Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wittgenstein's Concept of Showing, Part 1

Monk notes that after Wittgenstein arrived back in Cambridge in the autumn of 1930, he had a “clear conception of the correct method in philosophy.”[1] Monk goes onto argue that "the really decisive moment came when he began to take literally the idea of the Tractatus that the philosopher has nothing to say, but only something to show, and applied the idea with complete rigour, abandoning altogether the attempt to say something with ‘pseudo-propositions’."[2]

As Monk mentions, a concept of “showing” is seen in the Tractatus. For example, Wittgenstein says things like, “What can be shown, cannot be said,” which expresses the weakness in language.[3] Wittgenstein takes this notion further in his later philosophy. Monk notes as an example, “Appreciation takes a bewildering variety of forms, which differ from culture to culture, and quite often will not consist in saying anything. Appreciation will be shown, by actions as often as by words.”[4] Wittgenstein also laments his inability to write poetry, since “poetry is able to show what cannot be said.”[5]

Wittgenstein also uses images in his writing in order to better show his meaning. For example, in “Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment” (originally known as Part II of Philosophical Investigations), Wittgenstein borrows Jastrow’s picture of “the duck-rabbit”

to show that at times people have different interpretations or perceptions of illustrations.[6]

[1] Monk, 298.

[2] Ibid., 302.

[3] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears & B.F. McGuinness (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), § 4.1212.

[4] Monk, 405.

[5] Kallenberg, 3.

[6] Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 204–207.

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