Early Wittgenstein
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus The picture
theory of propositions. My whole task
consists in explaining the nature of
sentences. A proposition is a picture of
When we put a sentence together, we are
constructing a model of reality. The model
shares its logical form with the state of affairs
it refers to. If the model correctly represents
reality, the sentence is true.
The nature of thought.
A thought is a sentence
with a sense. Thinking
is not possible without
Thinking is a kind of
language. For a
thought too is...a logical
picture of a sentence,
and therefore it is just a
A thought describes a
possible state of affairs.
Philosophy indicates
what cannot be said (or
thought) by finding
what can be said.
Names stand for
objects. A sentence
combines names into a
certain configuration
(The cat is on the mat.)
Outside of logic,
everything is accidental.
Later Wittgenstein
Rejection of linguistic essences. The meaning
of a word is its use in a language.
There is no universal property shared by all
‘games’, there is, rather, a complicated
network of similarities overlapping and crisscrossing...a set of family resemblances.
To understand a sentence, then, one must be
a participant in the language-game that
displays the use of the sentence.
Task of Philosophy
It is of the essence of our
investigation that we do not
seek to learn anything new
by it. We want to
understand something that is
already in plain view....Our
investigation is therefore a
grammatical one. Such an
investigation sheds light on
our problem by clearing
misunderstandings away.
concerning the use of
Philosophy may in no
way interfere with the
actual use of language;
it can in the end only
describe it.
What is your aim in
philosophy? To show
the fly the way out of
the fly bottle.
Impossibility of a
private language.
Wittgensteinian Aphorisms
A nothing would serve just as well as a
something about which nothing could be said.
(PI, 304)
Always get rid of the idea of the private
object in this way; assume that it constantly
changes, but that you do not notice the
change because your memory constantly
deceives you. (PI, Pt II ix)
It is humiliating to have to appear like an
empty tube, which is simply inflated by a
mind. (Culture and Value, p. 11)
Kierkegaard’s attack on Christendom.
Authentic vs inauthentic faith.
Lessing’s ugly ditch: The impossibility
of basing one’s eternal happiness on a
more or less probable historical claim.
The necessity and desirability of a
passionate, irrational, leap of faith.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
AKA: Johannes Climacus; Johannes Anticlimacus.
Once it was at the
risk of his life that a
man dared to
profess himself a
Christian; now it is
to make oneself
suspect to venture
to doubt that one is
a Christian.
Religion can make selfcenteredness seem
respectable. Authentic
Christianity isn’t based
on doctrinal or historical
certainties, it is
passionate subjectivity.
If I am capable of grasping
God objectively, I do not
believe, but...because I
cannot do this I must
Kierkegaard’s Thought
Approximation argument: Objective historical
reasoning can never be more than
approximately true, hence it can never
provide a basis for an eternal happiness.
Postponement argument: Since all the
evidence will never be in, an objective
inquirer must always postpone faith.
Passion argument: Objectivity is inversely
proportional to passion.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
God is dead.
Traditional religious and
metaphysical systems have
been undermined by the
scientific method. Without
some new basis for morality
and meaning, nihilism will
A new naturalism (which
affirms life) is necessary to
replace the old myths.
I entreat you my brothers,
remain true to the earth, and
do not believe those who
speak to you of
superterrestial hopes. They
are despisers of life, selfpoisoned men of whom the
earth is weary.
Nietzsche’s Naturalism
Master vs slave
morality. The weak,
in an effort to
protect themselves
from the strong,
created slave
moralities of
kindness and
The master exerts
his will to power and
recognizes that what
is good is what is
good for him. He
affirms his life
instinct and exists
beyond good and
What is good?- All that heightens the
feeling of power, the will to power,
power itself in man.
To live alone one must be an animal or a
god- says Aristotle. There is yet a third
case: one must be both- a philosopher.
Madness is something rare in individualsbut in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is
the rule.
We have no organ at all for knowledge,
for truth: we know, or believe or
imagine, precisely as much as may be
useful in the interest of the human herd,
the species: and even what is here called
usefulness is in the end only a belief,
something imagined and perhaps
precisely that most fatal piece of stupidity
by which we shall one day perish.
The man of knowledge must be able not
only to love his enemies but also to hate
his friends.
Everyone who has ever built anywhere a
new heaven first found the power thereto
in his own hell.
You will never get the crowd to cry
Hosanna until you ride into town on an
Thoughts are the shadows of our
sensations- always darker, emptier,
simpler than these.
The philosopher believes that the value
of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the
building: posterity discovers it in the
bricks with which he built and which are
then often used again for better building:
in the fact, that is to say, that that
building can be destroyed and
nonetheless possess value as material.
Sartre’s Subjectivism
Existence precedes essence. There is
no universal human nature because
there is no God to create one. Each of
us must create our own essence by the
actions we do, the choices we make.
To fail to choose for oneself is badfaith.
The necessity of choice with nothing to
guide us creates angst.
Existential Abandonment
The anguish of
The anguish of
Sartre’s student:
Join the resistance
or care for mother?
No moral theory can
guide his choice.
Abstract values don’t
apply to concrete
You are free,
therefore choosethat is to say,
The moral choice is
comparable to the
construction of a
work of art.