Showing posts with label WITTGENSTEIN Ludwig. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WITTGENSTEIN Ludwig. Show all posts

Jun 24, 2020

Interprétation
de Michelstaedter






MASSIMO CACCIARI DRÂN




Dans la culture d'Europe Centrale du début de ce siècle, l'œuvre de Carlo Michelstaedter représente un des pôles ou plutôt une des lignes-frontière qui la circonscrivent entièrement. En effet, il ne s'agit pas d'une simple expérience dans le cadre de cette culture, mais précisément de son acmé : tout aussi profondément enracinée dans les problèmes qui la travaillent, qu'elle est extraordinaire par la forme et la radicalité avec laquelle elle affronte ces problèmes et les «combat». Une affinité profonde — presque une «harmonie cachée» — relie — au-delà des différences récurrentes de contenu et de méthode de recherche — toutes ces voix de la génération des années quatre-vingt qui, au cours de la décennie précèdant la Grande Guerre, s'expriment en des œuvres où se mêlent l'enthousiasme de la jeunesse, la géniale solitude dont elle est seule capable quelquefois, au douloureux désenchantement, à l'adieu, au renoncement propre à une maturité plus sobre et plus lucide. Ce «ton» suffirait déjà à expliquer leur prédilection commune pour cet archétype de toute «métaphysique de la jeunesse» contemporaine que représente Le Monde de Schopenhauer. Amitié, oui, philotès, de fait, entre l'Ibsen de Slataper et L'Ame et les formes de Lukács, entre Wittgenstein et Michelstaedter, mais aussi profonde inimitié, neikos ; sur une trame analogue de rapports, de références, et plus encore: sur la base d'un ethos commun, libre de tout compromis, de toute mesotès, se font jour des choix irréductibles, des positions théorétiques violemment contrastées (qui par elles seules suffiraient à liquider cette image d'opérette de la finis Austriae commercialisée au cours de ces dernières années par d'innombrables «spectacles»). Amitié, oui, mais amitié stellaire.
Trois œuvres, selon moi, émergent de ce contexte comme œuvres-frontière, capables d'en «orienter» l'interprétation globale: L'Ame et les formes du jeune Lukács, qui paraît à Budapest en 1910 et l'année suivante en traduction allemande à Berlin; La persuasion et la rhétorique de Michelstaedter, dont les appendices critiques furent achevées le 16 octobre 1910, la veille même du suicide de l'auteur; le Tractatus de Wittgenstein, terminé, comme on le sait, à Vienne en 1918, et publié seulement en 1922 (l'année même de la première édition complète de la Persuasion), mais dont les idées fondamentales semblent être définies dès 1912-1913. Années qui coïncident avec les premiers livres de Kafka. Commune, l'origine juive: un judaïsme qui, bien qu'«assimilé», pose encore problème, est encore interrogé, et n'apparaît pas comme une donnée biographique, mais plutôt comme une «puissance» de l'œuvre. Et comme on le verra, nous pouvons même déjà entrevoir à proximité, l'Étoile de la rédemption de Rosenzweig. OEuvres en tension, en opposition — mais qui justement grâce à une telle opposition réciproque peuvent être pleinement comprises dans leur irréductible individualité.
Commun, le refus de la «culture esthétique» que Lukács, en 1910, définit ainsi dans l'essai portant ce même titre: «Il existait un centre: le caractère périphérique du tout. Toute chose avait acquis une valeur symbolique: le fait même que rien n'était symbolique, que tout n'était que ce qu'il semblait être dans l'instant où il avait été vécu (...) rien en effet n'existait qui ne puisse s'élever au-delà des instants singulièrement vécus. Il existait un rapport entre les hommes: l'entière solitude, l'absence totale de tout rapport». L'unité de la «culture esthétique» consiste en son manque d'unité. Où qu'il porte le regard, l'esthète n'est frappé que par sa propre impression. Aucune chose n'est véritablement res pour lui, rien qui n'ait une existence propre, une vie propre. Pour l'esthète — tout comme pour la vana curiositas du spécialiste — le monde et le moi oscillent dans l'éternelle insecuritas de la Stimmung, de l'état d'âme, de l'Einfühlung. Dans l'idée de «culture esthétique» convergent des courants multiples et dominants de la culture européenne de cette fin de siècle: si l'impressionnisme s'avère en être quasiment l'origine (et Lukács, tout comme d'autres, opposera à l'impressionnisme, un Cézanne, un Van Gogh ou un Gauguin), trouvent place en son sein tant le psychologisme d'inspiration machienne (contre lequel réagira puissamment la phénoménologie de Husserl), que toute forme de «naturalisme de l'âme» (fût-elle de caractère symboliste ou, plus tard, expressionniste), et l'interminable cortège des déformations vitalistes de la dura lectio nietzschéenne. C'est surtout à ces dernières que semble se référer Michelstaedter lorsque, dans le Dialogue de la morale et de l'esthétique héroïque, il pose la «question esthétique»: devant la décadence glorifiant l'«élan éternel», «les forces vives de la nature», la «beauté» de l'«orgie dionysiaque», Michelstaedter prend le masque du «consciencieux employé de Dame raison» pour démontrer l'infranchissable aporie de cette prétendue «vie supérieure», de sa prétendue «autonomie» par rapport aux schémas éculés de la tradition. Dans le grand Dialogue de la santé (1910) le monde de l'esthétique apparaît comme le monde de l'insatiabilité et du manque: ce n'est pas toi qui possèdes les choses en lui, mais les choses (que tu crois avoir pleinement «consommé» dans ton impression, dans la puissance «dionysiaque» de ta vie) qui te possèdent. Constamment tu en dépends : tu t'affirmes seulement dans la mesure où insatiablement tu en fais consommation. Celui qui élève au statut de vérité l'absence de vérité et à celui de centre la disparition du centre; celui qui, sur aucune chose peut fixer son regard, et par aucune chose peut être regardé, n'est pas l'homme libre, mais l'esclave entre tous: il dépend à chaque instant du jeu des apparences et des événements dans leur être fugitif, il ne peut qu'en suivre les «insatiables» transformations. Un profond pathos de la vérité, le sens d'une responsabilité absolue de la pensée et de l'écriture, unissent Lukács, Michelstaedter et Wittgenstein. Comme l'Ibsen, ou le Tolstoï dont parle Michelstaedter (tout comme Slataper à cette même époque; sans oublier que Tolstoï est aussi l'«étoile fixe» de Wittgenstein), ils ne se contentent pas d'«exprimer les sensations superficielles de leur âme» mais crient au visage de la foule: «Vérité! Vérité!» (O., p. 653-654).
Mais quelle Vérité? A ce point, les voies divergent. Ici la «métaphysique de la jeunesse» s'avère complexio oppositorum; et surgit alors le caractère extraordinaire de l'œuvre de Michelstaedter. La réponse du jeune Lukács à la crise de toute Kultur unitaire se concentre sur le problème de la forme de l'essai. L'écrit qui lui est consacré — la fameuse «lettre» à son ami Leo Popper, écrite justement à Florence, l'année même de la mort de Michelstaedter — sert d'introduction au recueil de L'Ame et les formes. Nous pourrions définir l'essai lukácsien comme une version «trauerspiel», dramatico-douloureuse, de l'essai simmelien (théorisé en particulier dans le bref et lumineux écrit de 1909: Pont et porte): pour ce dernier, l'impossibilité de reconstituer le cadre d'une culture «symbolique» ressort encore, «positivement», dans la relativisation réciproque — et donc, l'inséparabilité — du moment de l'union et de celui de la dissolution ou de la «crise». L'essai simmelien est encore pensé dialectiquement, comme la forme contemporaine spécifique de la pensée dialectique, comme forme non systématique de cette même dialectique. Au contraire, l'inspiration fondamentale de l'essai lukácsien semble plutôt kantienne — pleine de cette paradoxale radicalisation de la dimension éthique, déjà dominante dans l'œuvre d'un Weininger, qu'il serait nécessaire d'intégrer au cadre de notre recherche. L'essai ne représente pas ici l'équilibre inquiet entre «solve» et «conjunge», mais la position de celui qui «possède» le centre sous la forme de l'éloignement infranchissable: l'essai qui «tourne» autour de son feu, le comprend dans la mesure même où il en est inexorablement séparé. La vérité c'est l'idée (justement au sens kantien) de l'essai. Il ne «simulera» pas pour autant une composition, une union, mais devra de manière accomplie montrer justement l'infranchissable distance qui sépare de la vérité — en se faisant, par cela même, le gardien de l'idée. L'essai ne s'apaise pas dans quelqu'impressionnisme ou relativisme que ce soit — il montre la vérité, mais précisément comme absence. L'essai ne «renonce» pas à ce qui lui est propre — mais justement parce qu'il l'aime absolument, il ne pourra jamais objectivement le posséder.
La position de Michelstaedter est, au contraire, métaphysiquement opposée à toute idée d'essai (et, de ce point de vue, elle est analogue à celle de Wittgenstein). Les raisons de cette opposition ne pourront s'éclairer qu'en avançant dans l'interprétation de la Persuasion et la Rhétorique, en ce qu'elles coïncident avec les fondements mêmes de la pensée de Michelstaedter. Par essence, l'essai, quelque forme d'essai que ce soit, est une interminable interprétation, jamais persuadée ; l'essai est éternelle «attente» du feu du texte, qu'il garde pourtant, mais jamais, en son temps, ne pourra se donner le kairos qui fait «demeurer stable», «résister» (PR, p. 70 [71]), le kairos11 de l'«actuelle possession» (PR, p. 71 [72]) du présent, «ergôn akmé» (selon les mots de Sophocle, cités par Michelstaedter, p. 72 [id.]): point culminant de toutes les œuvres et dans lequel tout dis-courir se tait.
Comment exprimer une telle acmé? C'est vers la parole de la sophia que Michelstaedter se tourne. Ce «retour» à la Grécité présente des traits extraordinaires — il est absolument aux antipodes de celui de l'idéalisme classique, mais apparaît aussi radicalement «polémique» au regard de la vision nietzschéenne du classique. Le premier a un «texte sacré» (l'expression est de Hegel): le Parménide de Platon, lequel est le texte «maudit» de Michelstaedter. Le second (qui maintient des rapports essentiels avec le premier: il suffirait de penser à l'interprétation presque commune de Héraclite) dissout dans la forme tragique de sa dialectique à la fois le problème de la Vérité et de la Persuasion. L'acmé de Michelstaedter s'exprime au nom d'une sophia parménidienne, dont la vérité contredit tragiquement la voie des mortels à deux têtes, des mortels qui dis-courent dans l'onomazein, qui dépendent de ce temps-chronos de la succession, celui-là même du discours et de ses noms. Il s'agit — je le répète — d'un «retour au classique» in-ouï pour la culture européenne de l'entre-deux siècles (et toto caelo différent de celui implicite dans l'essayisme, fut-il lukácsien, qui porte sur l'idée platonicienne d'Eros, et tient le Banquet pour son «texte» en propre). Ce qui chez Parménide «foudroie» Michelstaedter est l'affirmation nette, dépourvue de clair-obscur, immobile (»la nécessité pour les hommes est justement le déplacement: ni blanc, ni noir, mais gris, ils sont et ils ne sont pas, ils connaissent et ne connaissent pas: la pensée devient «. PR, p. 99 [102]), du caractère in-intentionnel de la vérité. Ceci distingue Michelstaedter aussi de la «Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft» de Husserl (notons que le «programme» husserlien qui porte ce titre paraît dans «Logos» en 1910-1911), «remémorisation» radicale, par contre, de la tradition cartésienne. La rigueur de la philosophie ne peut être définie sur la base du fundamentum inconcussum du Cogito — car Cogito ne signifie pas je sais, mais «je cherche à savoir: autrement dit, le savoir me fait défaut: je ne sais pas « (PR, p. 99 [102]). Le Cogito caractérise l'être amphibie de la philosophie, en tant que devenir connaissance et donc toujours vide dans le présent, toujours attention du futur. Si Cogito est ce penser qui attend, qui est attentionné, qui ne possède vraiment aucun présent, je ne pourrai jamais en conclure, me fondant sur lui, que je suis (cogito, ergo sum), mais, tout au plus seulement que j'ai été ou que je serai. Le «fondement» du Cogito (sur lequel on prétend édifier une philosophie «rigoureuse») apparaît en réalité comme le processus même qui dis-trait dans le temps de la succession, où tout oscille entre être et non-être, où rien n'est véritablement présent.
Le nihilisme constitutif du Cogito est à la base de la dimension de la Rhétorique. Ceci doit être bien compris pour liquider les différentes interprétations simplement éthiques ou, a fortiori, littéraires de l'idée michelstaedterienne de rhétorique. Cette idée est rigoureusement philosophique: est rhétorique toute conception intentionnelle de la vérité, c'est-à-dire toute conception pour laquelle la vérité est réduite à l'ordre de l'interprétation, à la forme du discours, au problème de sa cohérence interne. Est rhétorique la prétention de posséder le savoir à travers la conventionnalité de l'onomazein, est rhétorique le fait de prétendre que la connaissance puisse être formée par un «système de noms» (PR, p. 98 [101]). L'idée de rhétorique ne reflète donc pas une simple phénoménologie des comportements, autrement dit, n'est en rien descriptive — mais entend attaquer la structure même du discours philosophique, tel qu'il émerge de la «grande crise», entre le Platon des derniers dialogues et Aristote. Ici la philosophie se transforme, pour Michelstaedter, en enquête sur les mots et les modes de la langue, en une cristallisation de ses termes: on simule une classification systématique des modes de parler qui soit la classification de la chose elle-même ; on simule une correspondance «naturelle» entre l'appellation et la chose — cette «voie» justement qui, pour Parménide, représente un délire radical hors du cœur qui ne tremble pas d'Alethèia.
