Tuesday, January 03, 2012

roof Wittgenstein sea

Posted by Picasa Four pigeons and two weeds on a roof.
Every now and then I have a go at reading Wittgenstein especially when I
hear somewhere what an important and influential philosopher he is.  His claim to fame is that he set out to prove by a remorseless logical process that most philosophical speculation is nonsense. I have tried to follow in detail the argument of  his chief work Logico Philosophicus but my mind simply isn't up to it. I do understand however his preface, and like it  the more I read it. I like it because it is pleasingly simple and  yet touches  on the profound. In it he sums up the sense of his  book in these often quoted words: "What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what cannot be said we must pass over in silence. ...the aim of the book is to draw a limit to thought, or rather - not to thought, but to the expression of thoughts... It will only be in language that the limit can be drawn, and what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense".
I  would have one question for Mr W if he were alive today: are the limits adjustable? My purpose in asking it is because I have wondered where, in the spectrum of sense and nonsense, poetry resides? And I now wonder whether the philosopher's withering logic which touches on the limits of sense - what can be spoken of, and nonsense- what cannot.be spoken of-,  allows a place for poets to attempt to push back the borders of what cannot (elsewhere) be said?

In the pub I ask an old sea captain whether he has read the maritime novels of Patrick O'Brien set in the Napoleonic Wars. "I don't need to read about sea fairing," he says. "I did it. The sea is is in my veins."

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