Descartes split the mind and body—a-distant-mirror.html#:~:text=A%20truly%20post%2DCartesian%20theory,premises%20and%20their%20psychological%20foundations.

On a personal level, Wittgenstein’s philosophical efforts reflect a struggle to disentangle his identity from the confusing, mystifying language of his original family.  He had been brainwashed, so to speak, under the usurping pressure of his father’s self-centered universe.  Hermann Wittgenstein was an epistemological tyrant, defining reality for all those who sought to be connected to him.  This philosopher’s thinking, therefore, can be viewed as a self-deprogramming enterprise, ultimately directed toward the possibility of liberating himself from the paternal agenda and claiming his own place in this world.

     Wittgenstein’s first book, the only one published during his lifetime, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921/2001), is an effort to clarify the relationship between the words of our language and what he called the “states of affairs” appearing in the world we perceive.   Two specific assertion appear in this book, ones we believe are charged with personal significance:

 “There is no such thing as the subject…”

“ The subject does not belong to the world…” (1922, p. 69)

   On a philosophical level, this reminds us that we ought not to objectify the first person singular: the ‘I’ is not an item in the world.  We are being told that the experiencing subject is not a content of the world we perceive; it is instead what he spoke of as a ‘limit’ of this world, a standpoint from which what we call “world” and all its contents appear.

     If we lift the statements out of their ordinary philosophical context, and think about the personal, life-historical meaning they might contain, an epistemological rebellion on Wittgenstein’s part appears, one mounted against the powerful father who tried to be the all-defining director of his son’s existence.    The son is saying:

 “’I’ am not a thing belonging to your world, not anything anyone can define or control.  My being lies outside the insanity of your self-absorption.  Above all, know this: ‘I’ am not an item in the inventory of your possessions, to be made use of as you please!”

     The pull of the father’s usurping authority, though, must have continued to be very strong, presenting an ever-present danger of falling back under his control and becoming once again the obedient extension of an irresistible will.  This is not just a matter of a child fighting back against a parent who is strict and controlling.  Wittgenstein’s separating himself from his father was a matter of rescuing his very being as someone independently real.   A crisis occurred in his young life in which he saw that continuing to walk on the road laid out for him by his father would be to become permanently itemized on the list of his father’s many possessions.   It would be to embrace annihilation.

     A sign of the felt danger of returning to the obliterating conformity of his youth appears in a feature of Wittgenstein’s life that his biographers have noted but not fully understood.  It was his incapacity to dissimulate, to lie, to conceal the truth because of the claim of whatever circumstance he was in.  If he did move toward some concealment, which happened exceedingly rarely, he was thrown into a crisis of wanting to immediately kill himself.    Our understanding of this inability to lie is that presenting anything other than what he felt and knew to be true posed the danger of a re-engulfment by the falseness of an identity based on the need to be accepted rather than on his own spontaneous intentionality and authenticity.   If the only possibility was that of a false life, then his only option would have been death.  

     The philosopher enforced his emancipation from enslavement by cutting off relations with his father, and he refused even to accept his very substantial inheritance after the father finally died.  Wittgenstein saw taking the money as sacrificing a very precarious sense of personal existence.  The heart and soul of this man’s madness lies in the danger of annihilation that haunted him throughout his life.  His philosophy we can thus view as a search for an answer to this ontological vulnerability. 

     His writings, for the most part, consist in aphoristic meditations focusing on language.   He gives us trains of thought that attempt to expose various confusions into which we fall, arguing that many – perhaps all – of the classic problems of philosophy arise as secondary manifestations of these linguistic confusions.   Wittgenstein engages himself, and his readers, in dialogues subjecting specific examples of how we speak and think to relentless reflection and analysis.  In the process of these conversations, a profound critique of the whole Cartesian tradition emerges, a dismantling of metaphysical conceptions and distinctions that otherwise enwrap our thinking and imprison us within structures of unconscious confusion.  Central in this transforming inquiry are understandings of human existence in terms of ‘mind,’ seen as a ‘thinking thing,’ an actual entity with an inside that looks out on a world from which it is essentially estranged.   Such an idea, once posited, leads inexorably to a dualism: one begins to wonder how the entity ‘mind’ strangely, mysteriously connects to another entity, ‘body.’  He makes compelling arguments that specific linguistic confusions based on the human tendency to turn nouns into substantives lie at the root of such otherwise unfounded ideas.  In Wittgenstein’s universe, there are no ‘minds’ that have interiors, no intrapsychic spaces in which ideas and feelings float about in some “queer medium,” no mysteries we need to be fascinated by regarding how the mental entity and its supposed contents relate to the physical object we call the body.  Longstanding traditions in metaphysics are accordingly undercut and the terrain of philosophy is opened up to new and clarifying ways of exploring our existence. Well-known arguments against the coherence of solipsism as a philosophical position and also against the possibility of an individual ‘private language’ definitively refute the idea that it makes any sense to think of a human life in terms of an isolated ‘I,’ or ego.   He was a post-Cartesian philosopher par excellence.

