Here is a paper I wrote for the "Wittgenstein and the Method of Philosophy" workshop at the University of Helsinki in May 2000. It is essentially a reworking of part of my thesis, and presupposes some familiarity with Cora Diamond and James Conant's somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation of Wittgenstein's work. Much of it, however, can be digested and understood even without such familiarity.

On Ladder Withdrawal Symptoms and One Way of Dealing with Them

T. P. USCHANOV, Department of Philosophy, University of Helsinki

When the eye or imagination is struck
with an uncommon work, the next transition
of an active mind is to the means by which
it was performed.
— Samuel Johnson, Rasselas
Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.

— W. B. Yeats, The Circus Animals' Desertion

1. Wittgenstein's Style as an Impediment to Understanding Him

I want to consider a remark made on Wittgenstein's Tractatus by Jim Conant in his paper "Putting Two and Two Together," and then elaborate at some length on how I think the problem that remark expresses was in my view dealt with by Wittgenstein, and also how this approach of Wittgenstein's could perhaps be fruitfully integrated into the Diamond–Conant interpretation of Wittgenstein. A key challenge for Wittgensteinian scholars in the immediate future is to weld the Diamond–Conant interpretation, without depriving it of its own realistic spirit, into an integrated vision of Wittgenstein's personality and his achievement as a thinker. To borrow the final sentence of Wittgenstein's remarks on logical form: "This, as we all know, has not yet been achieved" (Wittgenstein 1929: 171). The remark by Conant I want to look at is:

When Wittgenstein himself criticizes the Tractatus's mode of philosophical presentation it is not simply ... on the grounds that its doctrine is flawed, but on the grounds that its method is flawed: it is inherently dogmatic — the work cultivates the impression that things are being dogmatically asserted. This way of putting the criticism is meant to suggest, I take it, that the procedure employed is not well suited to the task of remaining neutral in a dialectical conflict — between reason's pretensions and its disappointments — in which dogmatism represents one of the two poles. The Tractatus does, of course, attempt to address this problem. It attempts to insist about its own sentences that they are not meaningful propositions but only elucidations. But Wittgenstein's later criticism of his work seems to be that this declaration will almost always come too late. (Conant 1995: 297)

The Tractatus speaks so much about logic because logic can unproblematically be spoken of in the language-game of logic, unlike ethics (Engelmann 1967: 97). But the status of the Tractatus as an ethical treatise which nevertheless presents its critique by means of formal logic is, in the end, caused by the fact that the philosophical problems with the logic it expounds are precisely what prevents philosophers from grasping Wittgenstein's ethical views. But these problems with logic also haunt the Tractatus itself. Exactly as Conant says, the tragedy of the Tractatus is that its own dogmatic insistence is too convincing on the level of surface grammar to allow the correct impression that on the level of depth grammar the whole book is a satirical reductio ad absurdum of itself. The reader is liable to feel that every proposition in it should be followed by "— so there" or "— deal with it". The tremendous power of reductio ad absurdum is that it asks us to think something that simply cannot be thought (Wittgenstein 1978: v §28). But most analytically oriented readers of the Tractatus, no matter whether they endorse the positivist or the ineffability variant of the substantial conception of nonsense, have traditionally assumed that they are forbidden from even attempting to think anything that cannot be thought. Wittgenstein's pupil M. O'C. Drury refers painfully appositely to Kierkegaard's simile of a theatre director who rushes to the stage in the middle of a play to warn the audience of a fire. The audience thinks that he's part of the play, and the louder he yells, the wilder the audience applauds (Rhees 1984a: xi). Charles L. Creegan (1989: 39) has even stated, with complete justification to my mind, that those philosophers who are most likely to feel that they have understood the Tractatus correctly — i.e. the way Wittgenstein meant it — have in fact traditionally been the philosophers most likely to have misunderstood the Tractatus.

Most readers of the Tractatus have been unable to direct themselves to the sort of clear-headed aspect-seeing which notices both the logical surface and the mystical depth; they have been unable to imagine what it would be to understand Wittgenstein and then throw his book away (Diamond 1991b: 65; Conant 1994: xli–xlii). Umberto Eco's "model reader" (Eco 1979: 7–9), whom the author can write for his own text by offering readily available means of interpretation in it, can hardly be spoken of in the case of the Tractatus. And this is why the demythologizing of logic done by the Tractatus is preserved in Wittgenstein's later philosophy, but the mythologizing by which this demythologizing itself is victimized in the Tractatus is eradicated as well as possible (Diamond 1991a: 4–5; cf. Burlingame 1986: 213–214). In a superbly instructive paper, the French philosopher Jacques Schlanger has closely examined the problem of the relationship of philosophers to the audiences they are addressing. According to him, it seems that the readers of great philosophers do not even expect self-expression from their texts. Rather, they expect philosophers to serve as mouthpieces for a terrifying, impersonal truth which possesses them; "and the truth, we all agree, has a right to pontificate":

Wittgenstein begins his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus with a series of peremptory affirmations, which really give the impression of truth speaking through his mouth: "The world is all that is the case. The world is the totality of facts, not of things." What would have happened if, instead of using such a peremptory tone, Wittgenstein had begun by saying: "I think, I believe, I have the impression, it seems to me, I propose, it would be interesting to suppose [or something of the sort] that the world is all that is the case; let us suppose that the world is made up of facts, and not of things, even though I do not know exactly what a thing is"? Would the Vienna Circle have taken what he had to say so seriously? (Schlanger 1992: 100)

It is hard to imagine how someone like Russell — who thought it something funny to ask a tormented Wittgenstein circulating in his study at night whether he was thinking of logic or of his sins — could have grasped Wittgenstein's early stylistic aims. The Tractatus is far from Russell's frolicsome, self-congratulatory, pseudo-objective style, which has the mother wit of the British aristocrat as its background (Binkley 1973: 212–213; Hughes 1989: 332–335).1 But the beginning of the Tractatus, especially in Ogden and Ramsey's original English translation, is ghastly Beardsleyan art deco. It is full of "bluish haze," as Wittgenstein once said, wishing to express what his mysticism wasn't (Engelmann 1967: 98). It conjures up the plangent sound of Bach's fugues in a nocturnal, candlelit cathedral. It even resembles the cataclysmic opening of John's gospel: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God" (Barrett 1988: 396). And even the number of the main paragraphs of the Tractatus is a reminder of the central place the number seven has been accorded in Judaeo-Christian number mystique, not least in the Book of Apocalypse. To put it shortly, the style of the Tractatus is essentially cosmic, while the style of Wittgenstein's later philosophy is quotidian (Churchill 1985: 422).2 In a manuscript entry from 1931, Wittgenstein himself noted that the beginning of the Tractatus was too bombastic, and that this aroused wrong associations in his readers — it gave the worst enemy of loftiness, homely Russellian empiricism, a lofty gloss: "Indeed, here the elimination of magic has itself the character of magic. For, back then, when I began talking about the 'world' (and not about this tree or table), what else did I want but to keep something higher spellbound in my words?" (Wittgenstein 1993a: 117). In another manuscript entry in 1930 he had already noted:

In addition to the good & genuine, my book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus includes kitsch, i.e. passages with which I have stuffed holes shut and so to say with my own style. I do not know how big a part of my book consists of these passages & it is hard to estimate that correctly now. (Wittgenstein 1997: 28)

