therapy

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 courage

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.

Notice: Mulhall’s Stanton Lectures

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!