Oeuvre époquale, œuvre qui détermine en grande mesure tout le développement successif de cette pensée «dé-lirante» de l'Occident, que le Parménide de Platon — où, pour Michelstaedter, un Parménide vieilli, qui a perdu ou oublié tout «enthousiasme» (cette divine mania qui l'avait ravi à la présence de l'auguste déesse), s'efforce par une monstrueuse intelligence de montrer dans les mots la connexion possible, la symplokè, le métaxy, entre la rhétorique du quotidien, du temps dis-courant et la Persuasion, la Vérité. Dans le Parménide, serait formulé le projet même de la pensée occidentale, en tant que volonté de compréhender-concevoir le devenir: à savoir volonté d'être-dans-le-temps, d'«appartenir» au devenir et en même temps de le «théoriser», de le dominer conceptuellement. Le concept de rhétorique chez Michelstaedter, compris selon son inspiration la plus radicale, désigne cette volonté de «confusion», de «compromis» (possible uniquement dans le jeu des mots) entre devenir-discourir (il est «nécessaire» de se le concilier — comme on dit) et le présent compos sui de la Persuasion. Il faut se forcer à identifier quels composants théorétiques fondamentaux alimentent cette critique désespérée michelstaedterienne de toute forme de dialectique (donc, aussi de cette forme de dialectique propre à l'essayisme — et qui aura à jouer un rôle tout à fait central dans le «style» de la pensée du xxe siècle). Ce que Michelstaedter entend par Philopsychia, par l'«amour» inauthentique pour la vie dissipée dans le temps où «panta reî», fille de Penia, toujours en attente, toujours déficiente, toujours en corrélation-dépendante, jamais déterminée — ne peut être rattaché, aussi facilement qu'on pourrait le croire, à ce «climat» culturel (auquel appartient certainement aussi le jeune Lukács) qui va de la crise des «fondements» du rationalisme positiviste du XIXe à Sein und Zeit. Les analogies entre le thème de la vie inauthentique, distraite dans le temps de la succession chrono-logique, développé dans la Persuasion et la Rhétorique, et dans certaines parties de l'analytique heideggérienne, sont sans aucun doute impressionnantes — mais la différence n'en apparaît que plus clairement. Il n'est pas qu'une forme du langage (celle du «On», du Man, de l'impersonnel: le langage présupposé, hérité, déjà-dit) qui soit inauthentique, radicalement, pour Michelstaedter, mais la constitution même du langage en tant que tel, qui ne peut correspondre au programme, déjà énoncé par Novalis, d'une parfaite émancipation par rapport à l'esthétique, par rapport à la dépendance du sens. Le langage ne peut pas ne pas servir à signifier — ne peut pas ne pas s'avérer, par effet de gravitation, être attiré vers un «autre» que soi. Pas une de ses logicisations, pas une de ses catharsis philosophiques, qui puisse le racheter de ce péché originel. La philosophie ne sera que la «mise en ordre» de ce langage, ainsi structuré, du devenir de ses modes et termes structurellement inadéquats pour toucher la chose même. La question de la Vérité et de la Persuasion ne peut donc pas se poser dans les termes de l'expression linguistico-discursive.
Cette idée rappelle fortement l'intuition-base de la critique brouwerienne des fondements de la théorie classique des ensembles et, plus généralement, de toute tentative de fondement logique de la mathématique. A la même époque, paraît la grande œuvre du mathématicien hollandais sur les Fondements (1907), précédée par un petit volume tout à fait négligé par les historiens de la pensée du xxe, Leven Kunst en Mystiek (1905), dans lequel, à travers une confrontation serrée avec les mêmes textes que Michelstaedter, Lukács ou Wittgenstein (De Schopenhauer à Eckhart — jusqu'à certaines influences de l'ancienne mystique indienne), au langage intrinsèquement expression de la philopsychia, instrument-véhicule de l'empaysement, de la domestication, de la communication-aliénation, s'oppose la forme persuadée en soi, l'ou-topia éradiquée de tout rapport de dépendance, de l'intuition mathématique et du grand art. Il ne me semble pas hasardeux d'affirmer que Michelstaedter, cherchant à montrer la dimension de la Persuasion, pense justement à ces formes. S'il retrouve surtout chez les poètes (des Tragiques grecs, à Pétrarque, à Leopardi), chez les grands «denkende Dichter», la dénonciation du «dieu que tous honorent» (PR, p. 56 [55]), à savoir celui de la philopsychia, c'est justement parce que dans l'art se montre au plus haut point cette vérité «qui soulève l'individu de ses racines et déchaîne en lui la question d'un présent plus rempli» (O., p. 157), c'est parce que l'art lui apparaît, parmi toutes les autres formes d'expression, celle la plus étrangère à toute «dis-cursivité» gratuite, libre du schéma de finalité et de projet qui domine les autres. C'est dans ce contexte que devront aussi être comprises les images continues, dans l'œuvre de Michelstaedter, de solitude et de désert; elles veulent indiquer l'ou-topia, littéralement: le non-lieu d'une expression qui ne discourt pas, qui ne «dépend» pas (ainsi, pour Brouwer, la mathématique est «sans mots aucun»). Il est certainement juste de saisir aussi dans ces images le sens de l'origine juive de Michelstaedter (persuadé est celui qui est «seul dans le désert», et ce n'est que dans une telle solitude qu'il «vit une vie d'une profondeur et d'une étendue vertigineuse» (PR, pp. 70, 87 [70, 88]) — que ce soit dans le désert, libéré de l'«esthétique» des relations particulières (PR, p. 81 [82]), que l'individu puisse s'affirmer dans sa plus profonde et invincible liberté, est une idée qui rappelle fortement le Moïse et Aaron de Schönberg) — mais il ne faut pas oublier que l'œuvre de Michelstaedter traite d'un problème éminemment philosophique (justement dans sa prétention à valoir comme critique radicale de la tradition philosophique) et ne peut donc être lue comme un ensemble de motifs disparates, tantôt théoriques, tantôt littéraires, tantôt religieux. Est solitaire «la possession de soi» — totalement déracinée du flux de l'onomazein, dont la philosophie n'est autre que la tentative récurrente de mise en ordre, de système; solitaire la «divine persuasion» de l'intuition unifiée à son propre «objet», de la pensée identique à l'être-pensé et qui, de fait, dans son exercice, ne tend pas à autre chose que soi, ne s'«aliène» pas, mais persiste dans son présent même, demeure. Est solitaire l'expression, épurée de toute mimesis, qui crée d'elle-même sa propre vie, qui est son propre monde, «maître et non esclave chez lui» (PR, p. 73 [75]) (chez Michelstaedter abondent des expressions qui pourraient rappeler de thèmes gnostiques — mais nous verrons bientôt comment ils sont absolument privés de leur dimension sotériologique originelle. En des termes analogues, des thèmes gnostiques affleurent chez Leopardi, véritable «auteur» de Michelstaedter).
Que le langage reste inexorablement en-deçà d'une telle solitude, et donc d'une telle vie — et qu'en même temps, la philosophie ne soit essentiellement que classification-logicisation des termes du langage, et donc essentiellement inadéquate à «toucher» la vie — tel est le trait qui rapproche véritablement Michelstaedter de Wittgenstein. Pas seulement du Wittgenstein du Tractatus, puisque la conscience du caractère arbitraire des limites de la signification, de la différence métaphysique entre le signifier et le fait de «donner la raison» (O., pp. 294-295), accompagne Wittgenstein au cours de toute son œuvre. Son long travail tout entier, tout comme la flamme instantanée de celui de Michelstaedter, résonnent comme une critique radicale de l'illusion du sujet parlant de s'ériger comme Sujet absolu, et donc de simuler [fingere] que ses propres mots soient le mouvement même de la vie, autrement dit que les limites de la puissance des mots coïncident avec les limites de la réalité (O., p. 143). Cette critique fonde le refus commun et intransigeant de toute forme d'idéalisme (qu'on se reporte, chez Michelstaedter, aux traits «féroces» sur Croce, par exemple).
Que la philosophie — en tant qu'«organisme syntaxique», en tant qu'elle est fondée sur la valeur des relations et des «dépendances» réciproques — ne puisse avoir l'intuition de la chose elle-même, ne puisse posséder une parole vivante pour exprimer ce que l'homme a «à cœur» dans sa vie, et donc n'ait aucun pouvoir de persuasion authentique (O., p. 287) — que son argumentation puisse seulement «vaincre», mais non pas «convaincre» — c'est exactement le contenu des dernières propositions du Tractatus. Une «haine» identique à l'égard des mots qui prétendent être la vie, les anime tous deux — un même sens désespéré de la limite tautologique de l'argumentation philosophique (O., p. 236) (mais qu'on y prenne garde: de l'argumentation philosophique rigoureuse). Toutefois Wittgenstein ne risque pas un mot au-delà de cette limite: le seul moyen de désigner ce qui la dépasse — la vie — c'est le silence. La position de Michelstaedter défie, au contraire, le paradoxe: il cherche le chemin des mots dans lesquels résonne aussi le timbre de la persuasion. Qu'il soit bien conscient du caractère plus que paradoxal, antinomique, de sa tentative, est évident si l'on en juge par la Préface à la Persuasion et la rhétorique: «Moi je sais que je parle parce que je parle, mais que je ne persuaderai personne: et c'est une malhonnêteté — mais la rhétorique anankazei me tauta drân bia — [me contraint à faire cela...] « (Sophocle). Donc la Persuasion et la rhétorique aussi est rhétorique! Puisque, comme nous l'avons vu, la rhétorique n'est pas une forme du langage, mais le langage dans son essence. Toute tentative de «parler» de la persuasion se révèle intrinsèquement antinomique. Et pourtant cela doit être fait: drân, faire, — verbe tragique, par excellence, qui indique non pas le faire dans sa dis-cursivité quotidienne, mais l'instant, l'acmé suprême de la décision, le comble de l'action, où le caractère du héros émerge pleinement, irréversiblement. Cela doit être fait, malgré tout : soulever le langage de l'intérieur en le forçant, bia, à sortir de soi, comme s'il pouvait se dépasser. Ou, pour paraphraser Wittgenstein: cela doit être fait: se taper la tête contre ses limites, contre sa cage, jusqu'à ce que ça saigne. Ce faire-malgré-tout marque la tonalité tragique de l'œuvre de Michelstaedter et la différencie en cela nettement du Tractatus. Le logos de la Persuasion et la Rhétorique est «double»: rhétorique qui veut se supprimer (et en sait l'impossibilité), rhétorique «infidèle» à l'égard d'elle-même — infidélité sacrée, pourrions-nous dire avec Hölderlin, comme celle qui anime le héros tragique à l'égard du monde divin. Durant toute sa vie Wittgenstein lutte contre le démon de la tragédie — réussit à «lui survivre» — mais sans jamais s'en consoler, sans jamais le croire vaincu, sans jamais véritablement s'apprivoiser dans la rhétorique. A l'honnêteté ascétique de Wittgenstein s'«oppose» la «malhonnêteté» tragique de Michelstaedter.
Mais le caractère tragique de la pensée de Michelstaedter contraste aussi avec la position de Brouwer, qui voit dans l'intuition mathématique, opposée à la discursivité logique justement le dépassement accompli de la forme tragique. (Dans l'idée de la mathématique comme absoute [assoluta] du langage, Brouwer est aussi, évidement, aux antipodes du «second» Wittgenstein). Pas même la «persuasion mathématique» (étant admis que la forme mathématique puisse apparaître en elle-même persuadée — ce que Wittgenstein niera) ne peut représenter la vie persuadée. Son «jeu sérieux» se fonde même, tout comme l'intuitionnisme de Brouwer le démontre, sur l'a priori du temps: la possibilité transcendantale du jeu mathématique consiste dans la bissection originelle de l'unité: l'un, en se disant, est deux, est uni-duité. Mais ceci n'est pas autre chose que le mouvement fondamental du Parménide de Platon! Un désespoir analogue à l'égard de la parole unit donc la mania philosophique de ces trois auteurs (et, en cela, ils apparaissent véritablement tous trois comme l'expression du Lord Chandos hofmannsthalien). Ils vivent avec la même intensité — mais pour les raisons que nous venons d'exposer, et non à cause d'une vague Stimmung ! — la condition des sans-patrie dans cette «antique demeure du langage» krausienne. Mais Brouwer pense à l'intuition mathématique comme réelle ou-topia par rapport à cette demeure; Wittgenstein, au contraire, s'y installe, s'interdisant toute image «dépassante», mais s'y installe, insistant toujours sur le fait que ce qui véritablement compte, ne peut être affirmé dans ses limites, il s'y installe, en vérité, comme une «âme étrangère» ; Michelstaedter tente la voie — certainement «malhonnête» aux yeux d'un Brouwer ou d'un Wittgenstein — du «double logos», du discours tragique qui, en se disant, se nie presque en tant que tel, de la rhétorique qui s'acharne contre elle-même, qui «implose». Et par ce fait il rencontre l'aporie de la «voie intérieure» schopenhauerienne: l'aporie de la volonté qui veut le non-vouloir, de la volonté qui devrait se retourner contre elle-même — mais, qui ne se voulant pas, en cela se réaffirme elle-même justement. L'aporie du « deseando nada» de Saint Jean de la Croix.
