I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: Philosophy ought really to be written only as poetic composition. It must, as it seems to me, be possible to gather from this how far my thinking belongs to the present, future or past. For I was thereby revealing myself as someone who cannot do what he would like to be able to do.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. Von Wright (in collaboration with Heikki Nyman), trans. Peter Winch, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1980, p. 24e.
I dont believe that there is "a specifically philosophical writing", a sole philosophical writing whose purity is always the same and out of reach of all sorts of contaminations. And first of all for this overwhelming reason: philosophy is spoken and written in a natural language, not in an absolutely formalizable and universal language. That said, within this natural language and its uses, certain modes have been forcibly imposed (and there is a relation of force) as philosophical. The modes are multiple, conflictual, inseparable from the philosophical content itself and from its "theses". A philosophical debate is also a combat in view of imposing discursive modes, demonstrative procedures, rhetorical and pedagogical techniques. Each time philosophy has been opposed, it was also, although not only, by contesting the properly, authentically philosophical character of the others discourse.
Jacques Derrida, "Is There A Philosophical Language?". In: Points . . . Interviews, 1974-1994, (ed.) E. Weber, trans. P. Kamuf & others, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1995:219.
Introduction: Philosophy and The Question of Style
In May 1992 some twenty analytic philosophers from ten countries wrote a letter to the editor of The Times (published 9 May) to protest and to intervene in a debate that occurred at Cambridge University over whether Jacques Derrida should be allowed to receive an honorary degree. The signatories, none of whom were faculty at Cambridge, laid two very serious charges against Derrida: that his work "does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigour" and that he is not a philosopher. In elaborating these two charges, they argued, first, that while Derrida has shown "considerable originality" (based upon a number of "tricks" and "gimmicks") he has, at the same time, stretched "the normal forms of academic scholarship beyond recognition", employed "a written style that defies comprehension", brought contemporary French philosophy into disrepute, and offered nothing but assertions that are either "false or trivial" in a series of "attacks upon the values of reason, truth and scholarship." Second, they submitted, the fact that the influence of his work has been "almost entirely in fields outside philosophy" was sufficient grounds for casting doubt on his suitability as a candidate for an honorary degree in philosophy. This affair constitutes an event of some significance for, to our knowledge, it is unprecedented for philosophers to organise an opposition to the granting of an honorary degree.
What Derrida calls "the Cambridge Affair" clearly demonstrates the extent to which questions of style are at centre stage in contemporary philosophy and how battle-lines have been drawn over the issue of philosophy as both a form of discourse and a kind of writing. On one side are a group of prominent and, indeed, internationally well-respected analytic philosophers who, in their joint attack upon Derrida, want to occlude questions of style. Driven by a conception of "scientific" philosophy wedded to a distinct method of analyticity, they are deeply concerned for the future of their discipline. The possibility that the institution of modern philosophy might come to accept as important the notion of style in philosophical writing, for them, leaves open the door to the enemies of rigour and clarity: persuasion, rhetoric, and metaphor.
Derridas (1992: 134) response to "the Cambridge Affair" has been to focus upon the "journalistic" style of the letter itself and to understand it as "another demonstration of [philosophical] nationalism" which violates the very principles of "reason, truth and scholarship" that it claims to represent. He suggests that his inquisitors "confuse philosophy with what they have been taught to reproduce in the tradition and style of a particular institution" (135) and in response to a question concerning the Parisian location of his own work, he comments: "One never writes just anywhere, out of a context and without trying to aim or privilege a certain readership, even if one cant and shouldnt limit oneself to this" (137). Perhaps, more than any philosopher before him, and from his earliest beginnings, Jacques Derrida (1995: 218) has called attention to the form of "philosophical discourse" its "modes of composition, its rhetoric, its metaphors, its language, its fictions" not in order to assimilate philosophy to literature but rather to recognise the complex links between the two and to investigate the ways in which the institutional authority of academic philosophy, and the autonomy it claims, rests upon a "disavowal with relation to its own language". The question of philosophical styles, he maintains, is, itself, a philosophical question.
While we do not engage the polemics of the "debate" between Derrida and his detractors, it is clear that "the Cambridge Affair" and its continuing aftermath, has given fresh impetus to the question of style in philosophy. An important recent collection of essays, for instance, takes the question of style in philosophy and arts as central. The editors boldly proclaim "Philosophers can no longer consider the question of style a mere artistic or literary question" and, drawing upon Berel Langs (1995) opening chapter, they suggest that "the question of style is inescapable, even for those philosophical writings that profess to be style-less" (Van Eck et al, 1995: 1). Langs (1995: 24) diagnosis is that the relation between method and style in philosophical discourse has been repressed. Philosophy has denied any role for style except in a merely ornamental sense and this denial is part of "a more inclusive repression the tendency of philosophers to decontextualise or dehistoricise their own discourse." While Lang does not direct his criticisms at contemporary analytic philosophy, focusing rather upon Descartes, Locke and Kant, it is clear that his diagnosis also embraces it.
For Lang and others any choice of style whether conscious or not, whether defined in terms of the individual or by a particular tradition will involve a commitment to certain metaphors and modes of representation (Norris, 1984). We would argue that the issue is not that analytic philosophers do not want to admit the question of style as a philosophical issue; rather, they want to impose one style over all others. This deep-seated preference for a particular style, based on appeals to logical structure, rigour and clarity, has its roots not only in the self-image of philosophy going back, at least, to Plato (who sought to ban poetry from The Republic), but also in the nineteenth-century, with the scientization of philosophy and the rise of a kind of linguistic nationalism, where English as an emerging metropolitan language was seen as the most appropriate and transparent medium for the expression of thought.
