Been a busy couple of weeks now, with the Environmental Parliament, parliamentary debates over the next Five big issues of the Year to come. We are also ushering a whole new class of Democratically elected people in our ranks in London… All that and Strategically guiding through the Dogma.
Taught at the Environmental University as well, and visited the ‘Bank of Wittgestein’ in Cambridge.
Also participated in the smallest yet impactive Solar Future conference where large scale investment coalesces around Energy Trends, and where the money meets the Road… http://www.thesolarfuture.co.uk/speakers/
And lastly, my teachings and sojourn in Cambridge were the Grand Total Sum of it all…
And when in Cambridge it’s not all fun and intellectual games either, because I spent rigorous intellectual time with the Environmental University, with our Incubator and with our new companies, people and students alike. Yet since I was in Cambridge for the day after my Meetings and Teachings, I needed my regular epiphany and thus visited my special bank, to draw much needed capital. Needed to draw from the capital of Life — the wellspring of Eternity.
I said to my people, that I had to visit a friend to talk about a horse… Another way of saying we had to speak Horse-sense to be excused from my posse. Had to escape into the purelands of True Reason. Human Endeavouring Philosophy. Moral Philosophy without moralizing. No religion or politics or even personal ideology and proclivities allowed. Pure reason and REASON alone. The cauldron of fire and the crucible of Gods, Clouds and Universes.
Therefore, I threaded my footsteps down hill and out of the village towards the church of St Giles. Past the lovely church is her plain yard serving as a cemetery for a couple hundred years at least. This is where the logician philosopher G. E. Moore lays, right along several members of Darwin’s family, and other notable Thinkers and Tinkerers.
But it’s also where Ludwig Wittgenstein – modern father of reason – sleeps in the overgrown green yard full of wild life striving to be out in the open. My intellectual forefather so to speak…
His grave is here in the hospitable Victorian churchyard, overgrown with vines and morning glory. This is where Mathematics meets reason, logic rests upon language and where quite a few smart Cambridge folk are buried. It is quite a lonely place fitting the nature of Man. Nobody ever comes here…
A simple stroll to the yard away from town places you in a pensive mood. All the questions that trouble you can be distilled down to essence when facing the fields in the rain. It is an inspiring walkabout, because Philosophy – much like cemeteries of reason – gets an airing here. Your wonderings, your ponderings and all of your questions somehow get answered — in fine or foul weather, all the same.
Methinks, it has to do with the man…
Now truth be told when the weather is inclement it’s truly the proper time to talk with Ludwig. His personality is dark. His moods foul… and his intellect fierce. Yet also in the drizzle or rain and sometimes in the spare sunshine, I visit his resting spot, even if I have no questions about his Studies.
Ludwig for those of you who don’t much care about Reason, was an Austrian born yet thoroughly British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. From 1939 till 1947 Wittgenstein taught at the University of Cambridge where he offered the already published 75-page Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus manuscript as his PHD dissertation.
After Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge in 1929, Keynes wrote in a letter to his wife: “Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5.15 train.”
Despite this fame, he could not initially work at Cambridge as he did not have a degree, so he applied as an advanced undergraduate. Russell noted that his previous residency was sufficient for a PhD, and urged him to offer the Tractatus as his thesis.
Because of his dark humour, he was a legend of intellectual rigour and perhaps arrogance of knowledge — yet not so much of humility.
One apt example of this is when during his defense of the Doctoral dissertation he aspired for, in order to teach at Cambridge — he debated with Bertrand Russel and Moore his work…
It was examined in 1929 by Russell and Moore and at the end of the thesis defence, Wittgenstein clapped the two examiners on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, I know you’ll never understand it.”
Moore wrote in the examiner’s report: “I myself consider that this is a work of genius; but, even if I am completely mistaken and it is nothing of the sort, it is well above the standard required for the Ph.D. degree.” Wittgenstein was appointed as a lecturer and was made a fellow of Trinity College.
Baruch Poll in 1999 rated his posthumously published Philosophical Investigations (1953) as the most important book of the 20th-century philosophy, standing out as “…the one crossover masterpiece … appealing across diverse specializations and philosophical orientations”. Philosopher Bertrand Russell described him as “the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived; passionate, profound, intense, and dominating”.
Born in Vienna into one of Europe’s wealthiest families, he gave away his entire inheritance. Three of his brothers committed suicide, with Wittgenstein contemplating it too. He left academia several times: serving as an officer on the frontline during World War I, where he was decorated a number of times for his courage; teaching in schools in remote Austrian villages, where he encountered controversy for hitting children when they made mistakes in mathematics; and working during World War II as a hospital porter in London, where he told patients not to take the drugs they were prescribed, and where he largely managed to keep secret the fact that he was one of the world’s most famous philosophers. He described philosophy, however, as “the only work that gives me real satisfaction.”
