The clear terminus: A Kierkegaardian reading of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus".

Title: The clear terminus: A Kierkegaardian reading of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus".
Authors: Howes, Bruce.
Date: 2001
Abstract: The metaphysical root of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus represents a departure from a pervasive philosophical assumption found originally in Plato's Meno. This departure is directly inspired by a critique of the Meno found in the works by Soren Kierkegaard written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus. The central implication of Kierkegaard's influence for Tractatus interpretation is that thought---or thinking---referred to in the Tractatus of necessity extends beyond the limits of language. There are at present two competing interpretative readings of the Tractatus in the literature. One reading---referred to as the "Standard" reading since it is propounded by almost all notable Wittgenstein scholars, e.g., Pears, Hacker, McGuinness, Anscombe, Rhees, Malcohn---has it that the "mystical" sections of the Tractatus must be, to some degree, taken seriously. The other reading---a "New" reading advocated most prominently by Winch, Diamond, and Conant---argues that the Standard reading is self-contradictory in that it maintains that the limits of language and those of thought are the same while it simultaneously maintains that there is a sort of Mystical residue left over even after the Tractatus has (according to the dictates of section 6.54) been "thrown away". The New reading sees Wittgenstein's point as being precisely that there is no such left-over residue and that we must accept this. Both readings are however incorrect in regard to Wittgenstein's view of limits in the Tractatus. While the New reading takes somewhat seriously the influence of Kierkegaard on the Tractatus, it asserts that a Kierkegaardian influence bolsters the New reading's view of the mystical as well as its view that language and thought share the same limits in the Tractatus. The opposite is in fact the case. Das Mystische corresponds to Kierkegaard's "absolutely unknown" that language---but not thought---runs up against as a limit. Wittgenstein himself alludes to this correspondence in conversation with members of the Vienna Circle in 1929. As such, if the influence of Kierkegaard is to be seen in its proper light, the problem is not with the Standard reading of Das Mystische, but rather with the view that the limits of thought and language in the Tractatus are the same. For Kierkegaard, unless thought extends beyond the limit of language there is no conceivable nexus for the subject or the divine. This is precisely his critique of Plato's Meno in Fragments. That this view is also the bedrock of the Tractatus' metaphysics is what the present thesis argues is the proper "Kierkegaardian reading" of Wittgenstein's Tractatus.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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