Because Wittgenstein's style was chilly and booming in the Tractatus, its content ended up following its form all too much. Wittgenstein's aims against Russell and Frege did not reach his intended audience, which had grown accustomed to associating lofty assertiveness with quite different aims. I would go as far as saying that the difference between the Tractatus and Wittgenstein's later texts can be understood largely as a stylistic difference — as much or more as a factual difference or a difference in aims and attitudes. In his later writings Wittgenstein continously attempts to wean himself away from the style of the Tractatus. Already thirty years ago Lars Hertzberg (1971: 504) said that what he does in his later philosophy might be described as an attempt to continue living after having thrown the ladder away. That is a formulation I can endorse completely. Denis McManus (1995: 359–360) has drawn attention to the essentially wistful tone of the Investigations' critique of traditional metaphilosophy; it is clear that after having thrown the ladder away Wittgenstein himself experienced severe withdrawal symptoms. So it comes as no surprise that Wittgenstein often reflected on the difference between his early and later styles. "Everything ritual (high-priestly, as it were) is to be avoided strictly," he notes in 1930 (Wittgenstein 1980c: 40). "My main movement of thought is now completely different than 15 or 20 years ago. And this was as if a painter had moved from one school to another," he estimates two years later (Wittgenstein 1997: 68). And as late as 1949 he returned to his early style when he remarked to M. O'C. Drury that C. D. Broad was right to speak of "the highly syncopated pipings of Herr Wittgenstein's flute". "Every sentence in the Tractatus should be seen as the heading of a chapter, needing further exposition," he said. "My present style is quite different; I am trying to avoid that error" (Drury 1984: 159).3

So, by moving to an earthier style, the later Wittgenstein tried to prevent his readers from getting wrong associations so that the basic ideas of the early Wittgenstein would not go to waste a second time. But this strategy was not very successful; it led mainly to interpretations according to which the radical change in Wittgenstein's style indicated a similar change in Wittgenstein's basic thoughts.4 However, Wittgenstein's preserved5 World War I notebooks testify clearly how the sparse ethical themes at the end of the Tractatus were selected from a large body of material that is stylistically quite close to the later Wittgenstein. And recent studies on the numbering system of the Tractatus (Mayer 1993; Gibson 1996) prove that its final order of presentation had nothing to do with its argumentative order, since the tentative Prototractatus still has the propositions in a completely different order. This has not attracted much attention among Wittgenstein scholars. It has been thought that one form of high-priestliness had merely been replaced by another. On the other hand Wittgenstein couldn't reach the ideal of changing his style completely. Even a few weeks before his death he came up with formulations that sounded to him too much like the Tractatus (Wittgenstein 1969: §321).

The trouble with these formulations — in this case the words "in theory" — was never their denotation; it was always their connotations. If Wittgenstein had said "In theory...," it would again have been thought that he had a theory of meaning or that he used technical terms. Of course this has a lot to do with the way "nonsense" has been misunderstood in most of the literature on the Tractatus. As interpreted by Diamond and Conant, "nonsense" is not the technical term in a theory of meaning most commentators have taken it to be. It is actually a highly evaluative term of ordinary language. The Tractatus is simply nonsense; it is not something to be considered nonsense merely for the sake of argument. Similarly, people who still argue about what Wittgenstein meant by Sachverhalt, Gegenstand or Lebensform should perhaps simply consult a German dictionary first (Ackermann 1988: 25–28; Thompkins 1990, 1991).6 — According to Schlanger (1992: 100–101), philosophers who have something new to say are always the mouthpieces of themselves: themselves, their thoughts, opinions, beliefs, feelings, desires and phantasms. But it is erroneous to believe that a philosophical text could be explicated merely by means of psychologically profiling its author. The author of a philosophical text offers to create an interactive relationship between his own existential position and that of his reader; to find things in the reader which he hasn't noticed himself.7 Wittgenstein noted during one of his lectures that he was trying to prove to his students that they had confusions of a kind they had not even imagined (Gasking & Jackson 1951: 53). In the case of a thinker like Wittgenstein it is difficult to form a healthy relationship to his person: "To get the most out of him, you have to see that he is nothing like yourself" (McGinn 1994: 39). So what was it that Wittgenstein did that was nothing like typical analytic philosophy when he changed from the cosmic Tractarian style to the later quotidian one? And how can Wittgenstein's later philosophy, which deals with such banal everyday matters, nevertheless be every bit as edifying and thrilling as his earlier one? My answer is that in his later phase, Wittgenstein did a double take on what can be construed interestingly as magic realism.

2. Uncanniness as a Wittgensteinian Theme

"I know that queer things happen in this world. It's one of the few things I've really learnt in my life," said Wittgenstein in a letter to G. E. Moore in October 1946. He said this in reaction to Moore's having to cancel an appointment owing to illness. But it is as if this also symbolized a central metaphilosophical aim of Wittgenstein's. He's constantly seeking to expose philosophers to the possibility of totally unexpected events in order to get them to prepare for the sudden crumbling of their whole theory. "Everything we see could also be otherwise. Everything we describe at all could also be otherwise," he had said in the Tractatus (Wittgenstein 1922: §5.634). In a 1937 notebook entry he adds that when the world changes, it is not enough to change the description of the world. One must also change the spirit of that description:

Almost like it is said that the old physicists have suddenly noticed that they understand too little of mathematics to be able to master physics, it can be said that young people today are in a situation in which the normal, sane understanding does not suffice before the strange demands of life. Everything has become so complicated that an exceptional understanding would be needed to explain it. It does not namely suffice any longer to be able to play the game well. The question is again and again: is this game played at all anymore and which is the right game? (Wittgenstein 1980c: 65)

Certain Marxist philosophers (Fann 1974; Mehtonen 1979; Rossi-Landi 1981) have claimed that the alienation of people from their ordinary language, which Wittgenstein's later philosophy describes, really reflects their social alienation. Interpreted thus, Wittgenstein's philosophy is fundamentally political: he attempts to reveal the contradictions between words and deeds that are maintained by the bourgeois workaday world. But it is by no means clear that the interpretation must, in this case, be political. At least the contradictory and fragmentary evidence we have of Wittgenstein's own political views does not show that his philosophy is connected organically with any one political ideology.

David G. Stern (1995: 13) quotes an interesting fragment from the Frank Ramsey Nachlass, in which Ramsey separates these three levels in Wittgenstein's philosophy:

3 ? levels of philosophy
investigating world
the world as fiction
= scientific realism
= phenomenalism
= transcendentalism

One way of interpreting this is to see phenomenalism — and perhaps phenomenology — as a kind of golden mean between the extremes of the scientific-positivist and the mystic-transcendentalist conceptions of philosophy. Phenomenology deals with "the world as fiction"; that strange but still familiar phenomenon in which the human mind recoils from objective reality to pure imagination, and then recoils back to objectivity inaccessible to the senses. Kant's doctrine of the categories was perhaps the best-known modern attempt to say why the world inevitably remains more or less fictitious.8 But by the criteria of the Tractatus as interpreted by Diamond and Conant, what is generally known as Kantianism is merely one more attempt to speak when speaking is hopeless. Karsten Harries (1968: 409) has suggested that Wittgenstein's ambivalent relationship with Kantianism should be called "transcendental realism" in a self-consciously contradictory way. My own suggestion, however, is that it should rather be called magic realism. I think the introduction of this term to the debate on Wittgenstein's philosophical methodology can genuinely fructify and illuminate what Diamond famously calls "the realistic spirit" — that is, Wittgenstein's attack on the philosophical doctrine of realism, which is nevertheless itself profoundly realistic in the ordinary sense of the word. In the later Wittgenstein's thought experiments we encounter countless eerie and often preposterous possible worlds. In these, to pick just a few examples,

— a mouse is born spontaneously of grey rags and dust (1953: §52);

— a chair vanishes repeatedly and inexplicably for a moment (1953: §80);

— people grow lions' heads and start roaring like lions (1965: 10);

— a new colour is revealed which is not a mixture of already existing colours (1967: §257);

— a mountain is formed volcanically in half an hour (1969: §237);

— a wild tribe abducts G. E. Moore, opining that he has arrived from somewhere between Earth and the Moon (1969: §264);

— chess pieces move by themselves and memories of their places also change (1969: §346);

— houses slowly turn into steam (1969: §513);

— speaking and laughing cows stand upside down on a meadow (1969: §513);

— trees turn into people and people into trees (1969: §513);

— chess is a way of solving wars that has been invented by certain tribes, and therefore its masters are not at chess competitions but in the British Foreign Office (1976: 143–144);

— a calculator is born accidentally in nature and calculates 25 x 20 when animals walk over it (1978: v §2);

— God creates for two minutes an area in the middle of a desert that is an exact copy of a part of England, including all the events that happen in that part of England (1978: vi §34);

— Jesus abolishes the linearity of time by being in two places simultaneously (1979: 66);

— a complete railway station and a length of railway tracks are found on Mars (1980a: §372);

— colours of objects change ceaselessly, so colour concepts do not stabilize (1980b: §198);

— people become more intelligent the more books they own (1982: §806).

