Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Cultural Point of View: Philosophy in the Darkness of this Time by William J. DeAngelis

545b15c852aa5f5-261x361.jpg Author William J. DeAngelis
Isbn 9780754660002
File size 2.15MB
Year 2007
Pages 204
Language English
File format PDF
Category philosophy


LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN – A CULTURAL POINT OF VIEW In the preface to his Philosophical Investigations Ludwig Wittgenstein expresses pessimism about the culture of his time and doubts as to whether his ideas would be understood in such a time: “I make them public with doubtful feelings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another – but, of course, it is not likely.” In this book William James DeAngelis develops a deeper understanding of Wittgenstein’s remark and argues that it is an expression of a significant cultural component in Wittgenstein’s later thought which, while latent, is very much intended. DeAngelis focuses on the fascinating connection between Wittgenstein and Oswald Spengler and in particular the acknowledged influence of Spengler’s Decline of the West. His book shows in meticulous detail how Spengler’s dark conception of an ongoing cultural decline resonated deeply for Wittgenstein and influenced his later work. In so doing, the work takes into account discussions of these matters by major commentators such as Malcolm, Von Wright, Cavell, Winch, and Clack among others. A noteworthy feature of this book is its attempt to link Wittgenstein’s cultural concerns with his views on religion and religious language. DeAngelis offers a fresh and original interpretation of the latter. ASHGATE WITTGENSTEINIAN STUDIES Series editor: Mario von der Ruhr, University of Wales, Swansea, UK Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century, his work leading to a variety of differing readings which in turn have had a diverse influence on contemporary philosophy. As well as exploring the more familiar Wittgensteinian themes in the philosophy of language, this series will be a centre of excellence for Wittgensteinian studies in mathematics, aesthetics, religion and philosophy of the mind. Wittgenstein’s philosophy has proved extremely fruitful in many contexts and this series will publish not only a variety of readings of Wittgenstein’s work, but also work on philosophers and philosophical topics inspired by Wittgensteinian perspectives. Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Cultural Point of View Philosophy in the Darkness of this Time WILLIAM JAMES DEANGELIS Northeastern University, Boston, USA © William James DeAngelis 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. William James DeAngelis has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Gower House Croft Road Aldershot Hampshire GU11 3HR England Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington, VT 05401-4405 USA Ashgate website: British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data DeAngelis, William James Ludwig Wittgenstein - a cultural point of view : philosophy in the darkness of this time. - (Ashgate Wittgensteinian studies) 1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1889-1951 2. Spengler, Oswald, 1880-1936 - Influence 3. Regression (Civilization) I. Title 192 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data DeAngelis, William James, 1943Ludwig Wittgenstein-- a cultural point of view : philosophy in the darkness of this time / William James DeAngelis. p. cm. -- (Ashgate Wittgensteinian studies) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-6000-2 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 18891951. I. Title. B3376.W564D435 2007 192--dc22 ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-6000-2 2006026854 Printed and bound in Great Britain by TJ International Ltd, Padstow, Cornwall. Dedicated to the memory of Norman Malcolm, inspirational teacher and philosophical role model This page intentionally left blank Contents Preface xi Introduction – Wittgenstein and “The Darkness of this Time” 1 1 Spengler’s Influence on Wittgenstein: A First Approximation 7 I. Introduction II. Spengler in Overview i. The Comparative Morphology of Cultures ii. A Principle of Cultural Insularity iii. An Assessment of Contemporary Civilization III. The Nature of the Influence: Examining Some Suggestions i. Von Wright and Family Resemblances ii. Von Wright: A Disease of Culture iii. Cavell and the Natural Decline of Culture IV. The Nature of Spengler’s Influence on Wittgenstein: Possibilities and Caveats i. Wittgenstein’s Rejection of “the Comparative Morphology of Cultures” ii. An Indirect Influence: More on Family Resemblance iii. Another Indirect Influence: Metaphysics as Misconstrued Grammar V. A Direct Spenglerian Influence?: Meaning and Context VI. Final Remarks and a Glimpse Ahead 2 Wittgenstein’s Spenglerian Assessment of his Time I. Introduction II. Remarks on Remarks i. The Prefatory Remarks for Philosophical Remarks ii. The Prefatory Remarks: A Spenglerian Account of Cultural Decline iii. The Prefatory Remarks: Beyond Cultural Decline to Civilization III. The Investigations and “The Darkness of this Time”: A Continuation of Spenglerian Attitudes? i. The Question of Continuity ii. The Investigations and the Darkness of this Time iii. Preserving the Investigations for a Better Sort of Reader iv. The Investigations’ Opposition to its Time – Hope for the Next Century? 