The artists' Wittgenstein
From the Times Literary Supplement:
Wittgenstein had no time for the notion that philosophy was a set of propositions about the world; it was more a demystifying practice or therapeutic intervention than a system of doctrines. Like the Freudian analyst, its task was not to make propositions but to elucidate them. The
Investigationsseeks to disabuse us of the illusion that we use language primarily to describe, represent and inform; but it also achieves this end by its performative rather than propositional style, which, like a work of literary fiction, tells tales, floats hypotheses, stages imaginary scenarios, wonders aloud and asks us questions that may or may not be on the level. Like a work of art, then, its form and content are at one. The Investigationscontains empirical propositions, but, as with empirical facts in a novel, they are there as elements in a rhetorical design, not for their own sake. Wittgenstein’s technique, like a novelist’s, is to show rather than to say, allowing illumination to dawn upon us gradually, by drawing us into a complex play of scenes and voices. As with any effective dramatist, we are not always sure which of these voices is his own. Like the Freudian analyst, we suspect that the author has a few answers but is keeping them up his sleeve for the moment, forcing us into the work of self-demystification, genially inviting our collaboration, but running the odd ring round us at the same time.