It has often been thought that it's no use philosophically analyzing Wittgenstein's thought experiments, because there are no parallels to them in the writings of other prominent philosophers.9 It has even been suggested that to preserve the cogency of Wittgenstein's thought, we should search for such parallels in the real world, in real examples (Bloor 1983: 5). But at least in myself Wittgenstein's examples conjure up strong associations with magic realism — an artistic genre that began in German pictorial art of the 1920s as a counter-reaction to expressionism, but which is nowadays associated primarily with Latin American literature and such names in it as Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.10

According to the Magic Realism Weltanschauung, the world and reality have a dream-like quality about them which is captured by the presentation of improbable juxtapositions in a style that is highly objective, precise, and deceptively simple. The Magic Realist painting or short story is predominantly realistic and deals with the objects of our daily life, but contains an unexpected or improbable element that creates a strange effect leaving the viewer or reader somewhat bewildered or amazed.

After we have familiarized ourselves with this brief definition by Seymour Menton (1982: 412), we immediately notice that the literary genre in which the later Wittgenstein operates can quite unproblematically considered a form of magic realism. And there are many equally interesting forms of magic realism in what we know of the details of Wittgenstein's life. The geneticist Conrad Hal Waddington, who discussed philosophy regularly with him in the early forties, says that he was "so acutely aware of the otherness of other things that he never fully reconciled himself to the fact that words can have anything to do with them" (Waddington 1960: 42). When designing chairs for the house he built for his sister Margaret, Wittgenstein fell ill and hallucinated that he himself had turned into a chair (Lee 1979: 213). His pupil Norman Malcolm (1958: 31–32) relates: "On one walk he 'gave' to me each tree that we passed, with the reservation that I was not to cut it down or do anything to it, or prevent the previous owners from doing anything to it: with those reservations it was henceforth mine." According to Malcolm (1958: 29), when Wittgenstein lectured, his "imaginary events and circumstances were so odd and so far beyond the reach of natural possibility that he himself could not help being amused". Another pupil, Wolfe Mays (1967: 80), gives some examples of these:

He had a very strong, almost abnormal, imagery, and this came out in the bizarre examples he used to produce in class to illustrate his arguments. For example, he likened his soul to a yellow spot over his shoulder ... To illustrate the expressionist character of language he suggested that we try swearing at a dog in an affectionate tone of voice, and to bring out the arbitrary nature of naming, he argued that we might christen the piece of chalk he was holding in his hand "Jack".

Like magic realist writers of fiction, Wittgenstein balances precariously between a realist and a supernatural manner of description, picking the strengths from each. Surrealist shock effects or the flourishy fantasies of science fiction are not needed, because the unlikely achieves stronger effects than the impossible. Joseph Agassi (1970: 288), who is the only major philosopher to have discussed the implications of magic realism for analytic philosophy, has said of Borges:

As an artist he can ... take a platitude and enhance it so as to make you feel its full significance. As an essayist he would rather draw from the platitude conclusions unexpected and unplatitudinous, or he would take an unnoticed fact or an outlandish thesis and show its merit and significance.

In "Realism and the Realistic Spirit," the paper in which Cora Diamond introduces the concept of the realistic spirit, she says: "We all know that if God sells wine in an English village, we do not call the story realistic; and if the devil turns up in a realistic novel, it is within what we can take to be some extraordinary experience of one of the characters, say in a dream or in delirium" (Diamond 1991a: 40). In T. F. Powys's allegorical novel Mr Weston's Good Wine, God does indeed sell wine in an English village, and another of the protagonists is a thinly disguised devil. But a story like that is in my opinion realistic in exactly the vernacular sense contrasted by Diamond with philosophical "realism," since it belongs stylistically to magic realism — it's not fantasy fiction, but neither is it wholly realistic fiction. Its conversational implicature is that of realistic fiction, and its effectiveness comes precisely from the tension between the everydayness of its pretensions and the eeriness of its subject matter. Diamond's "realistic spirit" omits the part of the vernacular meaning which the word "realism" has in "magic realism". But the philosophical aims are surely the same no matter whether we talk about "the realistic spirit," "transcendental realism" or "magic realism".

But if someone, in quite heterogeneous circumstances, called out with the most convincing mimicry: "Down with him!", one might say of these words (and their tone) that they were a pattern that does indeed have familiar applications, but that in this case it was not even clear what language the man in question was speaking. (Wittgenstein 1969: §350)

Many of the best instances of Wittgenstein's magic realism are united by a certain trompe-d'œil quality, or Oulipianism — that is, the conscious neglecting of certain parts of language, such as a letter of the alphabet.11 The reader of Oulipian literature notices clearly that something fishy is going on, but cannot usually say at all what it is. Everything doesn't hang together. The readers' reaction to this is a kind of mild recoil, as with uncapitalized German nouns (Wittgenstein 1980a: §1087). "'But this isn't how it is!' — we say. 'Yet this is how it has to be!'" (Wittgenstein 1953: §112). Even though he didn't think of himself as a poet,12 Wittgenstein seems to have followed the game-theoretical exhortation of Pauli Pylkkö (1983: 34): the poet should aim at a text that even the best theory will leave unexplained. Wittgenstein opposes the axiomatic, motto-like status which ceteris paribus has achieved in modern analytic philosophy. "One must always be prepared to learn something totally new" (Wittgenstein 1977: iii §45 = i §15). As Diamond (1991a: 47) says, the realistic spirit "does not ... know so well that you cannot get a mouse from rags that it will not look at the rags". In fact observations are often so theory-laden that the theory equals the observation:

Suppose people used always to point to objects in the following way: they describe a circle as it were round the object with their finger in the air; in that case a philosopher could be imagined who said: "All things are circular, for the table looks like this, the stove like this, the lamp like this," etc., drawing a circle round the thing each time. (Wittgenstein 1967: §443)

If people were used to seeing nothing but green squares and red circles, they might regard a green circle with the same kind of mistrust with which they would regard a freak, and, for example, they might even say it is really a red circle, but has something of a... (Wittgenstein 1977: iii §155)

If we only saw one of our primary colours, red say, extremely seldom and only in tiny expanses, if we could not prepare colours for painting, if red occurred only in particular connections with other colours, say only at the very tips of leaves of certain trees, these tips gradually changing from green to red in the autumn, then nothing would be more natural than to call red a degenerate green. (Wittgenstein 1980a: §47; cf. §626)

These thought experiments remind one of Robert A. Heinlein's short story "They". It tells about a man languishing in a mental hospital who is convinced that the entire physical universe is only a prop set up by a world-wide conspiracy against him. At the end of the story we learn that the entire physical universe is in fact a mere prop set up by a world-wide conspiracy against him. Wittgenstein's uncanny thought experiments seek to get us to realize that there are or could be people whose reactions to phenomena familiar to us would be mistrust, shock, fear, hostility or perplexity. To them these reactions seem to be as natural as our similar reactions to them (Cerbone 1994: 177). There is a prosaic empirical explanation for this difference, but the strength of the reactions disguises this. By now it is clear why it won't do to replace Wittgenstein's fictitious natural history with real natural history. Wittgenstein doesn't want to prove that things can be in a particular strange way; he wants to rescue our own familiar concepts for us so that we could see how our form of life is inseparable from them (Broyles 1974: 293–297; Lear 1982: 389; Cerbone 1994: 178). "Now isn't the feeling of relief just that which characterizes the experience of passing from unfamiliar to familiar things?" (Wittgenstein 1958: 129).13