7 8 8 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 24 28 31 31 32 32 32 35 40 40 41 41 42 viii Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Cultural Point of View v. Civilization and Culture: Again vi. A Negative Picture of Civilization vii. A Tangent: Wittgenstein’s Uses of First-person Plural Pronouns in the Investigations viii. A Fragment on Art and Technology IV. Concluding Remarks 3 Philosophy for a Time of Civilization: Spengler’s Desiderata and the Investigations I. Introduction II. Spengler’s Prescription for a Philosophy of Civilization III. Spengler’s Prescription and Wittgenstein’s Practice: A Striking Agreement IV. Afterword: On What Has Not Yet Been Shown 4 The Investigations as a Philosophy of Culture I. Introduction II. The Investigations as a Spenglerian Portrayal of Cultural Decline: Cavell’s Interpretation i. Departures – Philosophical and Cultural ii. Departures from Home: A Loss of Home iii. Externalization iv. Repudiations of Community and Inheritance v. 1) and 2) as Homologous Forms vi. Combating Cultural Decline III. The Investigations as a Philosophy of Culture: More Evocations of Cultural Decline i. Wittgenstein’s Builders: A Question and a Controversy – Rhees and Malcolm ii. Wittgenstein’s Builders: A Cultural Analogy? iii. Private Language: A Philosophical Concern iv. Private Language: A Locus of Cultural Concern? 5 Religious Inexpressibility: Continuity and Change from Wittgenstein’s Early to Late Views I. Introduction II. Religious Inexpressibility in Wittgenstein’s Early Thought i. Religious Inexpressibility in the Tractatus ii. Religious Inexpressibility in “A Lecture on Ethics”: The Impossibility of Expressing Ultimate Values iii. Case Studies in Inexpressibility of Absolute Value in “A Lecture on Ethics” iv. The Transition from Ethical Inexpressibility to Religious Inexpressibility in “Lecture” III. The Problem of Religious Expression in the Later Work 43 45 46 48 49 51 51 52 57 63 65 65 66 66 70 71 73 75 76 79 79 87 92 98 101 101 102 102 104 109 112 114 Contents i. A Weakening of the Earlier View of Religious Expression: A Lesser Form of Pessimism? ii. Two Divergent Tendencies in Wittgenstein’s Later Remarks on Religion iii. A Connection with Wittgenstein’s Later Contextualism iv. A New Sort of Pessimism: A Spenglerian View of Religious Expression? v. Further Support for a Spenglerian Interpretation 6 A Religious Viewpoint in Wittgenstein’s Later Writings? Norman Malcolm’s Four Analogies I. Introduction II. Malcolm – A Problem and his Approach III. Malcolm on Wittgenstein’s Religious Life IV. Malcolm’s Four Analogies i. The First Analogy ii. The Second Analogy iii. The Third Analogy iv. The Fourth Analogy V. Winch’s Response: A Fundamental Criticism of Malcolm’s View VI. Winch’s Response: Rebutting Malcolm’s Analogies i. A Basic Strategy ii. Rebutting the First Analogy iii. Rebutting the Second Analogy iv. Rebutting the Fourth Analogy VII. Defending Malcolm’s Third Analogy i. Winch’s Criticism ii. Engelmann on Wittgenstein’s Early Religious Point of View iii. Life’s Problems and Philosophy’s Problems: Wittgenstein’s Approach to Philosophical Problems in the Investigations iv. Malcolm’s Third Analogy and a Contrary Claim in Winch 7 Was Wittgenstein a Spenglerian Atheist? I. Wittgenstein as a Spenglerian Atheist – Clack’s Position in Outline II. A Critique of Clack’s Position i. Clack on Wittgenstein’s View of Religious Language and Religion ii. Did Wittgenstein Reject Religion Per Se? iii. Did Wittgenstein Accept Spenglerian Atheism? iv. Did Wittgenstein Accept Spengler’s Ideal of Religion? v. Why the Term “Atheist”? ix 114 118 120 123 124 127 127 128 129 131 131 132 133 134 135 138 138 139 140 143 144 144 145 149 150 153 153 155 155 159 162 169 170 Afterword 179 Bibliography Index 181 185 This page intentionally left blank Preface It is both my hope and belief that this book constitutes a modest breakthrough. It contains the fullest treatment of its daunting subject to date. It is, I think, correct in most of its conclusions, if not in every detail of their elaboration. At the least, I believe it can be said to be a book that points its reader in the right direction regarding the interconnected subjects of Wittgenstein’s cultural concerns, Spengler’s influence on Wittgenstein’s view of culture and philosophy, and the manner in which Wittgenstein’s lifelong qualms about the expressibility of religion emerge in his later philosophy. I began the work that has led to the completion of this book more than a decade ago. The first tangible result of that work was the publication in Dialogue of “Wittgenstein and Spengler” in 1994.1 That article presented some of the ideas that receive much fuller articulation