Dialectic of the Ladder: Wittgenstein, the 'Tractatus' and by Ben Ware

By Ben Ware

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) is still essentially the most enigmatic works of 20th century suggestion. during this daring and unique new research, Ben Ware argues that Wittgenstein's early masterpiece is neither an analytic treatise on language and good judgment, nor a quasi-mystical paintings looking to converse 'ineffable' truths. as a substitute, we come to appreciate the Tractatus by way of greedy it in a twofold feel: first, as a dialectical paintings which invitations the reader to beat yes 'illusions of thought'; and moment as a modernist paintings whose anti-philosophical ambition is in detail tied to its radical aesthetic character.

By putting the Tractatus in the strength box of modernism, Dialectic of the Ladder clears the floor for a brand new and demanding exploration of the work's moral size. It additionally casts new mild upon the cultural, aesthetic and political significances of Wittgenstein's writing, revealing hitherto unacknowledged affinities with a bunch of philosophical and literary authors, together with Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche, Adorno, Benjamin, and Kafka.

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Additional info for Dialectic of the Ladder: Wittgenstein, the 'Tractatus' and Modernism

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Thus, at the end of the book, on traditional readings, we know that the world is ‘the totality of facts’, and that language and reality share a common ‘logical form’. Except, however, that we cannot actually say these things; for in saying them we would be transgressing the strictly proper bounds of sense defined by the Tractatus. 41 She therefore invites us to look again at the idea that there are certain features of reality which cannot be stated or described but which are in some sense shown by features of our language.

Here one can think of Fritz Mauthner’s philosophical critique of language,119 and some of its literary descendants including Hofmannsthal’s ‘The Letter of Lord Chandos’. 120 This latter shift stands in opposition to the desire for a resurrection of the word. Through its emphasis on what cannot be said, it can be seen as an attempt to dislodge the primacy of the verbal or the written sign, and, consequently, to found new modes of intellectual and sensuous life outside of language: ‘There is indeed the inexpressible.

84 Adorno brings out this point when he remarks of Samuel Beckett’s plays that they are absurd not because of the absence of any meaning, for then they would be simply irrelevant, but because they put meaning on trial; they unfold its history. 85 The deliberately contradictory phrase ‘positive nothingness’ is used here by Adorno to refer to the nothingness, or negative meaning, which Beckett’s plays achieve through their active negation of positive meaning. 86 Whilst Beckett’s plays cancel positive meaning, they do not however emancipate themselves from form: they are still plays, and it is their status as works, according to Adorno, which allows them to hint at (to ‘show’ rather than to ‘say’) the possibility of meaning-to-come.

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