Wittgenstein in Exile

Wittgenstein in Exile

James C. Klagge
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Wittgenstein in Exile
    Book Description:

    Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) and Philosophical Investigations (1953) are among the most influential philosophical books of the twentieth century, and also among the most perplexing. Wittgenstein warned again and again that he was not and would not be understood. Moreover, Wittgenstein's work seems to have little relevance to the way philosophy is done today. In Wittgenstein in Exile, James Klagge proposes a new way of looking at Wittgenstein -- as an exile -- that helps make sense of this. Wittgenstein's exile was not, despite his wanderings from Vienna to Cambridge to Norway to Ireland, strictly geographical; rather, Klagge argues, Wittgenstein was never at home in the twentieth century. He was in exile from an earlier era -- Oswald Spengler's culture of the early nineteenth century.Klagge draws on the full range of evidence, including Wittgenstein's published work, the complete Nachlaß, correspondence, lectures, and conversations. He places Wittgenstein's work in a broad context, along a trajectory of thought that includes Job, Goethe, and Dostoyevsky. Yet Klagge also writes from an analytic philosophical perspective, discussing such topics as essentialism, private experience, relativism, causation, and eliminativism. Once we see Wittgenstein's exile, Klagge argues, we will gain a better appreciation of the difficulty of understanding Wittgenstein and his work.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30011-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    On Sunday, October 6, 1929, in his rooms in Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein awoke from a dream, “unable to think. Thoughts feverish-dreamlike, repeating,” he wrote, in his simple reverse-alphabet code. He then recorded in plain-alphabet his dream of frustration arguing over the hopeless attempt to repair a mechanism he had once ordered. He concluded the dream description: “I thought: I have to live with people to whom I cannot make myself understood.—That is a thought that I actually do have often. At the same time with the feeling that it is my own fault.” After a brief and somewhat superficial...

  6. 1 No One Understands Me
    (pp. 5-18)

    Wittgenstein predicted, over and over, throughout his life, that people would not understand him or his work. Yet those who study Wittgenstein regularly fail to note or heed his warnings. This is a most striking fact about Wittgenstein and about scholarship concerning his work.

    Wittgenstein’sTractatus Logico-Philosophicusis a short book by any standards—some 22,000 words in English translation—about 50 pages in one English edition, 90 in another.¹ It is a decimal-numbered series of paragraphs—many consisting of a single sentence. As Wittgenstein explains in the only footnote: “The decimal numbers assigned to the individual propositions indicate the...

  7. 2 Can We Understand Wittgenstein?
    (pp. 19-40)

    In the 1930s and into the 1940s Wittgenstein worked on a different approach to philosophical issues. Whereas in theTractatushe had proposed a single account of the meaning of language—the so-called picture theory of meaning—which worked for descriptive language, and had recommended silence in many other realms in which language was employed, later he came to ascribe meaning to a wide variety of uses of language, seeing each as embodying its own “language game.” Instead of offeringtheoriesabout various philosophical problems, he recommended getting a better view of the language and activities that gave rise to...

  8. 3 What Is Understanding?
    (pp. 41-46)

    In Wittgenstein’s later work he reminds us that understanding is not simply a mental feeling (of understanding). Certain feelings, such as feelings of familiarity and confidence, may often be present when we understand something—he calls them “more or less characteristicaccompaniments” (PI, §152); so too, certain thoughts, such “now I get it.” But they are neither necessary nor sufficient for understanding. Rather, understanding is more like an ability. I understand something if I can discuss it intelligently, and use the information in practice. Even so, Wittgenstein is not content to think of understanding as some inner state from which...

  9. 4 Exile
    (pp. 47-60)

    After Wittgenstein completed a draft of hisPhilosophical Investigationsin 1945—what is called “Part I” in the published form—he went to work on a series of further topics. A draft of this later work has been included as “Part II” of theInvestigations, which is a compilation of fourteen different sections.¹ Section xi of Part II is an extended discussion of the concept of “seeing and especially of “seeing as.” Wittgenstein’s famous illustration of this latter concept is the figure of the duck–rabbit (figure 4.1), which “can be seen as a rabbit’s head or as a duck’s”...