and, more important, far more careful support in the earlier chapters of this book. The hard thinking that went into the extended critical discussion of Norman Malcolm’s last philosophical work, Wittgenstein – A Religious Point of View?, published in the same journal three years later, helped clarify for me some of the connections between Wittgenstein’s cultural and religious concerns.2 Perhaps equally important, the very fact that a philosopher of Malcolm’s stature and seriousness of purpose was motivated enough by the possibility of an unstated point of view in Wittgenstein’s later philosophical work to devote an entire book to the subject encouraged me to pursue a book-length project of my own. Ideas expressed in my original discussion of his book are more fully and carefully expressed and defended in this book – in part owing to further thoughts inspired by discussions and criticisms, both published and unpublished, of my original work by others. In this connection, I should offer thanks to the editor of Dialogue for allowing me to use some of the material from those writings – albeit reworked and, I hope, much improved – in this book. I have received a great deal of help in the slow process that has resulted in the completion of this book. My Northeastern University colleagues, Steve Nathanson, Mike Meyer and Ronald Sandler read early drafts of its chapters, asked good questions and made helpful criticisms. Equally important, they have offered encouragement whenever my spirits or resolve have flagged. The same can be said for my friend, and one of the most acute and profound of Wittgenstein’s interpreters, John V. Canfield of the University of Toronto. Jack and I have spent countless hours discussing and corresponding in our attempts to improve our understanding of this 1 William James DeAngelis, “Wittgenstein and Spengler”, Dialogue, vol. xxxiii, 1994. 2 William James DeAngelis, “Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Religious Point of View?: Thoughts On Norman Malcolm’s Last Philosophical Project”, Dialogue, vol. xxxvi, 1997. xii Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Cultural Point of View or that aspect of Wittgenstein’s thought. We regularly read and comment on one another’s works-in-progress, and Jack has read carefully and commented helpfully on at least one draft of every chapter of this book. He has taught me more about Wittgenstein than anyone. More important, he is a steadfast friend. Mikael Karlsson, a former Northeastern colleague who now does his philosophizing at the University of Iceland, has remained a good friend. An ocean lies between us, but has not come between us in any important way. Mike is an excellent philosophical critic. He has commented helpfully on much of what I have previously written about the subjects taken up in this book and on earlier drafts of some of its chapters. Finally, I must acknowledge the interest and encouragement offered by Stanley Cavell during a stimulating conversation about some of the ideas I express in this book. His seminal work dealing with the very difficult task of finding, in his words, a “Spenglerian valence” in Wittgenstein’s later work has been both helpful and even inspirational to me. One of my aims in this book is to explain, defend and expand upon the views he expresses there. Some of my own ideas were stimulated by the substance and approach of Cavell’s work. Northeastern University, my long-time academic home, has provided me, over the last few years, an increasingly hospitable environment in which to pursue my philosophical interests and work. More specifically, and very important, it has made possible the completion of this project by providing me with a sabbatical leave for the fall 2004 semester. For all of this I am grateful. My wife, Susan, and my children, Gabriel and Abby, have made their own unique contributions. Their shining presence from the very beginning has anchored me personally and afforded me distractions when needed. Without them in my life, I suspect this book may well have been completed sooner – although I doubt it would have been any better. Wittgenstein has emphasized that philosophy’s progress is necessarily slow, that philosophers should take their time. On the other hand, he sought an unencumbered life that would not distract him from his philosophical tasks. I can say at least that my commitments to my family and to other concerns, my many encumbrances, have resulted in my not publishing too soon. One of those concerns led me to take on the Academic Directorship of the W. E. B. DuBois Program in the Humanities, a worthy experiment in adult education for deserving people in Boston who would not otherwise have experienced college-level instruction in the humanities. Committed to the goals of this program, I helped steer it through its initiation during the 2002–2003 academic year. I greatly underestimated the requirements on my time of directing such a program and, in consequence, nearly all work on this book ceased during that period and the months preceding it. Still, I