Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wittgenstein and Marx again

Tommi's right. Peter Stallybrass's "Marx's Coat" is a very nice essay. One of Adam Smith's best observations is that in addition to what they need to survive, people also need clothes suitable for appearing in public without shame. Stallybrass and Marx add to this insight. Here's most of the conclusion to Stallybrass's essay:
It has become a cliche to say that we should not treat people like things. But it is a cliche that misses the point. What have we done to things to have such contempt for them? And who can afford to have such contempt? Why are prisoners stripped of their clothes, if not to strip them of themselves?
This reminds me of a interesting passage in Wittgenstein's Koder diaries (pp. 147-148 of Klagge and Nordmann):
Mutilate a human being all the way, cut off his arms & legs nose & ears & then see what remains of his self-respect & of his dignity & to what extent his concepts of such things still remain the same. We have no idea how these concepts depend on the ordinary, normal, condition of our body. What becomes of them when we are led by a leash with a ring through our tongues & tied-up? How much of a human being then remains in him? Into what sort of state does such a human being sink? We don't know that we are standing on a high & narrow rock & around us chasms in which everything looks completely different.  
I don't have anything to add, but it's memorable and horrific.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the quote from the Koder diaries. This has given me something critical to chew on as I think back over my views about stoicism (at least Seneca's stoicism).