Les critiques qui reconnaissent chez Michelstaedter la présence «victorieuse» de la volonté dans la dimension même de la Persuasion ont donc certainement de bonnes raisons pour cela. Et si la volonté implique — comme justement déjà chez Schopenhauer — la volonté-de-la-vie, si volonté signifie représentation, alors un lien inextricable en relie la dimension à celle de la rhétorique. L'aporie se manifeste jusque dans l'écriture de Michelstaedter: il parle de « s'approprier le présent», de devoir perdurer, résister, «être maître « (PR, pp. 69 sqq., [n.s.]). Un impératif insistant scande le monde de la Persuasion (cf. O., pp. 149-150). Mais comment un présent authentique, accompli, peut-il naître des formes du vouloir, du devoir, de l'impératif? Comment distinguer cette appropriation (du présent) des formes du pro-jet, de l'en-à-venir [infuturamento], de l'«esprit vagabond, jusqu'en fin toujours à jeun» ? Les critiques ont raison, certes — mais jamais comme en ce cas n'a été vraie la boutade qui dit que rien au monde n'est en vente à meilleur prix que le fait d'«avoir raison». Comme le montrent ces mots déjà cités de la Préface à la Persuasion et la Rhétorique, Michelstaedter est parfaitement conscient du caractère antinomique constitutif de son œuvre. Mais littéralement anti-nomique, c'est-à-dire opposée au nomos du langage discursif, à la loi qui domine tous les «sujets» de la communication et de la relation, telle est cette expression qui cherche à persuader «l'humaine existence», les «misérables mortels», «tout à fait malades» du «il est» seul, du présent. Anti-nomique, par rapport au nomos de la dialectique qui veut «vaincre» l'autre, «s'approprier» ses mots, telle est l'expression qui l'«aime» et veut le constituer en tant que personne (O., p. 297). Une vie persuadée ne peut être donnée dans les limites du langage, et pourtant justement l'affrontement absolument désespéré contre de telles limites, est un signe anti-nomique: il est un signe irréductible par rapport à ce système de signes qui informent du monde «commun». Il ne dit pas, comme ces derniers — mais n'est pas pour autant simple silence, non-dire négatif. Il se montre, dans le naufrage même du dire «commun», quand il prétend dire la vie. La «poésie pensante», que Michelstaedter interprète comme unique témoignage de la persuasion, est ce faire-signe: en elle justement le désespoir du dire, le désespoir qui saisit le dire à son acmé, indique, «montre» la vie indicible — la vie libérée de la volonté «en aucun point satisfaite» (PR, p. 42 [43]), la vie non plus «survie», non plus simple «crainte de la mort» (PR, p. 69 [id.]). Car c'est justement à la vie que doit mener le chemin ascendant du bouleversement désespéré de la rhétorique. Chez Wittgenstein, prenons-y garde, il n'y «conduit» point — au terme du Tractatus, il n'est pas vrai que nous soyons plus «proches» de la vie qu'au début. Chez Schopenhauer, le problème se pose en des termes précisément opposés: la volonté qui se tourne contre elle-même, se tourne contre la vie qu'elle reproduit continûment. Depuis la mort, au contraire, depuis la peur de la mort, qui pousse l'homme à vouloir continuer, depuis l'impersonnelle philopsychia qui fait survivre, justement dans la mesure où elle nous manifeste continûment «déjà morts dans le présent» (PR, p. 69 [id.]), le semainein paradoxal-antinomique de Michelstaedter veut «conduire» à la vie. Ce qu'aucun dire, aucune imagination [fantasia], fût-elle «haute», ne peut véritablement toucher-comprendre-intuitivement, ce dont aucune «puissance» [possa] du langage ne peut être vérité (dans le sens de l'alethèuein : du dévoilement), c'est la vie même. La voie de Rosenzweig a une forme identique: vom Tode ... zum Leben: de la mort ... à la vie» — c'est là, «parvenus» à la vie, que le livre se tait. Mais la vie de Rosenzweig est intrinsèquement connotée par l'être-là effectif du peuple juif — c'est la vie du judaïsme qui, dans son déroulement dans le temps, est plus que temporelle. Chez Michelstaedter, au contraire, c'est la parfaite ou-topia de la vie persuadée, de l'idée de Persuasion en général. Mais l'absence de toute racine — fût-elle même cette racine «errante» qui constitue la vie d'Israël — ne produit, dans le langage paradoxal-antinomique conscient de Michelstaedter, aucun pessimisme. Tous les auteurs à l'aune desquels nous avons affronté le «problème Michelstaedter» sont parfaitement étrangers à l'aura pesante du pessimisme — mais Michelstaedter (précisément lui, qui se suicide à vingt-trois ans) l'est avec plus de force, avec plus de conviction. Tout pessimisme déclaré (telle est la thèse fondamentale du Dialogue de la Santé) n'est qu'un pessimisme imparfait. Si la vie est (au sens schopenhauerien) volonté de vie, et donc déficience et douleur, il faut «porter tout le poids de la douleur et tirer de ce poids la joie et la vie». La «parole joyeuse de la santé» n'est pas prononcée ici, comme ce peut être le cas chez Schopenhauer, en opposition à la vie, elle n'est pas la parole de la négation de la vie, mais s'affirme comme la force parfaite pour en porter le poids, sans vanité, sans illusion et sans flatterie. Les parfaits pessimistes sont ceux qui en ont déjà dépassé le signe: ils ne demandent pas à la vie de dépasser la douleur qui lui est inhérente, ni ne s'en lamentent (ni n'accusent, ni ne pleurent) mais demeurent en elle, établissent en elle leur œuvre, sont en-ergoi dans la douleur et demeurent en-arghia précisément dans son embrassement. La vie persuadée n'apparaît pas abstraitement autre par rapport à celle «malade» de l'attendre et du prétendre, mais comme la coïncidence en acte entre l'être-là de la personne et l'endurance radicale de la douleur liée à l'exister. Le présent de la persuasion signifie l'être en-arghia dans la douleur, non au-delà d'elle. C'est donc la possibilité de cette vie, persuadée, autonome, pacifiée dans le présent de son propre «mal» (n'aspirant à aucune dimension transcendante de salut — ce qui justement en annulerait le présent et nous ferait replonger dans le nihilisme de la rhétorique), qui constitue l'ou-topia indicible de la parole de Michelstaedter.
Cet aspect est essentiel à la compréhension de l'œuvre de Michelstaedter. La dimension de la persuasion n'annule pas la douleur — en tant qu'idée marquée par une intention radicalement anti-nihiliste, elle ne peut se présenter non plus comme négation de la douleur. C'est la rhétorique qui cherche en vain à tromper, illusionner [in-ludere] ou se jouer de la douleur. C'est la philosophie — comme le dira Rosenzweig — qui veut se donner l'illusion de «jouer», par ses mots qui prétendent se faire vie, l'angoisse de l'individu devant la mort (»Abschaffung des Todes»). La persuasion ne vaut pas comme un énième «refoulement» — mais comme l'acceptation parfaite d'une telle angoisse. N'est pas persuadée, la vie qui la «dépasse» (la figure de dépassement est la quintessence du nihilisme, comme nous l'apprendra Canetti), mais la vie qui en elle demeure et, demeurant en elle, agit — la vie, en somme, maîtresse de son propre présent, là où tout semblerait inciter à un en-à-venir, à la recherche de salut dans l'«ailleurs», ou à la simple résignation du «weiterleben». La vie persuadée n'est pas ek-statique par rapport au devenir, au dis-courir du temps et du logos, mais constitue en quelque sorte l'instant qui les interrompt, l'instant de leur arrêt. Telle est la vraie «pensée abyssale» de Michelstaedter (et la citation nietzschéenne, comme nous le verrons, n'est point due au hasard: là véritablement Michelstaedter rencontre le Nietzsche encore parfaitement «inactuel», le Nietzsche posthume — pour lequel non pas le cercle, non pas l'anneau de l'éternel retour, est une figure de la négation de l'«esprit de gravité», mais l'instant, l'Augenblick, qui suspend la domination de Chronos, qui en dé-cide le continuum. Tel est le présent dont parle Michelstaedter): dans le temps-chronos peut s'ouvrir l'instant de la décision, l'instant qui met en crise radicalement l'aller-au-delà, le flux, l'anxieuse attente d'un futur qui annule le présent. La vie persuadée se concentre dans le feu de l'instant: elle ne voit pas dans son présent le non-plus du passé, le non-encore du futur, elle ne saisit pas son présent comme un point indifférent dans la succession des nyn (sur le fond, nous retrouverons dans Etre et Temps de Heidegger une critique de la conception aristotélicienne du temps, parfaitement analogue), mais voit chaque présent comme le dernier (PR, pp. 69-70 [id.]).
La persuasion ne se donne que dans l'instant; l'idée de persuasion coïncide avec l'a-discursivité et in-intentionnalité de l'instant, compris eschatologiquement. A la lumière d'une telle idée semblent «s'éteindre» ces possessifs-impératifs connotés qui imprègnent aussi de nécessité tout vouloir signifier la Persuasion. Dans l'instant, opposé au simple moment-nyn, dans l'instant comme présent extrême, arrêtant toute volonté de pro-jet, toute forme d'en-à-venir, règne la pure Justice. Gerechtigkeit — dirait-on avec Nietzsche — non das Recht. Le droit appartient à la rhétorique de l'échange, de la communication, du survivre: dans le règne du droit «tous ont raison, personne n'est juste» (PR, p. 76 [77]). C'est le règne des droits et des devoirs, du recevoir et du donner, de la demande réciproque. Dans la persuasion, dans l'instant de la vie persuadée, rien ne se demande ou ne s'attend; la pensée acquérante-impositive ne trouve pas, littéralement, espace dans l'instant. La vie persuadée est pur don, absolue dépense (on peut trouver des images et des motifs analogues dans quelques-unes des œuvres les plus intenses du jeune Lukács, comme le dialogue Sur la pauvreté d'esprit). L'affirmation n'admet pas de pluriel: « tout donner et ne rien demander, tel est le devoir — mais où sont les devoirs et où sont les droits, moi je ne le sais pas» (PR, p. 79 [80]).
Violence de la rhétorique et du droit. Est violent le nomos qui oblige au langage et au temps communs. Violent l'arrachement pro-jetant, l'idée d'interminable dépassement que ce logos «commun» exprime. Violente la nature la plus intime du Cogito, comme co(a)giter des mots et des termes pour réduire la vie à eux, pour la subsumer en eux. La persuasion, au contraire, est en paix, en-arghia — elle est l'énergie actuelle qui déracine la violence, en tant qu'ici-maintenant-entière (PR, p. 80 [80-81]) elle n'attend rien, elle ne prétend à rien. Dans la rhétorique «l'enjeu est un savoir subordonné à la puissance» (pour vaincre l'adversaire-interlocuteur), dans la Persuasion il n'y a pas de course, ni de «prix» (O., p. 365): ce en quoi elle consiste instantanément ne «vainc» rien — l'hallucination de la puissance s'est ici dissoute comme brume au soleil. Pour celui qui ne demande pas la vie et ne craint pas la mort, vie et mort sont «sans armes» (O., p. 366). Et c'est cela le bonheur et la santé.
Mais c'est aussi bien l'impossible. La voie de la Persuasion (qui n'en est pas une, puisque sont «voies» le flux et la contradiction des choses et des mots) n'est pas ardue ou difficile ou encore, comme nous l'avons dit jusqu'à présent, «inimaginable» dans la parole. Elle est aplòs, impossible. Se sauver de l'«agonisme» du logos, consister dans l'instant de la persuasion est l'impossible au sens propre, rigoureusement: car toute la dimension du possible appartient à ce qui est donné (PR, p. 81 [id.]). Entre ce que l'on affirme «possible» (même dans la plus grand improbabilité) et ce qui, de fait, existe, il n'y a aucune différence de principe. On dit qu'est possible ce qui peut être réel, et donc ce qui appartient principalement à la timé de la philopsychia. Seul l'absolument impossible s'y soustrait. «Le possible ce sont les besoins, les nécessités de la continuation, ce qui appartient à la puissance limitée vouée à la continuation, à la peur de la mort» — si la persuasion est un radical arrêt de cela, la persuasion est l'impossible. Impossible la pure Justice du donner-pour-donner, la parfaite gratuité du donner; impossible la «parole vivante» qui persuade sans vaincre, qui donne la vie persuadée sans trace de violence; impossible l'amour exempt de toute philopsychia que ces images évoquent. Affirmer que cela est impossible ne signifie pas décréter la faillite de l'idée de persuasion, mais en indiquer, à l'opposé, la dimension propre. On ne peut faire-signe véritablement d'une telle idée, si l'on n'en saisit pas l'impossibilité. Et bien évidemment: pour celui qui connaît seulement le possible, aucune persuasion n'est «possible». La persuasion est un fruit du jardin de l'impossible et de l'inutile.
La «passion» pour cet impossible domine, d'un bout à l'autre, les pages de Michelstaedter. Sa solitude, son désert n'expriment que cet impossible. C'est celui-là même qui «se montre» à la fin du Tractatus. Celui qui ne sent pas dans le silence de Wittgenstein ce tenter-de-dire désespéré de Michelstaedter (et Augustin n'était il pas un auteur de Wittgenstein lui-même?) mériterait véritablement un monument équestre dans cette «philosophie des universités» sur la porte de laquelle est gravé l'adage: «ici il est interdit de penser».



