Thursday, February 15, 2018

Grappling with every donkey

Some interesting stuff about Wittgenstein on an essay by Ludwig Hänsel on p. 19 of this catalogue.
Summarising his opinion on the front wrapper, Wittgenstein writes: "Auch ein Museum braucht einen Kurator, der weiß, was wohin zu stellen ist, und nicht Dreck und Wertvolles durcheinander in alle Schränke stellt" (museums need curators who know what goes where, and don't jumble up the rubbish with the valuable stuff). In the margins of the text, like a schoolmaster, he convicts Hänsel of waffle ("Geschwätz, gehauen nicht & nicht gestochen!"), ambiguity ("Wie verschwommen!") and lack of focus ("Wenn man sich mit jedem Esel herumschlägt, wird man leicht selber einer" – if you grapple with every donkey you'll become one yourself). He asks at one point "Was ist durch diese Fassung geleitet?" (how does this get us any further forward?), and at another writes "Hier wird kein Problem gelöst, sondern nur das, was problematisch wiederholt" (here you haven't solved the problem, only restated it). He also observes "Nimm die Wiederholungen fort & das Leere der Paragraphen wird sich zeigen" (take these repetitions out, and the vacuity of the paragraphs will be manifest). Towards the end, in mock-exasperation, he declares "Wenn das Philosophie ist, dann sollten die Menschen ein für allemal auf sie verzichten" (if that's philosophy, then we should all give it up for good), and against Hänsel's closing paragraph he suggests he keep his pearls of wisdom to himself - "Behalt's bei Dir!"
H/t Julian Baggini on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. Marginalia can be very interesting and valuable as a recording of key moments in the development of someone's thinking, insights into the understanding of a problem or a becoming aware of the implications of one's own emerging conceptual system. It's too bad we can't have responses from the original writer (Hansel in this case); inevitably there are "blind spots" in one's writing, and input from another mind is essential. A few years ago there was a book about marginalia of famous writers, but I also find my own marginalia to be a valuable record, and especially the occasion of some apt expression. Wittgenstein, in fact always seems to be concerned with the adequate expression of an idea, and this is in fact what I found intriguing about the Tractatus. Even if I don't think it's right, it's something I can work with. Quine is similar in this respect, although his style is very different. What's going on here? How does this work, this process of getting precise and accurate with our expressions? (E.g., W's comments on ambiguity and lack of focus.)