5.22.2002

Chances are that philosophy and politics had similar (or even the same) historical origins in the breakdown of old ethical structures and tribal organizations presented dramatically in Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, and others. We are not hardwired for these activities; they necessarily emerged in history and could have an end in history. Wittgenstein says that a philosophical problem takes this form: "I don't know my way around." This could be a collective response to a cosmological rupture. Philosophy and politics codified a new way of seeing our relations to the gods and each other. We see this origin in sacred and ordinary practices in Socrates. When he was defending himself publicly against his accusers, he argued that he was a conduit of the gods. He heard voices in his head that directed him away from incorrect courses of actions. In his conversation with his buddy Crito, he argued that he could not escape and move elsewhere because this action would shame the memory of his parents. One justification was religious; the other was customary.

Who knows what Wittgenstein experienced in the trenches of WWI? Was he involved in hand to hand combat? Did he kill another with bayonet? Did he have the kind of moment described by the protagonist of All Quiet on the Western Front after he killed a French adversary? It is hard not read Wittgenstein's post-Tractatus work without sensing that he is responding to existential crisis.

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