   éditions de l'éclat

Mar 23, 2020

 
“In times like these” : Wittgenstein, a Symbol of Troubled Times
 
by Jose Ferrater-Mora
September 1953

Wittgenstein was a genius. This contention will hardly be denied by professional philosophers. Logicians will recognize that he was most successful in profound logical insights. Metaphysicians, on the other hand, will admit that all of Wittgenstein’s sentences quoted as meaningless by Carnap in the latter’s Logical Syntax of Language deserve close attention. It is also well known that the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus had a tremendous influence on the epistemological issues of the Vienna Circle and of the Logico-Positivistic School. But my contention that Wittgenstein was a genius has a wider scope. It means that he was more than a philosophical genius. He was, in fact, a genius of our age, a symbol of troubled times. If this has been acknowledged neither by English-speaking philosophers nor by Continental European philosophers, it is due to a sad circumstance. English-speaking philosophers, who know very well Wittgenstein’s deeds, pay almost no attention to such expressions as “troubled times.” It is not easy to understand its meaning when you devote the best hours of your life to teaching philosophy in beautiful university campuses. You begin to catch a glimpse of it only when you nose into the world. The average Continental European knows more about it than the cleverest of the English-speaking philosophers. Continental European philosophers, on the other hand, hardly have taken any notice of Wittgenstein’s work. Those who studied it were a handful of logicians or positivists, exclusively interested in the fields of Logic and Epistemology. As a consequence: those who know what the words “troubled times” mean, do not know Wittgenstein; those who know Wittgenstein do not know what the words “troubled times” mean. It was improbable that anybody could maintain that Wittgenstein was something more than an acute analyst of philosophical puzzles.
I do not know whether Wittgenstein himself was aware of this or not, although I suspect that he was. I have heard Professor Paul Schrecker say that Wittgenstein was a “mystery man.” It is true. It is also understandable. Wittgenstein did not seek for popularity. One even wonders whether he was afraid of the world and tried to follow the ancient dictum: láthe biosas, live hidden! At any event, he abandoned the main doctrines of the Tractatus and became more and more interested in what we are now going to deal with: Therapeutic Philosophy. But he never forgot two of the statements contained in the Tractatus. One is: Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. The other is: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. They both form the cornerstone of his unique Wille zum Geheimnis— of his “Will to remain secret.” His obstinate loyalty to the two-mentioned apothegms is, in my opinion, due to this reason: at the same time as Wittgenstein worked out his “thoughts,” he was compelled to eliminate them. The ultimate tendency of Wittgenstein’s “thought” was the suppression of all “thought.” He seemed to understand quite well that thought is the greatest perturbing factor in human life. It is not a mark of health, but of illness. That is why it cannot be properly expressed. Wittgenstein discovered that “general ideas” cannot be said. Neither can they be thought. It is true that, according to his recommendation, you can say anything you like—provided you are careful. But, in fact, you say nothing whatever. Your talk is a “yes-but-no,” or a “this-you-can-say-if” attitude. What you “say,” is indifferent. In fact, it would be better to stop talking. If you cannot do it right now, it is because you are still sick, haunted by all sorts of verbal ghosts: the ghost of “general ideas,” the ghost of “meaningful thought.” All this is sickness. Of course, you want to be cured. How? There is only one way: Therapeutic Positivism. Instead of the psychiatrist, you should call the philosopher. He will be more amusing and, perhaps, less expensive.
What does it all mean? Let me try to clarify it. Of course, it all depends upon a proper understanding of Wittgenstein’s “latest” method.
The trouble is that such a method cannot be “explained.” It is not a philosophical method, it is a therapeutics. Besides, it is a nonsystematic therapeutics. Logical Positivists, who have worshipped Wittgenstein in due time, have been baffled by the incredible “looseness” of the new method. But Logical Positivists have always been more or less “systematic.” They also have been considerably dogmatic and have shown no understanding for human anxieties. All they have cared for has been to rebuke metaphysicians. How foolish! As a matter of fact, you can rebuke nobody. You can only cure, if you are willing to. In order to do it properly, you do not need to be “systematic.” You do not need rules. All you need is to be an intelligent guesser, a really clever fellow. This shows that Wittgenstein’s method cannot be explained, but only followed. Wittgenstein’s Therapeutic Positivism was not a theory; it was a series of “recommendations.” It scarcely appealed to our intellect; It rather appealed to our still subsisting consciousness, stirred by worries, undermined by anxieties. For many centuries this consciousness was considered as the typical mark of human nature. Socrates tried to convince people that man not only has problems, but is a problem. To a large extent, he succeeded. Many philosophers have since claimed that man’s greatness is a function of his permanent problematicism. This has been all right until recent times, when many people have wondered whether problematic consciousness helps you very much in facing the problems of existence. After all, you are in danger of travelling undefatigably around your own consciousness and of forgetting that there is something outside you—let us call it: reality. There comes, therefore, a moment when you need urgently to restore your connection with reality. Socrates was all right; he was willing to drink the hemlock, and he did. But most people are not willing to. They are afraid that too much emphasis on philosophical irony is the surest way to drive you to tragedy.
Wittgenstein’s “recommendations” had apparently nothing to do with this subject. Neither he nor his disciples wasted time talking about human nature, or about the problems of “unhappy consciousness.” After all, these were philosophers’ talks. For many years Wittgenstein was worried by just one problem: the problem of language. The analysis of language, of its traps, what has it to do with the eradication of human anxieties? It has much to do with it. Man does not always voice his fears through such acts as screaming, howling, or gesticulating. He often reveals them by raising such questions as: “Why the deuce did I come into this world?,” or, less, provocatively but no less dismayingly: “Is ‘7 + 5’ an a priori synthetic judgment?.” These seem to be philosophical questions or, as Wittgenstein and his disciples would put it, philosophical puzzlements. Since they are expressed through language, the best way to prove that they ought not to puzzle anybody is to remove the traps laid by language. It would seem, indeed, that language is the root of all philosophical puzzlements. The worst of it is that such puzzlements are responsible not only for raising memorable and unanswerable questions, but also for causing violent disagreements. People do not realize how many human beings have been delicately scorched only because they happened to disagree with some hard-hearted dogmatist about such burning issues as whether the world is one or plural, finite or infinite, existent or inexistent. It is true that many questions of this kind have been dismissed by Logical Positivists, helped, incidentally, by Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. But Logical Positivists have been unable to keep pace with Wittgenstein. As a matter of fact, they have disagreed with classical philosophers only in ascertaining what you can say. They have assumed that if you want to be a philosopher you can scarcely say anything. But after many claims to rigor, they have relapsed into laxness. Their regime has been liberalized. You can now say a pretty good quantity of things, some of them even not entirely trivial. You will always find some decadent Logical Positivist, softened by tolerance, willing to uphold your claims. In any event, you will always be permitted to become a “systematic” philosopher and, hence, a follower of philosophical tradition. Perhaps you will be forced to deny that man must devote his life to contemplation and you will have to declare that he must give himself to action. Perhaps that which was formerly called “consciousness” will have to be renamed “behavior.” It does not matter. Having accepted restrictions, you will be allowed to do something suspiciously anti-Wittgensteinian: to solve questions.
For every non-Wittgensteinian philosopher, from Thales to Carnap, man has been an entity capable of solving questions. Even when the range of solvable questions has been conspicuously narrowed, nobody has denied that there are questions. Therefore, all non- Wittgensteinian philosophers play their game on a common ground. I will call it: “humanism.” It means that, come what may, you will always have an unalienable right: the right of raising questions. Now, this is precisely what Socrates had declared to be specifically “human.” Provided this right be upheld, man will never cease to be what Leibniz called un petit Dieu.
Wittgenstein was for some time a staunch defender of this “not-much-but-still-something” attitude. He was, besides, the father of many valuable restrictions. But he soon went farther than his descendants. These men were full of prejudices. They considered themselves capable of possessing “general ideas.” They called themselves, accordingly, “logical” or systematical.” They spent much time in discussions trying to forge logical rules, modes of speech, language-forms of all kinds and shapes. They became enraged over distinctions between meaningless and meaningful questions and fought memorable battles to establish dividing lines between the former and the latter. Suddenly some of them reached the conclusion that all philosophical questions are verbal questions. It seems that they approached Wittgenstein’s Therapeutic Positivism. They did not. To begin with, a real Therapeutic Positivist would not be so fussy about the distinction between meaningless and meaningful questions, between verbal and nonverbal questions. He would feel entirely freed from the worries caused by all questions as such. To be sure, he would still follow the rules of the game and would occasionally use the term “question”— meaning, of course, “puzzlement.” But he would deny that questions must by solved. Questions must not be solved; they must be dissolved. Therefore, you must stop arguing about languages and metalanguages. You must clear off the illusion that you can discover an “ideal language.” All this is, according to Wittgenstein, a mirage.[1] It is a remnant of “humanism.” If you accept being drawn by it, you being drawn by it, you will never get rid of interminable unfruitful discussions. It is even possible that you might become tolerant —too early. One of these days you will discover that there are some real philosophical questions embodied in the language of Aristotelians or even Thomists. Instead of accepting their tenets for what they are—expressions of philosophical puzzlement—you will assume that they express philosophical problems and that, therefore, they can to some extent be solved.
Now, philosophical problems need not be solved, but unmasked. I said before that if you do not pay attention to your verbal behavior, you run the risk of becoming tolerant “too early.” I meant what I said. It would be unjust to consider that a Therapeutic Positivist is intolerant. As a matter of fact, he is more tolerant than anybody else. But he is tolerant only in due time, when questions have been shown to be puzzlements, and puzzlements have been unmasked as intellectually inconsistent worries. Before it, you will be terrorized; after it, you will be freed. Once questions are dissolved, you will be allowed to do what you wish; you will be permitted to talk any language: the language of the Aristotelians, of the Heracliteans, of the Milesians. It will not matter. Philosophical questions become puzzlements and cause worries only when you believe that they are rooted in man, when you ignore that they are floating around us and that we can take or leave them. They cause anxiety only when we are enslaved by them. They will cease to worry us as soon as we realize that the best weapon against them is “freedom,” that is to say, detachment.
That weapon is precisely Wittgenstein’s method. It is not so much a “method” as a “bistoury”—a “mental bistoury.” The trouble is that it cannot be described. It is not “universally valid”; it cannot by used in the same way by everybody. If it could, it would raise again questions of method. Sterile nonliberating questions would be renewed and traditional philosophy reestablished. It is, therefore, preferable to decide once and for all that instead of facing questions you have to cope with worries, puzzlements, perplexities. Therefore, if you are by chance a philosopher, you will have to abstain from such things as giving classes, writing books, attending meetings. You will be unable to utter any “general proposition.” General propositions, being verbal functions, do not propose anything. The usual escape—the submission of questions to logical analysis—will also soon prove untenable. Such an analysis is based upon the unconvincing and “dangerous” predominance of general statements over particular cases, examples, instances. Thus, it will soon be discovered that “theories” or logical devices are uncapable of freeing us from any “question-worry.” No “theory,” no “generalized method,” will be capable of competing with a simple therapeutic activity whose end will no longer be to solve questions but to cure souls.
For a Therapeutic Positivist, trained in Wittgenstein’s supersubtle school of analysis, “method” is, then, a personal activity, intended radically to clarify the reasons of philosophical puzzlements and to pull out the roots of disagreement. This changes completely not only the nature of philosophical analysis, but also the nature of the philosophical profession. The Professor of Philosophy will have to become a sui generis “psychiatrist.” The student will have to become a “patient.” Burdened sometimes with the sense of intellectual sin, he will knock at the door of the Professor’s office. He will not ask: “Do you believe that ‘Hanibal and Plato’ is a good topic for a term-paper?” This is not an intellectual puzzlement. It is a purely practical question. He will rather ask such questions as: “Do you really believe that Being and Value are interchangeable?” I presume, however, that the best way to introduce one’s self to a Therapeutic Positivist is to state bluntly the whole of your worries. The “patient” would do better if he decided to say, for instance, “I am a Hegelian; I firmly believe that Being-in-itself will never become Being-in-and-for-itself, unless it spends some time out-of-itself.” The Therapeutic Positivist likes difficult cases. Of course, the “patient” might very well not be worried in the least by believing in the truth or in the meaningfulness of such a philosophical statement. He might even assert that since he became a Hegelian he felt freed from all worries. This seems to pose a big problem for Therapeutic Positivists. If their activity is justified only in so far as they can disentangle philosophical puzzlements, it seems that they should discreetly retire when the so called “patient” is not puzzled at all. But let us not be deceived by what the Therapeutic Positivist says he purports to do. After all, he never intended to say that the task of Therapeutic Positivism is to “cure” patients. As a matter of fact, the Therapeutic Positivist never intends to say anything at all: he merely purposes to act in certain ways which vellis nollis require the use of words. Therefore, even if the patient himself is not puzzled, he will present philosophical puzzles. Of course, the most frequent cases are those in which patients have puzzles and are puzzled by them. These cases justify the comparison of the Therapeutic Positivist with a sui generis psychiatrist. The words “sui generis” express the fact that the Therapeutic Positivist has only to do with intellectual puzzlements. Hence he cannot invite the patient to lie down on a sofa and suggest that he mumble something about the dreams he had forty-five years ago. Neither can he administer him a drug. The drug will perhaps clear up an abscess, but not a question. The Therapeutic Positivist, however, wants to clear up, to solve—or, again, dissolve—the problem itself held by the patient. He is not an empiricist worry-catcher, but a pure analyst. He does not need sofas, drugs and, of course, books; he just needs brains.
There are many ways of removing philosophical puzzlements, but only one method can be really trusted: skill. It is difficult to demonstrate to a philosopher that analogies between different kinds of expressions do not hold. If we believe some of his followers, this is, however, what Wittgenstein tried to do. He showed masterfully that if such an analogy existed, It would have been useless. It would have ceased to be an analogy and would have become a unique expression. He showed many other things, all of them wrapped in a peculiar mixture of clarity and mystery. Some of these things may by doubtful. But one at least is certain: that only with the help of a great mental skill can you demonstrate to a philosopher—not a “handy patient,” indeed—that he has expressed philosophical questions—that are inexpressible. In order to perform this deed, it is probably not enough to remove language traps; you need, besides, to pick up subtly all kinds of intellectual myths and hold them smilingly up in the face of the patient. Together with a great logical skill, you will assuredly need psychological finesse. Concealed in the various layers of languages and sublanguages, there lie about an incredible number of obscure motivations. They must be sifted out by purely intellectual means, analyzed and, last but not least, pulverized. Only at this final stage will the patient recognize willingly that his puzzlements lacked foundation, that his questioning was meaningless. He will acknowledge, in addition, that all questioning is meaningless. Relieved from this burden, he will no longer talk—or if he does, he will talk as if he did not—and will devote himself to “activity” and to “life.” His “mental complex” will vanish altogether. I do not know what Wittgenstein called this “complex”—or even if he really named it at all. Let me forge a name for it: the “Socratic complex.” Socrates, in fact, had taught men to behave in a manner strictly opposed to the one recommended by Wittgenstein. To be sure, the great Greek philosopher wanted also to relieve us from “complexes.” But, contrary to Wittgenstein, his “method” consisted in creating, in suggesting, in stirring up problems. In a certain way, Wittgenstein could be called the “Anti-Socrates.” Now, if Socrates and Wittgenstein are extreme opposites, they are extreme opposites of the same historical line. As all extremes, they touch each other: extrema se tangunt. No wonder they resemble each other in so many respects. They both used an individual method. They both hated writing. Socrates did not write books. Wittgenstein repented of having written one. They both were geniuses: the genius of construction, Socrates; the genius of destruction, Wittgenstein.
Yes; Wittgenstein was a genius. Knowingly or not, he mirrored our times more faithfully than most of the professional pessimists. Heidegger has tried to stress nothingness; Sartre, nauseousness; Kafka or Camus, absurdity. All these writers have described a world where reality itself has become questionable. They have, however, left unshaken the right of asking questions. In Wittgenstein’s Therapeutic Positivism, on the other hand, that which becomes questionable is the question itself. Nothing has been left, not even the ruins. No wonder we can consider Wittgenstein as a genial reflection of the gloomiest aspects of our age. He did “describe” this “age of anxiety,” this “age of longing,” better than anybody else; better than poets, better than novelists. Is it surprising, then, that an obscure Professor at Cambridge symbolizes more exactly our troubled times than a famous playwright in Paris?
NOTES
    1.    The present article refers mainly to Wittgenstein’s later “Therapeutic Positivism” and occasionally to Wittgensteinians. It does not pretend, however, to explain their “tenets”—which of course, do not exist—or describe their method—which is indescribable. It is a sociohistorical interpretationof a human attitude and nothing else. As such, it will probably be unacceptable to any faithful Wittgensteinian. For further information, the reader may refer to: B. A. Farrell, “An Appraisal of Therapeutic Positivism,” Mind, LV, 217-218 (1946). It will be extremely helpful to him if he reads the excellent articles by John Wisdom, Norman Malcolm, and G. A. Paul, written from a Wittgensteinian point of view. Most of these articles have been published in Mind and some of them in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
After the present article had been written, a posthumous book by Wittgenstein was announced for publication. I do not think, however that my article will suffer very much from the new information that the book will provide. On the one hand, I am talking only about a phase of Wittgenstein’s activity. This phase seems, after all, to have existed. On the other hand, although it has been said by the Editors of the book that Wittgenstein had been working much on it in his latest years, he did not seem to be very hasty in publishing it. This confirms the view that Wittgenstein acted as if he were afraid of attracting too much attention. I find a recent confirmation of that view in G. Ryle’s article, “Ludwig Wittgenstein,” Analysis, 12.1 (1951). Ryle says that “Wittgenstein attended no philosophical conferences; gave no lectures outside Cambridge; corresponded on philosophical subjects with nobody and discouraged the circulation even of notes of his Cambridge lectures and discussions.” Let me add that I pretend to offer in the present article approximately the same thing that Ryle pretends to offer in his: “a set of impressions, interpretations, of mere echoes of echoes.”
 