Undoubtedly Wittgenstein also wants to comment on the peculiar role of thought experiments in philosophical language-games. In order to explain the importance of a philosophical insight we don't have to find new facts; we have to remind philosophers of facts that are so general that they are hardly ever mentioned. These facts belong to what G. H. von Wright has called "pre-knowledge" (Vor-Wissen); in the system of propositions they hover between the logical and the empirical (Wittgenstein 1969: §136; von Wright 1972: 52–53). Our life is reflected by our concepts, which stand in the middle of life (Wittgenstein 1992: 72 = 1977: iii §302). Our classifications are second nature to us (Wittgenstein 1980b: §678). But seeing this as problematic or scandalous is an inexhaustible source of problems:

I am not saying: if such-and-such facts of nature were different people would have different concepts (in the sense of a hypothesis). But: if anyone believes that certain concepts are absolutely the correct ones, and that having different ones would mean not realizing something that we realize — then let him imagine certain very general facts of nature to be different from what we are used to, and the formation of concepts different from the usual ones will become intelligible to him. (Wittgenstein 1953: 230; cf. 1978: iii §80; 1980a: §§48–49)

People have a stubborn inclination to examine conceptual geometries different from their own from the viewpoint of disarray and degeneration.14 Geometries that depart from our own form of life are allowed only as exceptions proving the rules — and then only in the interpretation of art and in some other "inessential" walks of life (Binkley 1973: 3–6). But the interpretation of a work of art and the interpretation of everyday experience do not differ in that the symbols of language are more replete in the former case. The difference is that the conventions regulating their interpretation have solidified so well in the latter case that "reality" is most often thought of from the viewpoint of sheer absolutism (Calhoun 1997: 49). In his remarks on Frazer, for example, Wittgenstein brings this to the level of very concrete examples. Unlike Frazer, Wittgenstein refuses to keep the primitives at a safe distance from us (Phillips 1996: 203–204). He demonstrates how crucial differences are in fact similarities (Churchill 1992: 34–36).15

In the light Wittgenstein can be seen as a kind of high priest of contingency. As for Hume, for him the causal law is a mere favour granted by fate (Wittgenstein 1922: §§6.3–6.3751); it is a stylistic question whether we speak of a string of seemingly connected events as facilitated by causality (Wittgenstein 1979: 103–104). "At the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena" (Wittgenstein 1922: §6.371); if a squirrel does not need induction to start collecting winter deposits, human do not need it either (Wittgenstein 1969: §287). Another resemblance to Hume is the fact that for Wittgenstein this is something to be positively glad about: "If this upsets our concepts of causality then it is high time they were upset" (Wittgenstein 1967: §610). It has even been suggested that what we must pass over in the Tractatus is the causal law, and that the silence should come from our being awestruck by it (Cudahy 1966: 369–373). But even if this wasn't true, and it isn't, it seems that Wittgenstein sees living in the Humean world of unpredictability as a kind of leap of faith that he recommends equally to logical positivists and Moorean common-sense philosophers (Marcotte 1992: 64–66; Churchill 1995: 63–76). "If I stepped out into the street and found everything completely different from what I was used to, maybe I would just go ahead and join in" (Wittgenstein 1982: §200). And perhaps even Heideggerian fear-of-loss-of-being can be treated using this form of alienation as a philosophical therapy (Cooper 1997: 118–120).

3. Philosophy as Horror and Sacrament

In his last notes from the years 1949–51 Wittgenstein examines Moore's defence of common sense, colour concepts, and concepts in the philosophy of mind, wishing to clarify the peculiar role certain experiential propositions have in our normal world-picture. Although these propositions are a posteriori, their truth belongs to our system of reference so axiomatically that they do not differ in practice from a priori propositions. If a philosopher doubts an empirical proposition like this, then he doubts all other empirical propositions (Wittgenstein 1977: iii §348). "There are cases where doubt is unreasonable, but others where it seems logically impossible. And there seems to be no clear boundary between them" (Wittgenstein 1969: §454). These kinds of recondite and radical deviations from our world-picture, such as rejecting the causal law, are hard to tell apart from madness. "But what is the difference between mistake and mental disturbance? Or what is the difference between my treating it as a mistake and my treating it as a mental disturbance?" (Wittgenstein 1969: §73). One is reminded of Pascal's pensée according to which people are so mad that not being mad would merely be a new form of madness. A central theme of Wittgenstein's final notes is the horror caused by fear of madness and comparing philosophy with madness, as in his "that's a tree" example (Wittgenstein 1969: §467).

The anecdotes told of the strangeness of his lecturing technique by Gasking & Jackson (1951), Goodstein (1972: 271–273), Malcolm (1958: 23–29), Mays (1967: 79–85), Redpath (1990: 17–24) and many others also have to do with the theme of horror. Like magic realists in literature, Wittgenstein tries to convey the heuristic value of horrifying and sinister phenomena: to light a non-evaluative interest in events that are unpleasant as they are. The isolation of new distinctions from our "familiar," "ordinary" language is something uncanny (Cavell 1988: 94–98; cf. Zekauskas 1983: 607–608). "The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity" (Wittgenstein 1953: §129). Wittgenstein snaps his little pictures of reality precisely through the cracks that open up between analytic philosophy and everyday experience. Part of his originality is that he asks the skeptic to define what the skeptic wishes to deny (Cavell 1988: 107). The strangeness of skepticism is then evident to the skeptic, because he managed to define what he thought undefinable. Wittgenstein's thought experiments are planned to be unconvincing (Barnett 1990: 49–50). "Supposing it wasn't true that the earth had already existed long before I was born — how should we imagine the mistake being discovered?" (Wittgenstein 1969: §301).

In the horror caused by philosophizing the most notable thing is its festive nature, which is connected with seeing philosophy as a kind of pious sacrament (Rhees 1994: 578). Even though he doesn't often use this concept, it is a certain lack of piety which Wittgenstein considers to be the cause of unhealthy philosophizing.16 When a philosopher approaches his work with a certain specific devotion, which belongs to ethics and which cannot therefore be put into words, he cannot go wrong according to Wittgenstein. However, piety has fallen out of fashion as a measure of a philosopher's success. This has happened not only because it arouses the wrong kind of religious associations as a concept, but also because it can appear equally strongly in conjunction with several competing philosophical stances (Abrams 1974: 550–554; Phillips 1996: 202).17 The "linguistic turn" has brought to philosophy a disastrous cult of assertoric sentences. Anthony Holiday (1985: 136–138) has noted that when Wittgenstein defends supposedly primitive folkways from Frazer's critique, he uses methods which can also be used to defend the healthy Western understanding from the aberrations of Western philosophy. Wittgensteinian philosophy is a ritual, but it does not fight against any mythical evil spirits; actually it fights attitudes to life, like those of the Vienna Circle, which reject rituals and piety. Science, which sees no reason to believe in God, wants to deprive Wittgenstein of experiences that made the people of the past — but not Wittgenstein — believe in God (Phillips 1996: 206–207; Lurie 1998: 215–219). Wittgenstein's Nietzschean, agonal atheism, which thinks that the non-existence of God is no laughing matter (quite the contrary), is much more horrifying to a scientific atheist than any theistic world religions (Clack 1999b: 129; cf. Churchill 1985: 428). In fact these world religions are often allied with scientific atheists in condemning piety directed towards atheism!

