There are a few reviews already drawing comparisons (in style at least) to Nietzche's aphorisms and Wittgenstein's. They both carry a feeling of ironiThere are a few reviews already drawing comparisons (in style at least) to Nietzche's aphorisms and Wittgenstein's. They both carry a feeling of ironic self-criticism and an uncertainty that they will ultimately be able to express what they want to express. Self-deception, after all, is a key theme in both authors' writing.
518 - "Human lot . Whoever thinks more deeply knows that he is always wrong, whatever his acts and judgments."
491 - "Self-observation . Man is very well defended against himself, against his own spying and sieges; usually he is able to make out no more of himself than his outer fortifications. The actual stronghold is inaccessible to him, even invisible, unless friends and enemies turn traitor and lead him there by a secret path."
"Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself." Ludwig Wittgenstein
Though their subjects and styles frequently overlap, even converge on the same idea, Nietzsche rarely reaches the elegant efficiency of words that Wittgenstein does. In that way however, Nietzsche's writing can be dense, lush, and just as meaningful.
In speaking of the revealing nature of man's physical countenance:
"The human body is the best picture of the human soul." Ludwig Wittgenstein
543 - "Embodiment of the spirit . When a man thinks much and cleverly, not only his face, but also his body takes on a clever look."
So my review rests, in part, on this: if you enjoy this style of philosophical writing, then Human, All Too Human has immense appeal (particularly after the first section, Of First and Last Things.) Nietzsche seems to pick up pace the further you read into the sections, as if the first part of the book were a sort of warming up. The further I read, the more quotes I had to add to my favorites, like these:
On Woman and Child
384 - "A male's disease. The surest aid in combating the male's disease of self-contempt is to be loved by a clever woman."
397 - "No standstill in love. A musician who loves the slow tempo will take the same pieces slower and slower. Thus there is no standstill in any love."
402 - "Test of a good marriage. A marriage is proved good by its being able to tolerate an "exception." "
and possibly the best marital advice ever:
406 - "Marriage as a long conversation. When entering a marriage, one should ask the question: do you think you will be able to have good conversations with this woman right into old age? Everything else in marriage transitory, but most of the time in interaction is spent in conversation."
On music and dancing (found throughout several sections)
216 "...It seems that in earlier times, something must often have occurred much like what is now going on before our eyes and ears in the development of music; namely of dramatic music: while music without explanatory dance and miming (language of gesture) is at first empty noise, long habituation to that juxtaposition of music and gesture teaches the ear an immediate understanding of the tonal figures. Finally, the ear reaches a level of rapid understanding such that it no longer requires visible movement, and understands the composer without it. Then we are talking about absolute music, that is, music in which everything can be understood symbolically, without further aids."
278 "Analogy of the dance.28 Today we should consider it the decisive sign of great culture if someone possesses the strength and flexibility to pursue knowledge purely and rigorously and, at other times, to give poetry, religion, and metaphysics a handicap, as it were; and appreciate their power and beauty. A position of this sort, between two such different claims, is very difficult, for science urges the absolute dominion of its method, and if this is not granted, there exists the other danger of a feeble vacillation between different impulses. Meanwhile (to open up a view to the solution of this difficulty by means of an analogy, at least) one might remember that dancing is not the same thing as staggering wearily back and forth between different impulses. High culture will resemble a daring dance, thus requiring, as we said, much strength and flexibility."
Lastly, on taking ourselves too seriously:
628 - "Seriousness in play . At sunset in Genoa, I heard from a tower a long chiming of bells: it kept on and on, and over the noise of the backstreets, as if insatiable for itself, it rang out into the evening sky and the sea air, so terrible and so childish at the same time, so melancholy. Then I thought of Plato's words and felt them suddenly in my heart: all in all, nothing human is worth taking very seriously; nevertheless. . ."
Yet, I still can't help drawing another line to Witgenstein:
"If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done."...more
"Unhappy mirror, which assuredly can grasp her image but not her, who indeed dares to capture her but not to hold her; unhappy mirror, which cannot se"Unhappy mirror, which assuredly can grasp her image but not her, who indeed dares to capture her but not to hold her; unhappy mirror, which cannot secretly hide her image in itself, hide it from the whole world, but can only disclose it to others as it now does to me. What torture if a human being were fashioned that way."
John Updike called Kierkegaard's writing "feverishly intellectual" - which almost begins to describe the quality of the writing. The prose of The Seducers Diary (Volume I of Either/Or) has an occasional melodic quality that rises and falls, at times filled with vivid metaphors (like the mirror above), at other times elegant in its simple account. He shifts between painful autobiography and absorbing fiction seamlessly. The intensity of his writing comes not from salacious details, but from an an inventive weaving of allegory and narrative.
