Selections from Milton Munitz, Contemporary Analytic Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1980), pp. 201-220.
We turn now to the second half, `the other side', of Wittgenstein's philosophy as presented in the Tractatus. There are various locutions that can be used as labels to indicate what this comprises: `what must be passed over in silence', `what can only be shown, not said', `the mystical', and so on. It will be our task to get some understanding of what Wittgenstein intends by such phrases and what lies behind them, however brief his remarks on this topic. This needs to be done despite the predominant tendency on the part of many commentators and `followers' of Wittgenstein to either underplay or ignore this aspect of his philosophy altogether. For, as we have seen, it is for him a very important side of his total philosophy.
The first point to be made by way of introduction is that phrases such as those mentioned above, as well as the very title of this section, encompass a number of different though related matters. If used interchangeably, they cloak various distinctions among what they cover. Thus, by way of example, the term `mystical' is used by Wittgenstein sometimes in a broader and sometimes in a narrower sense. For instance,he says:6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. selves manifest. They are what is mystical. They make themselves manifest.In this sentence Wittgenstein is using the term `mystical' in a broad sense to include whatever `cannot be put into words', for `whatever makes itself manifest (but cannot be said)'. On the other hand he also says:6.44 It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.
Here Wittgenstein is singling out one form of `what can't be said' and identifying it, especially, as the mystical. The same point would hold generally for the other phrases I have quoted. There are various types of things that `can't be said': various types of matters that `must be passed over in silence', `can only be shown', or `make themselves manifest'. It will be one of the purposes of our discussion to examine these cases and to show how each case, while having something in common with the others (and so justifying the use of the common label), is at the same time distinctive. So, if one refers to Wittgenstein as a `mystic' or as upholding `mysticism', this can be quite misleading unless clamed by examining the phrases he uses in particular contexts, and noting their special features in each case.
Wittgenstein's comments on `what can't be said' may be collected . and grouped under a number of speck headings. I shall distinguish, for our present purposes, the following four:(1) the status of logical form
(2) the nature of philosophy
(3) ethics, `solipsism', and `the problem of the meaning of life'
(4) the special mystical feeling `that the world exists.'
(1) The status of logical form:
In a letter to Russell , written shortly after he finished the Tractatus, Wittgenstein summed up the main thrust of his book as follows:The distinction between what can be expressed (said, represented) and what can be shown (displayed, exhibited) is one to which Wittgenstein comes back over and over again. A crucial section of the Tractatus in which this distinction is put to use, and also at the same time sums up a number of other passages in which the same general point is made, has to do with the notion of logical form. For, according to Wittgenstein, logical form can only be shown, not said.The main point is the theory of what can be expressed (gesagt) by propositions -i.e., by language-(and which comes to the same, what can be thought) and what can not be expressed by propositions, but only shown (gezeigt); which, I believe, is the cardinal problem of philosophy.In order to be able to represent logical form, we should have to be able to station ourselves with propositions somewhere outside logic, that is to say outside the world.4.12 Propositions can represent the whole of reality, but they cannot represent what they must have in common with reality in order to be able to represent it -logical form.If two propositions contradict one another, then their structure shows it; the same is true if one of them follows from the other. And so on.4.121 Propositions cannot represent logical form: it is mirrored in them.
What finds its reflection in language, language cannot represent.
What expresses itself in language, we cannot express by means of language.
Propositions show the logical form of reality.
They display it.
4.1211 Thus one proposition 'fa' shows that the object a occurs in its sense, two propositions ;fa' and `ga' show that the same object is mentioned in both of them.The first basic idea to be clear about in explicating the foregoing passage is the notion of logical form. By `logical form', in its most general sense, is meant possibilities of combination. Objects in the world, and names in language, have various possibilities of combination with one another. By virtue of their individual forms, objects can combine to yield states of affairs. Among these possible determinate combinations or configurations are existing states of affairs. These are atomic facts. They, in turn, have various possibilities of combination to constitute more complex, molecular facts. Similarly, on the side of language, by virtue of their possibilities of combination with one another (their `logical syntax'), names can combine to form elementary propositions. Each elementary proposition has its own determinate sense-its own picture of a possible determinate situation. If true, an elementary proposition, as a combination of names and through the sense of its pictorial form, represents the structure of an existing state of affairs. Various elementary propositions have all sorts of logical possibilities of combination with one another to constitute molecular propositions. The truth or falsity of these molecular propositions are truth-functions of the respective truth-possibilities of their component propositions.4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said.
The form of any item (name, object, state of affairs, proposition) thus consists of the particular determinate range of possibilities for combination with other elements that belong to it. The expression `logical form', as used in its most general meaning, refers to the sum total of all these modes and types of possibilities for combination of elements, whether in the world or in language. (And, of course, language itself is one `part' of the world; one type of facts, one kind of combinations of objects, `sign-objects'.) In short, logical form has to do with the entire range of all possibilities of combination of items in the world and in language; it defines the domain of `logical-space'.
