The Literary Wittgenstein

The Literary Wittgenstein

The Literary Wittgenstein

The Literary Wittgenstein

Synopsis

The Literary Wittgenstein is a stellar collection of articles relating the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) to core problems in the theory and philosophy of literature.Amid growing recognition that Wittgenstein's philosophy has important implications for literary studies, this book brings together twenty-one articles by the most prominent figures in the field. Eighteen of the articles are published here for the first time. The Literary Wittgenstein applies the approach of Wittgenstein to core areas of literary theory, including poetry, deconstruction, the ethical value of literature, and the nature and logic of fictional discourse. The literary dimension of Wittgenstein's own writings is also explored, such as the authorial strategy of the Tractatus , and writing and method in the Philosophical Investigations . Major literary figures discussed in the book include William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, and Friedrich H¿¿lderlin.By mapping out the foundations of a new approach to literature, The Literary Wittgenstein will be essential reading for anyone interested in the relevance and application of Wittgenstein's thought to literary theory, aesthetics, and the philosophy of language and logic.

Excerpt

Wolfgang Huemer

The philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein is characterized by an extraordinary interest in language, with remarkable results. Wittgenstein developed a picture of language that radically broke with the tradition and revolutionized the way philosophers approached the topic in the twentieth century. While in his first book, the Tractatus, Wittgenstein focused on the question of how words can depict the world, he later came to understand language not as an abstract system, but as a social practice. He counteracted a longstanding tendency among philosophers to reduce language to assertive statements and to focus exclusively on analyzing their logical form with the goal of creating an "ideal language." Wittgenstein's crucial move was to point out that understanding language requires us to focus on how it is used by members of the linguistic community, appreciating all the nuances and varieties of expression that characterize everyday communication. His analyses of "clear and simple language games" at the beginning of the Investigations "are not preparatory studies for a future regularization of language," but rather "objects of comparisonwhich are meant to throw light on the facts of our language by way not only of similarities, but also of dissimilarities." Wittgenstein, thus, privileges the richness and diversity of linguistic phenomena, which he explored with extraordinary sensitivity and insight, over the tendency to develop an ideal, rigorously regulated language, a tendency which sacrifices the variety of language games for unattainable exactness and universality.

For Wittgenstein language was not only one of the central problems of philosophy; it was also the key to their solution. Over and over he warned against our urge to misunderstand the workings of our language, pointing out the traps that are built into language and its powers to lead our philosophical paths into dark alleys, to "bewitch our minds." Wittgenstein argued that to solve most philosophical problems we do not need better philosophical theories; we should not aim for explanation, but rather for a detailed description of the use of our words, providing a "perspicuous representation" (PI §122) by means of which we can gain a more profound understanding of language. Philosophical problems, Wittgenstein states, "are solved…by looking into the workings of our language, and that in such a way as to make us recognize those workings: in despite of an

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