Van Eck et al (1995: 1) suggest that style has "invaded" philosophy:
One of the consequences of what could be called postmodern pluralism in philosophy is that philosophy as a whole whether it accepts a postmodern stance or opposes it has grown more conscious of the importance of its medium, which is generally the written text, and as a consequence of its own hidden aesthetics.
They attribute this awareness to philosophers such as Nietzsche and Wittgenstein "who write in a distinctive . . . literary style, and who, moreover, attach a particular importance to style in philosophical thinking, knowledge, or life in general" (ibid.). They claim that Nietzsche and Wittgenstein were instrumental in eroding a stylistic monism and relaxing what counts as philosophical reasoning. Their stylistic diversity redefined and contributed to the acceptance of a greater range of works and styles as belonging to "philosophy".
The purpose of this chapter is to explore the importance of style to philosophy through a close study of the writings of Wittgenstein. In particular, we argue that the question of style remained an obsession of Wittgensteins throughout his career and that it is inseparable from his practice of philosophy. Finally, we suggest, in terms to be fully explored in a companion paper, that Wittgensteins "style" is, in a crucial sense, pedagogical; that appreciating his style is essential to understanding the purpose and intent of his philosophy, especially his later philosophy. The first section of the chapter seeks to understand Wittgenstein's concern for style as originating within the intellectual milieu of Viennese modernism (see Chapter 2). On this basis we interpret Wittgensteins philosophical "style" as related to his double crisis of identity concerning his Jewish origins and his sexuality, both inseparable from his concern for ethics and aesthetics (which are, he said, one), and from his personal life. In the second section of the chapter, we explore how these concerns are manifested in his work and his way of doing philosophy. In the last section, we try to show how Wittgensteins style may be seen as deeply pedagogical.
Wittgenstein and Viennese Modernism
Lying to oneself about oneself, deceiving yourself about the pretence in your own state of will, must have a harmful influence on [ones] style; for the result will be that you cannot tell what is genuine in style and what is false . . . If I perform to myself, then its this that the style expresses. And then the style cannot be my own. If you are unwilling to know what you are, your writing is a form of deceit.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, cited in Monk (1991: 366-7).
"Le style cest lhomme", "Le style cest lhomme meme". The first expression has cheap epigrammatic brevity. The second, correct version opens up quite a different perspective. It says that a mans style is a picture [image] of him .
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 78e
Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus, (#6.421)
Janik and Toulmins (1973) path-breaking book Wittgensteins Vienna established the inadequacy of the prevailing view of Wittgenstein as a place-holder in the analytic tradition. They demonstrated the importance of a historico-cultural approach to philosophy; for them, Wittgenstein, in his early work, was addressing problems in particular, the problem of representation that arose within and can only be fully understood against the background of Viennese modernism, involving in one way or another such notable figures as Karl Kraus, Robert Musil, Fritz Mauthner, Adolf Loos, Arnold Schoenberg, Johann Nestroy, Ludwig Boltzmann, and Eduard Spranger. Janik and Toulmin viewed Wittgenstein as extending in his own way the critique of language and culture initiated by Kraus. In particular, they provided an account of Wittgenstein in the Tractatus as using the logical framework he inherited from Frege and Russell only to underscore the ethical point that questions of value lie outside the scope of factual or descriptive language:
On this interpretation, the Tractatus becomes an expression of a certain type of language mysticism that assigns a central importance in human life to art, on the ground that art alone can express the meaning of life. Only art can express moral truth, and only the artist can teach the things that matter most in life (Janik & Toulmin, 1973: 197).
In his later work they suggested that Wittgenstein, while still drawn to an "extreme Kierkegaardian individualism", had changed his philosophical method to focus his attention on language as behaviour. Wittgensteins analysis of language games, of the pragmatic rules that govern the uses of different expressions, and of the broader forms of life that ultimately give those language games their significance meant that Wittgenstein had to revise his understanding of the "transcendental" problem. It was no longer seen "to lie in the formal character of linguistic representations; instead, it became an element in the natural history of man" (Janik & Toulmin, 1973: 223.) They suggested that this change "did not lead him in fact to abandon his long-standing ethical individualism" (p. 235), even though he was "no longer in a position to underpin his own individualistic view of ethics by appeal to a sharp dichotomy between the expressible and the transcendental" (p. 234). In retrospect, it is remarkable that Janik and Toulmins interpretation neither mentions nor makes anything of Nietzsches influence on fin-de-siècle Vienna or upon many of Wittgensteins intellectual contemporaries and forbears.
Subsequent readings (e.g., Smith, 1978; Haller, 1981; Janik, 1981), have interpreted Wittgenstein within the tradition of Austrian philosophy. Janik (1981: 85), in particular, identifies Wittgenstein with the spirit of a counter-enlightenment with a focus upon the limits of reason, in the tradition of Lichtenberg, Kraus, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Weininger and Nietzsche.