The next point has to do with making clear Wittgenstein's claim that logical form cannot be represented or expressed in a proposition. Although propositions have logical form, and although reality, too, has logical form, and although propositions, in representing reality, have logical form in common with reality, propositions cannot represent the logical form which they have in common with reality. Logical form can only be shown or displayed in propositions, not represented or expressed in propositions. Logical form itself `cannot be said' by any proposition. Why is this so?
A language, as analyzed, consists of particular names standing for particular objects, and of real propositions in which the names are so concatenated as to describe some particular determinate state of affairs. In the very use of such particular names and in the particular concatenation of these names in a real proposition, the language used thereby exhibits `what it is to be a name' and `what it is to be a concatenation of names'. Let us call such phrases as `what it is to be a name', `what it is to be a concatenation of names', as well as such expressions as `object', `fact', `function', `complex' and the like, formal concepts and formal relations. Another term that may be used for these expressions is `pseudo-concepts', for they do not stand for or represent particular objects, concepts, complexes, functions, or relations. Nevertheless what they are is shown whenever we would use genuine names, concepts, functions, relations, and so on. These formal matters are shown in and displayed by real propositions, but are not the sort of matters that can be referred to or talked about by means of genuine or real propositions.Suppose, further, we try to conceive of the use of a language in which there is only a referring to, a talking about something, but no showing. Let us suppose, further, that the `something' one undertakes to talk about, to refer to, is logical form itself -the possibilities of combination of elements. In this case, it would be necessary to use a language that does the talking about, the referring to, but (on the present hypothesis) does not itself show its own logical form. Moreover, if this hypothetically assumed `language' is to have its own logical form in common with that to which it refers, or about which it offers a description, then it could not, by hypothesis, display or show its own logical form. This, however, is impossible. The hypothesis of such a `language' is nonsensical. For it would in fact lack any articulation, any distinction of elements; it would lack any structure of parts, which is essential to providing a determinate sense, a particular description of some segment of reality. Thus any usable, genuine language must be a set of facts, a structured, articulated configuration of sign-objects. This means that any language already has and shows its own form. If we tried to get along without language in a genuine and usable form, we should have to go `outside' the world, i.e., outside the domain of facts. This is impossible, not because it is `difficult' but because such a prospect is wholly without meaning. It describes nothing at all! We cannot conceive, imagine, or picture what this `going outside the world', or the having of a language not composed of facts (of sign-objects), would come to. Since every fact, whether in the world at large or in language in particular, already has a form, any language or a set of objects of any sort can't help displaying some form. The display of form is therefore inevitably present whenever we use language to say something, for to say something is to use sign-objects. The use of sign-objects (linguistic expressions) shows its own form in the very act of saying.4.126 When something falls under a formal concept as one of its objects, this cannot be expressed by means of a proposition. Instead it is shown in the very sign for this object. (A name shows that it signifies an object, a sign for a number that it signifies a number, etc.)
Formal concepts cannot, in fact, be represented by means of a function, as concepts proper can.
For their characteristics, formal properties, are not expressed by means of functions.
The expression for a formal property is a feature of certain symbols.
So the sign for the characteristics of a formal concept is a distinctive feature :)f all symbols whose meanings fall under the concept.
So the expression for a formal concept is a propositional variable in which ;his distinctive feature alone is constant.
(2) The nature of philosophy:
In the Tractatus Wittgenstein makes several remarks about the nature of philosophy. In none of these does he explicitly say that philosophy is one of those matters that `can't be said'. Nevertheless, because of some of the things Wittgenstein does say about philosophy, we are justified in considering these remarks as providing another example of what, in a broad sense, `can't be said'. The reasons for applying this label to
philosophy will differ, in certain crucial respects, from its use in the other examples collected under this same heading.
The relevant passages in which Wittgenstein characterizes philosophy are the following:
4.11 The totality of true propositions is the whole of natural sciences (or the whole corpus of the natural sciences).
4.111 Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences.
(The word `philosophy' must mean something whose place is above or below the natural sciences, not beside them.)
4.112 Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts.
Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity.
A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations.
Philosophy does not result in `philosophical propositions', but rather in the clarification of propositions.
Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries.
6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science-i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy-and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person-he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy-this method would be the only strictly correct one.
6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them-as steps-to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)
He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.
There are two salient points in the above remarks that justify our considering them as supporting the claim that philosophy is one of those matters that `can't be said'. One of these points is essentiall negative, the other positive.
The first, or negative point, is that philosophy cannot be conveyed through a series of philosophical propositions. Since, for Wittgenstein, propositions are the essential means by which something is said, and since there can be no genuine philosophical propositions, philosophy `can't be said'.
Wittgenstein condemns much of what traditionally goes by the name `philosophy' on the ground that philosophers have undertaken to give us true philosophical propositions. However, on Wittgenstein's view, these `propositions' have been, for the most part, not false but senseless.
