Wittgenstein on Philosophy

This post is a response of sorts to Maya: “All Duality is Falsely Imagined.”

This comes from Wittgenstein’s The Blue Book which was at first only a manuscript guarded by his students at Cambridge.  It is the most organized of his later works and helpful when trying to explain his intent in others.  His concepts are more detailed, a bit more “telling” instead of “showing.”

I want to use this book as a stepping stone for the writing on Wittgenstein I was hoping to do previously – able finally to coalesce my ideas into a useful exposition.

This first quote is an excellent introduction to his views on knowledge as it corresponds to reality and why, although an admirer of philosophy, he found it ultimately limited.

“Imagine we had to arrange the books of a library.  When we begin the books lie higgledy piggledy on the floor.

Now there would be many ways of sorting them and putting them in their places.  One would be to take the books one by one and put each on the shelf in its right place.

On the other hand we might take up several books from the floor and put them in a row on a shelf, merely in order to indicate that these books ought to go together in this order.

In the course of arranging the library this whole row of books will have to change its place.  But it would be wrong to say that therefore putting them together on a shelf was no step towards the final result.  In this case, in fact, it is pretty obvious that having put together books which belong together was a definite achievement, even though the whole row of them had to be shifted.  But some of the greatest achievements in philosophy could only be compared with taking up some books which seemed to belong together, and putting them on different shelves; nothing more being final about their positions than that they no longer lie side by side.

The onlooker who doesn’t know the difficulty of the task might well think that in such a case that nothing at all has been achieved. – The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know.  E.g., to see that when we have put two books together in their right order we have not thereby put them in their final places.

When we think about the relation of the objects surrounding us to our personal experiences of them, we are sometimes tempted to say that these personal experiences are the material of which reality consists.”

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4 Responses to Wittgenstein on Philosophy

  1. Pingback: Wittgenstein on Philosophy Pt. II « Active Philosophy

  2. Pingback: Wittgenstein on Philosophy, Pt. III « Active Philosophy

  3. Vandrad24 says:

    In library and information science, no book has a “right” place on a shelf, save in relation to other books. Classification schemes, which do indeed change frequently, determine the _customary_ places of books in libraries. A class scheme places works, according to their contents, within some overall system of knowledge. For instance, medical, legal, and general librarians will use different schemes, so the same book will have different ‘right’ places in those types of libraries. Is it possible for anyone – not just the librarian – who does so consciously – to determine the ‘right’ places for the books, without superimposing some conceptual system upon the material before hand?

  4. deadondres says:

    Thank you Vandrad that is a great comment and a good question you pose at the end.

    In the opinion of Wittgenstein there is no ‘right’ place for the books – however that does not make the ordering of books any less useful.

    It is the imposition of the word ‘right’ that begins to cause problems, both in ordering books and in philosophy. The systems can instead impair.

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