Von Wright (1982:116), in an influential essay based upon his intimate knowledge of Vermischte Bemerkungen [Culture and Value] while acknowledging that Wittgenstein did not develop a philosophy of history, maintains that he did possess a Splenglerian attitude to his times: "he lived the Untergang des Abendlandes, the decline of the West". On this view, Wittgenstein understood himself to be living in "an age without culture", an age where modern philosophy could no longer claim to provide a meta-language (or meta-narrative) that would unite the family resemblances of cultures various manifestations. Von Wrights (1982) interpretation gives considerable weight to Wittgensteins Spenglerian "rejection of scientific-technological civilisation of industrialised societies, which he regarded as the decay of a culture." He remarks upon how Wittgenstein found the spirit of European and American civilisation both alien and distasteful and how Wittgenstein "deeply distrusted" its hallmark belief in progress based upon the technological harnessing of science, with its inherent dangers of self-destruction and its capacity to cause "infinite misery." Von Wright (1982:118) suggests that this aspect of Wittgensteins thinking constitutes a link between "the view that the individuals beliefs, judgements, and thoughts are entrenched in unquestioningly accepted language-games" and "the view that philosophical problems are disquietudes of the mind caused by some malfunctioning in the language-games and hence in the life of the community".
It is a view that von Wright (1993) has returned to recently. In "Analytical Philosophy: A Historico-Critical Survey", von Wright identifies analytic philosophy as that which is "most typical of the spiritual climate of our time" in that it exemplifies the form of rationality represented by science and technology. This form of rationality, he suggests, has become problematic "due to its repercussions on society and the living conditions of men" and analytic philosophy is "itself an offspring of belief in progress through science appears incapable of coping with these problems ..." The task lies rather with other types of philosophy, different from and often critical of the analytic current". In is in this context that von Wright (1993: 32) raises the question of whether Wittgenstein can be rightly called an analytic philosopher, only to answer it emphatically in the negative. While he agrees with Janik against Nyiris (1982) "conservative" interpretation of Wittgenstein, he disagrees with Janik (1985) that there is no close correspondence between Wittgensteins philosophy and his cultural pessimism, arguing that Wittgensteins philosophy was a fight against the dominant climate of modernity with its "euphoric belief in progress" and its "managerial uses of reason in industrialised democratic societies" (von Wright 1993: 101).
This kind of reading of Wittgenstein is also embraced by Jacques Le Riders (1993) interpretation of Viennese modernism. He sees Nietzsche as the common starting point for most Viennese modernists, arguing that "The crisis of the individual, experienced as an identity crisis, is at the heart of all questions we find in literature and the human sciences" (p. 1) and he remarks that "Viennese modernism can be interpreted as an anticipation of certain important postmodern themes" (p. 6). Le Rider has in mind, for instance, the way in which Wittgensteins philosophy of language "deconstructs the subject as author and judge of his own semantic intentions" (p. 28). He remarks in terms of the crisis of identity how Wittgenstein, "like all assimilated Jewish intellectuals, found his Jewish identity a problem" and the problem of his Jewish identity was coupled with a crisis of sexual identity, when at least during some periods of his life he sought refuge from his homosexual tendencies in a kind of Tolstoyan asceticism (p 295). He suggests:
Wittgenstein, who ... looked back nostalgically on a well-ordered world where everyone had his place, found modernity uncultured because it had lost its power to integrate, and left individuals in a state of confusion. The only ones who can keep their balance and personal creativity are those whom Nietzsche calls the strong men, that is the most moderate, who need neither convictions nor religion, who are able not only to endure, but to accept a fair amount of chance and absurdity, and are capable of thinking in a broadly disillusioned and negative way without feeling either diminished or discouraged (p. 296).
He argues that the consequences of this double crisis of identity, much more than is commonly accepted, were intimately tied up with the fundamentals of his thought and with a number of his intellectual preoccupations: "his interest in Weininger and in psychoanalysis, his mystical tendencies, but also his reflections on genius, on the self, and on ethics" (p. 296).
Many of these intellectual concerns came together in a "confessional" autobiography that Wittgenstein planned to write. Ray Monks (1991: 312) biography notes that it was 1931, "the year in which the autobiography received its greatest attention, that Weininger and Weiningerian reflections abound in Wittgensteins notebooks and conversations." Indeed, Monks (1991) study, subtitled "The Duty of Genius", begins with a guiding motif for the biography as a whole taken from Weiningers Sex and Character: "Logic and ethics are fundamentally the same, they are no more than duty to oneself." Wittgensteins anti-Semitism and his related remarks on the distinction between genius and talent owe much to the influence of Weininger and, of course, Schopenhauer, who influenced them both. Weininger coopted Schopenhauers distinction between genius and talent, paralleling it with a "masculine" Aryan creativity on the one hand, and a "feminine" Judaic reproductiveness on the other. Such comments found fertile ground in Wittgensteins ambivalent feelings about his own Jewish origins and his sexual identity. Wittgenstein (CV, 18e,19e) echoes Weininger in a remark of Jewish self-hatred written in 1931:
Amongst Jews "genius" is found only in the holy man. Even the greatest of Jewish thinkers is no more than talented. (Myself for instance.) ... I think there is some truth in my idea that I really only think reproductively. I dont believe I have ever invented a line of thinking, I have always taken one over from someone else. I have simply straightaway seized on it with enthusiasm for my work of clarity. That is how Bolzmann, Hertz, Schopenhauer, Frege, Russell, Kraus, Loos, Weininger, Spengler, Srafffa have influenced me What I invent are new similes.