Ferrater Mora, José.
 “Wittgenstein, a Symbol of Troubled Times.” 
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14 (September 1953): 89-96.
 



© 2020 Wittgenstein Initiative, Kriehubergasse 15/23, 1050 Wien, Austria

Jan 4, 2020


PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS

Ludwig Wittgenstein

audio

   


Adapted from P.M.S. Hacker’s and Joachim Schulte’s revised fourth edition of the text,
 written by Ludwig Wittgenstein.
 Adapted and narrated by Ben Sanders.

Oct 31, 2019

For Wittgenstein, Philosophy Had to Be as Complicated as the Knots it Unties
Making Sense of Nonsense, From Bertrand Russell to the Existentialists


In Britain, the arrival of existentialism was celebrated mainly in small literary magazines, beginning in 1947 with a radical Catholic quarterly called The Changing World. The editor, Bernard Wall, described it as a response to “a cloud hanging over everything we do in this ‘post-war period’”—not only the atom bomb, and the encroachments of technology, but also the fact that, during the war, British thinkers became “cut off from fellow Europeans.” The intellectual focus would have to be “continental,” he explained, because “to disregard Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Bergson, was to disregard what really mattered in our age.” For the two years of its existence, Changing World promoted “continental” lines in everything from sociology to contemporary art and poetry (it also published new work by Auden); but its main topic was French existentialism, especially a “theist current” associated with Gabriel Marcel.
By the time Changing World ceased publication in 1949, existentialism had become a talking point throughout the English-speaking world, though it was often ridiculed rather than revered: The Spectator, for example, published a feature on “resistentialism,” whose doctrine that “things are against us” was all the rage in Paris. The satire was well-aimed: existentialism was being promoted in the periodical press less as an occasion for sustained self-examination than as a spectacle in which earnest foreigners said strange things with inexplicable passion; and when Wittgenstein saw the first issue of Changing World he dismissed it as “muck.”
*
He made one exception, however: an article by his friend Yorick Smythies on Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, which had appeared in 1946. Russell still regarded himself as a fearless philosophical revolutionary, but in this work he adopted the same assumptions that had informed histories of philosophy for the past three centuries. Like his predecessors, he postulated what he called a “long development, from 600 BC to the present day”—a process in which philosophy had lurched from one metaphysical “system” to another until recent times, when it settled into enlightened equilibrium. He also followed convention in dividing the story into three periods: “ancient philosophy,” where the Greeks discovered logic and mathematics and got into a habit of denigrating empirical knowledge; the “middle ages,” when philosophy was deformed by Christianity; and finally “modern philosophy,” starting with the reassertion of human intellectual independence in the Renaissance.

