"What a mess!" indeed. The thing that I get, over & over, from Wittgenstein is that there is no "logical platform," as you so nicely put it, to our practice of language. It is, in fact, a practice, in the sense that we have to keep trying to get it right, but also in the sense of spiritual practice. Wittgenstein, with all the precision of a great intellect trained in mathematics & engineering, is also the person who crouched on the trenches of the losing side in WWI, scribbling notes for what would become the Tractatus, which is surely the final document of Western logicism, though many later philosophers are clearly unaware of this fact & go on producing texts in a sort of vague afterlife of the Analytic.

Is the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations one of these posthumous philosophers? The tension in this text--which I find both seductive & dismaying--between logic & poetry seems impossible of resolution, threatening to sink the whole enterprise. But of course it is just such intellectual (in the broadest sense) high-wire acts that fascinate & illuminate: the later poetry of James Wright, the novels of Thomas Mann, the late sonatas & quartets of Beethoven, most of Thelonious Monk, the remarks in PI . . .

We're all boxed in
no place to escape . . .
All my powers of expression
I thought so sublime
could never do you justice
In reason & rhyme.
Only one thing I did wrong--
stayed in Mississippi a day too long.
[Bob Dylan, "Mississippi." From Love & Theft]

Where the hell am I going with this? How's this? Wittgenstein teaches us that there are no platforms, no foundations for our thought, just amazingly articulate games of language, while all the while longing desperately for certainty & encoding that longing into the very structure of the remarks.

I got a cravin' love for blazing speed
Got a hopped up Mustang Ford
Jump into the wagon, love, throw your panties overboard
I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I'm no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind
Things are breakin' up out there
High water everywhere
[Bob Dylan, "High Water." From Love & Theft]

Things are breakin up out there. And yet we put the chaos into songs, into works of philosophy, into lectures & books of poems & conversations in the hallway. So all this attention to patches of color & brooms in the corner it's poetry. That's what W. means in Culture & Value when he says that philosophy should be written like poetry--not "pretty," not decorative, not superficial adornment, but the actual welter & shambles of getting through the day. It is, of course, an impossible prescription. But when did that ever stop us.

Been workin' on the mainline - workin' like the devil
The game is the same - it's just up on a different level
Poor boy - dressed in black
Police at your back
[Dylan. ibid]

I think Dylan is about to lead me to a discussion of Husserl, but that will be tomorrow. As if I knew anything about Husserl. You keep talking about Wittgenstein. You're the bass player in this combo--I'm the addled guy on tenor sax.


Post a Comment

<< Home