Jews are untragic and Mendelssohn, as a "Jewish" composer, for example, is "the most untragic of composers" (CV, 1e). His music lacks a certain rigour (CV, 16e); it lacks integrity (CV, 2e) and courage (CV, 35e). He "wrote no music that is hard to understand" (CV, 23e). Mendelssohns music cannot be classified as "great art" for it lacks the power and depth that comes from "mans primitive drives"; "in this sense Mendelssohn can be called a reproductive artist" (CV, 38e).
For Wittgenstein, genius is intimately related to strength of character and courage, (and courage with originality): "Genius is talent exercised with courage" (CV, 38e), or, "Genius is talent in which character makes itself heard" (CV, 65e). Wittgenstein was haunted by the question of his own philosophical originality. As Weiner (1992: 19) explains: "Wittgenstein was anxious, indeed obsessed, about his relations to other philosophers. He was plagued by the notion that he was only a reproductive, talented thinker not a creative, original genius like Schopenhauer." In Culture and Value, for instance, there are a set of highly revealing remarks that Wittgenstein makes about himself, linking once again questions of creativity and identity: "I believe that my originality (if that is the right word) is an originality belonging to the soil rather than to the seed. (Perhaps I have no seed of my own)" (CV, 36e). He suggests that Freuds originality is similar (that the real germ of psychoanalysis came from Breuer). He wonders on occasions whether he brings to life "new movements of thought" or whether he simply applies old ones (CV, 20e); he puzzles over his ability to write prose and concludes that his ability has limits which are part of his nature: "In this game I can only attain such and such a degree of perfection, I cant go beyond it" (CV, 59e). He suggests:
Ones style of writing may be unoriginal in form like mine and yet ones words may be well chosen; or, on the other hand, one may have a style thats original in form, one that is freshly grown from deep within oneself (CV, 53e)
Wittgenstein believes that "the greatness of what a man writes depends on everything else he writes and does" (CV, 65e). There is a close link between ethics and style for the mark of great style is originality, and originality is a moral attribute. Speaking or expressing the truth is not a matter of cleverness: "No one can speak the truth; if he has still not mastered himself...The truth can be spoken only by someone who is already at home in it..." (CV, 35e). Wittgenstein, in these passages, is not simply reflecting on the nature of originality, genius and greatness; he is agonising over himself, expressing doubts concerning his own moral character and whether he has the strength, depth and courage required to achieve greatness (cf., CV, 47e). He raises doubts in the most intense self-scrutiny: "I am too soft, too weak, and so too lazy to achieve anything significant" (CV, 72e).
Greatness, genius, and originality critically depend upon insight and accurate judgement of oneself "a man will never be great if he misjudges himself: if he throws dust in his own eyes" (CV, 49e) yet "Understanding oneself properly is difficult" (CV, 48e) because "good" action might be equally prompted by cowardice and indifference as much as generous motives. Acting in a particular way may be motivated as much by love as by deceitfulness. Philosophy is not only a battle against the bewitchment of language, an investigation of the ordinary and familiar with the aim of shewing "the fly the way out of the fly-bottle" (PI, #309), it also necessarily involves work on the self (CV, 16e). In his often-quoted comment to Norman Malcolm:
What is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., and if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life .... You see, I know that it is difficult to think well about "certainty", "probability", "perception", etc. But it is, if possible, still more difficult to think, or try to think, really honestly about your life and other peoples lives.
It is no accident that Wittgenstein begins the Investigations with a quotation from St. Augustines Confessions, or that many of his writings have a confessional tone: "A man can bare himself before others only out of a particular kind of love. A love which acknowledges, as it were, that we are all wicked children" (CV, 46e), yet "A confession has to be part of your new life" (CV, 18e). Wittgenstein was, at many points in his life, preoccupied with what he thought was his own deceit: "Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself" (CV, 34e). Yet confession and confessional forms of writing such as autobiography depend upon the spirit in which one can write the truth about oneself. These confessional forms are, perhaps, the most direct forms of writing the truth about oneself, and yet Wittgenstein would maintain that the truth about oneself can only be shown in ones style; the style of ones works considered as a whole. It is, accordingly, only in the prefaces and forewords to his works, and in Culture and Value, along with his correspondence, that Wittgenstein directly approaches such questions.
Monk (1991: 364ff) also makes much of Wittgensteins quoting St Augustine. The Confessions is, he points out, a religious autobiography rather than a philosophical work and Augustine is not theorising, he is simply describing how he learned to talk. What is contained in the quote from Augustine, Monk maintains, is a picture, a picture which must be overcome, but only through the introduction of another picture or metaphor. But there is another reason, Monk (1991: 366) asserts, that Wittgenstein begins with Augustine: "for Wittgenstein, all philosophy, in so far as it is pursued honestly and decently, begins with a confession." It sets the tone for the Investigations and indicates the serious demands it places upon the reader, for Wittgenstein cannot be read as one might read other philosophers to find out what they said or for interest and entertainment. The Investigations, by contrast, requires a personal involvement on the part of the reader; it requires one to make Wittgensteins confusions and problems ones own.
Indeed, there is ample evidence to support Monks view from Wittgensteins own concerns about who would read his works and how they might read them. He entertained doubts about whether his work would be read in the right spirit. As he says in the Foreword to Philosophical Remarks: "This book is written for such men as are in sympathy with its spirit". His earlier drafts of the foreword (CV, 6e, 7e) reveal that Wittgenstein believed he would be misunderstood because he wrote in a spirit out of sympathy with the prevailing spirit of the age. It is a concern Wittgenstein has in the Tractatus as well; the Preface begins, "Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has already had the thoughts that are expressed in it or at least similar thoughts." Only a "few friends" may understand him, for the reader must make Wittgensteins style of thinking and his problems his or her own.