Descartes had often been called “the founder of modern philosophy”—“rightly,” in Russell’s judgement—but his exaggerated rationalism generated a sequence of “insane forms of subjectivism” culminating in Kant and German idealism. In the meantime, however, the British empiricists had rediscovered “the world of everyday common sense,” and their patience was eventually rewarded by the total defeat of speculative metaphysics.
Philosophy was “not a theory,” but the practice of clarifying thoughts that are otherwise “opaque and blurred.”
Russell had not abandoned an old tradition of sententious wisdom, however: he rhapsodized about “the moment of contemplative insight when, rising above the animal life, we become conscious of the greater ends that redeem man from the life of the brutes,” and he claimed that “love and knowledge and delight in beauty . . . are enough to fill the lives of the greatest men that have ever lived.”
On the other hand he also tried–—like G. H. Lewes, whose still-popular Biographical History had appeared exactly a century before—to enliven his survey with sallies of belittling wit. Pythagoras, for instance, was “a combination of Einstein and Mrs. Eddy,” and founded a religion based on “the sinfulness of eating beans,” and Plato, who was “hardly ever intellectually honest,” simply perpetuated his errors. Russell sustained his pert sense of humor for 800 pages, with Hegel “departing from logic in order to be free to advocate crimes,” while Nietzsche was a “megalomaniac” who was afraid of women and “soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks.”
Russell was eccentric in some of his choices—he included a chapter on Byron, for example, and made no mention of Lessing, Kierkegaard or Wittgenstein. Like the other authors of histories that promised to tell a unified story of philosophy from its supposed “origin” to the present, however, he concluded with a chapter arguing that philosophy had recently overcome the problems that had beset it from the beginning. He disagreed, of course, with those who ended the story with eclecticism or Kant or German idealism, and did not go along with Lewes in making it culminate in Comte and Mill. Instead, he presented it as leading up to his own doctrine of “logical analysis,” which seems to have rescued philosophy from the “system builders,” endowing it with “the quality of science” and forcing it to “tackle its problems one at a time.” He commended his theory of descriptions for clearing up “two millennia of muddle-headedness about ‘existence,’” and claimed that his conception of mathematics as “merely verbal knowledge” had liberated philosophy from the “presumption against empiricism” that had hobbled it since Pythagoras and Plato.
*
History of Western Philosophy brought Russell great wealth and helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. When Isaiah Berlin reviewed it in Mind, he praised its “peculiar combination of moral conviction and inexhaustible intellectual fertility” and its “beautiful and luminous prose.” Professionals would value it as the intellectual self-portrait of the world’s most eminent philosopher, rather than a contribution to “historical or philosophical scholarship,” but it was not written for them: it was addressed to the “common reader,” who was indeed fortunate that a “great master,” had condescended to write a popular introduction to philosophy that was “not merely classically clear but scrupulously honest throughout.”
According to Smythies, however, the book embodied all the “worst features” of Russell’s journalism—“shoddiness of thought,” “sleek prose,” and “easy shortcuts to judgements on serious matters.” Russell had simplified his task by playing along with a common misconception about philosophy: that it deals in “theories” designed, as in the natural sciences, to reflect the facts of experience, and that it progresses towards truth by collecting facts and finding better ways of representing them. This assumption allowed Russell to adopt his “lofty manner,” looking down on the “great men” of the past and treating their ideas as “something left behind by ‘modern science.’” The impression he gave was that (thanks to him) all problems had now been solved, but that the solutions were “of too advanced a nature to be presented to the general reader,” who was therefore obliged to conclude that “it would all be quite clear to me if I knew as much about these things as Lord Russell.”
“The older I grow the more I realize how terribly difficult it is for people to understand each other,” Wittgenstein wrote.
Sometimes Russell’s loftiness declined into “facetiousness.” He made fun of the biblical Jews, who were willing to die for the sake of a belief in “circumcision and the wickedness of eating pork”—but, as Smythies observed, he never asked himself the question, “what is it like to believe what a Jew of that time believed?” He also stated that the idea of “self” or “subject” had been “banished” by Hume—an “important advance,” apparently, because it meant “abolishing all supposed knowledge of the ‘soul,’” thus destroying one of the pillars of religion and metaphysics. But he could not explain what the “important advance” consisted in: what had “the idea of the self” meant before it was “banished,” Smythies asked, and in any case “how can one know what the idea of the self is which one can’t have, unless one has that idea?”
The main point was that Russell was incapable of giving weight, depth or color to ideas that differed from his own: his book was a massive monologue, without variety of voices or plurality of points of view. His summaries of the great philosophers made them all look “faintly absurd”—either ridiculous like Pythagoras, or dishonest like Plato, or insane like the German idealists and Nietzsche—and he made no attempt to explain what they might have meant to those who found them life-changingly significant. Philosophical differences were erased, and the resulting narrative was stale, flat, barren and uninteresting. “People’s lives and ideas, served up in this way, become unattractive and insipid,” as Smythies put it; and “the most positive taste one gets . . . is that of Lord Russell’s prose (which has a tinny, flat quality peculiar to itself).” Wittgenstein could not disagree: “have read your review,” he told Smythies, “and it isn’t bad.”
*
The review echoed a theme that Wittgenstein had been working with for almost 40 years: that philosophy “gives no pictures of reality” and should therefore be located—as he said to Russell in 1913—“over or under, but not beside, the natural sciences.” Philosophy as he saw it was “not a theory,” but the practice of clarifying thoughts that are otherwise “opaque and blurred.”
Wittgenstein’s Tractatus had been, amongst other things, a response to the problem of making sense of nonsense: its propositions were steps leading to a utopia where the clamor of senselessness would yield to perpetual peace. After a while, however, Wittgenstein had lost interest in a realm where “conditions are ideal,” and when he started teaching in Cambridge he decided to concentrate not on the “crystalline purity of logic” but on the obscurities and confusions of everyday life. “We need friction,” he said: “back to the rough ground!” He advised his students to “pay attention” to their nonsense, and attended to his own in his notebooks and in drafts of what he hoped would be his second book.
He was still impressed by the fact that, as he put it, “something can look like a sentence we understand, and yet yield no sense,” and he still thought of philosophy as “the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense.” But he realized that the task of clarification was complex: “philosophy unties knots in our thinking,” and “the philosophizing has to be as complicated as the knots it unties.” It was also riddled with paradox. “When a sentence is called senseless,” he said, “a combination of words is being excluded from the language, withdrawn from circulation,” and “it is not as it were its sense that is senseless.” But we cannot appreciate what we have achieved unless we find some way to commemorate our lost illusions and “get a clear view of the . . . state of affairs before the contradiction was resolved”—a task that called for imagination, tact and poetic skill rather than quick-witted cleverness.
Early in 1950, Norman Malcolm alerted the Rockefeller Foundation to the fact that Wittgenstein was ill, that he had masses of unpublished manuscripts, and that he was short of money. The official who took charge of the case, Chadbourne Gilpatric, was prepared to give him whatever he needed, but Wittgenstein was uneasy: he knew too many examples of people who, like Russell, did excellent work when young, but “very dull work indeed when they got old,” and he did not want to be one of them. Gilpatric would not be put off, however, and in January 1951 he came to Oxford to press his case. At one point he offered some “patter,” as Wittgenstein called it, about language and philosophy, but after that he “talked sense,” offering to pay for the printing of Wittgenstein’s papers, because “the world needed them badly.” Wittgenstein was not convinced: “but see,” as he said to Gilpatric, “I write one sentence, and then I write another—just the opposite . . . and which shall stand?”
A few days later, Wittgenstein drew up a simple will. He bequeathed a few things he loved (a clock, an edition of Lessing’s religious writings, and a volume of Grimm’s fairy tales) to various close friends, while the “Collection of Nonsense” was entrusted to Rhees. Another paragraph asked that the “unpublished writings” be given to Rhees and two other friends—Anscombe and von Wright—who were to “publish as many . . . as they think fit.” The archive proved to be far larger than they had imagined, and they embarked on a lengthy process of posthumous publication; but it was clear that the starting point had to be the typescript on language games that he had been toying with since before the war, and it appeared (with parallel English translation) as the first part of Philosophical Investigations in 1953.
Wittgenstein once told Con Drury that if the book needed a motto, he would use a quotation from King Lear: “I’ll teach you differences.” He was impressed, as he said to another friend, by the human capacity for incomprehension and dissent, and the improbability of any ultimate resolution.
The older I grow the more I realize how terribly difficult it is for people to understand each other, and I think that what misleads one is the fact that they all look so much like each other. If some people looked like elephants and others like cats, or fish, one wouldn’t expect them to understand each other and things would look much more like what they really are.
In the event the Investigations was published without a motto, though Wittgenstein had another one in reserve, from a song by Irving Berlin: “you’d be surprised.” Alternatively he would resort to one of the oldest proverbs in the English language—“a very beautiful and kindly saying” as he called it—“it takes many sorts to make a world.”


