The MacLamity

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Monday, February 21, 2005


It's hard not to love Wittgenstein, for the same reason that it's easy not to love Heidegger. They both can't stop themselves from writing like themselves, no matter what it is that they're writing. In Heidegger's case, it's his love poems that make you wonder "Why couldn't Heidegger stop being Heidegger, even for a moment, even when he wanted to let someone know he loved them?" It's not a hard thing to say. But he makes it hard. So hard, and for so little pay-off, that it makes you wonder if Heidegger's philosophy is rotten for the same reason his poetry is rotten: for expressing the easily expressable inexpressively (and, also, although this is an extra-textual point, expressing it in bad faith).

In Wittgenstein's case, when he writes a spelling book for the poor elementary school children he is teaching he introduces it with:
Each instance of clinging to a dogmatic principle leads to an arrangement that does not suit our purpose and has to be abandoned, even if this would make the author's work much easier. Rather, it is necessary to compromise again and again.
Now, what's not to love about that? Those kindergarteners must have loved Mr. Wittgenstein's classes, especially when he drew this as entertainment on the blackboard:

and then spent the rest of the class saying "But can't you see it's both a rabbit AND a duck" as if that should frighten them.