Through the Looking-Glass: The Problem of Wittgenstein's Point of View

Genia Schönbaumsfeld


The metaphor of the mirror plays a prominent role in Wittgenstein's conception of
philosophy. In the Tractatus Wittgenstein says that logic is not a theory, but a
reflection of the world and that the logical form of the proposition cannot itself be
put into propositional form, but is rather reflected in the proposition itself
(4.121, 6.13). Thus, in the Tractatus, the metaphor of the mirror bridges the chasm
(at least in thought) between what can be said in language and between what is
ineffable, logical form and value. In his later philosophy too, Wittgenstein retains
the metaphor, when he says in Culture and Value that he ought to be no more than a
mirror, in which his reader should see all the deformities of his own thinking, so
that, helped in this way, he can put it right (p.18e). In other words, one of the
main aims of Wittgenstein's philosophical activity consists in holding up a mirror to
his philosophically confused reader, so that they are able to recognise the sources
of their "intellectual diseases" and as a result of this can correct their distorted
way of thinking. This idea has deep ramifications for Wittgenstein's overall
conception of philosophy, as it provides one of the main reasons why Wittgenstein
believes that philosophy cannot advance any theses - a looking-glass merely
"reflects", it "adds" nothing to the way things are and in this sense, it has no
point of view. Philosophy is like a mirror, as, like the looking-glass, it
"simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces
anything" (PI §126). It is up to the hard work of the reader to correct
the distorted reflection. Thus Wittgenstein's work always has an ethical point


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.