Wittgensteins Philosophical Style
We speak of understanding a sentence in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense in which it cannot be replaced by any other. (Any more than one musical theme can be replaced by another.) In the one case the thought in the sentence is common to different sentences; in the other, something that is expressed only by these words in these positions. (Understanding a poem.) (PI, #531).
Of the many hundreds of books and articles written on Wittgenstein and his work only a very tiny proportion deal with the question of Wittgensteins style. Few philosophers have approached Wittgenstein centrally through an examination of his style or considered the question of his style as important or interesting in a philosophical sense. Von Wright (1982: 33-34), perhaps, came closest when he wrote:
An aspect of Wittgensteins work which is certain to attract growing attention is its language. It would be surprising if he were not one day ranked among the classic writers of German prose. The literary merits of the Tractatus have not gone unnoticed. The language of the Investigations is equally remarkable. The style is simple and perspicuous, the construction of sentences firm and free, the rhythm flows easily. The form is sometimes that of dialogue, with questions and replies; sometimes, as in the Tractatus, it condenses to aphorisms. There is a striking absence of all literary ornamentation and of technical jargon or terminology. The union of measured moderation with richest imagination, the simultaneous impression of natural continuation and surprising turns, leads us to think of some other great productions of the genius of Vienna. (Schubert was Wittgensteins favorite composer.)
We shall briefly mention three scholars who do highlight Wittgensteins style and investigate through these authors why analytic philosophers have tended to ignore it. Charles Altieri (1994, 1995), rather than directly commenting upon Wittgensteins style, uses what he calls a "Wittgensteinian phenomenology" to provide an expressivist account of subjective agency an intentionality without interiority and its relations to communities. He develops this account through a discussion of "personal style" which he defines at one point as "that dimension of stylistic analysis which attributes responsibility and expressivity to particular agents" (1994: 255).
Allan Janik (1989: ix) approaches the question of Wittgensteins style more directly. He asks why Wittgenstein (and Heidegger) wrote "in such a curious fashion" and whether such "curious writing strategies have a philosophical significance." He suggests that Wittgenstein is an "astonishingly difficult thinker to approach" precisely because of "his typical modes of expression, unanswered questions, analogies, aphorisms, and curious examples" (p. x) which, when contrasted with Carnap or Quine, seem to the uninitiated as obscurantist. Janik suggests that consequently some branded him an "outright charlatan", while others wrote "not about what he said . . . but what they think he said" thereby "eliminating just what he took to be most important in his work" (ibid.). In particular, Janik describes a common analytic interpretative strategy in reconstructing his thought: "Wittgenstein wrote the way he did out of necessity rather than choice, capable of brilliant intuition but unable to express himself in clear and distinct arguments in the way a philosopher should" (ibid.). A recent example of this attitude is Hans-Johann Glocks (1996: 28) comment in A Wittgenstein Dictionary:
In their different ways, both the Tractatus and the Investigations are among the few highlights of German philosophical prose. But there are also serious flaws. Because of his aesthetic aspirations Wittgenstein often condensed his insights to the point of impenetrability, and failed to spell out the arguments in support of his claims....As a result, his work often pursues conceptual clarity in an obscure fashion, and constitutes a formidable challenge to readers. Some analytic philosophers simply condemn it out of hand, while others, in the belief that interpretation is an integral part of philosophy, welcome it, even if it occasionally makes them feel like slaves. In any event, Wittgensteins work possesses a scintillating beauty lacking in other analytic philosophers.
In this passage Glock repeats the kind of interpretation that Janik asserts is true of some analytic philosophers. Glock seems perilously close to endorsing such a view and suggesting that aesthetics and philosophy are quite separate realms. Against this common interpretation Janik reaches two dissenting conclusions:
First, Wittgensteins conception of philosophy was thought out in full awareness of the alternatives. Second, his style reflects the results of that remarkable confrontation with the western philosophical tradition from Socrates onwards according to which the philosophers task has been transformed from resolving problems on the basis of a theory to that of dissolving them in tortuous reflections on the nature of practice, which can only be accomplished through a certain linguistic gesturing (p. xi).
He claims, correctly in our view, that Wittgensteins style of philosophising is "rooted in dissatisfaction with traditional ways of philosophising" (p. xi) and he sees in Wittgenstein a third way, between Critical Theory and Deconstructionism, of regarding morality and rationality as immanent in our practices.
Most revealing is Jan Zwickys (1992) Lyric Philosophy, which is referred to little in the literature on Wittgenstein, perhaps because of its unusual form. It consists of a series of epigrammatic and aphoristic comments organised in terms of a musical composition with both a left-hand and a right-hand text; the first, "organisationally dominant" (thematically arranged comments of the author), the second, a kind of "scrapbook" with suggestions for further reading and the relation between the two "somewhere between counterpoint and harmony" (pp. ix-x). The book is "a new sort of overview" of Wittgensteins work and the format is a response to philosophical analysis as a form of thought which sets "unintuitive limits to what can be meant and understood by human beings" (p. ix). Zwickys work is performatively consistent; it emulates Wittgensteins styles and strategies as the means by which to prompt attention to those elements in his work "which have generally been regarded as subsidiary to the main enterprise" (ibid.). For instance, she engages in a dialogue with an imaginary interlocutor in the same way as Wittgenstein does in the Investigations. She suggests that "Wittgenstein was driven by a desire for clarity which matches the best Anglo-American analytic philosophy; but his work embodies a notion of clarity which is more complex" (PI, #117).