As for philosophers, they do not fight so much against Wittgenstein's own expressions of piety as for their own limitations concerning piety (Hertzberg 1982: 157; Sachs 1988: 149). According to Wittgenstein, the expressions of piety have generally degenerated and cheapened in modern culture (Bouwsma 1986: 33–35). It is too easy to pretend that one is following them for them to reveal their true background of tremendous spiritual forces.

When Frazer begins by telling us the story of the King of the Wood of Nemi, he does this in a tone which shows that he feels, and wants us to feel, that something strange and dreadful is happening. But the question "why does this happen?" is properly answered by saying: Because it is dreadful. That is, precisely that which makes this incident strike us as dreadful, magnificent, horrible, tragic, etc., as anything but trivial and insignificant, is also that which has called this incident to life. (Wittgenstein 1993a: 121)

The fearsomeness of the rituals has been gradually worn away during centuries. "The concept of a 'festivity,' which we connect to a pleasant pastime, is in another age perhaps connected only to fear and horror" (Wittgenstein 1980c: 132). In this sense Wittgenstein resembles Georges Bataille, the sacralizer of sociology, the philosopher of ritual sacrifice and one of the sternest critics of Western rationality of the whole twentieth century.18 Wittgenstein said that he felt a connection to the theme of shoddiness and ridiculousness, which is central with Bataille: "How embarrassed we sometimes become — or at least many people (I) — by our physical and aesthetic inferiority" (Wittgenstein 1993a: 155). As with Bataille, the surprisingness of Wittgenstein often manifests itself in quick moves from a lofty to an insipid register:

A coronation is the picture of pomp and dignity. Cut one minute of this proceeding out of its surroundings: the crown is being placed on the head of a king in his coronation robes. — But in different surroundings gold is the cheapest of metals, its gleam is thought vulgar. A crown is a parody of a respectable hat. And so on. (Wittgenstein 1953: §584)

Supposing you meet someone in the street and he tells you he has lost his greatest friend, in a voice extremely expressive of his emotion. You might say: "It was extraordinarily beautiful, the way he expressed himself." Supposing you then asked: "What similarity has my admiring this person with my eating vanilla ice and liking it?" (Wittgenstein 1966: 12)

Like his atheism, Wittgenstein's horror is Nietzschean — it does not destroy, but makes stronger; much of his interest as a magic realist is in "the eruption of the demonic into the quotidian" (Cioffi 1981: 223; cf. Clack 1999a: 144–148). Philosophers who have discussed him humorously (Tennessen 1981; Ziff 1981; Aagaard-Mogensen 1984) have invariably used black humor. In a paper which I wish would be read much more widely, Eric Griffiths (1994) has interestingly argued that Wittgenstein can be considered as an essentially comic writer; his terms of criticism, which he applies to traditional philosophy, are those of a comedy of errors. As Rush Rhees (1969: 153) has pointed out, tragedy by no means equals disaster. The most famous line of Sophocles's Antigone speaks of wonders, ta deiua, and declares man to be the most wondrous thing of all. This according to most modern renderings. But the concept of ta deiua in ancient Greek does not usually mean "wonders" in a positive sense, but instead terrors, danger, misfortune and distress. The adjective deiuoV may in turn mean "venerable," "terrible," "bad," "dangerous," "extraordinary," "astounding," "sublime," "strong," "clever," "unheard-of," "outrageous," "strange" and "uncanny" (Kaufmann 1958: 345). Wittgenstein's magic realism can perhaps best be characterized by saying that it tries to test philosophers' skills by unexpectedly adding a deiuoV aspect to their everyday experience.

They say miracles are past; and we have our philosophical persons, to make modern and familiar, things supernatural and causeless. Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge, when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear,

as Lafeu says in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well (2.3.1–6). Kierkegaard (1846: 349) echoes: "The very maximum of what one human being can do for another in relation to that wherein each man has to do solely with himself, is to inspire him with concern and unrest."

Rush Rhees (1994: 580–582) has noted that the incompetence of philosophers does not have consequences as dramatic or spectacular as the incompetence of engineers or carpenters, and that this is a reason why the incompetence of philosophers is frequently hidden. In fact there is no unanimosity about suitable criteria for success in philosophy, since such criteria are always bound together with a certain metaphilosophical vision. In this context Wittgenstein's unexpectability is a test of his own vision, one he applies both to himself, his pupils and the objects of his criticism. J. Robert Oppenheimer once famously said that developing the atomic bomb had taught nuclear physicists to know sin, "in some sort of crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish". In the same way, in the same sense, Wittgenstein wanted to bring sin into the consciousness of philosophers; to make philosophy "something deeper and less harmless" (Wittgenstein 1993a: 143). It seems that Wittgenstein agrees with Bataille's opinion as regards the exceptional philosophical cogency which there is in the primitive and aconceptual "inner experience":

In the city, streets are nicely laid out. And you drive on the right and you have traffic lights, etc. There are rules. When you leave the city, there are still roads, but no traffic lights. And when you get far off there are no roads, no lights, no rules, nothing to guide you. It's all woods. And when you return to the city you may feel that the rules are wrong, that there should be no rules, etc. (Bouwsma 1986: 35)19

Stanislaw Brzozowski has interpreted the empiriocritical positivism of Richard Avenarius, in fashion in the Vienna of Wittgenstein's youth, so that it expresses a tragic Nietzschean philosophy of life: because science describes everything and explains nothing, the axiological nihilism caused by the victories of science demonstrates the limitations of human existence (Kolakowski 1972: 245–246). This interpretation fits Wittgenstein's critique of the positivist conception of philosophy. After having destroyed the objectivity of values science and scientific rationality cannot in good faith offer themselves to philosophers; they are powerless. Wittgenstein meant just this when he said in the Tractatus that part of what he has shown is "how little is achieved when these problem are solved" (Wittgenstein 1922: Preface; cf. Burlingame 1986: 203–204). Wittgenstein's tragic ethics does not provide solutions to ethical problems. It enters the picture when the lack of solutions is evident and the damage is done:

During one of his visits to Swansea in the early years of the war (1942, I think) he had seen in some cinema a "documentary" film of German planes bombing Polish towns or villages (and perhaps troop positions, I do not remember). What struck him was that there was a musical accompaniment of Wagner's music. And this, he said, brought out what was tragic in these actions of the German air force. By this he did not mean, of course, that they were producing "tragic results" or "tragic destruction" in the villages that were being bombarded. Still less did "tragic" mean "pitiful" or that we should feel sorry for them. His point was rather that the music enabled one to see the evil missions on which these pilots were engaged as something like the moves of the hero in a tragedy — moves which he makes "in spite of himself," call it tragic inevitability or destruction (cf. Antigone, Orestes...) or how you will. Not that this in any sense justified what they were doing, but that when you view them in this way there is no question of what would be justified or what would not ... When you view it as "tragic" — then you have moved away from the question whether the policy was the right conclusion to draw from such and such deliberations, or whether it was the prudent course to take in view of the circumstances, or even ... to ask whether it showed the consideration for other men that it might have shown. (Rhees 1997: 309–310)

Michael O'Pray (1993: 25) has suggested that the "profoundest sense" of Wittgenstein's work is that "the limitations placed on philosophy were at the same time an acknowledgement of the joyous and torturous nature of life itself". Interpreted in this way, Wittgenstein comes close to such existential philosophers as Heidegger or Camus. "Go the bloody hard way," as he often used to say to his closest pupils (Rhees 1969: 169–172). When one has genuinely noticed the basic problem of human existence, one also notices that this has essentially enriched one's world. One may even start pitying those who consider their lives to be quite unproblematic:

But don't we have a feeling that one who doesn't see any problem in life is blind to something important, even something that is most important? ... Or shouldn't I say that one who lives well does not experience the problem as desolation, as problematic after all, but rather as joy; as a circle of light surrounding his life, not as an uncertain backdrop. (Wittgenstein 1980c: 65; cf. 1922: §6.521)

Elsewhere Wittgenstein connects this idea of a circle of light to Schiller's notion of a "poetic mood" (poetische Stimmung) — a mood in which "man takes receptively to nature and in which thoughts take on a lustre as vivid as nature itself" (Wittgenstein 1980c: 116). Another backdrop to Wittgenstein's remarks is apparently Spengler's dichotomy between culture and civilization (Lurie 1990: 377–378). For example, he expresses an opinion that the modern city environment prevents the formation of a spiritual mood by its houses, streets and cars "wrapped up in cellophane" (Wittgenstein 1980c: 95). Nevetheless Wittgenstein does not dream of a deus ex machina to end this. He believes that the situation can only be changed by modern civilization's being gradually replaced: "In the civilization of great cities the spirit can only penetrate the corners. It is nevertheless not very atavistic & needlessly often it moves above the ashes of the culture as an (everlasting) witness — as God's avenger, as it were" (Wittgenstein 1997: 33).

