Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, entry 1

      I've been thinking for some time about starting a, probably very, very long, series of entries on the Philosophical Investigations. Now, I am NOT an expert on Wittgenstein. I've read the Tractatus and Blue and Brown Books, but it's been a while. Of course, if someone who knows about Wittgenstein wants to opine about how I'm wrong, please do so.
      Wittgenstein is obviously a fascinating figure: I remember being intrigued by him when I was a teenager reading accounts of his personality by Russell. He seemed an wild foil to Russell's self-control -- it was later I read about Russell's letters with D.H. Lawrence.
      Be prepared for idiosyncratic digressions. I'll start now...

     A few years ago I read a book called Naming Infinity, by Graham and Kantor. This book is about the development of modern analysis in France and Russia, with an emphasis on the mystical devotion of Luzin,  Egorov and Florensky. The notion that to name something is to create it, or to discover its existence points to both the denotative quality of math and combines it with a traditional notion of the power of a name, as in the name of God. People meditate on the name of God, saying it over and over, thinking that the name is the actual being of God: God and the name of God are the same. This bled over into thinking about mathematical ideas.
     When it comes to thinking about God, I know from my own experience that thinking along these lines can create big emotional states: one finds a kind of schizoid place of refuge. I am certainly capable of having these states, I've always thought I was a little 'flicted in the head, but it is important for someone like me not to attach metaphysical importance to emotions. It's difficult, and I think most sensitive people are prone to it, but it's necessary to keep from believing crazy things. On the downside, tearing yourself away from this kind of mysticism creates feelings that the world is a nasty quotidian of garbage cans. No, I'm not high.

     Anyway, next time I will start studying the Philosophical Investigations, dual German-English edition, translated by Anscombe. Along the way I'll bring in a number of secondary sources on the text and more strange asides.


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