All students of Wittgenstein who have grown up with the Wittgenstein "mythology" know certain fundamental things about him and his work: that although Wittgenstein wrote a great deal he published very little in his own lifetime; that everything he wrote became part of a complex process of composition, passing from first or early drafts to finished work, through a number of phases; that what he wrote is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from what he said; and that what he did not write or say what could only be shown was at least as important as what he said and wrote. Each of these features, although perhaps obvious and familiar, requires further elucidation for the light they shine on Wittgensteins styles.
The scope and character of Wittgensteins literary Nachlass, the so-called "Wittgenstein Papers", fall into three main groups: (a) the manuscripts (78), consisting of two strata of writings "first drafts" and "more finished versions"; (b) the typescripts (34) which were dictated or prepared by Wittgenstein himself; and (c) verbatim records of dictations (8) to colleagues or pupils (Von Wright, 1969: 485-86). In addition, von Wright mentions two further groups: the notes, more or less verbatim, of Wittgensteins conversations and lectures; and his correspondence. Already, one might note that there is something extraordinary about the amount he wrote, most of which was never published in his lifetime. He agonised over the form and composition of his work and he developed very complex methods of composition. He comments in Culture and Value that when he is thinking about a topic he "jump[s] about all round it": "Forcing my thoughts into an ordered sequence is a torment for me .... I squander an unspeakable amount of effort making an arrangement of my thoughts which may have no value at all" (CV, 28e). Von Wright (1969: 503) refers to the "layers of composition" of his work and describes the process of composition in the following manner:
From the manuscripts of a more finished character Wittgenstein dictated to typists. In the course of dictation he evidently often altered the sentences, adding new ones, and changed the order of the remarks in the manuscripts. Usually he continued to work with the typescripts. A method which he often used was to cut up the typed text into fragments ("Zettel") and to rearrange the order of the remarks .... A further stage was the production of a new typescript on the basis of a collection of cuttings.
Wittgenstein often wrote philosophical remarks or fragments (e.g., Zettel). It was this characteristic method of composition that he followed in composing the first part of the Investigations. As he, himself, says in its Preface:
I have written down these thoughts as remarks, short paragraphs, of which there is sometimes a fairly long chain about the same subject, while I sometimes make a sudden change, jumping from one topic to another. It was my intention at first to bring all this together in a book whose form I pictured differently at different times. But the essential thing was that the thoughts should proceed from one topic to another in a natural order and without breaks (p. vii).
The questions of form, style and the "method" of composition are central to the Investigations, as Wittgensteins own testimony makes clear. Sometimes he referred to his procedure of composition as one of assemblage philosophy "consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose" (PI, #127); his style of philosophising and composition can be likened to the composition of poetry, music, or painting. Language and sentences have rhythm (CV, 52e), the sounds of words are important, as is their position; their "temporality is embedded in their grammar" (CV, 22e). As Wittgenstein says, invoking an analogy with music: "Sometimes a sentence can be understood only if it is read at the right tempo. My sentences are all supposed to be read slowly" (CV, 57e). He see himself as bringing "to life new movements in thinking" (our emphasis, CV, 20e); often, he makes reference to music in order to understand or throw light on the question of meaning and, sometimes, as in Culture and Value, Wittgenstein includes an actual phrase or theme in musical notation. He said in 1941: "My style is like bad musical composition" (CV, 39e). His work has been described as variations on a theme and Wittgensteins comments in the Preface to the Investigations offer some confirmation of this view: there is a natural order to (his) ideas. He says that the best he could write would never be more than philosophical remarks and adds: "my thoughts were soon crippled if I tried to force them in any single direction against their natural inclination" (p. vii). The analogy with musical composition is strong here and, it suggests that when composing his "thoughts" Wittgenstein self-consciously understood the process as akin to arranging a musical work.
Wittgensteins comment regarding his attitude to philosophy that "Philosophy ought really to be written only as poetic composition" (the motif we chose as our opening quotation) is a revealing remark. What does it mean? That philosophy at its best would recognise the lyrical resources of language cadence, metre and simile? (Does this amount to a consideration of style?) Or that philosophy as poetry, as an elevated form of expression, comes closest to capturing the truth of human experience and transmuting that experience into feelings? Certainly, Wittgensteins "aestheticism" might lead one to guess that philosophy written as poetry would combine elements of simplicity, elegance, clarity and order in a form in which aesthetics and ethics are one and the same.
Paradoxically, especially given the poetic quality of the Tractatus and his penchant for simile and metaphor, Wittgenstein believed that he was unable to write verse and that his ability to write prose extended only so far; limitations that were inherent in the "nature of my equipment" (CV, 59e). As his friend Paul Engelmann (1967: 89-90) tells us, Wittgenstein never wrote poetry or played a musical instrument. Yet he talked of experiencing a "poetic mood", like Schiller, where thoughts take on a lustre as vivid as nature itself (CV, 66e) and he assessed his own style of philosophising, in a characteristic anguished moment of self-reflection, as inventing new similes rather than a line of thinking (CV, 19e). Yet "A good simile refreshes the intellect" (CV, 1e) and "a mans philosophy" might be seen to rest on a preference for certain similes (CV, 20e). He muses upon the way in which a philosophical investigation resembles an aesthetic one (CV, 25e) and indicates that although he finds scientific questions interesting they never really grip him in the way that aesthetic and conceptual questions do (CV, 79e).