4. "Quickening the sense of the queer" and the "sublime"

In the English-speaking world Stanley Cavell, one of Conant's heroes and mine, has for four decades been a central developer of a Wittgensteinian interpretation in which the literary and philosophical aspects are inseparable. In his early essays "The Availability of Wittgenstein's Philosophy" (Cavell 1962) and "Existentialism and Analytical Philosophy" (Cavell 1964) he created an idea later developed at considerable length in his main work, The Claim of Reason (Cavell 1979): the philosophy of Wittgenstein — which for Cavell means exclusively the philosophy of the Philosophical Investigations — can best be interpreted as confessional literature comparable with the works of such religious writers as St. Augustine and Kierkegaard. These Christians struggled against ordinary sins, but Wittgenstein is bothered by the sin of philosophizing. In the dialogues of the Investigations the philosopher Wittgenstein tries to seduce the anti-philosophical therapist Wittgenstein, and the book documents the latter's struggles against the former (Cavell 1962: 91–93). Kierkegaard's theologians, who prevent authentic existence, are replaced with Wittgenstein's philosophers, who seek to prevent the authentic use of ordinary language (Cavell 1964: 957). This resembles the secularization of confessional tradition in German Romanticism (Rowe 1994). In addition Cavell often compares Wittgenstein's homages to ordinariness and spontaneousness with the American "homeliness" of Emerson and Thoreau. This is the second main source of his own "homegrown" philosophy.

An important sub-plot in Cavell's philosophy is the strangeness of everyday life from a philosophical point of view — the "uncanniness of the ordinary," to quote the title of one of his essays (Cavell 1988). This has led other Wittgenstein scholars to suggest that a key form of Wittgensteinian therapy is to "quicken the sense of the queer," as O. K. Bouwsma (1961: 150) put it in his essay on the Blue Book, which along with Cavell's early papers was an important early attempt to resist the assimilation of Wittgenstein into conventional analytic philosophy. For Bouwsma, Wittgenstein's thought experiments and bizarre juxtapositions represented surrealism, that family resemblance neighbour of magic realism — according to him there were philosophical "realists, critical realists, semi-critical realists and now surrealists" (Bouwsma 1961: 146). In recent decades the style of scholarship emphasizing "quickening the sense of the queer" has been most widely practiced by the so-called school of "Swansea Wittgensteinians," which formed in the fifties around Wittgenstein's literary executor Rush Rhees, and which has been associated with such names as Peter Winch, D. Z. Phillips, R. F. Holland, Ilham Dilman, H. O. Mounce and Raimond Gaita. As belonging to the same tradition one might also mention Frank Cioffi and his numerous essays on Wittgenstein, anthropology and psychoanalysis, as well as the work done in Finland by Lars Hertzberg on ethics and the philosophy of religion.

Mounce (1989) and Phillips (1990) have built some interesting papers around the observation that we can well understand the meaning of certain propositions without understanding their point. In a similar way we can only understand certain things preconceptually and prelinguistically without nevertheless sacrificing rationality to intuitions:

Describe the aroma of coffee. — Why can't it be done? Do we lack the words? And for what are words lacking? — But whence comes the idea that such a description must after all be possible? Have you ever felt the lack of such a description? Have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded? (Wittgenstein 1953: §610)

Philip R. Shields (1993: 101–108) has examined the similarities and differences between Wittgenstein's religious sensibility and his conceptions of logic and philosophy. He finds in Wittgenstein's texts a repeated theme which can be described as religious piety towards forces that are invisible but not supernatural. A scientific explanation does not necessarily refute all "miracles," unlike the Vienna Circle and the international freethinker movement claim, since the experience of something as a "miracle" can itself be caused by the very fact that it can be explained scientifically (Redpath 1972: 115; Churchill 1995: 76; cf. Hertzberg 1982: 156–157). Research on the preconceptual experience of the miraculous is also the core of the Swansea Wittgensteinians' view of Wittgenstein. The philosophy of religion of the Swansea Wittgensteinians and especially of D. Z. Phillips has often been denounced as "Wittgensteinian fideism," but this is hardly fair. According to fideism a religion can be understood only by someone who participates and practices it. But Wittgenstein himself, even though he wasn't a religious person, said that he understood many religions and religious experiences.20 So he couldn't have been any kind of a fideist (Phillips 1996: 206). Additionally he criticizes the basic epistemological tenets of fideism in many contexts that have little to do with philosophy of religion (Bandman 1990). That Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion reaches its goals best by examining Wittgenstein's own religious sensibility, is a different thing and does not mean that his philosophy of religion has anything to do with attempts to protect religion from criticism.

The most detailed surveying of Wittgensteinian uncanniness has been done by Gordon Bearn (1997), an American disciple of Cavell and the Swansea school, in his recent book Waking to Wonder: Wittgenstein's Existential Investigations. In Bearn's interpretation Wittgenstein's much-discussed "Kantianism" is reflected interestingly from the way in which Wittgenstein treats concept of the aesthetically and ethically sublime. In the Critique of Judgement Kant treated as a key problem the question of whether there are experiences that are qualitatively above other experiences (Deleuze 1963: 46–48). He also developed the same theme when examining the difference between the beautiful and the sublime. Even though Wittgenstein's conclusions differed from Kant's, his ethical view of life reflects Kantianism; today it is already a platitude to say that Wittgenstein replaced the Kantian limits of reason with the Schopenhauerian limits of language. As Jonathan Lear (1982; 1984; 1986) has noted, Wittgenstein brought transcendental idealism "back to Earth" by replacing both the form-content distinction and the idea of a noumenal world with the more simple language-world distinction. According to Lear (1984: 240), his thinking seems to be the same to sociology as Kant's is to empirical psychology.

In his interpretation, Bearn takes all of this into account. But he doesn't stop there. According to him, Wittgenstein's musings in the Investigations concerning the way in which logic is something sublime (Wittgenstein 1953: §89) are connected with his ethics, and that his ethics can best be approached in comparison with Kantian ethics and aesthetics. When Wittgenstein criticizes logic for wanting to produce qualitatively superior propositions, this mirrors his critique of the similar tendency in ethics. Wittgenstein takes the theme of the sublime higher than Kant himself; he replaces the lofty (Erhaben) with the sublime (Sublim). In philosophy the idea of the sublime is usually connected with the aesthetics of Kant and Burke, which treats pleasure caused by fear — such as the fear of abysses, chasms and ravines — as superior to ordinary aesthetic experience (Lewis 1996; Bearn 1997: 86–87, 241–242). Wittgenstein says that the symphonies of Beethoven and Gothic cathedrals are "tremendous things in art"; it is too quantitative, too expert-like to speak of "beauty" in connection with them (Wittgenstein 1966: 8–9). It is unholy to do so. Tremendous art sets by itself the criteria with which it is judged tremendous.

