The New Wittgenstein: Some Critical Remarks

Edward Kanterian


The recently published collection of essays The New Wittgenstein advances a novel and
provocative interpretation of Wittgenstein's work. The aim of my paper is a critical
discussion of the Tractatus strand of this interpretation, with the main focus being
put on Cora Diamond's article 'Ethics, Imagination and the Method of Wittgenstein's
Tractatus'. A very brief summary runs as follows3: the Tractatus is not, as the
traditional view claims, a collection of philosophical claims about the metaphysical
essence of world and language. Wittgenstein knew very well that philosophy is an
illusion and that its statements are pure, not illuminating nonsense (as the
traditional view claims), since they are based on the chimerical conviction that we
can view the world from an 'external point of view'. But a sophisticated therapy can
free us from this illusion and the Tractatus offers an example for it. The book has a
twofold structure: it is divided in the frame and the body. The frame consists of the
preface and the concluding remarks (6.53-7) and the body is the rest, the text
in-between. The frame defines the whole aim and meaning of the body as plain
nonsense. In order to realize this the reader has to go through the book, experience
the illusionary character of its philosophical statements and thus understand the
utter nonsensicality of the Tractatus propositions, which are mere illustrations of
philosophical nonsense. In other words: Wittgenstein is playing a twisted game with
us. He pretends to be a traditional metaphysician, but by 'framing' his propositions
he actually demonstrates that one cannot be one. We are freed from philosophy if we
experience its nonsensicality, if we play the same game by pretending to read
nonsense as sense, i.e. by realising that it actually is nonsense.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; phenomenology; New Wittgenstein

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