4.003 Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical. Consequently we cannot give any answer to questions of this kind, but can only establish that they are nonsensical. Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language.
(They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.)
And it is not surprising that the deepest problems are in fact not problems at all.
In order to understand Wittgenstein's claim that there are no philosophical propositions, and that philosophers who have undertaken to uphold certain philosophical theses or propositions as true have in fact produced nonsense instead, we must recall Wittgenstein's views about sense, as presented in the Tractatus. A proposition has sense when it offers a determinate picture or model of some possible state of affairs, of a possible fact. If the structure shown in the proposition is shared by an existing state of affairs, the proposition is true, otherwise false. All genuine propositions thus must be capable of describing factual situations. Such genuine factual propositions, having determinate sense, are to be found in everyday uses of language and in the sciences. Tautologies and contradictions do not offer any pictures of reality. They do not present any -models of particular states of affairs. To this extent they do not have any determinate sense. On the other hand, they are not sense-less. They are, rather, limiting cases of ordinary propositions. Ordinary propositions, being contingent, can be either true or false. Tautologies and contradictions, however, are not contingent, since they offer no pictures of reality that might be true or might be false. On the contrary, a tautology is always and necessarily true; and similarly a contradiction is always and necessarily false. For this reason, they do not `say' anything, since to say something is to offer a picture or model of a particular segment of reality, of a particular state of affairs. We may thus think of tautologies and contradictions as being degenerate, limiting cases of propositions. Each in its own way fills all of logical space. Together they provide the limits within which nontautological, noncontradictory sense-ful propositions can pick out, locate, describe, and inform us about some particular state of affairs.
As contrasted with genuine factual propositions-which say something and have sense-and as contrasted, too, with tautologies and contradictions-which do not say anything-the `propositions' of philosophers are neither factual nor necessary. They have the surface grammatical appearance of being informative, of offering a certain kind of factual knowledge about the world. Yet when examined it turns out, Wittgenstein would say, that they fail in this purpose. They cannot be factual. They do not have any determinate sense. They are not descriptions or models of reality.
Typical propositions of philosophers that purport to give us factual knowledge include such expressions as `reality', `fact', `object', `class', `form', `concept', `function', `substance', `number', `relation', `simple', `complex'; `proposition', `state of affairs', `event', and so on. Of course, Wittgenstein's own book, the Tractatus, abounds with sentences containing such expressions. We find such statements as `Objects are simple', `The world is the totality of facts', and the like. And in the writings of other philosophers we find such statements as `There are an infinite number of objects in the world', `There is only one zero,' and the like. All such sentences look as if they are being used to make factual statements. Wittgenstein would say, however, that they are all logically malformed; they are nonsensical; they are pseudo-propositions.
At best such sentences have to do with what Wittgenstein calls `formal concepts'. In all genuine propositions formal concepts make their appearance. If we had a set of completely analyzed genuine factual propositions, and a perspicuous notation by which to convey them, the formal concepts would not be explicitly mentioned and talked about; they would be shown in the use of other expressions that are not themselves formal concepts. Formal concepts cannot themselves be the factual subject matter about which sense-ful genuine propositions can be formulated, asserted, and confirmed as true.
Another way of making this same point is to equate formal concepts with variables of different types. Each variable (e.g., `name', `object', `fact', `function') is defined by its distinctive range of significance, by the values that can serve as arguments for the variable in question. The use of any expression for a value or argument implicitly shows the type of variable (formal concept) of which it is a value. The logical syntax of a valueexpression as it appears in a genuine proposition is governed by a specific logical form or range of possible combinations with other expressions. However, it would be a misuse of the logic of language to treat a variable (a formal concept) as one of its own values (arguments). This is the essence of Wittgenstein's version of his Theory of TypesA more satisfactory view, he claims, than the one Russell had formulated. Yet this kind of logical mistake-of treating functions, variables and formal concepts as their own values-appears in all those pseudo-propositions of philosophers that fill the literature. In them, formal concepts are treated as if they were like particular objects, relations, properties, and so on, and about which, therefore, one could say something having sense, being informative, and conveying factual truth. There is thus a confusion in these pseudo-propositions between form and content. The formal concepts and properties exhibited in a perspicuous symbolism are treated as the content of that very symbolism. It, can't be done. One can't `say' these matters; one can only show them in a logically proper use of language. Once one has a perspicuous logical language and symbolism, and uses it, 'it would be impossible to form any philosophical propositions at all.