Wittgensteins use of the word "picture" is extremely complex as he uses this word both in the sense of a "mental picture", that is, an "image", and in the related sense of a "conception" or "model". In these uses Wittgenstein in the Investigations is, in part, combating his earlier Tractarian view that a sentence, proposition or fact-stating satze is a picture of reality. Speaking of the picture theory of the Tractatus he says in the Investigations: "A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably" (PI, #115). The relation of "images" to "imagination" and the relations between pictures and images is a complex matter and well beyond the scope this paper. To make matters more complex Wittgenstein uses picture [bild] in the ordinary sense of the word to mean, illustration, landscape, photograph, projection and representation.
The Investigations and later works are interspersed with remarks that begin with asking us to "imagine": "Let us imagine a language. . ." (PI, #2); "Imagine a script. . ." (PI, #4); "We could imagine that the language. . ." (PI, #6); "I can imagine such a use of words . . ." (PI, #6); "Imagine someones saying. . ." (PI, #14); "it is easy to imagine a language. . ." (PI, #19) and so on. Wittgenstein says: "The philosophy of as if itself rests wholly on this shifting between simile and reality" (Z: #261) and he explicitly acknowledges: "One of the most important methods I use is to imagine a historical development for our ideas from what actually occurred. If we do this we see the problem from a completely new angle" (CV, 37e). Establishing a new way of thinking is difficult, and yet:
Once the new way of thinking has been established, the old problems vanish; indeed they become hard to recapture. For they go with our way of expressing ourselves and, if we clothe ourselves in a new form of expression, the old problems are discarded along with the old garment (CV, 48e).
At one point in Culture and Value, discussing Bacons philosophical work, he talks of inventing a style of painting capable of depicting what is "fuzzy" (CV, 68e). In the Investigations he compares a concept with a style of painting and asks whether it is arbitrary, something we might choose at our pleasure (PI, p. 230). "A thinker is very much like a draftsman whose aim it is to represent all the interrelations between things"(CV, 12e). Wittgenstein, himself, consistently incorporated diagrams, little drawings and geometrical figures into his work. He also made frequent allusions to architecture and employed analogies, metaphors and examples from building and architecture. He was for years registered as an architect, with Paul Engelmann, in the Vienna city directory and assumed sole responsibility for the design and building of a new residence for his sister, Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein. He writes: "Working in philosophy like work in architecture in many respects is really more a working on oneself. Ones own interpretation. On ones way of seeing things. (And what one expects of them" (CV, 16e).
Perhaps most difficult to interpret are the remarks that Wittgenstein makes relating the notion of style to that of spirit. For instance, he describes the technical improvements that had occurred in film-making and modern dance music (meaning jazz) and asserts that these technical improvements could not be compared with the improvement of an artistic style: "What distinguishes all these developments from the formation of a style is that spirit plays no part in them" (CV, 3e). Style, then, is not a technical accomplishment. In the same way that "The human being is the best picture of the human soul" (CV, 49e), so "a mans style is a picture [Bild] of him" (CV, 79e). A work of "supreme art" has something which can be called "style" (CV, 37e) and we can talk of a "style of writing" which can be great (Freges writing is sometimes great but Freuds, while excellent, is never great) (CV, 87e).
One can reproduce an old style, that is translate it into a newer language, which is how Wittgensteins characterises his own "building work" (CV, 60e). His words, he says, are well chosen but the form of his work (construed as a question of style), he considers to be unoriginal. A style which is original in form is "freshly grown from deep within oneself" (CV, 53e). Great style is original in form; originality in this sense cannot be a "clever trick", or simply the use of "stylistic devices" (CV, 71e) or a "personal peculiarity": "the beginnings of good originality are already there if you do not want to be something you are not" (CV, 60e). Style is an expression of human value.
In Sketch for a Foreword (CV, 6e), an early draft of the printed foreword to Philosophical Remarks, Wittgenstein writes: "This book is written for those who are in sympathy with the spirit in which it is written" (our emphasis). It is a spirit which expresses an certain "cultural ideal" (CV, 2e); one which would not be understood by "the typical western scientist" who, imbued with the spirit of contemporary European and American civilisation, is committed to the form of "progress" and "building an ever more complicated structure". In this age even clarity is sought only as a means to this end. Wittgenstein finds the spirit of this age both "alien" and "uncongenial". His way of thinking is different: for him "clarity, perspicuity are valuable in themselves" (CV, 7e). Clarity is an aesthetic and ethical ideal; the work of clarification requires courage; it is not "just a clever game" (CV, 19e) The clarity that Wittgenstein is aiming at is, as he says, "complete clarity" which means that "philosophical problems should completely disappear." He goes on to say "There is not a philosophical method, though there are indeed methods, like different therapies" (PI, #133). Wittgensteins style of philosophising and the stylistic devices he innovates are designed to command a clear view of the use of words (PI, #5, #122).
Hence, Wittgensteins notion of clarity is more complex than that employed by analytic philosophers. In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein claims that "Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts" consisting of elucidations (TLP, #4.112); but in the Investigations, the notion of clarity has become more complex. It retains its aesthetic value but the method of logical clarification has given way to a style which aims at commanding a clear view of the use of words, where speaking and writing is regarded as an activity and part of a form of life. Commanding a clear view establishes "an order in our knowledge of the use of language" but it is "an order with a particular end in view; one out of many possible orders; not the order" (PI, #132).
