clive’s wittgenstein


“We acted as though we had tried to find the real artichoke by stripping it of its leaves,” he once wrote. This is the Wittgenstein that matters to a writer. There is a Wittgenstein that matters to professional philosophers, but they can prove it only to each other. In The Blue and Brown Books (Page 137), he proposes a “noticing, seeing, conceiving” process that happens before it can be described in words. That, indeed, is the only way of describing it. It sounds very like the kind of poetic talent that we are left to deal with after we abandon the notion—as we must—that poetic talent is mere verbal ability. “What we call ‘understanding a sentence’ has, in many cases, a much greater similarity to understanding a musical theme than we might be inclined to think.” But he doesn’t want us to think about music as a mechanism to convey a feeling; “Music conveys to us itself!” So, when we read a sentence as if it were a musical theme, the music doesn’t convey a separate sense that compounds with the written meaning. We get the feeling of a musical theme because the sentence means something.

more from Slate here.