To the foregoing `negative' remarks about philosophy, Wittgenstein adds that though philosophy does not consist in the statement of distinctive philosophical propositions, it nevertheless is a form of activity that has an important role and purpose. Wittgenstein describes this as one of `elucidation', of `serving as a critique of language', of `setting a limit to thought'. In performing these functions philosophy of course uses language. After all, the Tractatus itself is a book, consisting of sentences. As Russell (in his introduction to the Tractatus) reminds us, "Mr. Wittgenstein manages to say a good deal about what cannot be said, thus suggesting to the sceptical reader that possibly there may be some loophole through a hierarchy of languages, or by some other exit." Wittgenstein would have rejected the suggestion that there is a hierarchy of languages in one part of which philosophy is to be found. However, he might acknowledge that there is some other exit. This other exit is to insist, as he does, that what he has himself been saying is nonsense. This expression needs to be understood in the special way he intends in the present context. Strictly speaking only full-fledged, genuine propositions have sense. Since there are no genuine philosophical propositions, and he himself has not provided any, what he has `said' has no sense. Yet what he has' said', though not to be taken as consisting of propositions, nevertheless has another kind of `sense' in a looser, popular, and nontechnical use of this term. His use of language is part of the activity of elucidation. Insofar as language can be used to perform this function in addition to articulating propositions, his use of language in the Tractatus belongs to this other type of use. This other use is not one of fact-stating (as in science), or even one of setting out in an a priori way the propositions of logic. It is rather a use that clarifies these other, different uses of language, though not itself, in doing this, belonging to either the fact-stating uses or to formulating the laws of logic. At any rate, the distinctive character of the activity of philosophy as elucidatory is to give us an understanding of the logic of language-what can be said and what cannot be said. Once we have this understanding, we "can throw away the ladder." The philosophic activity ceases with this insight, though the insight gained cannot be stated in genuine propositions.
(3) Ethics, `solipsism', and `the problem of the meaning of life:
It will be recalled from a passage quoted earlier in this chapter that Wittgenstein, in a letter to Ludwig von Ficker describing the Tractatus, wrote, "The book's point is an ethical one." If the point of the book is `ethical' we must ask, of course, what this term signifies for Wittgenstein. In our attempt to answer this question we are hampered to a large extent by the brevity, paucity, and unusual opacity and oracular quality of what Wittgenstein has to say on this topic. There are a few brief passages in the Tractatus and also some background passages of entries in 1916 in the Notebooks to which we can turn. Further, we know that Wittgenstein was much influenced by his reading of Schopenhauer, as well as by his intense admiration of Tolstoy's version of Christian ethics. In addition, we may conjecture that perhaps through his reading of Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein also acquired some insight into Buddhist ethics (a connection which makes some commentators find a similarity in certain ways between Wittgenstein and Zen). Beginning in 1929-1930, when Wittgenstein returned to research in philosophy after a lapse of several years since the end of World War I, he undertook a radical revision of his philosophy, especially in connection with his views on language (revisions that culminated in the Philosophical Investigations). There is a record of Wittgenstein's conversations with Moritz Schlick and Friedrich Waismann in 1929-1930, as well as a "Lecture on Ethics" prepared for delivery at Cambridge sometime between September, 1929, and December, 1930, in which further data on Wittgenstein's views on ethics are preserved. It would appear from these sources that despite the radical changes his philosophy was beginning to undergo in other areas, his views on ethics are substantially unchanged from what we find in the Tractatus and the Notebooks (1914-1916).
The relevant passages from the Tractatus are principally these:
6.41 The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: in it no value exists-and if it did exist, it would have no value.
If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. For all that.happens and is the case is accidental.
What makes it non-accidental cannot lie within the world, since if it did it would itself be accidental.
It must lie outside the world.
6.42 And so it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics.
Propositions can express nothing that is higher.
6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words.
Ethics is transcendental.
(Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)
6.422 When an ethical law of the form, 'Thou shalt. . .', is laid down, one's first thought is, `And what if I do not do it?' It is clear, however, that ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the usual sense of the terms. So our question about the consequences of an action must be unimportant.-At least those consequences should not be events. For there must be something right about the question we posed. There must indeed be some kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but they must reside in the action itself.
(And it is also clear that the reward must be something pleasant and the punishment something unpleasant.)
6.423 It is impossible to speak about the will in so far as it is the subject of ethical attributes.
And the will as a phenomenon is of interest only to psychology.
6.43 If the good or bad exercise of the will does alter the world, it can alter only
the limits of the world, not the facts-not what can be expressed by means of language.
In short, the effect must be that it becomes an altogether different world. It must, so to speak, wax or wane as a whole.
The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man.
6.52 We feel- that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course there are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer.