According to Bearn (1997: 86–102), Wittgenstein's "sublime" should be understood primarily as a chemical term, only secondarily as an aesthetic one. In philosophy it is thought that logic sublimes, changes directly from the solid to the vapour state. Wittgenstein disapproves of the thought of logic subliming, because he connects the conception of logic he opposes with the critique of "gaseous thoughts" that he presents elsewhere (Hilmy 1989: 345–346). He speaks derisively of the "conception of thought as a gaseous medium" (Wittgenstein 1953: §109; cf. Stern 1995: 107–109) and of "the queer role which the gaseous and the aethereal play in philosophy" (Wittgenstein 1958: 47). He also speaks of the "dense mists of language" that surround a philosophical problem (Wittgenstein 1993b: 267). A famous passage which is translated by Anscombe as "What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards" (Wittgenstein 1953: §118) is in the original German "Aber es sind nur Luftgebäude, die wir zerstören" — "castles in the sky which we are destroying". And he claims that the myth of mental processes is caused by a fear of "belief in a gaseous mental entity" (Z, §611; cf. §211). "In philosophy all that is not gas is grammar," he also said in a lecture (Lee 1979: 218). When we argue about how meanings can be said to exist, this argument has something occult in it, because the idea of gaseous entities arises so strongly (Rotenstreich 1955: 199). Logic is sublime because it fears that it would look like magical thinking if it acknowledged its limitations; in fact the magical thinking is in believing that staying silent about them is less harmful than acknowledging them.

Could you imagine: it is an odd fact that we sometimes imitate someone else? I remember walking in the street and saying: "I am now walking exactly like Russell." You might say it was a kinesthetic sensation. Very queer. (Wittgenstein 1966: 39)

There is a certain kind of uncanniness that cannot be removed by any scientific explanation, so we shouldn't even search for such an explanation. As Wittgenstein said to the Vienna Circle: "Whatever one said to me, I would reject it; not indeed because the explanation is false but because it is an explanation" (Waismann 1965: 15–16). It is a mistake to think that an explanation is false if it does not make its object less wondrous in an emotional sense. "The explanation leaves the oddity untouched" (Wittgenstein 1982: §80). This theme of "natural unnaturalness" is often found in the essays and fiction of scientist-writers such as Miroslav Holub, Primo Levi or Stephen Jay Gould (Churchill 1994: 412–414).

There are problems which I never approach — which are not in my way or in my world. Problems of the Western world of thought, which Beethoven (and perhaps partly Goethe) have approached, and with which he has struggled, but which no philosopher has ever tackled (Nietzsche perhaps passed them by). And perhaps they are indeed useless in terms of Western philosophy ... I nevertheless never encounter these problems. If I have "settled my accounts with the world," I have created an amorphous (translucent) substance, and the world with all its multiplicities is left on its own like an uninteresting lumber-room. Or perhaps: the result of the whole work is the world being left on its own. (Shoving the whole world into a lumber-room.) (Wittgenstein 1980c: 42)

"A characteristic remark that Wittgenstein would make when referring to someone who was notably generous or kind or honest was 'He is a human being!' — thus implying that most people fail even to be human" (Malcolm 1958: 61). He went even further and wondered in a famous letter to Russell how he could be a philosopher when he was not even a human being. But the spasmodic attempts of post-Quinean analytic philosophy to develop a seamless "theory of meaning" would perhaps lead him to rephrase: "How can I be clear about the meaning of language, when I cannot even be clear about the meaning of life?" More than to any other twentieth-century philosopher — with the possible exception of Camus — human life per se appeared to him primarily as a moral problem (Kannisto 1989: 213). One example will suffice. In the autumn of 1939, he and Norman Malcolm were walking along the river in Cambridge when they saw a newspaper vendor's sign announcing that the German government had accused the British government of sponsoring an attempt to assassinate Hitler. When Wittgenstein remarked that it would not surprise him if it were true, Malcolm retorted that it was impossible, because "the British were too civilized and decent to attempt anything so underhand, and ... such an act was incompatible with the British 'national character'." Wittgenstein was furious, and the incident broke off his relations to Malcolm for some time (Malcolm 1958: 32–33). Five years later, after the life situation of both men had changed considerably, Wittgenstein still felt inclined to discuss the matter in a letter:

Whenever I thought of you I couldn't help thinking of a particular incident which seemed to me very important ... you made a remark about 'national character' that shocked me by its primitiveness. I then thought: what is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is to enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., & if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life, if it does not make you more conscientious than any ... journalist in the use of the DANGEROUS phrases such people use for their own ends. You see, I know that it is difficult to think, or try to think, really honestly about your life & other people's lives. And the trouble is that thinking about these things is not thrilling, but often downright nasty. And when it's nasty then it's most important.

The beginning of this impressive passage is quoted often enough by writers wanting to remind their readers that Wittgenstein's aims were different from those of most analytic philosophers.21 But I would like to draw equal attention to the end of the quotation. Wittgenstein claims that the importance of a question in the philosophy of life can be told by the fact that it is nasty. A philosopher must give himself permission to suffer and be anguished (Rhees 1994: 577). Suffering is nevertheless not a price that must be paid for peace in one's thoughts; from a philosophical point of view it is rather sui generis (Rhees 1994: 577). Modern man is encumbered not only with the Freudian "psychopathology of everyday life" but also with the metaphysical pathology of everyday life. In fact Freud's predominance in dealing with ordinary people's problems with affairs of the spirit is itself a sign of the latter pathology, which privileges emotional anguish over conceptual confusion (Frohmann 1986: 184–187). No wonder, then, that Wittgenstein held modern times with their characteristic depreciation of suffering to be suspect:

I believe that education nowadays aims at reducing the ability to stand suffering. A school is nowadays considered good "if the children are enjoying themselves". And this was not the measure earlier. Parents would like their children to became exactly like they themselves are (only better), and nevertheless they allow their children to be educated in a way that is completely different from their own upbringing. — The ability to endure suffering is not paid any attention, because there must be no suffering; in a way suffering has become something obsolete. (Wittgenstein 1980: 123)

One can perhaps hope to understand Wittgenstein only if one has yielded to the temptations against which Wittgenstein is fighting in his writings. According to Wittgenstein (1980b: §235) these experiences are characteristic of philosophizing and are not found outside philosophy. It is interesting how many writers have described their own experience in which Wittgenstein makes Sartre — the modernist philosophical iconoclast par excellence — seem dull and bourgeois (Ferrater Mora 1953: 115; Gass 1968: 30; O'Pray 1993: 25).

Do we think and do we use philosophical concepts because this has turned out to be quite useful? Do we live because it is somehow practical to live? (Wittgenstein 1967: §700; Wittgenstein 1978: vii §17). No; we live because we instinctively feel that living is better than not living; "lives are good for you," as the Liverpool poet Roger McGough (1967) puts it. "Language did not emerge from some kind of ratiocination" (Wittgenstein 1969: §475). Wittgenstein's magic realism and "quickening the sense of the queer" rescue the familiar concepts of our own form of life by pointing out that they could be otherwise. This is a central way in which the "realistic spirit" of the Diamond–Conant interpretation combats the chimerical "realism" of philosophers with true realism; the unencumbered and sane understanding. "The language-game is so to say something unpredictable. I mean: it is not based on grounds. It is not reasonable (or unreasonable). It is there — like our life" (Wittgenstein 1969: §559).

- 30 -


I would like to thank Dr Veikko Rantala for unwittingly giving me the original impetus of coupling Wittgenstein with magic realism, in a lecture of his given many years ago. Material included in this paper has hopefully also benefited from comments by Hanne Ahonen, Antti Arnkil, Jouni Avelin, Hanna Hyvönen, Pasi Ketelimäki, Tapani Kilpeläinen, Olli Kulmala, Elia Lennes and Jussi Pohjolainen.

