Monday, December 20, 2004

What Is The Good?

Hilarious description of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by David Rees (the Get Your War On guy) and how it destroyed his career as a philosopher before it even started. At Amazon, Me and the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
Who commanded this amalgamation of early-century Cantibridgian ultra-braniacs? Bertrand Russell. The number-one head colossus in charge. The alpha-Harvard-cum-laude of all philosophers. In a field of giants, he stood as the sine qua non gigantic behemoth. His was a wise, white face that flushed with pleasure when presented with a killer new theory about logic, mathematics, or metaphysics. But if in the course of his many mental safaris Russell spied a limping, unsound theory or a half-assed specimen of sophistry, a scowl would download upon his face, the day would darken, and there would come to pass a "Sabbath, bloody Sabbath." The moans of broken, blasted ideas echoed in his wake...

But, almost impossibly, Bertrand Russell's greatness was soon to be overshadowed by a second, more powerful greatness. On the horizon burned a stupendous intellect--a world-destroying avatar of all that was to follow… the one true wielder of modern philosophy's hammer of Odin. A mighty thunderhead that would lay siege to the fields of philosophy tended by lesser hands... [Wittgenstein] entered this world a prodigy--a prodigy who grew ever more smart as he grew older. By the time he died in 1951, breathing his last words: "Tell them I've had a wonderful life (even though I had to suffer all you dumbasses)"--he was the most brilliant man to ever die.

According to the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, language's only proper use is the description of states of affairs that can be verifiably true or false: those involving solids, liquids, or gases. Nothing else properly falls within language's words. The traditional philosopher may object: WHAT ABOUT MY FAVORITE QUESTION, "WHAT IS THE GOOD?" The Good is not a solid, a liquid, or a gas, so we can't use language to talk about it. Same with religion, ethics, metaphysics, and all the profound subjects traditional philosophers usually talk about. From now on those topics will be off-limits to language. You want to discuss the Good? Go play a guitar solo in your jam band about the Good. Just don't mess up the alphabet trying to talk about it.


Post a Comment

<< Home