6.521 The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem.
In analyzing these and other related remarks, let us begin by trying to make clear, in the first place, how Wittgenstein conceives the subject matter and interest of ethics. He gives us some help on this in his "Lecture on Ethics," where he says:These phrases are not too far removed from the way in which others might also describe ethics. In fact, earlier in the same "Lecture on Ethics" Wittgenstein quotes with approval the definition given by Moore in the latter's Principia Ethica, which asserts, "Ethics is the general enquiry into what is good." Still, even though Wittgenstein uses certain familiar-sounding phrases to characterize ethics, we must be careful not to attribute to him a concern with certain themes that are frequently taken to be at the heart of ethics. Thus, for Wittgenstein, ethics is not concerned with proposing, analyzing, or justifying certain rules of conduct. He is not concerned with what we should or should not do-with our rights, duties, and obligations, with what we ought to do. For Wittgenstein what lies at the heart of ethics is a concern with `the problem of life', the question about `the meaning (or purpose) of life', with `what makes life worth living'. Here again, however, it is important not to be misled by his use of these or similar phrases. For they might be taken to suggest-though mistakenly so-that what Wittgenstein is about to do is draw up a list of various `goods', of things to aim at and prize, perhaps to even rank in some `scale' or `scheme' of values. Thus it might be thought that for him ethics undertakes to judge and guide us concerning such matters as health, power, wealth, material possessions, fame, pleasure, knowledge, adventure, esthetic enjoyment, security, peace, freedom, friendship, love, and so on. This is not what he either intends or does in his remarks on `the meaning of life'. In a conversation held in 1929 with Schlick and Waismann, Wittgenstein remarked:Ethics is the enquiry into what is valuable, or into what is really important, or I could have said Ethics is the enquiry into the meaning of life, or into what makes life worth living, or into the right way of living .Ethics, in Wittgenstein's approach, is the search for the meaning of life. The term `life' in the expression `the meaning of life' does not refer to the biological, physiological, social (cultural), or psychological dimensions or types of phenomena (or any combination of these) that are normally meant in the use of this term. When Wittgenstein speaks of the `meaning of life', he equates this with speaking of `the meaning of the world'.I regard it as very important to put an end to all the chatter about ethics-whether there is knowledge in ethics, whether there are values, whether the Good can be defined, etc. In ethics, one constantly tries to say something that does not concern and can never concern the essence of the matter. It is a priori certain that, whatever definition one may give of the Good, it is always a misunderstanding to suppose that the formulation corresponds to what one really means. (Moore.) But the tendency, the thrust points to something.In one sense-admittedly a paradoxical one-in order to deal with the problem of the meaning of life from an `absolute' ethical point of view, one must ignore life altogether, one's own or that of any other living creature, human or otherwise.The World and Life are one.
Physiological life is of course not "Life". And neither is psychological life. Life is the world.
Can there be any ethics if there is no living being but myself?
If ethics is supposed to be something fundamental, there can.
If I am right, then it is not sufficient for the ethical judgment that a world is given.
Then the world in itself is neither good nor evil.
For it must be all one, as far as concerns the existence of ethics, whether there is living matter in the world or not. And it is clear that a world in which there is only dead matter is in itself neither good nor evil, so even the world of living things can in itself be neither good nor evil.
The `life' whose `meaning' Wittgenstein is concerned with is not something to be probed, described, understood, explained, analyzed, or classified scientifically. It is not that which is present in the body, not even in the mind or consciousness of some person-mine or someone else's. The `life' Wittgenstein is talking about is what he calls `the metaphysical subject', `the philosophical I'. This `I' is not an object of any kind in the world, situated in the world along with other objects.The `I' or self Wittgenstein is alluding to is not then to be identified with a person's body, or with a `thinking self (an immaterial substance or soul, e.g., the res cogitans of Descartes), with any dualistic combination of these, or even with the organism as a whole. The `philosophical I' (the `metaphysical subject') is a subject, not an object.The philosophical I is not the human being, not the human body or the human soul with the psychological properties, but the metaphysical subject, the boundary (not a part) of the world. The human body, however, my body in particular, is a part of the world among others, among animals, plants, stones, etc., etc.
Whoever realizes this will not want to procure a pre-eminent place for his own body or for the human body.
He will regard humans and animals quite naively as objects which are similar and which belong together.The `philosophical I' may also be labeled a `willing subject', that is, a subject that wills. But here, again, the `will' is not to be located in or distributively identified with a variety of desires, needs, hopes, fears, goals, wishes, wants, impulses, and so on. Indeed, the essential-again paradoxical!-mark of the `will' of the `philosophical I' is that in solving the problem of the meaning of life, the philosophical I loses any sense of itself as an individual. It passes `beyond good and evil'. It becomes wholly egoless. It becomes `one with the world itself. It says, "Thy will be done!" However, in `saying' this (though not, of course, in propositions), the subject that has `solved' the problem of the meaning of life displays a certain attitude or stance toward the world (toward life) that distinguishes such a subject from others. The subject is a happy person. The `happiness' however is not to be equated with pleasure, the gratification of desires, the achievement of goals and ambitions, and with the realization of `success' in the world. It cannot be described.Good and evil only enter through the subject. And the subject is not part of the world, but a boundary of the world.It is marked by a kind of wordless serenity and contentment, evident in the way such a happy man conducts himself. Such a man feels `absolutely safe'; nothing that can or does happen in the world, as it would happen to himself as object, can affect or disturb him, because the `him' is the philosophical I-and it can't be hurt since it has no desires and does not judge things in terms of `good and evil'. Such wordless serenity or `understanding' of the world is wholly absent in the life of an `unhappy' person, one who has not .solved the problem of life, because such a person is still living altogether in the. world.What is the objective mark of the happy, harmonious life? Here it is again clear that there cannot be any such mark, that can be described.