1 This difference made itself manifest soon after Russell and Wittgenstein became acquainted. In May 1912 Russell wrote to Ottoline Morrell: "I told him he ought not simply to state what he thinks true, but to give arguments for it, but he said arguments spoil its beauty, and that he would feel as if he was dirtying a flower with muddy hands." Russell's sense of humor, which Wittgenstein detested profoundly, is expressed in his reaction to this: "I told him I hadn't the heart to say anything against that, and that he had better acquire a slave to state the arguments."

2 Of Samuel Alexander's Space, Time and Deity Wittgenstein once said: "If it is right to speak about the 'great problems' of philosophy, that is where they lie, space, time and deity" (Drury 1984: 99). — The mental picture of Wittgenstein as a high priest of the cosmos has sometimes materialized in quite amusing guises. His future student Theodore Redpath (1990: 16–17), who had first became acquainted with the Tractatus at the age of sixteen, had formed an image of Wittgenstein as "a kind of prophet ... I endowed him with the facial appearance of a 'prophet', with a thin long sensitive, El Grecoish kind of face, framed by long strands of silvery hair and set with large, dark, expressive eyes". We can only imagine Redpath's shock when he first met Wittgenstein.

3 Perhaps with this comment of Broad's in mind, Wittgenstein stated at about the same time that when a bad poet finds a new metre, it often disguises the badness of his poems from him. As an example he mentioned the metre of Longfellow's Hiawatha (i.e. trochaic tetrameter — known to Finns as the metre of their national epic, the Kalevala) and expressed a fear that his philosophical style had dazzled him similarly (Anscombe 1969: 373; cf. Drury 1984: 159). Acknowledging the permanence of his overtly compressing tendencies, he said that if it was up to him, the Investigations would be only about a quarter of an inch thick, just like the Tractatus (Anscombe 1969: 375). — Jim Conant (1995: 298–299) has correctly noted that a visible difference between the forms of Wittgenstein's two main works is that the Tractatus reveals its own nonsensicality only at the end, but the propositions criticized as nonsensical in the Investigations reveal theirs even before they are stated; constructions like "I am tempted to say..." and "I would like to say..." abound in the Investigations.

4 Colin McGinn (1994: 34) has described the Investigations in these terms without committing hyperbole: "So canonical is that work, indeed, that it is hard to believe that it was written by anyone. It stands there like a natural monument, the result of superlunary dictation."

5 Wittgenstein ordered most of his pre-1929 notes destroyed in 1950. The three notebooks published as Notebooks 1914–1916 and Geheime Tagebücher 1914–1916 were probably preserved by chance. In the eighties an interesting document written by Wittgenstein in January 1917 came to light; it suggests that the amount of destroyed material has often been exaggerated, and that the temporal gap in the published notebooks does not necessarily refer to a missing notebook (McGuinness 1989).

6 I am willing to say this despite Wittgenstein's philosophical mistrust of dictionaries. — Erik Stenius (1981) has famously defended a view according to which Wittgenstein rejected primarily a misleading manner of speaking when he moved from the early to the later philosophy. According to Stenius, the "picture theory of language" depicted in the Tractatus is preserved in the later philosophy as a limiting case of Wittgenstein's later conception of language. Stenius (1981: 125) quotes a notebook entry from 1944 (MS 127, pp. 38–39), in which Wittgenstein quotes paragraphs 4.22, 3.21, 3.22, 3.14, 2.03, 2.0272 and 2.01 of the Tractatus and then says: "What a linguistic misuse of the words 'Gegenstand' + 'Konfiguration'. A configuration can be made up by balls which are spatially related in a certain way; but not of the balls and their spatial relations. And if I say 'I see here three Gegenstände' I do not mean: two balls + their mutual position." The Diamond–Conant interpretation of the Tractatus probably admits this interpretation; if so, it adds that Wittgenstein held the terminology depicted in the Tractatus misleading already in his Tractatus phase and he merely couldn't beware of it sufficiently back then.

7 Of the texts fulfilling this need, Schlanger pays special attention to the prefaces of philosophical books; cf. his analysis of Wittgenstein's prefaces to his two main works (Schlanger 1992: 104–112), as well as other treatments of this topic (Stüssel 1989; Savickey 1999: 77–88).

8 Other attempts are evaluated at length and with skill by Hilary Putnam (1994) in his Dewey Lectures.

9 Whether he was a great philosopher is debatable, but the influence of G. C. Lichtenberg on Wittgenstein's thought experiments seems to be clear; often there are almost uncanny similarities between his aphoristic style and Wittgenstein's.

10 Interestingly, Judith Genova (1972) thinks that she sees traces of expressionism here and there in the Tractatus. It might be fruitful to look at the relationship between the Tractatus and the later Wittgenstein as analogous to the relationship between expressionism and magic realism.

11 Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, the Workshop of Potential Literature) is a group of mathematicians and writers founded in France in 1960. It creates new literary forms by voluntarily limiting the exploitation of language.

12 Wittgenstein nevertheless wrote at least one poem, stylistically within German Romanticism; it has been printed in the most recent edition of Culture and Value.

13 Taken by an uncharacteristic loss of temper, Gilbert Ryle (1972: 109) once asked O. K. Bouwsma, who had strongly emphasized the tranquilizing qualities of Wittgenstein: "Well! — what of the Wittgenstein who got us interested, fascinated, excited, angry, shocked? He electrified us. Whom did he ever tranquilize?" Apparently Ryle did not notice that the peace Wittgenstein brings with his philosophy comes after this electrification and in fact as a consequence of it.

14 On the other hand, the mere lack of a feeling of strangeness does not yet imply a feeling of familiarity (Wittgenstein 1953: §596).

15 Today the distance of anthropology to its object of study has, particularly in popular culture, been turned topsy-turvy: comparisons with indigenous peoples are used humoristically to prove our own alleged primitiveness, or it is even sought to prove that some negative phenomenon that is usually considered modern is in fact ancient, to free us from feeling guilty for it (di Leonardo 1998: 57–66; cf. Sahlins 1995). Wittgenstein would undoubtedly also have opposed this inverse phenomenon.

16 The concept of piety — primarily in the sense of "a man's faithfulness to his own past" — is also central in the thought of Wittgenstein's early influence Otto Weininger (Rhees 1984b: 182).

17 This train of thought from Wittgenstein's remarks on Frazer illustrates my point excellently: "Recall that after Schubert's death his brother cut some of Schubert's scores into small pieces and gave such pieces, consisting of a few bars, to his favourite pupils. This act, as a sign of piety, is just as understandable as the different one of keeping the scores untouched, accessible to no one. And if Schubert's brother had burned the scores, that too would be understandable as a sign of piety" (Wittgenstein 1993a: 127). Even though the various possible signs of piety are mutually contradictory, it is easy to imagine a way of treating the scores which would be a clear sign of lack of piety (Clack 1999a: 101).

18 On Bataille's conception of philosophy, see Bataille 1954.

19 In light of utterances like these it is nearly incomprehensible how Wittgenstein can be described as a kind of businessmanlike technocrat whose philosophy of mind is an adaptation of the worst kind of Skinnerian behaviourism (Pylkkö 1998). But the existence of interpretations like this proves just how deep the myth of Wittgenstein as a quintessentially analytic philosopher still is is some circles.

20 And that he failed to understand others; cf. the treatment by Rush Rhees (1997: 238–247, 307–317) of Wittgenstein's remarks on election to grace, as well as "picking and choosing" Christian doctrines.

21 It has been suggested that Wittgenstein's anger was caused by his realization that he himself has used "dangerous phrases" on national character in his derogatory early thirties notes on Jewishness, and that Hitler's accession to power was proof of what this could lead to (Lurie 1989: 340–343).


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