FICTION AS THE ENGINE OF SPECULATION AND EXAMINATION
Z 155: A poet’s words can pierce us. And that is of course casually connected with the use that they have in our life. And it is also connected with the way in which, conformably to this use, we let our thoughts roam up and down in the familiar surrounds of the words.
PI 524: Don’t take it as a matter of course, but as a remarkable fact, that pictures and fictitious narratives gives us pleasure, occupy our minds. (“Don’t take it as a matter of course” means: find it surprising, as you do some things which disturb you. Then the puzzling aspect of the latter will disappear, by your accepting this fact as you do the other.) ((The transition from patent nonsense to something which is disguised nonsense.))
Z 160: Do not forget that a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.
“This gradual intellectual discovery is part of a larger, more tacit discovery, that books have a language all their own.” (Wolf, 2008, p 87)
For instance: “Wittgenstein’s correspondence with Engelmann does indeed help one to understand his mysticism. For example, in April 1917, Engelmann sent Wittgenstein a poem by Uhland called ‘Count Eberhard’s Hawthorn’, which, very simply and without any embellishment, drawing of morals or even comment, tells the story of a soldier who, while on crusade, cuts a spray from a hawthorn bush, which, when he returns home, he plants in his garden. In old age, he sits beneath the shade of the fully grown hawthorn tree, which serves as a reminder of his youth. ‘Almost all other poems,’ Engelmann wrote to Wittgenstein, ‘attempt to express the inexpressible; here that is not attempted, and precisely because of that it is achieved’.” (Monk, 2005, pg 25)
CV: Often, when I have had a picture well framed or have hung it in the right surroundings, I have caught myself feeling as proud as if I had painted the picture myself. That is not quite right: not “as proud as if I painted it, but as proud as if I had helped to paint it, as if I had, so to speak, painted a little bit of it. It is as though an exceptionally gifted arranger of grasses should eventually come to think that he had produced at least a tiny blade of grass himself.
PI 280: Someone paints a picture in order to show how he imagines a theatre scene. And now I say: “This picture has a double function: it informs others, as pictures or words inform -- but for one who gives the information it is a representation (or piece of information?) of another kind: for him it is the picture of his image, as it can’t be for anyone else. To him his private impression of the picture means what he has imagined, in a sense in which the picture cannot mean this to others.” - And what right have I to speak in this second case of a representation or piece of information - if these words were used in the first case?
PG 121: The picture tells me something consists in its own form and colours. Or it narrates something to me: it uses words so to speak, and I am comparing the pictures with a combination of linguistic forms. -- That a series of signs tells me something isn’t constituted by its now making this impression on me. “It’s only in a language that something is a proposition.”
PI 652: “He measured him with a hostile glance and said ... .” The reader of the narrative understands this; he has no doubt in his mind. Now you say: “Very well, he supplies the meaning, he guesses it.” -- Generally speaking: no. Generally speaking he supplies nothing, guesses nothing. -- But it is also possible that the hostile glance and the words later prove to have been pretence, or that the reader is kept in doubt whether they are so or not, and so that he really does guess at a possible interpretation. -- But then the main thing he guesses at is a context. He says to himself for example: The two men who are here so hostile to one another are in reality friends, etc, etc. ((“If you want to understand a sentence, you have to imagine the physical significance, the states of mind involved.”))
PI 525: “After he had said this, he left her as he did the day before.” -- Do I understand this sentence? Do I understand it just as I should if I heard it in the course of a narrative? If it were set down in isolation I should say, I don’t know what it’s about. But all the same I should know how this sentence might perhaps be used; I could myself invent a context for it. (A multitude of familiar paths lead off from these words in every direction.)
PI 282: “But in a fairy tale the pot too can see and hear!” (Certainly, but it can also talk.) “But the fairy tale only invents what is not the case; it does not talk nonsense.” -- It is not as simple as that Is it false or nonsensical to say that a pot talks? Have we a clear picture of the circumstances in which we should say of a pot that it talked? (Even a nonsense-poem is not nonsense in the same way as the babble of a baby.)
We do indeed say of an inanimate thing that it is in pain: when playing with dolls for example. But this use of the concept of pain is a secondary one. Imagine a case in which people ascribed pain only to inanimate things; pitied only dolls! (When children play at trains their game is connected with their knowledge of trains. It would nevertheless be possible for children of a tribe unacquainted with trains to learn this game from others, and to play it without knowing that it was copied from anything. One might say that the game did not make the same sense to them as to us.)
PI 522: If we compare a proposition to a picture, we must think whether we are comparing it to a portrait (a historical representation) or to a genre-picture. And both comparison have point. When I look at a genre-picture, it “tells” me something, even though I don’t believe (imagine) for a moment that the people I see in it really exist, or that there have really been people in that situation. But suppose I ask: “What does it tell me, then?”
References (back to top)
- Monk, R. (2005). How to read Wittgenstein. London: Granta Books.
- Wittgenstein, L. (2001). Philosophical Investigations. 3rd Edition. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
- _____________ (1967) Zettel. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- _____________ (1974). Philosophical Grammar. Edited by Rush Rhees. Translated by Anthony Kenny. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- _____________ (1980). Culture and value. Translated by Peter Winch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Wolf, M. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.
Recommended Further Reading (back to top)
- Cavell, S. (2010). The touch of words. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 81 - 98). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Gibson, J. and Huemer, W. (Eds.) (2004) The literary Wittgenstein. London: Routledge.
- Hagberg, G. (2010). In a new light: Wittgenstein, aspect-perception, and retrospective change in self-understanding. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 101 - 119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Langer, J. (2001). Literature as an environment for engaged readers. In Verhoeven, L. and Snow, C. (Eds.), Literacy and motivation: reading engagement in individuals and groups (pp. 177 - 194). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
- Nussbaum, M. (1995). Poetic justice: the literary imagination and public life. Boston: Beacon Press.