His philosophy is often divided into an early period, exemplified by the Tractatus, and a later period, articulated in the Philosophical Investigations. The early Wittgenstein was concerned with the logical relationship between propositions and the world, and believed that by providing an account of the logic underlying this relationship he had solved all philosophical problems. The later Wittgenstein rejected many of the assumptions of the Tractatus, arguing that the meaning of words is constituted by the function they perform within any given language.
An aim of the Tractatus is to reveal the relationship between language and the world: what can be said about it, and what can only be shown. Wittgenstein argues that language has an underlying logical structure, a structure that provides the limits of what can be said meaningfully, and therefore the limits of what can be thought. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of philosophy. Much of philosophy involves attempts to say the unsayable: “what can we say at all can be said clearly”, he argues. Anything beyond that—religion, ethics, aesthetics, the mystical — cannot be discussed. They are not in themselves nonsensical, but any statement about them must be. He wrote in the preface: “The book will, therefore, draw a limit to thinking, or rather—not to thinking, but to the expression of thoughts; for, in order to draw a limit to thinking we should have to be able to think both sides of this limit. We should therefore have to be able to think what cannot be thought.”
The book is 75 pages long—”As to the shortness of the book, I am awfully sorry for it … If you were to squeeze me like a lemon you would get nothing more out of me”, he told Ogden.
Wittgenstein’s influence has been felt in nearly every field of Logic, of Reason, of Mathematics and even Alan Turing – father of computers – was his student and intellectual successor thinking mathematical computer languages and logic as it stemmed from Ludwig. Wittgenstein influenced greatly the humanities and social sciences, yet there are widely diverging interpretations of his thoughts. In the words of his friend and colleague Georg Henrik von Wright: “He was of the opinion… that his ideas were generally misunderstood and distorted even by those who professed to be his disciples. He doubted he would be better understood in the future. He once said he felt as though he were writing for people who would think in a different way, breathe a different air of life, from that of present-day men.”
Rudolf Carnap describes Wittgenstein as the thinker who gave him the greatest inspiration. However, he also wrote that “there was a striking difference between Wittgenstein’s attitude toward philosophical problems and that of Schlick and myself. Our attitude toward philosophical problems was not very different from that which scientists have toward their problems. As for Wittgenstein: His point of view and his attitude toward people and problems, even theoretical problems, were much more similar to those of a creative artist than to those of a scientist; one might almost say, similar to those of a religious prophet or a seer… When finally, sometimes after a prolonged arduous effort, his answers came forth, his statement stood before us like a newly created piece of art or a divine revelation…the impression he made on us was as if insight came to him as through divine inspiration, so that we could not help feeling that any sober rational comment of analysis of it would be a profanation.”
You see this is serious work. And my visits to the Wittgestein bank are frequent because for me this is a great investment in the Bank of Reason. So I go to best invest rather than spend time. Time at the feet of the Master himself is a necessity before I claim to understand anything at all. Really that’s how I spend major parts of my time when in Cambridge – each time paying a penny for his thoughts. Thoughts freely shared with me.
And am always leaving there, a richer man. For the dividends of my shares in the bank of Reason and Logic are large. Over large and long term value investments. Capital for Life.
And as far as ladders are concerned — Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in his one book Tractatus Logico Philosophicus — the necessity of finally escaping them in order to walk unhindered and undettered by mental gadgets and free of attachments is the game of it all.
“My propositions are elucidatory in this way: He who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it… He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.”
According to Wittgenstein, philosophical problems arise when language is forced from its proper home into a metaphysical environment, where all the familiar and necessary landmarks and contextual clues are removed. He describes this metaphysical environment as like being on frictionless ice: where the conditions are apparently perfect for a philosophically and logically perfect language, all philosophical problems can be solved without the muddying effects of everyday contexts; but where, precisely because of the lack of friction, language can in fact do no work at all. Wittgenstein argues that philosophers must leave the frictionless ice and return to the “rough ground” of ordinary language in use.
Much of his Philosophical Investigations consists of examples of how the first false steps can be avoided, so that philosophical problems are dissolved, rather than solved: “the clarity we are aiming at is indeed complete clarity. But this simply means that the philosophical problems should completely disappear.”
In other words: Go out in real Life and engage, teach, Mentor, Offer the method, and work for solving real and not imaginary problems…
Much like what he did by working as a lowly porter in Guy’s Hospital in London during the Blitz administering medicines for the body and soul to the dying patients.
Many of whom survived — by the way…
Survived … despite his ministrations ;-)
Thus spoke the man himself.
For a promoter of Moral Science — whatever that means…
Is rather fitting that the cemetery where he rests is at the end of All Souls Lane…
Still, within an easy walk from the center of Cambridge and enough time to ponder my questions.
Over the years quite a few pennies of mine have been deposited there.
And to this day — I consider this, the best investment I’ve ever made…