“A Surrogate for the Soul”: Wittgenstein and Schoenberg
One need not be a confirmed Humean in order to observe the effects of habit. When it comes to the contingencies of history, the conjunction of facts and a propensity to relate them to one another might indeed give rise to philosophical confusion. The practice of yoking Ludwig Wittgenstein and Arnold Schoenberg as intellectual comrades-in-arms of sorts seems to have already become commonplace. The prima facie appeal of such a practice is undeniable, and, indeed, one could hardly find a text on Fin-de-Siècle Vienna that does not underscore at least some similarity between the two great men—their biography, their cultural background, their intellectual projects, their personal fate. In such collage works, historians and philosophers alike often share an enthusiasm for bold brush strokes, which certainly serve a purpose within their overall perspective: to paint a picture of a cultural period to highlight common themes. Yet the thrust of the present essay is, in this sense, antithetical. This is an essay about differences, and some of my brush strokes will be cautious and inevitably tentative. I contend that what sets Wittgenstein and Schoenberg apart from one another is much more interesting philosophically than the historical contingencies that seem to force them together.