Another statement, pulling out of the fiction to speak directly to the reader:
"In a way, one gains in becoming more experienced, for admittedly one loses the sweet disquietude of impatient longing but gains the poise to make the moment really beautiful."
Kierkegaard also speaks sympathetically, even delicately, to the plight of the seduced playing, as it were, both sides of the table:
"When a person has dreamed, he can tell his dream to others, but what she had to tell was indeed no dream; it was actuality, and yet as soon as she was about to tell it to another to ease her troubled mind, it was nothing."
I recommend Either/Or generally, but as this particular book fell into my hands a bit unexpectedly, upon (re)reading it, I think it can stand on its own fairly well. Other reviewers have considered this work to be a bit out-of-date, as it gives account of behavior that is certainly not acceptable in our culture. However, taken in its context (especially within Either/Or), it's perfectly appropriate for the time and for what he was trying to accomplish in his work overall. This is not meant to be a guide for how to seduce, in some cases stalk, a potential lover, though some may take it that way - it is actually a portrayal of the deterioration of the aesthetic life.
"He who goes astray within himself does not have such a large territory in which to move; he soon perceives that it is a circle from which he cannot find an exit."
The fact that this volume is sold apart from the rest of Either/Or does it some disservice by removing it from the context that enriches, even explains, the author's intention. That's the only reason it loses a star for this edition....more
"Neither author seeks to substitute one philosophical preconception for another—one thesis for another—but to hold up a mirror to the reader that will"Neither author seeks to substitute one philosophical preconception for another—one thesis for another—but to hold up a mirror to the reader that will show her that however beautiful her reflection might be, it is a false image not worthy of her attachment."pg 41
"Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century. Kierkegaard was a saint." Ludwig Wittgenstein (Quoted by M. O’C. Drury, in Rhees, Recollections of Wittgenstein, 87)
Genia Schonbaumsfeld has tried to build a more complete case for the parallels between Kierkegaard's and Wittgenstein's thoughts - particularly those writings regarding ethics, illusions, attachments, religion, faith and those related paradoxes. She does a far more thorough job than authors before her, but occasionally leans on a few general phrases more than she needs to. The problem she faces in aligning these two authors' works lies in the prevelant idea that they should not be aligned at all.
"What is revolutionary in Kierkegaard’s and Wittgenstein’s conception is precisely to challenge the idea that as regards religious faith only two options are possible—either adherence to a set of metaphysical beliefs (with certain ways of acting following from these beliefs) or passionate commitment to a ‘doctrineless’ form of life; tertium non datur (there is no third way)."
The author seeks to trace the extent of Kierkegaard's influence on Wittgenstein; show how remarkably like-minded the two philosophers are on such important issues as the nature of philosophy and religious belief; restify distortions that Kierkegaard's and Wittgenstein's views have been subjected to in the philosphical literature.
The author also challenges the stereotypes of Kierkegaard as only a religious thinker, while Wittgenstein offers a more neutral philosophical position. Her point (that has been made by other authors as well) is that by choosing not to write more on subjects such as religion, esthetics and ethics, Wittgenstein actually reveals "common ground" between he and Kierkegaard.
As Schonbaumfeld notes, there is quite a lot of material, particularly in Wittgenstein's letters and journals, to back up the assertion that Kierkegaard profoundly influenced Wittgenstein. Hermine, for example, writes in her letter to Ludwig from 20 November 1917:
"Thank you very much for your lovely card from 13th November. You were perfectly correct in supposing that I did not receive the earlier one with your request for books, but I’ve just been out for them and a number of Kierkegaard volumes are already on the way. I hope they are the ones you want, because, given that I don’t know anything about him and his writings, I simply chose a few at random. The Diary of a Seducer, which I bought in a different bookshop, will follow."
Sometimes the author stretches slightly in comparisons, calling on certain phrases like, "it is the paradox" (which appears in Philosphical Occasions) is a particularly Kierkegaardian 'turn of a phrase.' Yes, it could be - or it could just be Wittgenstein's. I think there is enough evidence of the profound effect Kierkegaard had on W., without pulling from (in comparison to other proclamations) such statements. Especially in light of direct references such as this from his journal (1922):
"As I said, tonight I saw my complete nothingness. God has deigned to show it to me. During the whole time I kept thinking about Kierkegaard and that my condition is ‘fear and trembling’. I would not go so far as to say that "it is as if Kierkegaard himself had written it" however."
Confusion of Spheres is an excellent, easy-to-follow read and provides more than adequate, if not occasionally heavy-handed, arguments - as well as bringing journal and correspondence excerpts to which some readers may not have been exposed.
