" But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness: nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false."(OC 94).
"Superstition is nothing but belief in the causal nexus." TLP 5.1361
"Now if it is not the causal connections which we are concerned with, then the activities of the mind lie open before us." "The Blue Book" p6 (1933)
"We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course, there are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer." TLP 6.52 (1922)
"Nonsense, Nonsense, because you are making assumptions instead of simply describing. If your head is haunted by explanations here, you are neglecting to remind yourself of the most important facts."
"Philosophy simply puts everything before us and neither explains nor deduces anything...One might give the name `philosophy' to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions."
"The more narrowly we examine actual language, the sharper becomes the conflict between it and our requirement. (For the crystalline purity of logic was, of course, not a result of investigation: it was a requirement.)"PI 107
"The wrong conception which I want to object to in this connexion is the following, that we can discover something wholly new. That is a mistake. The truth of the matter is that we have already got everything, and that we have got it actually present; we need not wait for anything. We make our moves in the realm of the grammar of our ordinary language, and this grammar is already there. Thus, we have already got everything and need not wait for the future." (said in 1930) Waismann "Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle (1979)p183
"Here we come up against a remarkable and characteristic phenomenon in philosophical investigation: the difficulty---I might say---is not that of finding the solution but rather that of recognizing as the solution something that looks as if it were only a preliminary to it. We have already said everything.---Not anything that follows from this, no this itself is the solution!....This is connected, I believe, with our wrongly expecting an explanation, whereas the solution of the difficulty is a description, if we give it the right place in our considerations. If we dwell upon it, and do not try to get beyond it." Zettel p312-314
Here is how the leading Wittgenstein scholar summarized his work: "Wittgenstein resolved many of the deep problems that have dogged our subject for centuries, sometimes indeed for more than two millennia, problems about the nature of linguistic representation, about the relationship between thought and language, about solipsism and idealism, self-knowledge and knowledge of other minds, and about the nature of necessary truth and of mathematical propositions. He ploughed up the soil of European philosophy of logic and language. He gave us a novel and immensely fruitful array of insights into philosophy of psychology. He attempted to overturn centuries of reflection on the nature of mathematics and mathematical truth. He undermined foundationalist epistemology. And he bequeathed us a vision of philosophy as a contribution not to human knowledge, but to human understanding - understanding of the forms of our thought and of the conceptual confusions into which we are liable to fall."--Peter Hacker--'Gordon Baker's late interpretation of Wittgenstein'
I would add that W was the first (by 40 years) to clearly and extensively describe the two systems of thought (fast and slow thinking now central to psychology). He explained how behavior only is possible with a vast inherited background that is the axiomatic basis for judging and cannot be doubted or judged, so will (choice), consciousness self, time and space are innate true-only axioms. He also discussed many times what is now known as Theory of Mind, Framing and cognitive illusions and can thus be viewed as the first evolutionary psychologist. He described the psychology behind what later became the Wason test--a fundamental measure used in EP decades later. He noted the indeterminate nature of language and the game-like nature of social interaction. He examined in thousands of pages and hundreds of examples how our inner mental experiences are not describable in language, this being possible only for behavior with a public language (the impossibility of private language). He described and refuted the notions of the mind as machine and the computational theory of mind, long before practical computers. He invented truth tables and predicted paraconsistent logic. He decisively laid to rest skepticism and metaphysics. He showed that, far from being inscrutable, the activities of the mind lie open before us, a lesson few have learned since.
When thinking about Wittgenstein, I often recall the comment attributed to Cambridge Philosophy professor C.D. Broad (who did not understand nor like him). "Not offering the chair of philosophy to Wittgenstein would be like not offering the chair of physics to Einstein!" I think of him as the Einstein of intuitive psychology. Though born ten years later, he was likewise hatching ideas about the nature of reality at nearly the same time and in the same part of the world and like Einstein nearly died in WW1. Now suppose Einstein was a suicidal homosexual recluse with a difficult personality who published only one early version of his ideas that were confused and often mistaken, but became world famous; completely changed his ideas but for the next 30 years published nothing more, and knowledge of his new work, in mostly garbled form, diffused slowly from occasional lectures and students notes; that he died in 1951 leaving behind over 20,000 pages of mostly handwritten scribblings in German, composed of sentences or short paragraphs with, often, no clear relationship to sentences before or after; that these were cut and pasted from other notebooks written years earlier with notes in the margins, underlinings and crossed out words, so that many sentences have multiple variants; that his literary executives cut this indigestible mass into pieces, leaving out what they wished and struggling with the monstrous task of capturing the correct meaning of sentences which were conveying utterly novel views of how the universe works and that they then published this material with agonizing slowness (not finished after half a century) with prefaces that contained no real explanation of what it was about; that he became as much notorious as famous due to many statements that all previous physics was a mistake and even nonsense, and that virtually nobody understood his work, in spite of hundreds of books and tens of thousands of papers discussing it; that many physicists knew only his early work in which he had made a definitive summation of Newtonian physics stated in such extremely abstract and condensed form that it was difficult to decide what was being said; that he was then virtually forgotten and that most books and articles on the nature of the world and the diverse topics of modern physics had only passing and usually erroneous references to him, and that many omitted him entirely; that to this day, over half a century after his death, there were only a handful of people who really grasped the monumental consequences of what he had done. This, I claim, is precisely the situation with Wittgenstein.
Had W lived into his 80's he would have been able to directly influence Searle (the other modern genius of descriptive psychology), Symons, and countless other students of behavior. If his brilliant friend Frank Ramsey had not died in his youth, a highly fruitful collaboration would almost certainly have ensued. If his student and colleague Alan Turing had become his lover, one of the most amazing collaborations of all time would likely have evolved. In any one case the intellectual landscape of the 20th century would have been different and if all 3 had occurred it would almost certainly have been very different. Instead he lived in relative intellectual isolation, few knew him well or had an inkling of his ideas while he lived, and only a handful within philosophy have any real grasp of his work today. He could have shined as an engineer(he patented helicopter designs which anticipated by three decades the use of blade-tip jets to drive the rotors and which had the seeds of the centrifugal-flow gas turbine engine, a mathematician (he sketched out a proof of Euler's theorem, since shown to be valid, and grasped the psychological foundations of math , incompleteness, infinity etc., as no one else has to this day), a physiologist (he did wartime research in it and designed a heartbeat monitor), a musician (he played instruments and had a renowned talent for whistling), an architect (the modernist house he designed and constructed for his sister still stands), or an entrepreneur (he inherited one of the largest fortunes in the world but gave it all away). It is a miracle he survived the trenches and prison camps (while writing the Tractatus) in WW1, many years of suicidal depressions (2 brothers succumbed to them), avoided being trapped in Austria and executed by the Nazis (he was partly Jewish), and that he was not persecuted for his homosexuality and driven to suicide like his friend Turing. He realized nobody understood what he was doing and might never (not surprising as he was half a century ahead of psychology and philosophy, which only recently have started accepting that our behavior evolved like our body.)
PI was not published until 1953, 2 years after his death and can be viewed as two quite different books. Read more ›