Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wittgenstein 6: Story's End

Here is the final installment of my reading through Ray Monk's biography of Wittgenstein, chapters 24-27.


1. Childhood and Engineer
2. Student at Cambridge
3. World War I and Teaching
4. Between the Wars
5. During the War

Chapter 24: A Change of Aspect
The end of WW2 merely confirmed Wittgenstein's sense that humanity was headed for disaster. His resistance to the rule of science confirmed that science and industry decide wars. "Wisdom is cold and to that extent stupid" (490). "Faith by contrast is what Kierkegaard calls a passion."

In 1946, he fell in love with Ben Richards, although it is not clear that Richards ever knew it. His infatuation now was a little less solipsist. He wrote Fouracre alot, whom he had met in London during the war.

On October 26, 1946 there was the famous clash between W and Karl Popper at the Moral Science Club at Cambridge. There are legends that they came to blows or that W tried to hit Popper with a poker. Popper denied it. W was holding a poker and held it up, demanding an example of a moral rule. Then he stormed out.

By the way, W apparently boasted of never having read a word of Aristotle.

In May 1947 he addressed the Jowett society at Oxford, the only time he addressed philosophers at Oxford. He was responding to a paper evaluating Descartes' cogito. Predictably, he didn't answer the question, driving Joseph Pritchard crazy. He died about a week later.

Elisabeth Anscombe had been the catalyst for him coming. She would help translate the Philosophical Investigations and would for a time let him stay at her home near the end. By the way, she was the one that so critiqued C. S. Lewis that he went for novels rather than pure philosophy. W, who was somewhat sexist, considered her an "honorary male."

Iris Murdoch, who attended a few of W's last series of lectures, found his direct and unrelenting style unnerving. His lectures this year covered the material in the first part of the last third of PI. He would always redirect a question like "What is thinking?" to what the meaning of the word thinking is in this sentence.

The lectures W gave his last term in 1947 would become Part II of PI. This includes his duck picture that also looks like a rabbit. W argues that we change the aspect under which certain things are seen.

Some of his work from this final time at Cambridge was published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1.

Chapter 25: Ireland
In early 1948, W was not feeling well physically or mentally. He initially spent time in Dublin, but eventually went to a cottage in Rosro on the sea. The locals thought him mad. He had birds eating out of his hand. He tamed them, which resulted in them being eaten by cats after he left.

Humor is not a mood but a way of looking at the world. A lot of his scattered comments on such things were published as Culture and Value.

W said that philosophy leaves everything as it is. What it changes is the way we look at things.

He did return to Cambridge in late 1948 to dictate some of the notes he had written. These are published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology. He was done by October and returned to Ross' Hotel in Dublin for the winter.

The work W wrote that winter is called, Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. It was not his last, however. Anscombe and Rhees came to visit him in Dublin. Rhees was designated the executor of his will, and Anscombe and Rhees would be his literary executors.

He felt ill again at the beginning of 1949. He read Livy's Punic Wars and Macaulay's Essays.

In April 1949 he visited his dying sister in Vienna. Upon return to Dublin, he was diagnosed with anemia. He did gradually improve with iron and liver extract.

During this time he probably finished material for PI, Part II. The part he was mostly satisfied with was Section X on "Moore's Paradox." Moore's Paradox was stating a proposition and then saying someone did not believe it. "There is a fire in this room and I don't believe there is."

He and Drury listened to a discussion on the existence of God between Ayer and Copleston. W thought Copleston missed the point. The existence of God is not something to be proved. It is a way of looking at the world. No surprises there.

W felt his mind was completely dull. He went to America to visit Norman Malcolm at Harvard, took a boat in the summer of 1949.

Chapter 26: A Citizen of No Community
Trump mostly lived with friends and former students for the last two years of his life. W suspected that his teaching had done more harm than good. He had made people drunk.

Malcolm took W to a meeting of the graduate students of philosophy at Cornell. Just before the meeting, Malcolm entered with W leaning on his arm. No one realized it was Wittgenstein until after a student gave his paper. Then the convener asked if Wittgenstein wanted to say anything. The crowd gasped.

The first 65 remarks of On Certainty come from W's discussions with Malcolm.

W fell ill again. He managed to come back to England in October, though fell ill in London. In November he finally made it to Cambridge where a friend of Drury's finally diagnosed him with prostate cancer. He flew to Vienna the day before Christmas, 1949, his last visit.

During this time he wrote what would become Part II of On Color. Anscombe happened to be in Vienna, where A was meeting with Feyerabend, who was then a student. W was convinced to come speak to their group, the Kraft Circle.

In On Certainty W argues that, "if the contrary of a proposition makes sense, then that proposition can be regarded as an empirical hypothesis; its truth or falsity being dependent on the way things stand in the world. But if the contrary to the proposition does not make sense, then the proposition is not descriptive of the world but of our conceptual framework; it is then a part of logic" (563). Framework propositions describe the way in which we understand the world.

In March 1950, he returned to London. Then he lived with his successor in Cambridge. There he wrote Part III of On Color. He also refused to give the John Locke lectures in Oxford. Then in April he lived with Anscombe in Oxford. Some of his remarks on Shakespeare in Culture and Value come from this time.

Late summer he completed paragraphs 65-299 of On Certainty.

Chapter 27: Storey's End
Although he had hoped to go again to Norway, he became too ill in January 1951, and would live out the rest of his life in the home of the doctor who had diagnosed him (Bevan). During the last two months of his life he wrote paragraphs 300-676 of On Certainty. He wrote the last remark of the book on April 27, the day before he lost consciousness.

Before he lost consciousness he told Mrs. Bevan to tell his friends he'd had a wonderful life. He died the next day.

He was not Catholic, but Anscombe and Smythies were. He was given a Catholic burial, based on Drury's interpretation of something he had once said about Tolstoy.

Appendix: Bartley's Wittgenstein
In this appendix, Monk addresses the claims of a work by Bartley claiming that W had wild sex when he was a teacher in Austria. Monk plausibly argues both that Bartley probably did have some unknown source material but that he likely misunderstood what the notes he was reading meant. Monk suggests that W probably did have very lustful thoughts that he recorded. However, given W's pattern throughout his life, probably the people he was lusting at had no idea.

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