One note to getting the most from this text - read the footnotes. The footnotes are almost as valuable as the main text and should be read as thoroughly.
Favorite quote: (Actually one of my favorite Kierkegaard quote.) From "The Point of View", ‘there is nothing that requires as gentle a treatment as the removal of an illusion’.
Reading this online is very challenging. Well, reading any text online is challenging. Williams' writing, however, is very clear. Though originally wrReading this online is very challenging. Well, reading any text online is challenging. Williams' writing, however, is very clear. Though originally written as separate essays, each chapter builds on the last smoothly. The chapters ultimately form a cohesive picture of Wittgenstein's later work (an immense achievement in itself) and a thoroughly engaging criticism of Cartesian thought.
Just a few highlights (though I think this will take far more time to complete)
Chapter 3: Wittgenstein and Kant: On the Metaphysics of Experience, Williams does a better job illuminating Kant than a few books on Kant alone have done. One of my favorite quotes from this book is in Chapter 3 as well, "Wittgenstein [as opposed to Kant, takes the approach of:] mapping out the contours of particular areas of discourse."
And this: "Wittgenstein seeks to convince us that there is no underlying structure or order of language and knowledge that informs and warrants our ways of talking. There are only our ways of talking."
Williams' talent for thorough yet lucid and engaging writing is such a gift to readers - even those with limited exposure to the many authors to whom she references. ...more
When I read this years ago, I struggled with it. Tractatus had been so beautifully efficient and lucid (wrong, but beautiful nonetheless.) Then I doveWhen I read this years ago, I struggled with it. Tractatus had been so beautifully efficient and lucid (wrong, but beautiful nonetheless.) Then I dove into PI and floundered. On second reading I've had a lot more peripheral material to help me grasp the ideas. What I really wish I'd had was this:
This site not only lists the complete text, but also side-by-side commentary from Shawver. I don't generally like to read books like this online because I frequently feel the need to *gasp* mark them up for studying. But this layout was quite helpful in getting through some of the tougher sections. Even when I disagreed with a notation Shawver added, the fact that the note was there was helpful in itself for clarifying my own thoughts on the lines....more
I wish I could remember who described this to me as a "LogicThe ascii text is available from the Gutenberg Library here: Tractatus Logico Philosphicus
I wish I could remember who described this to me as a "Logical Poem" - but that's still how it reads to me. Though aspects of this "Early Wittgenstein" material are left wanting in light of his later work, it's still a remarkably compelling read.
UPDATE: I've gone through the text again, doing what I always do, looking for a few lines or a section that is representative of the whole. In this case, I was looking for segment that exemplified the crystal clarity of Wittgenstein's writing. The beauty of Tractatus Logico isn't the "truth" of it, espccially as Wittgenstein later cited its flaws - but the beauty is in the telling.
3.01 The totality of true thoughts is a picture of the world.
3.411 In geometry and logic alike a place is a possibility: something can exist in it.
last, this one - possibly my favorite:
Everyday language is a part of the human organism and is no less complicated than it.
Even when you can debate the point, it's hard to ignore the natural directness his writing. As I stumble through Philosophical Investigations, I find I very much miss the style and organization in Tractatus, even though PI frequently yields more fruit. ...more
Recently (re)discovering a keen interest in Wittgenstein and his work, I found myself once again lacking when I tried to confront the material head-onRecently (re)discovering a keen interest in Wittgenstein and his work, I found myself once again lacking when I tried to confront the material head-on, as it were. I poured over the same books I'd studied in classes (now more than a decade ago) only to find myself asking the same questions. Am I really understanding any of this the way it was intended to be understood?
Then recommendations came from a family member on a more helpful approach to Wittgenstein - that is, approaching from the side. She recommended three books to me that would serve as sort of "side doors" that might make the material, especially those aspects that appeared contradictory, more accessible. "Wittgenstein's Poker" is one of the three books. The other two are Michael Nedo's "Ludwig Wittgenstein: There Where You Are Not" and Fergus Kerr's "Work on Oneself." (See these reviews separately.) None of these books stand alone as a good reference to Wittgenstein's work, they do, however, lend insight to several aspects of his life.
This particular book not only sheds light on one particularly controversial incident between two great philosophers - but more importantly delves into the road(s) and people that led them there. The background on the Vienna Circle, Vienna's coffeehouse culture, and their Jewish heritage (as assimilated Jews in Vienna) they both shared, are given great attention. How each man chose and later viewed their great professional battles (including the subject of the book) is also well treated. Students, disciples, detractors, and early mentors all play into the total story - so that by the time (late in the book) you actually get the account of the incident, it is almost anti-climactic.