Aug 30, 2018

Is there a rhinoceros in the room? One of the earliest encounters between Bertrand Russell and the young Ludwig Wittgenstein involved a discussion about whether there was a rhinoceros in their room. Apparently, when Wittgenstein 'refused to admit that it was certain that there was not a rhinoceros in the room,' Russell half-jokingly looked underneath the desks to prove it. But to no avail. 'My German engineer, I think, is a fool,' concluded Russell. 'He thinks nothing empirical is knowable-I asked him to admit that there was not a rhinoceros in the room, but he wouldn't.'[1]
The crux of the dispute appears to be a thesis held by Wittgenstein at the time concerning 'asserted propositions.' According to Russell, Wittgenstein maintained that 'there is nothing in the world except asserted propositions' and refused 'to admit the existence of anything except asserted propositions.'[2] But what this thesis amounts to and how it is related to his remarks about nothing empirical being knowable and about whether there is a rhinoceros in the room is difficult to determine. For one thing, it is difficult to see how Wittgenstein could be arguing that nothing empirical is knowable given the central importance for his early thinking of his idea that only propositions of natural science can be said. For another, his reported claim that there is nothing in the world except asserted propositions is hard to square with his contention in the 'Notes on Logic' that there are only unasserted propositions. What we need is an interpretation that can make sense of Wittgenstein's reported remarks, while taking into account their relation to his fundamental ideas and his views in the 'Notes on Logic' and elsewhere. Also, it must offer some account of Russell's extreme reaction to Wittgenstein and his worry that Wittgenstein may have been a fool.
In his recent biography, Wittgenstein: A Life, Brian McGuinness proposes an interesting interpretation of Russell and Wittgenstein's conversation, one echoed by Ray Monk in his Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. In what follows, I criticize McGuinness' interpretation and in its place propose an alternative way of reading 'asserted proposition.' This alternative provides us with a way of seeing Wittgenstein's earliest thoughts as continuous with fundamental insights expressed not only in the Tractatus, but in his later philosophy as well. Indeed, if I am right, Wittgenstein's objection to Russell anticipates ideas normally associated with On Certainty.[3]
McGuinness' interpretation depends on sorting out what Wittgenstein meant by an 'asserted proposition' and why he thought that Russell's remark about the rhinoceros did not qualify as one. To this end, he insists that we must see Wittgenstein's objection as expressing a thesis that is more adequately expressed in the Tractatus. This thesis, says McGuinness, concerns the logical composition of the world. His view is that 'the claim that only asserted propositions exist is clearly intended as a correction of Moore's position in his 1899 article [`The Nature of Judgement'] according to which the world is formed of concepts.'[4] According to McGuinness, Wittgenstein's correction is based on the idea that the world consists of facts-facts being asserted propositions-not of things or what Moore called simple concepts. The correction thus seems to anticipate the idea that 'the world is the totality of facts, not of things,' the second remark of the Tractatus.[5]
McGuinness reminds us that the phrase 'asserted proposition' is central to the accounts of the nature of a proposition defended by Russell and Moore, accounts that Wittgenstein is practically certain to have known about. The situation, as McGuinness has it, is that Wittgenstein had already formed an objection to Russell and Moore, which he then attempted to express in his conversation with Russell. In sum, McGuinness assumes that Wittgenstein meant by the phrase 'asserted proposition' what Russell and Moore had meant by it.[6]
The notion of an 'asserted proposition' is connected with Russell and Moore's belief that the content of a proposition is its essential feature and their view that the psychological processes involved in judgments concerning this content have a secondary status. On their conception, a proposition is not a psychic phenomenon as it is for Locke but rather is what Lockean ideas and the like are about.[7] Moore called the entities that make up propositions 'concepts' and Russell called them 'terms.' A proposition, on this view, is what Moore took to be a complex or what Russell called a set of terms. It is not something mental, but rather a complex or collection of subsistent, Platonic, entities.
On Russell and Moore's conception, facts are identified with true propositions. Truth is not-as it is on the correspondence theory-a relationship between a proposition (considered as a mental or linguistic entity) and something else. Rather it is a property of a proposition, now considered as a complex or configuration of terms. Some proposition just happens to be true, and those propositions are facts. As Moore says,
Once it is definitely recognized that the proposition is to denote not a belief (in the psychological sense), nor a form of words, but the object of belief, it seems plain that it differs in no respect from the reality to which it is supposed merely to correspond, i.e. the truth that 'I exist' differs in no respect from the corresponding reality 'my existence.' [8]
What differentiates a true proposition, or a fact, from a false proposition is the quality it has of 'being asserted.' Russell says,
True and false propositions alike are in some sense entities, and are in some sense capable of being logical subjects; but when a proposition happens to be true, it has a further quality over and above that which it shares with false propositions, and it is this further quality which is what I mean by assertion in a logical as opposed to a psychological sense.[9]
An asserted proposition, then, is Russell's term for differentiating a true proposition, a fact, from a false proposition; true propositions have the property of 'being asserted,' which false propositions lack.
McGuinness thinks that Wittgenstein was harking back to this use of the phrase 'asserted proposition' in his conversation with Russell. He thinks that by saying 'there is nothing in the world except asserted propositions,' Wittgenstein was intending to challenge Russell and Moore's basic assumption that there was something more fundamental than facts. On the view being attributed to Wittgenstein, false propositions are not 'entities,' as Russell and Moore believed; there is not a complex of terms (or concepts) in virtue of which something is not; the world is composed of facts, not of terms, concepts, or things.
For McGuinness, then, the discussion between Wittgenstein and Russell amounted to the question 'What complex can reasonably be supposed to exist in virtue of there not being a rhinoceros in the room?'[10] He holds that Russell was of the view that such a complex existed, whereas Wittgenstein in arguing that there was nothing except asserted propositions, was denying this claim. As McGuinness puts it,
[Wittgenstein was] denying existence in this sense to everything except asserted propositions or facts. Thus he had already reached the position expressed in the first propositions of the Tractatus that the world consists of facts . . . [and that] things, objects, or what Moore called simple concepts do not go to make up the world.'[11]
In spite of McGuinness' insistence that Wittgenstein's remark was 'clearly intended' as a correction of Moore's position, we must surely regard his interpretation as conjectural. Other than the appearance of the phrase 'asserted proposition,' there is no direct evidence to be found in Russell's letters to Lady Ottoline to suggest that the two men were discussing Moore's article or indeed any of Moore's or Russell's earlier views. In fact, if we are to discern anything definite on the basis of Russell's letters, it is that Russell was worried about whether the two men were discussing anything at all; what emerges from his reports to Lady Ottoline is not that Russell was alarmed by what Wittgenstein was saying but rather by whether he was saying anything.
These conversations, it must be remembered, occurred very early in their relationship, in fact within the first three weeks or so after they met. At this stage, Wittgenstein's intellectual credentials were not yet clear to Russell and he worries that Wittgenstein may be 'a fool,' 'an infliction,' and 'a crank.'[12] McGuinness' claim that Wittgenstein's remark 'was clearly intended as a correction of Moore's position' does not take into account the serious doubts Russell had about Wittgenstein; it presumes that the framework of discussion between the two men was much more settled than appears to have been the case.[13]
This point is especially telling given that the position McGuinness attributes to Wittgenstein was, as McGuinness himself points out, already considered and rejected by Russell in his discussion of Meinong.[l4] If McGuinness is right, it is extremely puzzling how Wittgenstein's proposing a sophisticated view about the nature of false propositions and complexes which Russell had earlier considered and rejected could have driven Russell to suspect that Wittgenstein may have been, not merely wrong, but rather a fool and an infliction and a crank. Even if Wittgenstein had articulated his position poorly, Russell would presumably have (at the very least) been able to recognize the possibility of a position he had earlier considered.
Another serious difficulty with McGuinness's interpretation is that Wittgenstein states in the 'Notes on Logic' of 1913 that 'there are only unasserted propositions.'[15] If Wittgenstein's remarks to Russell about asserted propositions anticipate the opening remarks of the Tractatus, we must suppose that Wittgenstein changed his mind between 1911 and 1913, and then changed it back again by the time of writing the Tractatus. Besides being implausible, this runs counter to a fact that McGuinness himself uses to support his contention that the early conversation anticipated ideas later expressed in the Tractatus, namely that Wittgenstein claimed that his fundamental ideas came to him very early.[16] The continuity in Wittgenstein's thinking makes it even more difficult to see how Wittgenstein could have changed his mind about 'asserted propositions' and yet have had the same ideas in 1911 and 1918. At the very least, if McGuinness is to appeal to the continuity between Wittgenstein's earlier and later remarks, he owes us an account of the remarks from the 'Notes on Logic' concerning unasserted propositions.
A further difficulty with McGuinness' reading is his failure to offer an account of Wittgenstein's remark that 'nothing empirical is knowable' and how it squares with Wittgenstein's idea that only propositions of natural science can be said. Indeed, McGuinness argues that any conclusions about our knowledge that Wittgenstein drew from his view about the contents of the world is too 'conjectural' and cannot be stated 'without falling into confusion with different and more usual assumptions about the nature of propositions.'[17] On McGuinness' account, then, an important piece of the puzzle concerning that early conversation remains essentially unaccounted for.
Finally, on McGuinness' interpretation, remarks from the Tractatus, such as 'the world consists of facts, not of things' are assumed to be ontological claims, ontological claims anticipated by Wittgenstein in his conversation with Russell. McGuinness' view is that Wittgenstein was 'correcting Moore,' both in the opening remarks of the Tractatus
and in his earlier objection to Russell. This suggests that Wittgenstein, Moore, and Russell shared a similar program: to offer an account of the furniture of the world. Where they differed, thinks McGuinness, was only over whether the furniture consisted of facts (or asserted propositions) or, concepts.[18]
However, the logical status of the opening remarks concerning the world and facts, and indeed the status of all the remarks of the Tractatus, has by no means been settled. Indeed, it is clear that for Wittgenstein the question 'What does the world consist of?' is in some sense illegitimate and nonsensical, and so too are the propositions that are proposed as answers to it. Moreover, Wittgenstein makes it abundantly clear that his aim is not to propound philosophical doctrines, but to show that such doctrines stem from a misunderstanding of the logic of the language.[19] By taking Wittgenstein to have been proposing ontological theses (even if these theses are seen as undermining all such theses) McGuinness downplays the centrality of Wittgenstein's antitheoretical remarks [20]
In sum, McGuinness' interpretation fails to deal adequately with Russell and Wittgenstein's early conversation. Not only does it fail to account for Russell's extreme reaction, it attributes a view to Wittgenstein concerning asserted propositions which is inconsistent with the views that he expressed shortly afterwards. As well, McGuinness presents very little explanation of Wittgenstein's reported remark that 'nothing empirical is knowable' and how this squares with his idea that only propositions of natural science can be said. Finally, McGuinness' interpretation assumes that Wittgenstein's interest lies in proposing philosophical theories, an idea which runs counter to a fundamental theme of his early (and later) philosophy.
As a first step towards clarifying Wittgenstein's objection to Russell, it is helpful to distinguish two uses that Wittgenstein makes of 'assertion' in the 'Notes on Logic,' notes written within two years of that early conversation. In one use, Wittgenstein speaks of 'assertion' when criticizing what he takes as Russell's confusion of the logical with the psychological. He says,
Judgment, question and command are all on the same level. What interests logic in them is only the unasserted proposition.
There are only unasserted propositions. Assertion is merely psychological. [21]
In this use, Wittgenstein criticizes Russell and Frege for confusing the psychological aspect of asserting something with the logical properties of a proposition. For Wittgenstein, assertion isn't a property of a proposition, as it is for Russell, and when we disentangle assertion from the real logical properties of a proposition, we are left only with 'unasserted propositions.' For our purposes, the important thing to see is that Wittgenstein's only use for 'assertion' in Russell's sense is critical. At this stage he would not have said that 'there are only asserted propositions' meaning by 'asserted proposition' what Russell meant by it. For that would presuppose that he thought that 'asserted proposition' expresses a coherent concept, contrary to the argument of the 'Notes on Logic.'
In his second use, Wittgenstein speaks of 'assertion' in the context of determining what cannot be asserted, of indicating what it would be meaningless to assert. Thus Wittgenstein says 'A proposition cannot possibly assert of itself that it is true.' He says,
Russell's 'complexes' were to have the useful property of being compounded, and were to combine with this the agreeable property that they could be treated like 'simples.' But this alone made them unserviceable as logical types, since there would have been significance in asserting of a simple, that it was complex.
As well, he declares,
Types can never be distinguished from each other by saying (as is often done) that one has these but the other has those properties, for this presupposes that there is a meaning in asserting all these properties of both types.[22]
In the 'Notes Dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway,' written in 1914, Wittgenstein again uses this second sense of assertion when he speaks of 'what is sought to be expressed by the nonsensical assertion' of Russell's theory of types.[23]
It is clear then that in the 'Notes on Logic' Wittgenstein thought Russell's notion of 'assertion' to be incoherent and that this belief is related to his concern with what can be meaningfully asserted, with his use of assertion in the second sense mentioned. If the 'Notes on Logic' give any clues as to what Wittgenstein might have meant in his early conversation with Russell, the evidence is thus against his having used 'asserted proposition' in Russell's sense, In fact, if we stress the continuity of his ideas, it is likely that he would have been opposed to the terminology of asserted propositions in Russell's sense. For, as, he said, Russell's sense of assertion is psychological, despite what Russell himself believed, and betrays a confusion about the nature of a proposition. What is more likely is that Wittgenstein was using 'assertion' in the sense of determining what counts as a meaningful assertion or not.
If we follow out the hypothesis that by 'assertion' Wittgenstein was concerned with meaning in his conversation with Russell, an interesting line of interpretation comes into focus. For we are able to see Wittgenstein's objection to Russell as questioning whether Russell's proposition that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' meaningfully asserts anything. On this interpretation, in saying 'there is nothing in the world except asserted propositions,' Wittgenstein is arguing that Russell's proposition, that there is no rhinoceros in the room, only appears to assert something, but in fact does not. Since Russell's proposition does not assert anything, the utterance makes no sense for the simple reason that only propositions that assert something make sense. Russell's proposition about the rhinoceros would thus represent what Wittgenstein called in 'Notes Dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway,' a 'nonsensical assertion,' and what he called in the Tractatus, a 'nonsensical pseudoproposition.'[24]
In opposition to McGuinness, I am saying that the notion of an 'asserted proposition' that Wittgenstein was employing in his conversation with Russell may have been radically different from what Moore and Russell meant by it. Far from Wittgenstein embracing Russell and Moore's conception of the proposition, he may have been challenging it on the grounds that Russell had confused nonsensical pseudopropositions with propositions proper. On this interpretation, he was challenging the very framework with which Russell and Moore pursued their investigations into the nature of proposition. He was not working within their framework and 'correcting Moore,' as McGuinness assumes, but aiming to undercut it.
The main difficulty for this line of interpretation is that there doesn't seem to be anything problematic about Russell's statement about the rhinoceros. 'Of course,' we want to say, 'there is no rhinoceros in Russell and Wittgenstein's room'; 'of course the proposition 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' can be asserted.' Indeed, if Russell's room was at all like ours, what could be a better example of a true proposition? How, then, can it be suggested that Wittgenstein thinks such a statement to be a nonsensical pseudoproposition?
Before agreeing, however, that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' obviously counts as a meaningful assertion, we should pause and consider Wittgenstein's much later remarks in On Certainty, in which Wittgenstein argues that 'propositions' remarkably similar to Russell's proposition about the rhinoceros are nonsensical. Some examples are: 'Here is a hand,' 'I know that there is a chair over there,' 'The earth existed long before one's birth,' 'I am here.' These apparent 'assertions' are grist for Wittgenstein's mill in On Certainty, and are seemingly at least as commonsensical and undeniable as Russell's assertion that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room.'
Part of Wittgenstein's story in On Certainty is that these so-called assertions, which appear to be about the way the world is, are assertions 'about' how we talk about the world, about the logic of the world, not assertions about the world at all. Moore thinks, for example, that he knows that he has a hand and that 'I have a hand' is an assertion about the world. But for Wittgenstein such a proposition is not an assertion, but 'stands fast' for us when we make assertions about the world. He says, for instance,
I should like to say: Moore does not know what he asserts he knows, but it stands fast for him, as also for me; regarding it as absolutely solid is part of our method of doubt and enquiry.[25]
Insofar as Moore intends us to believe that his proposition is something that we can know and assert, Wittgenstein regards it as nonsensical. In his 'misfiring attempt,' Moore is, says Wittgenstein, trying to describe what 'belong[s] to our frame of reference. '[26] That is, he is enumerating propositions that are true only in the sense that if they did not hold, we would lose our standards of correct judgment:
We are interested in the fact that about certain empirical propositions no doubt can exist if making judgments is to be possible at all. Or again: I am inclined to believe that not everything that has the form of an empirical proposition is one.[27]
Interestingly, Wittgenstein harks back to the terminology of the Tractatus and of his earlier writings to make his point about what can be asserted. He says, for instance,
My life shews that I know or am certain that there is a chair over there, or a door, and so on.-I tell a friend e.g. 'Take that chair over there,' 'Shut the door,' etc. etc.[28]
Wittgenstein thinks it makes sense to say 'take that chair over there,' but that it makes no sense (at least under normal circumstances) to assert 'there is a chair over there.' This last assertion may appear commonsensical but it cannot, says Wittgenstein, be meaningfully asserted. For him, only the former remark can be asserted; we might say that, despite appearances to the contrary, 'there is a chair over there,' taken as a straightforward assertion, 'does not exist.'
There is a relationship, however, between so-called 'facts' such as 'I have a hand' and my saying 'I have hurt my hand.' The former is shown in my saying the latter; that I have a hand is presupposed and forms the 'background' for the assertion 'I have hurt my hand.'[29] But precisely because it forms the background, it makes no sense on Wittgenstein's account to assert or say anything about it.
When we keep the remarks of On Certainty in mind, our initial assumption that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' is a perfectly legitimate thing to say, begins to waiver. The issue for us, then, is not whether we can question the meaning of such propositions, for, as we have seen, propositions like Russell's are exactly the type that Wittgenstein spends so much time criticizing in his later philosophy. Rather, the question is whether Wittgenstein in his early philosophy and in particular in his conversation with Russell was making discriminations between propositions like those he makes in On Certainty. The question is whether Wittgenstein, in his early conversation with Russell, already had a sense of what counted as a proposition, as opposed to what belonged to the 'background' for making propositions. Is it plausible to think that Wittgenstein regarded Russell's claim that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' as a 'background proposition' which Russell had unwittingly assimilated to an everyday proposition? And is it plausible to think that in responding that 'there is nothing in the world except asserted propositions' Wittgenstein intended to point out to Russell that what Russell thought were propositions about the world were in fact not propositions at all?
On this interpretation, Wittgenstein was protesting that 'propositions' about the 'background' are not propositions or assertions at all and that the only kind of propositions that exist are the everyday ones used in everyday life, propositions like those of natural science referred to in the Tractatus, which have 'nothing to do with philosophy' and are the only ones that can be said.[30] An 'asserted proposition' is, on this reading, something like a proposition used in everyday situations, something that can be said to be true or false, to be bipolar, to say something, to have a use. By contrast, Russell's statement, being about the background for asserting propositions in everyday situations, does not qualify as an asserted proposition since it cannot be said to be true or false and is not bipolar.[31]
Wittgenstein did not use the phrase 'background' in the Tractatus or in his earlier notes but he had the means for distinguishing sense and nonsense which lies behind that later idea. Specifically, his idea of the 'Form der Abbildung' or form of representation of a picture and hence of a proposition anticipates his later idea of a 'background.'[32] Stated in these terms, the trouble with Russell's assertion about the rhinoceros is that it purports to represent something that cannot be represented, something that belongs to the form of representation.[33] From Wittgenstein's point of view, Russell has 'inflated' the proposition about the rhinoceros and created an 'illusion of a perspective' in which he appears to be making a claim about the world. While under this illusion, Russell does not even contemplate that his proposition could be anything other than a straightforward everyday assertion.[34]
This reading of the early conversation has the advantage of dovetailing with Russell's report that Wittgenstein 'thinks nothing empirical is knowable.' If Russell took 'propositions' about the form of representation as empirical propositions, then he would have quite naturally interpreted Wittgenstein's objection as a rejection of empirical propositions as such. But Wittgenstein was not rejecting empirical propositions; he would have accepted propositions like 'the chair in the other room is black' as empirical and knowable. Rather, he was rejecting propositions that purported to be empirical propositions, but were not. Likewise, we can make sense of Russell's later recollection that Wittgenstein 'maintained that all existential propositions are meaningless.' Again, Wittgenstein would not have had any problem in accepting 'there is a black chair in the other room' as a meaningful existential proposition. Rather it was Russell's purported proposition that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' that he considered to be meaningless.[35]
We can also make better sense of Russell's extreme reaction to Wittgenstein, and why he suspected that Wittgenstein may have been a fool, infliction, and crank. For Russell would have had, as indeed anyone who has read Wittgenstein's On Certainty is sure to have had, a feeling of bafflement that such apparently innocent 'propositions' as 'here is a hand' could be viewed as objectionable. Indeed, it is important to emphasize how natural Russell's response is. After all, most of us would not have any problem thinking that 'there is no rhinoceros in the room' is true. All that we have to do is look about our room and it seems absolutely certain that there is no rhinoceros in it.
True, in philosophy classes we do indeed raise skeptical questions about such beliefs. But Russell gives no indication in his reports of their conversations that he and Wittgenstein were following in the skeptic's well-trodden path. In fact, Russell differed from Wittgenstein in regarding skepticism as a genuine, if mistaken, position and his reaction would surely have been less extreme had Wittgenstein been arguing a skeptical position.[38] Russell's ridiculing of Wittgenstein by looking underneath the desks in the room seems more connected with his dismissing Wittgenstein as a crank than it does with his rejecting an implausible skeptical argument. Moreover, we must not forget that Wittgenstein's objection to the rhinoceros remark was part and parcel of his positive contention that 'there is nothing in the world except asserted propositions'; this does not sound like the remark of a skeptic. (And remember too that, according to Russell's later anecdote, his objection concerned the meaning of existential propositions.) In short, it would seem that Wittgenstein was making a point about what can be meaningfully said, not about what we don't know.
It is unlikely, then, that what annoyed Russell was that Wittgenstein was venturing a skeptical hypothesis. What is more likely is that he was annoyed - to the point of suspecting that Wittgenstein may have been a fool, infliction, and crank - with Wittgenstein's actually objecting to his apparently innocent assertion that there was not a rhinoceros in the room. On my interpretation, Wittgenstein was questioning the sense of Russell's statement insofar as it pretended to be a species of an everyday assertion. And it is no more immediately obvious why there could be anything objectionable about the sense of the proposition about the rhinoceros than it is obvious that there is something objectionable about the sense of the proposition that, say, 'I know that I've never been to the moon.'[37]
So, if Wittgenstein's objection to Russell was indeed motivated by a concern with nonsense of the sort discussed in On Certainty and elsewhere,[38] there is a significant line of continuity between his views expressed in his first meetings with Russell and the very last days of his life. Establishing this line of continuity, however, requires our recognizing a much greater gap between the early Wittgenstein and Russell (and Frege) than is ordinarily seen. Another way of saying this is that if the Tractatus is to be interpreted as expressing a concern with nonsense, as Diamond and others have argued, we must be willing to take a serious second look at the development of these ideas in his early 'collaboration' with Russell. To this end, it is worth remembering what it was that Russell said Wittgenstein refused to admit in that earliest of conversations, namely that 'it was certain that there was not a rhinoceros in the room.'[39]