  10. 5 Alienation or Engagement
    (pp. 61-72)

    How might Wittgenstein’s sense of alienation play itself out in his philosophy?

    In “A Defence of Common Sense,” an essay published in 1925, G. E. Moore claimed to know with certainty a number of things. One of these is that “the earth has existed for many years before my body was born.” Another is that each human being has “been, at every moment of its life after birth, either in contact with or not far from the surface of the earth.”¹

    In his later philosophy, Wittgenstein developed a method for approaching philosophical issues. In particular it was important to see...

  11. 6 The Work of Exile
    (pp. 73-82)

    What is one’s work as an exile? The Northern Kingdom of the Israelites accepted assimilation in Babylonia, as do most exiles, and disappeared from the history books. The Southern Kingdom of the Judeans sought to retain their identity in exile. They “wept by the rivers of Babylon,” while Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 40:3) “a voice crying in the wilderness.” The Judeans in exile mostly bided their time, avoiding assimilation and awaiting restoration to their previous location and relation to God. One might suppose they needed to earn their restoration through increased faithfulness, but this does not seem to have been the...

  12. 7 Philosophy and Science
    (pp. 83-96)

    Part of Wittgenstein’s alienation from the modern world was embodied in his attitude toward science—his determination that science should not be a predominant or pervasive mode of understanding. This did not constitute an opposition to science, but an insistence on the proper place of science—an opposition to what is now sometimes called “scientism.”

    This attitude did not come from an ignorance of science: He was familiar with the physical theories of Boltzmann, Hertz, Maxwell, and Einstein. His plan to study under Boltzmann was thwarted by the latter’s suicide in 1906. Instead he trained as an engineer (1906–1908)...

  13. 8 The Evolution of an Idea
    (pp. 97-114)

    In August 1936 Wittgenstein moved to Norway. His fellowship from Trinity College, Cambridge, had run out, and he had already determined that moving to Russia would not work. Wittgenstein lived in the village of Skjolden, where he had previously stayed for periods varying from a few weeks to several months at a time, in 1913–1914, 1921, and 1931. From his first experience of Norway, in 1913, he found that (Letter to Russell, October 29, 1913; CL, 45) “This is the ideal place to work in”—so much so that he had a small house built for himself to live...

  14. 9 Science and the Mind
    (pp. 115-124)

    If mental concepts are not necessarily insulated from advances in neurophysiology, we must face the issues of what the philosophical importance of neuroscience is, and what concerns might be raised by progress in neuroscientific research. Wittgenstein has interesting insights on these issues.

    In our ordinary talk about ourselves we use terms like “choose,” “believe,” “myself,” and “pain,” words that have been in our vocabulary for a long time without the benefit of any sort of scientific analysis or investigation. These are sometimes called concepts of “folk psychology,” because ordinary folk use them in discussing their own and others’ mental lives....

  15. 10 Das erlösende Wort
    (pp. 125-142)

    Wittgenstein was not easily distracted from his work. During World War I, within two weeks of being stationed at Krakow, he was making philosophical entries in his notebooks. In his coded notebooks, he would comment on the adverse conditions, physical—extreme cold, unceasing cannon fire—as well as spiritual. He would also comment on how his philosophical work was progressing. Often the adverse conditions and the philosophical work went together, as he found such work a kind of consolation (October 17, 1914; GT, 32): “Remember how great the grace of work is.” After almost two months of philosophical entries, Wittgenstein...

  16. 11 Wittgenstein in the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 143-154)

    Anthony Kenny published a highly successful book,Wittgenstein, in 1973. It was well reviewed, translated into seven languages, widely adopted as a course book, and remained in print for twenty-five years. Offered the opportunity to have it reprinted, Kenny added only a new introduction. He remarked that:

    The last thirty years, however, brought me disappointment, not about my own book but about the much more important matter of the reception of Wittgenstein himself. I had imagined that once his philosophical ideas had been absorbed, thinkers in various disciples would begin to apply them, with beneficial effect, to work in their...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 155-216)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-238)
  19. Index
    (pp. 239-249)