Allan Janik: "Inside Wittgenstein’s Mind"

Over 45 years ago at the ripe old age of 22 as a fledgling historian of philosophy I began a quest to discover the source of Wittgenstein concept of philosophy by looking at the Tractatus against the background of Schopenhauer’s Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. It was a promising start but only a start. I only managed to satisfy myself that I had got to the bottom of the matter with the publication of Assembling Reminders in 2006. In 1964 when I began it was clear to the few people outside of the philosophical establishment that were concerned with Wittgenstein such as Erich Heller or George Steiner that there was more than meets the eye in the Tractatus but it was unclear how to get at what was at its heart. Conventional philosophical philology, looking for “influences” on the basis of intertextual references was a start but it was not sufficient to explain why Wittgenstein was so different from, say, Carnap. At the time there was virtually nothing to go on in terms of other texts or documentation. In that context it became interesting, if not imperative, to examine possible biographical sources that might help to explain the difference between Wittgenstein and the logical positivists. This approach has yielded important insights by laying bare ways in which Wittgenstein’s view of religion and art are related to his distinct mode of philosophizing. Is that biographical approach exhausted? Although there is no agreement on the matter, there are reasons for returning to his philosophy “pure” as it were.

Yet, the process of historical reconstruction of the “influences” on him turns out to be very different from what we normally understand by the term because, as Wittgenstein himself insists, it is characteristic of his mind to see more in the work of the people who influenced him – the list is well-known: Boltzmann, Hertz, Schopenhauer, Frege, Russell, Kraus, Loos, Weininger, Spengler, Sraffa –than they did themselves. This is a very odd claim. I have conjectured about how I think that was so in 9 of the 10 cases, which I shall summarize; for there more to meet the eve that we tend to think here, much more. The question I want pose here is how was it possible for Wittgenstein to be in a position to see more in their writings than they did. This is what it means to get into his mind.

Nach oben scrollen