This mark cannot be a physical one but only a metaphysical one, a transcendental one.
This is the essential point for understanding Wittgenstein's `solipsism'. In the Tractatus, he expresses this as follows:To say that `the world' is `my world' is to be understood in such a way that the use of the word `my' refers to the `philosophical I', and not to myself as a particular body or mind-in short to a particular object in the world. If we take `my world' to be that which holds for the `philosophical I', then the individual ego (as one object among others) no longer operates as it does in solipsism as ordinarily understood (i.e., in the belief that everything that exists is part of my mind and that my mind and its contents is the only thing that exists-a form of madness, really). Instead, `my world', as involving the `philosophical I', becomes identical with the world. Solipsism passes into and becomes identical with realism. And this indeed is how Wittgenstein conceives`solipsism . It is what emerges from an egoless attitude toward the world.5.62 ... what the solipsist means is quite correct; only it cannot be said, but makes itself manifest.
The world is my world: this is manifest in the fact that the limits of language (of that language which alone I understand) mean the limits of my world.
5.621 The world and life are one.
5.63 I am my world. (The microcosm.)Here we can see that solipsism coincides with pure realism, if it is strictly thought out.And insofar as God and the world may be thought of as one and the same, one can say (from an egoless point of view), "Thy will be done!"The I of solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and what remains is the reality co-ordinate with it.
The use of the expression `meaning' (Sinn) in the phrase `the meaning of life' is not in any way to be identified or confused with the use of this word in the context of the analysis of language. The search for the `meaning' of life has nothing to do with semantic matters; it does not depend on recalling the kinds of distinctions (for example between sense and reference) in the Fregean heritage and its application to the analysis of `meaning' in language. On the other hand, if one should ask Wittgenstein (or anyone who `understands' what he is driving at), "Well, in what sense of `meaning' are you using the term when you speak of looking for the meaning of life?" he should have to respond by saying he cannot answer your question! He cannot say what this meaning is; he cannot use any propositions to describe it or its absence. It is thus, admittedly, `nonsense', transcendental', `supernatural'. And yet, for all that, Wittgenstein would say it is of supreme importance: it has absolute ethical value.One aspect of the solution to the problem of the meaning of life is to be found in living in the present. Such living in the present is not to be understood as a restriction in the temporal sense to that which is present as contrasted with that which is past or future. The `present' in this nontemporal sense is tantamount to living in `eternity'-to seeing things sub specie aeternitatis, `under the aspect of eternity'. In living without hope, fear, or regrets, one focuses entirely on whatever presents itself. Anything can constitute `the world' of egoless absorption. The `anything' can be the most `trivial' or the most `exalted'.No description that I can think of would do to describe what I mean by absolute value .... That is to say: I see now that these nonsensical expressions were not nonsensical because I had not yet found the correct expressions, but that their nonsensicality was their very essence. For all I wanted to do with them was to go beyond the world and that is to say beyond significant language. My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language. This running against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolutely valuable, can be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But it is a document to a tendency in the human mind -which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it.Everything in the world, from the point of view of an egoless philosophical I (metaphysical subject) is of equal value, because in one sense nothing in the world has any value-good or evil. `Values' for the philosophical I are beyond good and evil. The philosophical I as a `will-less' subject becomes one with God, the `spirit' that `belongs' to all things.As a thing among things, each thing is equally insignificant; as a world each one equally significant.
If I have been contemplating the stove, and then am told: but now all you know is the stove, my result does indeed seem trivial. For this represents the matter as if I had studied the stove as one among the many things in the world. But if I was contemplating the stove it was my world, and everything colorless by contrast with it.
(Something good about the whole, but bad in details.)
For it is equally possible to take the bare present image as the worthless momentary picture in the whole temporal world, and as the true world among shadows.
Death, to such a philosophical I, to one who has `solved the problem of the meaning of life', is nothing to be feared. It is not an event in life, i.e., in the `life' of the philosophical I. Insofar as the `I' is the philosophical I, then there is no death in my world.(4) the special mystical feeling `that the world exists.'To believe in a God means to understand the question about the meaning of life.
To believe in a God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter.
To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.
The world is given me, i.e., my will enters into the world completely from outside as into something that is already there.
(As for what my will is, I don't know yet.)
That is why we have the feeling of being dependent on an alien will.
However this may be, at any rate we are in a certain sense dependent, and what we are dependent on we can call God.
In this sense God would simply be fate, or, what is the same thing: The worldwhich is independent of our will.