do not regret having taken on that task. Indeed, the people I met while directing the DuBois Program – especially the many bright, energetic, determined, and personally delightful students who willingly endured hardships and complications in order to take advantage of a useful educational opportunity – renewed me both personally and as a philosopher. They helped teach me something about commitment to a task. I have dedicated this book to my late teacher and philosophical role model, Norman Malcolm. He was, without either of us realizing it at the time, my most influential teacher during my graduate education at Cornell University. His influence endures. He has taught me more about philosophical determination and honesty than Preface xiii anyone. His relentless pursuit of truth, his determination to give the best and clearest possible expression to his good ideas, and his admirable willingness to abandon the others stands for me as an ideal. This page intentionally left blank Introduction Wittgenstein and “The Darkness of this Time” Readers of Wittgenstein are familiar with a remark from the preface to the Philosophical Investigations which expresses a remarkable attitude toward the publication of his ideas: I make them public with doubtful feelings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another – but, of course, it is not likely.1 What is one to make of such an assertion? It explicitly expresses the author’s doubts that his work will be understood and, significantly, cites “the darkness of this time” as one of the impediments to understanding. This is an extraordinary and puzzling remark. One might be inclined to read it as an expression of a passing mood or, perhaps, of a more general and enduring pessimistic predisposition. In fact, I will argue, it is much more. In a sense, my book is an attempt to come to a deeper understanding of Wittgenstein’s remark. It seeks to establish that Wittgenstein, in writing these words, was giving partial expression to a viewpoint on the civilization of his time that had occupied his thoughts for decades – a viewpoint that Wittgenstein, for the most part, decided on principle to keep to himself. Still, clear and compelling evidence of its existence and nature and can be gleaned from a careful, attentive investigation of the more esoteric expressions of his thought. As it turns out, the book I have written is only occasionally concerned with the directly expressed content of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Instead, it seeks to make sense out of a number of indications Wittgenstein gave, starting in the 1930s and continuing unabated until his death, about some of his unstated philosophical purposes – what he sometimes referred to as the spirit of his philosophical writings. First, he insisted that his philosophy was written in a spirit that was opposed to the tendencies of its time. Second, he suggested on a number of occasions that an appreciation of this opposition was needed in order to understand his work. Finally, the remark cited above from the preface of the Investigations is only one of Wittgenstein’s characteristic expressions of persistent doubts that his work would be understood. Other such expressions, like that one, indicate that the character of the time would militate against an understanding of his work. This book is an extended attempt to understand the viewpoint from which Wittgenstein made these remarks. In putting the pieces together, one can establish that there is a body of 1 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Macmillan, 1953, p. ixe. 2 Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Cultural Point of View Wittgensteinian expression – a series of more or less consistent remarks – into which his remark about “the darkness of this time” from the Investigations has a natural place. Thus, the project undertaken by this book is the attempt to come to terms with Wittgenstein’s assessment of his time, some of the unexpressed, underlying purposes of his philosophical writings, and the connections between them. There are a number of keys to understanding these matters. The most important is the undeniable influence of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West on Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein explicitly acknowledged Spengler as an important influence on his view of his time. Some of his esoteric writings very explicitly and dramatically show the extent of that influence. This influence was at its peak in the early thirties, but Wittgenstein’s assessment of his time continued to bear the stamp of Spengler’s dark conception of an ongoing cultural decline for the rest of his life. Spengler’s influence did not end there. While his conception of cultural decline resonated deeply for Wittgenstein, it is equally important that his explicit notions of what limitations such a time imposes on what a philosopher can and ought to do can be shown to have had a striking influence upon the overall character of Wittgenstein’s work. Spengler’s prescriptions for philosophy