Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, And Ethics
Wittgenstein always thought that he had not been understood, and indeed that it was very unlikely that many people ever would understand him. Russell not only failed to understand Wittgenstein’s later work; according to Wittgenstein himself, Russell profoundly failed to understand even the Tractatus. Professor Anscombe2 says even she did not understand him, and that to attempt to give an account of what he says is only to express one’s own ordinariness or mediocrity or lack of complexity. Certainly, most people3 acquainted with the Tractatus, when that work was Wittgenstein’s only published book, gave it what now seems a quite crass positivistic interpretation. Wittgenstein’s own preface to the Tractatus despite its last sentence, does not help.4 He does tell us that the whole sense of the work is that what can be said can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must consign to silence: but this does not make it clear that what we cannot talk about is all that is really important. Even when one has realised all this, however, one is aware mostly of one’s failure to understand; and that if one did get any distance in understanding the last sixth of the Tractatus, the process would be extremely difficult, and the results quite astonishing.
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