I can make myself independent of fate.
There are two godheads: the world and my independent I.
I am either happy or unhappy, that is all. It can be said: good or evil do not exist. A man who is happy must have no fear. Not even in the face of death.
Only a man who lives not in time but in the present is happy.
For life in the present there is no death.
Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact of the world.
If by eternity is understood not infinite temporal duration but non-temporality, then it can be said that a man lives eternally if he lives in the present.
In order to live happily I must be in agreement with the world. And that is what `being happy' means.
I am then, so to speak, in agreement with that alien will on which I appear dependent. That is to say: 'I am doing the will of God'.
Fear in face of death is the best sign of a false, i.e., a bad, life.
At one point, in his discussion of the nature of logic in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein makes the following remark:And in a celebrated remark at the end of the Tractatus he says:5.552 The `experience' that we need in order to understand logic is not that something or other is the state of things, but that something is: that, however, is not experience.
Logic is prior to every experience-that something is so.
It is prior to the question `How?', not prior to the question `What?'The several distinctions with respect to the world here being signalized in a compressed way by the use of the expressions `What', `How', and 'That', are of great interest and importance in understanding Wittgenstein's philosophy.6.44 , It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.
To have an experience (Erfahrung), for Wittgenstein in the present context signifies having some determinate, selective, particular mode of identifying or describing a particular state of affairs, a particular structured situation of some sort. It is that which, when verbalized and articulated, is conveyed by a proposition of everyday language or science. To assert a proposition is to, say how the world-or rather, some segment of the world-is. The `how' is the specifc way or ways -actually to be found- in experience or even as conceived hypothetically and through imagination-some particular structure of objects, selected from all possible structures, may be depicted.
The role of logic is to explore the entire domain of possible structures. It explores in an exhaustive way, through its tautologies and by means of a symbolic notation for its formal concepts, what the world-is. `What- here signifies the totality of structured possibilities of `logical mace'. We cannot have an experience of this, because experience is always of something determinate, specific, selective. Nevertheless, what logic explores provides the background (the `logical space') for all particular experiences and determinate propositions of everyday language and science. The `propositions' of logic. are not nonsense. Yet they are not sense-ful in the way ordinary propositons are. The `what' that logic's tautologies explore fill all of logical space. Hence the `propositions' of logic are limiting, degenerate cases of propositions. They do not give us knowledge or information of how things are. Instead they give us an exhaustive, neutral account of all possible states of affairs without making any selection from among all the possibilities. Thus logic deals with the what of the world's (reality's) possibilities; everyday experience and science deal with the particular hows of the world.
What Wittgenstein calls `the mystical' (das Mystische) is not an experience at all (in his use of this term). Neither is it something that can be thought, conceived, or articulated in a proposition, whether normal and determinate or tautological and degenerate. The mystical cannot be conveyed by propositions of any sort. Wittgenstein suggests at one point that we might use the expression `mystical feeling' for referring to what he has in mind. Although Wittgenstein does not use the term `awareness', I think it might also serve in the present context, provided we understand it is to be distinguished from both an experience and a propositionally conveyed thought. We should then be alluding to a mystical feeling or awareness that the world exists. This mystical feeling or awareness that the world exists is `prior' even to the thought of what all possible states of affairs might be. It is also `prior' to the experience of how some specific, determinate state of affairs might be described. The `how' presupposes the `what' and the `what' presupposes the `that'. But the awareness of the `that' (the mystical feeling that the world exists) is not a type of knowledge. It belongs neither to logic nor to everyday experience and science.
In further clarifying what it signifies to have the mystical feeling or awareness that the world exists (as distinguished from its what or its how), Wittgenstein makes the following remark in the Tractatus, shortly after the passage I quoted earlier. He says:The mystical feeling that the world exists must not be confused either with a question or a possible answer, since either could be conveyed by means of a proposition. The mystical feeling that the world exists cannot be said: it cannot be put into words that compose or articulate a proposition. Thus in having this feeling or awareness we are not, for example, asking such questions as, "Why does the world exist?" or "When did the world come into existence?" or "Did the world have a beginning in time?" or "How large (spatially) is the world?" or "Does the world embody some overall purpose or design?" and so on. All of these questions convey what may be thought of as `riddles' about the existence of the world. Since many persons suppose it is meaningful to ask these questions, they also suppose there ought to be possible answers to them. Indeed there are, as we know, many proposed answers to these and similar questions that men have argued about and accepted. For Wittgenstein, however, neither the questions (the `riddle') nor the `answers' are legitimate expressions of what he intends by the mystical feeling or awareness that the world exists. He would insist most strongly, however, that one should not condemn, ignore, or belittle the quality and importance of having this feeling. For Wittgenstein, on the contrary, this mystical feeling -was of the highest importance.6.5 _ When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words.
The riddle does not exist.
If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.