in a time of cultural decline jibe remarkably well with Wittgenstein’s later philosophical practices. Indeed, the most idiosyncratic and unique features of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy are deeply Spenglerian features. The Spenglerian influence is mostly a matter of Wittgenstein’s unstated purposes, but this is not exclusively so. The shape and character of his overall conclusions, his rejection of philosophy as usually practiced, aspects of his unique approach to philosophical problems, and even, in some instances, the explicit philosophical content of the later work are strikingly Spenglerian. I seek, in what follows, to show this in a manner that is both clear and complete. One of the most difficult undertakings of the project of this book is to make some sense of Wittgenstein’s claim that his philosophy is opposed to “the darkness” of his time, to cultural decline. After all, Wittgenstein, in the Investigations, never so much as mentions the nature of his civilization or cultural decline. How then is this opposition manifested in the work? These concerns, it will be shown, lead naturally to the subject of religion, Wittgenstein’s attitudes toward religion and religious expression, and the question of whether Wittgenstein, in some way or other, employed a religious viewpoint in his later philosophy. Wittgenstein’s early work was preoccupied with the religious, the mystical, and “that which is higher”, but his early doctrines notoriously denied the expressibility of such things. It was not, of course, that Wittgenstein thought that religious concerns were empty; rather, while taking them seriously, he was committed to doing so “wordlessly”. The Tractatus certainly may be said to have had a religious viewpoint – but one which, by its own tenets, could not be expressed in words; at least not in a direct manner. The inexpressibility of the religious was a centerpiece of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy. The later philosophical work, in contrast, has virtually nothing whatsoever to say on this subject. This is certainly true of the Investigations. It offers no direct assertions, no suggestive “elucidations”, of a religious nature. Why? Was Wittgenstein no longer interested in religion? Or, does a religious viewpoint emerge again, as it were, wordlessly? Norman Malcolm, in his last published philosophical work, Wittgenstein – A Religious Point of View?, Introduction 3 pondered these and related questions and concluded that something like a religious viewpoint can be attributed to the Investigations. As it turns out, Spengler’s views on cultural decline were internally connected to his views on religious decline. Could Spengler’s attitude toward religion, as Brian R. Clack has suggested, have influenced that of the later Wittgenstein? If so, how? Understanding the nature of Spengler’s influence on Wittgenstein does, I think, clarify the question of Wittgenstein’s mature attitude toward religion. I have endeavored in this book to illuminate this central point of interpretation in an original way. I seek to show the source of Wittgenstein’s later doubts about religious expression. I argue that it is very different from that of the Tractatus and connect it with Spenglerian influences. The plan of this book is straightforward. In Chapter 1, I discuss Wittgenstein’s frank indication that Spengler had been an influence on him and, beyond this, that many of his own ideas had been re-workings of some of Spengler’s seminal insights. Toward this end I offer a preliminary overview of Spengler’s main theses. I discuss a number of conjectures that have been made by prominent philosophers as to what aspects of Wittgenstein’s explicit later philosophical thought were influenced by Spengler. Finally, I offer an original conjecture of my own. In Chapter 2, I discuss Spengler’s overall view of culture and cultural decline. I show that, during the early thirties, Wittgenstein was clearly and very strongly influenced by these views and that he incorporated them into prefatory remarks intended for his transitional philosophical work, Philosophical Remarks. There, Wittgenstein not only accepts many specific aspects of Spengler’s vision, but explicitly expresses that the spirit of Remarks was intended to oppose a cultural decline that he believed to be pervasive in Western Civilization. The similarities between passages from Spengler’s Decline and Wittgenstein’s prefatory remarks for Philosophical Remarks are striking, even astonishing, in their basic themes, their tone of dark negativism, and even, most pointedly, in their vocabulary. There is not the slightest doubt that Wittgenstein took on a Spenglerian outlook and saw his own philosophical efforts to be an expression of that outlook, at least in the early 1930s. Wittgenstein, however, even when most influenced by Spengler, was never uncritical of his work. He sought to identify significant conceptual confusions in Decline. These significant caveats are discussed at some length in Chapter 1, as are some other early criticisms