As a stand alone guide to Wittgenstein and his work, this book will disappoint. However as a companion to his writings and to more thorough biographieAs a stand alone guide to Wittgenstein and his work, this book will disappoint. However as a companion to his writings and to more thorough biographies available, it is invaluable. "There Where You Are Not" contains only the briefest biography, but it is filled with pictures, letters, memoirs, arranged in a way that speaks to the philosopher's journey to find a place in the world for himself and for his work. I place this book with Edmond and Eidinow's "Wittgenstein's Poker" and Kerr's "Work on Oneself" as excellent companion books to more complete texts on Wittgenstein. None of the books on their own does the subject justice, but together they fill the gaps and enhance understanding of the usually incomplete biographies that accompany his texts....more
"Work on philosophy -- like work in architecture in many respects -- is really more work on oneself. On one's own conception. On how one sees things."Work on philosophy -- like work in architecture in many respects -- is really more work on oneself. On one's own conception. On how one sees things. (And what one expects of them.) (CV, 24)
What makes "Work on Oneself" so compelling to read, also limits its scope and constrains how much "space" is dedicated to the actual philosophical psychology that Kerr is supposedly focusing on. The book was published by The Institute for the Psychological Sciences, whose mission it is to "contribute to the renewal of the Christian Intellectual tradition and to the development of a psychology consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church."
This is apparent in Kerr's focus on Wittgenstein's writings (and the writings of others about him) and his espoused ambivalence regarding Catholicism (and even religion generally.) Though this colours Kerr's treatment and interpretation - I think it serves it well and adds needed depth and texture in many places.
Kerr also includes meaningful and enlightening references to (and writings from) Wittgenstein's friend and former student Maurice O'Connor Drury, who became a psychiatrist, rather than a professional philosopher.
"It would be a tragedy if well-meaning commentators should make it appear that his [Wittgenstein's] writings were now easily assimilable into the very intellectual milieu they were largely a warning against." (1966)
"A mental illness may indeed utterly disable the patient for the daily commerce of social life, but the terrifying loneliness of such an experience may make him more aware of the mysteriousness of our present being."
Kerr spends much time and effort creating this mosaic of the man [Wittgenstein] through the writings of others - particularly his students. That leads to a feeling that this book isn't so much about Wittgenstein, as it is about others' thoughts of him. Though some reviewers seem put off by this indirect treatment of the material, I think it makes that same material more compelling regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the assertions.
In all, this is not a deeply original work - nor could it be, I think, due to the space to which it's limited. However, it is highly readable and adds to the enjoyment and understanding of other works. I place this with Edmond and Eidinow's "Wittgenstein's Poker" and Nedo's "Wittgenstein: There Where You Are Not," which elucidate eachother's texts and Wittgenstein's work itself....more
**spoiler alert** This is an intriguing, though somewhat unfulfilling, collection of essays that seek to find and illuminate links between Wittgenstei**spoiler alert** This is an intriguing, though somewhat unfulfilling, collection of essays that seek to find and illuminate links between Wittgenstein's philosophy and Weininger's through a few direct references in Wittgenstein's work, and several indirect links in their methods, backgrounds and personal outlook. The evidence gets a bit thinner as focus is shifted from the "early Wittgenstein" of the Tractatus and the "later Wittgenstein" of Philosophical Investigations, where most of the references appear to distance Wittgenstein's ideas against Weininger's.
Initial suppositions by the authors are not supported with textual references - simply asserted. Though I don't necessarily disagree with the idea that Weininger was guilty of "racism, homophobia, and sexism" - it isn't something you assert in the first few pages without any specific reference to the material in question.
Another problem that arose for me was this: couldn't the same themes about solipsism, the nature of genius etc. that Wittgenstein and Weininger supposedly share be traced back to Schopenhauer? If so, where are the boundaries?
Of the essays, Joachim Schulte's: Wittgenstein and Weininger: Time, Life and World, is the easiest to read and provides an accessible context in which to view their work. I think I like this essay best because it places their work "in the world" instead of picking apart similar strands to study under a microscope. This chapter, however, brings the relationship no closer to a concrete understanding.
I took from this book that I just needed to read Weininger's "Sex and Character" again to decide for myself where I might see parallels or contradictions. ...more
I thought I would remember enough from Philosophical Investigations that I woulnd't need to have it as a ready reference. I was wrong. But I lent outI thought I would remember enough from Philosophical Investigations that I woulnd't need to have it as a ready reference. I was wrong. But I lent out my copy ages ago - and now I'm looking for a copy online.