Can the mystical feeling aroused by being aware that the world exists be conveyed by a proposition in which one states one's wonder that the world exists? In his "Lecture on Ethics" Wittgenstein considers this very question. He indicates that although for him the mystical feeling alluded to is an example of something that has absolute value, and so is of the highest ethical importance, nevertheless the attempt to describe this in a proposition by using the term `wonder' in its ordinary meaning would be a total misuse of language and therefore wholly nonsensical. His reasons are as follows:Wittgenstein thinks that the correct use of the expression `to wonder at-' applies to a situation in which it could be said that one can conceive or imagine that it might not have been present, or might not be the case. In some cases there is a sense of surprise, marveling, or astonishment. One is apt to exclaim in the presence of that which evokes the sense of wonder, "How extraordinary!" although, of course, there need not be any explicit oral exclamation of this at all. The emotion felt is frequently (though not invariably) associated with our coming upon something that we did not expect. Thus, one could not speak of wonder in connection with a tautology. Since a tautology, by its very nature, exhaustively enumerates all the relevant, conceivable possibilities, there is no room left for some additional possibility that one could conceive or imagine. Thus one could legitimately wonder at some particular color of the sky, since it makes sense to say that it might have had some other color than the one it happens to have. But it would make no sense to say that if one enumerated all possible colors of the sky, one should wonder at this exhaustive enumeration.It has a perfectly good and clear sense to say that I wonder at something being the case, we all understand what it means to say that I wonder at the size of a dog which is bigger than anyone I have ever seen before or at any thing which, in the common sense of the word, is extra-ordinary. In every such case I wonder at something being the case which I could conceive not to be the case. I wonder at the size of this dog because I could conceive of a dog of another, namely the ordinary size, at which I should not wonder. To say `I wonder at such and such being the case' has only sense if I can imagine it not to be the case. In this sense one can wonder at the existence of, say, a house when one sees it and has not visited it for a long time and has imagined that it had been pulled down in the meantime. But it is nonsense to say that I wonder at the existence of the world, because I cannot imagine it not existing. I could of course wonder at the world round me being as it is. If for instance I had this experience while looking into the blue sky, I could wonder at the sky being blue as opposed to the case when it's clouded. But that's not what I mean. I am wondering at the sky being whatever it is. One might be tempted to say that what I am wondering at is a tautology, namely at the sky being blue or not blue. But then it's just nonsense to say that one is wondering at a tautology.
For these reasons Wittgenstein alleges it makes no sense to say that one wonders at something which, in general, might not be otherwise than it is.
This last reason is the one he gives for saying that it makes no sense to say that one wonders at the existence of the world. For, Wittgenstein claims, one "cannot imagine it not existing." It is not, as I understand his point, that we can form a tautology in which we could exhaustively enumerate the possibilities, one of which happens to be true, but where the remaining possibility is conceivable. We could not say, "The world exists, and this is what arouses my wonder. But it is conceivable that the world might not have existed." This latter alternative Wittgenstein would say is not a meaningful alternative; the possibility of the world's not existing makes no sense. If this alternative drops out as even a meaningful possibility, then even the putative tautology as a whole, `Either the world exists or does not exist' or `It is conceivable that the world should exist or not exist', is nonsensical, for one of the disjuncts (that the world might not have existed) is itself inconceivable. If one were to say, therefore, that one wonders at the existence of the world, this would violate the essential condition of what it means to wonder at something, namely that it should make sense, in principle, for something that does exist not to have existed. This situation is not satisfied by the matter of the existence of the world. There could be no conceivable or possible alternative for which we might use the expression `the nonexistence of the world'. That the world has this or that discernible and genuine feature, for example that it has human beings in it, is a legitimate ground for wonder, because we can imagine or conceive it not to have had this particular feature. But the existence of the world is not a feature of the world in the sense in which the fact that there are human beings in the world is a feature of the world. There is no conceivable alternative to the existence of the world; hence the existence of the world is not a feature of the world. Thus when Wittgenstein says that one cannot wonder at the sky whatever its color is, he here uses the tautologous statement of the possible colors of the sky as a symbol for the existence of the world as a whole. If we were to wonder at the sky whatever its color, what we are really expressing symbolically is that one wonders at the existence of the world as a whole. Such wonderment would be illegitimate in either case. For we cannot wonder at what cannot be otherwise than it is. No more than we can wonder at a tautologic enumeration of the sky's possible colors can we wonder at the existence of the world. Neither can be otherwise than it is.
With respect to the matter of astonishment or surprise as involved in what it means to wonder at something, there is this additional point. If we rule out wonder as an appropriate response to a situation of which possible alternatives are not imaginable or conceivable, as is the case with the matter of the existence of the world, then a fortiori the response of astonishment or surprise is likewise eliminated in connection with the existence of the world. We cannot meaningfully say, for example, "I am astonished at the existence of the world" or "How extraordinary that the world exists-I didn't expect the world to exist at all!"