of aspects of Spengler’s work. Could these critical insights, and perhaps later ones, have eventually weakened the esteem in which he held Spengler’s work to the point where it was no longer much of an influence? The best evidence suggests that this is not so. On the contrary, I try to show, in Chapter 2, that, in the decades subsequent to Wittgenstein’s initial acceptance of basic Spenglerian conclusions, very similar thoughts continued to occupy and shape his view of his time, and the relationship between his work and that time. There are many indications that this is so, and I try to both identify and interpret a large number of esoteric sources which show that to be the case. In doing so, I believe, I have remedied one of the weaknesses of my 1994 article, “Wittgenstein and Spengler” – an article which painstakingly documents the original influence, but does not sufficiently deal with the questions of whether, or for how long, that influence continued. 4 Ludwig Wittgenstein – A Cultural Point of View In Chapter 3, I take up the all-important subject of Spengler’s prescription for philosophy in a time of cultural decline. Spengler’s remarks are striking and describe a philosophical program so antithetical to traditional philosophy that it seems scarcely to amount to philosophy at all. Yet, it is remarkably clear that Wittgenstein’s later philosophical practice seems, quite uniquely, to fit Spengler’s blueprint. The details of this are fascinating. I strive to bring them out as clearly and persuasively as I can. Although this is the book’s shortest chapter, it is, in one respect, the most complete. The case I make is, I think, unassailable and correct. As we shall see in Chapter 7, Brian R. Clack says in his recent Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Religion (roughly five years after I made virtually the same claim), “Wittgenstein’s philosophical project meets the restrictions laid down by Spengler concerning what is and is not possible in an age of decline.” Chapter 3 not only makes this claim, but also presents in detail the overwhelmingly strong reasons for thinking that it is so. Chapter 4, the book’s longest, engages perhaps the most daunting aspect of its project. Having shown both that Wittgenstein embraced Spengler’s view of cultural decline and also that he intended for his philosophy to oppose that decline, I take up the question of how Wittgenstein’s later work can be interpreted as doing so. How can Wittgenstein’s various remarks on language, reference, thought, intention, family resemblances, the privacy of experience, and the rest – devoid as it is of any explicit mention of Spengler, culture, civilization, or cultural decline – be a work that in any way engages these subjects? I discuss in careful detail, and, for the most part, accept Stanley Cavell’s attempt to begin to answer this question and to find what he calls the “Spenglerian valence” of the Investigations. I hope, for some readers, my account of Cavell might serve as a demystification of his elegant, insightful, but sometimes daunting expression of seminal insights. In addition, I offer a number of original thoughts of my own on this difficult subject. Chapter 5 takes up Wittgenstein’s view of religious expression. I attempt to outline and contrast Wittgenstein’s early and later views on the subject. The former are, by now, reasonably well understood. The latter, I argue, show both interesting similarities and even more interesting differences with the former. I seek to show that, while Wittgenstein always had doubts about religious expression, his later doubts were grounded in a very different conception of expressibility itself than the earlier. Further, the later view is, in important respects, Spenglerian in some of its basic conceptions – not only about religion, but about the connection between cultural surroundings and meaning. Chapter 6 goes on to ponder the question of whether Wittgenstein’s later philosophy may have been pursued from not only a cultural, but a religious perspective. In it I examine in detail the views of Norman Malcolm in his posthumously published Wittgenstein – A Religious Point of View? It is noteworthy that Malcolm takes very seriously Wittgenstein’s various indications – many of them central to positions I argue for in this book – that he did not expect his philosophy to be understood. Malcolm took these as evidence that Wittgenstein’s philosophy presupposes a religious point of view that was incommensurate with the underlying assumptions of his time. I take up in detail both Malcolm’s views and the criticisms of them offered by Peter Winch, and conclude that Malcolm does indeed succeed in highlighting at Introduction 5 least one aspect of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy which, by Wittgenstein’s own lights, qualifies as religious. In this book’s final chapter, I discuss the view of one of the few philosophers writing today who has argued that Spengler’s influence on Wittgenstein is both pervasive and influenced his view of religion. Brian R. Clack, in