     Wittgenstein sometimes viewed his scrutinizing of our linguistic expressions and associated patterns of thought as a form of ‘therapy,’ performed upon philosophy and society.   It is our view that this therapy he offered to our civilization mirrored precisely the personal effort described earlier, in which his life goal was to free himself from the entangling confusions, invalidations, and annihilations pervading the family system of his youth.   In this respect he succeeded in connecting uniquely personal issues to important currents and needs of the larger culture.  His philosophical journey therefore allowed him to find a meaning for his life beyond the narrow orbit of his father’s deadly narcissism and helped him avoid the tragic fate of his brothers.

     Let us turn now to one of Wittgenstein’s (1953) most important specific ideas: that of a so-called language game.   It is an elusive term that he never formally defined in his various dialogues, so one has to note how he used it in various contexts and extract a meaning.   Of course one of his most well-known formulations is that “the meaning is the use,” and exists nowhere else, which is a distinctively post-Cartesian view of semantics.

     We think of a Wittgensteinian language game as a set of words and phrases, along with their customary usages, that form a quasi-organic system, such that when one uses one or two elements in the system one is catapulted into the whole, subject to its implicit rules, in some respects trapped within its horizons of possible discourse.   The German word for this is Sprachspiel, and the word obviously derives from spielen: to play.  A language game, in whatever sphere of our lives it becomes manifest, encloses us within a finite system of elements and possibilities, and subjects us to rules we knowingly or unknowingly tend to follow.  Such a structure literally “plays” with our minds, shaping and directing our experiences according to preformed pathways and constraining them within pre-established boundaries.  Wittgenstein wanted us to become aware of these systems in which we are all embedded, and this would be part of his therapy for our whole culture.  The goal is one of ushering in a greater clarity about what we think and who and what we are, illuminating what he spoke of as our “complicated form of life.”

     The primal language game of this man’s personal history was the communication system in his early family, which designated his existence – and those of his doomed brothers – as playthings, almost like chess pieces belonging to the father’s controlling agendas and properties.  A clear perception of the mystifications and usurping invalidations of his early family world would obviously be of assistance in this man’s attempts to find his own way.   He tried mightily in his philosophical reflections to release his discipline and the world at large from its “bewitchment” by language, even as he was able to free himself only very tenuously from the spell cast by his father.

 Kierkegaard, S. (1834-1842) The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard. Excerpted in Bretall, R. (Ed.) A Kierkegaard Anthology, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946.

 Wittgenstein, L. (1922) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London and New York: Routledge, 1974.

 Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan

Mary in trouble

When Mary awoke, she felt the pain in her ear was worse.
I think must have an ear infection, she said to Annie while she was beating the doormat
on the wall to get the dust out.
Maybe you should stop cleaning and housework.You are releasing lots of dirt into the air
You are right,Mary replied.It’s just what Mother used to do
But did she have a hoover?
No, we had a Ewbank.
Get a cordless cleaner and it will suck the dust out for you
Thanks,Annie.I think I will go to the Urgent Care Centre.I don’t want an abscess in my ear to explode,as it were.
I’m sorry I can’t come but they have restrictions about how many visitors go in
Mary called a cab.Soon she was in the almost empty hospital.How much she would have liked a companion.Still, there is always God, wherever he has moved to.
A young woman with thick frizzy fair hair called her in and said that she was a GP
Mary was thinking how much better her pale lips would look with some lipstick
As for her clothes, it is best to remain silent.I suppose doctors can’t afford to go to M & S nowadays
Mary thought.
There is some wax in your ear, the doctor told Mary in a cruel manner
That’s good.I need a candle,Mary said inventively
Then the maskless doctor stood in front of Mary and peered into her mouth.
Shee pushed Mary’s crutch away and announced, there is nothing wrong with you
You must go out and make new connections, do things, go to Dances, play Bingo
Get up and walk, she advised , Jesus remarked in the Gospel l,though he also asked the cripple to take up his bed yet there were no beds left in the hospital
Oh,dear Mary said I am not wired myself as yet.My body is running on sunshine.
Do you think I should offer my supine body to the lonely old men living in the big houses near here?
I’m afraid I shall have to charge them.Do you have any free room with an elecric socket that I might use? And we’ll need a bed
The beds are all full, the doctor replied
Good grief, how many people are in these beds? Do they share?
Don’t ask me.It’s my coffee break, the young lady cried
Mary struggled up and went outside to call a cab
At least it’s been a change of scene yet as the cab drove her home, the pain began to get worse.
Is Mary going to make it?

To be concluded shortly
Funeral arrangements by the Coop. if needed

Emile’s jumper

One evening Mary got earache so bad she was anxious if her brain might be damaged
What’s wrong,mother? mewed Emile her small black cat
I’ve got earache, she told him.And I am still not your mother!
When will you be my mother?
If the law was changed we could get married,Mary said wittily
I can’t marry you, it would fee like incest,Emile whispered
I don’t expect to have a sexual life with you, but you could massage by legs and run up and down my spine
Anyone can do that.
Well, not a dog I hope,Mary giggled.No I love cats
After watching “Princess Di, the true story” on their tablets,were both happy to rest in their beds
Mary woke up to find her earache was worse, like a knife running into her head
Stan, she cried, where are you? I need you!Come home!
Emile ran in, with tears in his eyes
You know Dad is heaven,Mother
Yes,said Mary, though he could be in Purgatory
Is that because he had Annie as his lover,Emile asked
No, no, l love is not what I’m thinking of.I bought a very nice bag in Somerset as my workbag
When he left our flat to get the train to work, he had taken my bag not to mention six notebooks with unlined paper I was going to use for Art
So what did you say. Mother?
I said nothing.Wittgenstein wrote
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent
But you could have thrown a bucket of cold water over him,Emil said angrily
I doubt Wittgenstein would like that,Mary smiled
Sometimes we just have to let things go or go into a bohemian boutique ..
I went into one and got a yellow cord skirt of unusual design and some deep red trousers
Did you not wear a top,Emile enquired jauntily?
No,I went to give a lecture on 3 dimensional calculus nude from the waist upward
Did nobody say anything?
I was so thin I looked like a boy and they were all enraptured by my words anyway
Those days we were civil to others and ignored their errors or that their trousers were ripped
and that some shirts looked crumpled.We mathematians don’t care about these things.
Then they saw DPD had a van outside. man crossed the road wth several parcels from
Mary pulled put a long green wool coat and a cashmere hat
So who doesn’t care,Emile mewed?
I thought it would be good when I need to sit on a wall.The moss on walls is green.
Well,I can see the sense in that, he replied
In ran adulterous Annie their neighbour and Stan’s former mistress
Oh,I have bought one of those.I fear they will shut down
and it’s hard to buy a tailored wool coat these days.They have merino wool jumpers too
Perhaps I’ll buy another, she muttered.
Can I have a jumper,Emile asked?
May I
May I what?
Have a jumper
I am not human, he mewed.Don’t be rude
I will knit you a jumper,Mary told him.Let me know the colours you like
Don’t climb a tree in it or it might catch on a thorn
Oh, mother, thank you,Emile murmured as he fell asleep

Cats looking at us

Why ?

Do I need permission to be sad;
Or wish that I could cut out my own heart?
Strangled with the tension,feeling mad
Usurping God to declare that I am bad
Who can give permission to be sad?
Unwind the soul by pulling on a thread
Where can self destruction make a start
Can’t we help each other when we’re sad
Refuse to inflict damage on our hearts?