There is for Wittgenstein a family resemblance among the terms spirit, form and style. In terms of the doctrine of saying and showing, form or style, like spirit, can only be shown or exhibited, as he says: "the spirit of a book has to be evident in the book itself and cannot be described" (CV, 7e). This cultural ideal, it might be argued, is closely tied to Viennese modernism and to modernism in general to present the unpresentable, as Lyotard (1984: 78) describes it, explaining it in terms of the Kantian sublime, or to express the inexpressible, where the inexpressible can only be shown. (Perhaps, this may be expressed as a feature marking the limits of modernism.) Wittgenstein remarks: "In art it is hard to say anything as good: as saying nothing" (CV, 23e).
In Wittgensteins writing throughout his career, but especially in his later works, one finds a preoccupation with composition and form; with analogies to music and poetry; with the use of pictures and word-pictures (thought experiments and imaginings); and, throughout, with a conception of style that is at once conceptual and aesthetic. Style, for Wittgenstein, was not a literary extravagance that threatened philosophical clarity, but a means to it: "writing in the right style is setting the carriage straight on the rails" (CV, 39). Style is necessary to achieve clarity. But it is crucial to see here that "clarity" meant something different for Wittgenstein: not a transparency of language that allowed something else ("meaning") to shine through, but a manifestation of style, an effect of arranging a text in just one way rather than another. Clarity is produced not out of a linear narrative, but in the criss-cross of different ways of approaching a problem, a pattern designed and balanced with the care of a poetic (or musical) composition.
Wittgensteins Philosophical Style as a Form of Pedagogy
O its so clear! Its absolutely clear!
Tense nerves crisp tenser then throughout the school;
Pencils are poised: Oh, Im a bloody fool"
A damnd fool - So: however it may appear.
Not that the Master isnt pedagogic:
Thought-free brows pearly as they gaze,
Hearts bleed with him. But - should they want a blaze,
Try prompting! Who is the next will drop a brick?
From I.A. Richards poem "The Strayed Poet" (quoted in Monk, 1993, p. 290).
Paul Engelmann (1967: 114), in his memoir of Wittgenstein, warns us not to underestimate the influence of Wittgensteins teaching experience on his philosophical works. Wittgenstein, Engelmann maintains, "used the acquired art of asking questions with consummate skill, and the crucial simplicity with which he accomplished this in his most profound mental probings constitutes his great new philosophical achievement" (p. 115). Engelmann suggests that Wittgenstein moved to the Socratic form of questions in his later work in order to correct the reflective monologue of the Tractatus which were written in the form of categorical propositions.
There is something fundamentally correct about Engelmanns description. Wittgenstein himself writes "Nearly all my writings are private conversations with myself. Things that I say to myself tete-a-tete" (CV, 77e). Terry Eagleton (1993: 9) also makes the observation that the Investigations:
is a thoroughly dialogical work, in which the author wonders out loud, imagines an interlocutor, asks us questions which may or may not be on the level ... forcing the reader into the work of self-demystification, genially engaging our participation by his deliberately undaunting style.
Yet there is also something awry for Wittgenstein in the dialogue form, at least as it was practiced by Socrates. He ways, "Reading the Socratic dialogues one has the feeling: what a frightful waste of time! Whats the point of these arguments that prove nothing and clarify nothing?" (CV, 14e). Socrates gets into difficulty in trying to give the definition of a concept because "again and again a use of the word emerges that seems not to be compatible with the concept that other uses have led us to form" (CV, 30e). On this basis Wittgenstein questions Socrates right to keep on reducing the sophist to silence (CV, 56e).
Wittgensteins later writing is dialogical, but not in the Socratic sense: the aim is not the search for an adequate definition of a concept. Indeed, if we keep in mind the multiplicity of language-games we will not be inclined to ask questions like "What is the meaning of...?" (PI, #24). Moreover, the kinds of questions Wittgenstein asks, and the way he asks them, is different from those of Socrates. Fann (1969: 109) notes that Wittgenstein asks himself (and his readers) in the order of eight hundred questions in the Investigations, yet he only answers one hundred of them and of these the majority (some seventy) wrongly. If a dialogical work the Investigations is not a conventional dialogical work, for Wittgenstein, by asking questions and answering them wrongly (deliberately) wants to stop us from asking certain kinds of questions: the sort of "philosophical" questions which require that we provide a theoretical answer abstracted from the context of use and social practice. Philosophy does not make progress because "our language has remained the same and keeps seducing us into asking the same questions" (CV, 15e). Moreover, the questions Wittgenstein poses are frequently posed by an imaginary interlocutor to himself linking his approach again with a confessional mode in which the primary dynamic is of an inner dialogue (Finch 1995: 76).
This mode of dialogue, then, is not one of demonstration (as it often was for Plato) but of investigation. Wittgensteins use of imagined interchanges, thought experiments and frequently cryptic aphorisms were meant to engage the reader in a process that was, in Wittgensteins actual teaching as well as in his writing, the externalisation of his own doubts, his own questions, his own thought processes. Hence his philosophical purpose was manifested, shown, in how he pursued a question; his style was his method, and his writings sought to exemplify how it worked. His concern with matters of composition and form were not only about the presentation of an argument, but about the juxtaposition that would best draw the reader into the very state of puzzlement he himself felt. Therefore, an appreciation of Wittgensteins style leads us directly to an understanding of the fundamentally pedagogical dimension of his philosophy.