NOTES
1 Information about Russell and Wittgenstein's conversation is derived from two main sources: Russell's letters to Lady Ottoline Morell and Russell's article in Mind, printed on the occasion of Wittgenstein's death. The first appearance of Wittgenstein is recorded in Russell's letter of the 18th of October, 1911, and the discussion about the rhinoceros appears in his letters written between the 19th of October and the 2nd of November.
It is interesting to note that in his article in Mind, Russell says that the discussion concerned a hippopotamus, not a rhinoceros. Also, Russell's claim to have looked underneath the desks does not appear in his letters to Lady Ottoline Morell. See Bertrand Russell, 'Ludwig Wittgenstein,' Mind 60 (1951), 297-298. Russell's letters were reprinted in Brian McGuinness, Wittgenstein: A Life (Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1988), 88-89 and Ray Monk, Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (London: Vintage, 1990), 38-40. The quotations are from McGuinness, p. 89.
2 Wittgenstein's reported remarks about 'asserted propositions' occur in Russell's letters of the 7th and 13th of November, 1911. See Monk, p. 40.
3 My objective is to raise questions about McGuinness's hypothesis so as to suggest an alternative way of reading Wittgenstein's earliest remarks. I am not claiming to offer a definitive interpretation of that early conversation. As McGuinness points out, there is too little information for that to be possible.
4 McGuinness, p. 91.
5 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicua, D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (trans.) (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), remark 1.1.
6 Nicholas Griffin echoes McGuinness' interpretation: 'We do know that Wittgenstein at one point defended the views that no empirical propositions are knowable and that the only things that exist are asserted propositions. Few conclusions about Wittgenstein's philosophy can be drawn from these remarks, except that the second of the them is based on Russell's account of asserted propositions in The Principles of Mathematics.' See Nicholas Griffin, 'Ludwig in Fact and Fiction,' The Journal of the Bertrand Russell Archives 12 (1992), 79-93. The quotation is from p. 89.
7 It must be kept in mind that though Moore develops his realist conception of the proposition in opposition to Bradley's idealism, his version of realism is also antithetical to the conception of ideas derived from British Empiricism. For more on this topic see John Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966), 202-204. For a detailed analysis of the realist reaction to idealism, see Peter Hylton,
Russell, Idealism and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).
8 The quotation is from Paesmore, p. 203.
9 Bertrand Russell, The Principles of Mathematics (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1938), 49.
10 McGuinness, p. 91.
11 Ibid.
12 McGuinness, p. 89. Russell's later anecdote about the rhinoceros conversation sheds light on his earlier misgivings about Wittgenstein. He says, 'quite at first I was in doubt as to whether he was a man of genius or a crank, but I very soon decided in favour of the former alternative. Some of his early views made the decision difficult. He maintained, for example, at one time that all existential propositions are meaningless.' Note that Russell says that Wittgenstein maintained that 'all existential propositions are meaningless' whereas in his letter to Lady Ottoline at the time, he says that Wittgenstein 'thinks nothing empirical is knowable.' As I shall suggest, Russell's later remark about propositions being 'meaningless' as opposed to being knowable, is closer to the heart of the issue, though it is quite likely that in Russell's mind little rested on these different formulations. See McGuinness, p. 89.
13 The conversation in which, according to another of Russell's famous anecdotes, Wittgenstein asks Russell whether he (Wittgenstein) is 'utterly hopeless at philosophy' and thus whether he should go into aeronautics or philosophy was not to take place until November 27, 1911, more than three weeks after the rhinoceros conversation. In response to Wittgenstein's question, Russell says 'I told him I didn't know but I thought not. I asked him to bring me something written to help me to judge.' It would seem that three weeks after the rhinoceros conversation, Russell was still having doubts. See Monk, p. 40.
14 McGuinness, p. 90.
15 Ludwig Wittgenstein, 'Notes on Logic,' Notebooks 1914-1916, 2nd rev. ed., G. H. von Wright and G. E. M. Anscombe (ed.) G. E. M. Anscombe (trans.) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1961), 95. Both the 'Notes on Logic' and the 'Notes Dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway' are printed in Notebooks 1914-16. Hereafter, I shall refer simply to 'Notes on Logic' or 'Notes Dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway' followed by the page number as it occurs in Notebooks 1914-16.
16 See M. O'C. Drury, 'Conversations with Wittgenstein,' in R. Rhees (ed.), Recollections of Wittgenstein (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), 158: 'my fundamental ideas came to me very early in life.'
17 McGuinness, p. 92.
18 When I insist that McGuinness has an ontological reading of the Tractatus, I am saying that he thinks Wittgenstein is (at least initially) presenting an account of the nature of language and of the world (and so in that broad sense is similar to Russell and Moore). I am aware that McGuinness differs from most interpreters in holding that the ultimate purpose of Wittgenstein's aims is to show the absurdity of all such accounts. Nevertheless, on McGuinness' interpretation, success in showing the absurdity of philosophical accounts of language and the world must rest on our understanding of the correctness of the account Wittgenstein initially presents. In other words, we must understand and be assured that Wittgenstein's (linguistic) ontology is correct before we can draw the consequence of ultimate 'unsayableness.' In my view, to interpret Wittgenstein in this manner is to admit that he has a doctrine after all, even if this doctrine cannot properly be said, contrary to Wittgenstein's disclaimer about philosophical doctrines. For more on McOuinneas' view,
see Brian McGuinness, 'Language and Reality in the Tractatus,' Teoria (1985), 135-144.
19 See, e.g., Tractatus, p. 3, 4.003, 4.112, and 6.53. This rejection of philosophical theories appears in the 'Notes on Logic' as well as in the 7ractatus. See p. 106 where Wittgenstein says 'In philosophy there are no deductions; it is purely descriptive' and 'Philosophy gives no pictures of reality.'
20 Another way of saying this is that McGuinness has not taken seriously enough the question raised by Cora Diamond concerning how to read the Tractatus without 'chickening out.' If, as Wittgenstein says, his own propositions are nonsensical, it is difficult to make sense of how Wittgenstein can be offering an account of language and reality, whether that account be linguistic or otherwise. ff-Diamond is right, the status of the propositions of the Tractatus is altogether different from what McGuinness supposes. See Cora Diamond, The Realistic Spirit (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M. I. T. Press, 1991), 179-204.
21 Wittgenstein, 'Notes on Logic' pp. 95 and 96.
22 'Notes on Logic,' p. 103 and pp. 100-101 (my emphasis in the case of both occurrences of 'asserting' and in the case of 'significance').
23 Wittgenstein, 'Notes dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway' p. 110.
24 'Notes dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway' p. 110 and Tractatua, 4.1272.
25 Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), paragraph 151.
26 On Certainty, paragraphs 37 & 83.
27 On Certainty, paragraph 309.
28 On Certainty, paragraph 7.
29 On Certainty, paragraph 94.
30 Tractatua, 6.53.
31 In his later philosophy, a statement about the background would be considered a rule of grammar. In this connection, it is interesting to note that in a lecture in the early 1930s, Wittgenstein discussed 'the changes that would be required by accepting the hypothesis [i.e., by taking it as a rule of grammar] that there is a hippopotamus in the room.' Wittgenstein's point is that accepting 'there is a hippopotamus in our room' as a rule of grammar, as something belonging to the 'background' would radically upset our ordinary way of seeing things; it would necessitate, as he says, 'queer alterations.' Though Wittgenstein does not explicitly mention it, it seems obvious that he thinks that we don't accept that proposition as a rule of grammar and that 'there is no hippopotamus in the room' is our accepted rule of grammar, and belongs to our form of representation. I might note that a distinguishing mark of the later Wittgenstein is that he sees propositions such as 'there is no hippopotamus in the room' as playing different roles, i.e., as rules of grammar or as empirical propositions, depending on the context. See Alice Ambrose (ed.), Wittgenstein's Lectures: Cambridge 1932-1935, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982), 70.
32 The expression 'Form der Abbildung' has been translated by Pears and McGuinness as 'pictorial form' and by Ogden and Ramsey as 'form of representation.' For the purposes at hand, I do not think much importance rests on distinguishing these two translations. I shall use 'form of representation' as it brings out more clearly Wittgenstein's interest in distinguishing the means of representation from what is represented. See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 2nd rev. ed., C. K. Ogden and F. P. Ramsey (trans.) (London: Routledge & Megan Paul, 1933), 2.15 and 2.17.
33 We can perhaps see elements of the idea that the form of representation cannot be represented anticipated in Wittgenstein's often mentioned use of the phrase 'form of a proposition' in the 'Notes on Logic.' For example, he criticizes Russell for confusing the form of a proposition for a thing. See 'Notes on Logic' p. 105. A full discussion of this idea of its origins in his early philosophy would take me too far afield.
34 The term 'illusion of a perspective' comes from Cora Diamond and refers to the illusion that she thinks is created in philosophy by propositions which strictly speaking are nonsense. I disagree, however, with her interpretation that for Wittgenstein these 'nonsense propositions' must be understood as containing signs that have not been given a meaning, e.g., 'Socrates is identical' is nonsense since 'identical' hasn't been given an adjectival meaning. In my view, Wittgenstein has a more robust conception of nonsense having to do with 'uninformativenem' and misconstruing the elements of our means of representation. Again, it would take me too far afield to defend this view here. See Diamond, p. 196.
35 Some years later, when Wittgenstein had an opportunity to explain the Tractatus to Russell in conversation, Russell disagreed with Wittgenstein's view that any assertion about the world was meaningless. During the discussion, Russell apparently took a sheet of white paper and made three blobs of ink on it and asked Wittgenstein to admit that since there were three blobs, there must be at least three things in the world. According to Russell, Wittgenstein 'would admit there were three blobs on the page, because that was a finite assertion, but he would not admit that anything at all could be said about the world as a whole.' Russell added, 'this part of his doctrine is to my mind definitely mistaken.' It is possible that what Wittgenstein means by a 'finite assertion' is similar to what I am suggesting he meant by an 'asserted proposition' in the early conversation under discussion and it may very well be that this later conversation is going over terrain similar to that covered in the early conversation Russell's remark is quoted in Monk, p. 182.
36 Recall that Wittgenstein says that 'scepticism is not irrefutable, but obviously nonsensical.' See Tractatus, 6.51.
37 On Certainty, paragraph 111.
38 To say that Wittgenstein's philosophy is similarly motivated in this regard is not to deny the substantial differences between his two philosophical periods. One thing we must avoid is the fallacy that Wittgenstein's criticisms of the Tractatus do not contain developments of views first expressed in the Tractatus, though perhaps in an inadequate form.
39 Emphasis added. I wish to thank Paul Genest, Paul Forster, and especially Andrew Lugg for their helpful comments.