his fine book, An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Religion, argues that the later Wittgenstein, influenced by Spengler’s pessimism about religion in a time of cultural decline, became a kind of “atheist”. While heartened that another writer has taken the Spenglerian influence on Wittgenstein as seriously as I have, I must, with some regret, reject Clack’s conclusion. His view, I will argue, incorrectly assesses Spengler’s view of religion in his time and overestimates its influence on Wittgenstein’s view. Clack’s interesting claim does not stand up to close scrutiny. Many of my friends and colleagues who have read all or part of the writings that have slowly evolved into this book have asked me my own view of Wittgenstein’s extreme cultural pessimism. What do I make of Wittgenstein’s apparent belief that the twentieth century was a time of cultural decline in which art, religion, and philosophy were, if not dead, then at least seriously endangered and on the verge of extinction? What of his oft-stated sense that the human spirit and the dominant forms of human interaction in his time had deteriorated? The sobering truth is that, having spent a decade coming to understand a good deal about Wittgenstein’s views on these subjects, I find it difficult to sympathize with many of them. Indeed, I must confess that I am sometimes amazed that Wittgenstein, a great critical thinker, would find so many of the more extravagant views of a thinker such as Spengler so congenial and could so enthusiastically have endorsed them, his caveats notwithstanding. Significantly, I find that Wittgenstein’s cultural observations are most penetrating when they explicitly depart from those of Spengler. I am inclined to think that many of the views shared by Wittgenstein and Spengler on these subjects amount to not much more than an intellectualized historical pessimism that each of them supported in his own informed, but idiosyncratic and selective manner. Each expresses, I think, the attitude of a man so taken with the great works and triumphs of past times that he became impatient, even disgusted, with what he saw as unworthy, even obscene, departures from them in his own time. One can certainly tolerate and even respect such concerns. Indeed, some of their shared criticisms of twentieth-century artistic, religious, and social forms are, for all their vitriol, interesting and insightful. They express concerns about the misuses of technology, the politics of globalization, the corruption of religion, social fragmentation, and personal alienation, which, at least in outline, seem even to have been prophetic. However, their shared vision encompassed much more – applied, as it was, virtually without restriction, to their entire civilization. Spengler and Wittgenstein believed that the Renaissance in Western Europe was the zenith of Western culture. In contrast, they viewed their own time as the sorry result of centuries of decline from that high point. They appear to have simply overlooked that the Renaissance was a time of rich, meaningful fulfillment for, at most, only a fragment of the most privileged people of that time and one of relative misery for almost everyone else. It seems a mistake to idealize any such social form. Further,

Author William J. DeAngelis Isbn 9780754660002 File size 2.15MB Year 2007 Pages 204 Language English File format PDF Category Philosophy Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare In the preface to his Philosophical Investigations Ludwig Wittgenstein expresses pessimism about the culture of his time and doubts as to whether his ideas would be understood in such a time: ‘I make them public with doubtful feelings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another – but, of course, it is not likely’. In this book William James DeAngelis develops a deeper understanding of Wittgenstein’s remark and argues that it is an expression of a significant cultural component in Wittgenstein’s later thought which, while latent, is very much intended. DeAngelis focuses on the fascinating connection between Wittgenstein and Oswald Spengler and in particular the acknowledged influence of Spengler’s Decline of the West. His book shows in meticulous detail how Spengler’s dark conception of an ongoing cultural decline resonated deeply for Wittgenstein and influenced his later work. In so doing, the work takes into account discussions of these matters by major commentators such as Malcolm, Von Wright, Cavell, Winch, and Clack among others. A noteworthy feature of this book is its attempt to link Wittgenstein’s cultural concerns with his views on religion and religious language. DeAngelis offers a fresh and original interpretation of the latter.     Download (2.15MB) Rules, Magic and Instrumental Reason Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues Wittgenstein Among The Sciences: Wittgensteinian Investigations Into The ‘scientific Method’ Wittgenstein’s Form of Life Religion as a Philosophical Matter Load more posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *