Wittgenstein: Philosophy, Postmodernism, Pedagogy

By Michael Peters; James Marshall | Go to book overview

3
Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein: The Reference of "I"

The I, the I is what is deeply mysterious.

-- Wittgenstein, 1961, 80e

Wittgenstein was an enigmatic character: or should one say, person, or self, or subject? Or should one take a more modern approach to these philosophical problems and talk of subjectivity? He designed houses and many of their mechanistic requirements with a holistic technological and aesthetic approach. In a letter to Bertrand Russell he referred to Mozart and Beethoven as "the actual sons of God." He watched cowboy films and read thrillers among many other things. In these respects he was, perhaps, a postmodern version of the Renaissance man. Yet, in spite of his obvious enjoyment of many aspects of contemporary culture he remained deeply suspicious, if not deeply critical and pessimistic, of its effects or outcomes for human beings. We have discussed these general issues above. In relation to identity, the self, or subjectivity, these general issues on culture and pessimism strike hard at the traditional liberal notions of the self, particularly those based upon personal autonomy.

In recent years there has been an increased interest in the notion of the self, for example, in the writings of Michel Foucault and Charles Taylor ( 1989), to select two writers from vastly different philosophical traditions. There are a number of questions that can be posed around the notion of the self and these have a history. There are questions such as: What kind of being am I?, On what does my identity depend?, and To what does "I" refer? We will look at the first two questions as they have been posed by

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