July 8, 2013
me+ME: Wittgenstein got done!
1. The first version of the Tractatus + my notes got done
2. Some additions
3. Other things

About ME/CFS


It still is the case that sleeping remains quite difficult for me. This also makes my life rather difficult, at the moment.

Yes indeed, it does - but I did get something finished that I started 45 years ago - and no, it is not a joke, though it will not interest many:

1. The first version of the Tractatus + my notes got done
What I wrote yesterday, in the opening file of my Wittgenstein-section, is this:

And today, 7-7-2013, I seem to have finished my Wittgenstein criticism. (I don't like "critique".)

It took me a mere 45 years, though indeed I have worked on it only sporadically and rarely. The reasons for that are mostly Wittgenstein's very quaint style of writing in the Tractatus, plus my conviction that he was in most ways quite mistaken.

As it is, I am older now than Wittgenstein ever got to be, and have been ill the last 35 years, with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), a disease which also makes it very unlikely, and in my case certain, that one gets help of any kind, a few special persons excepted, who cannot do much. (And yes: it is a real, painful, seriously invalidating disease, about which, alas, there is not yet a good medical explanation.)

As to my own adventures with M.E. in Academia: in spite of the facts that I have a very good philosophical B.A. and a truly excellent psychological M.A. I also got no help whatsoever to get a promotion, except minimalized dole, that was the one thing that could not be refused to me.

And I was thrown from the faculty of philosophy of the University of Amsterdam, briefly before taking my M.A. there, for the crime of asking questions, and was the only person thus honoured in the Netherlands since 1945. (There is more behind it, that I will not enter upon here.)

But OK... at long last I have a finished first version of my criticism of Wittgenstein's Tractatus - and the best way to summarize my criticism is that the Tractatus is mostly nonsense, and the reason this is not often seen is that it simply is a very obscurely written book, that does require rather a lot of knowledge of logic and philosophy of science in one, so as to be able to understand it.

Also, not everything in it is nonsense, though the things that are not seem to have been mostly said earlier by others, whom Wittgenstein did not mention, such as Bernard Bolzano. (Those who want to know more, I refer to Wittgenstein’s Ph.D Viva— A Re-Creation (PFD) by Laurence Goldstein, that has the merit of being also rather funny, at least if you have an interest.)

What more to say? I make a few points.

  • This will be of interest to only a few, and of these few most will regard me as mistaken. This can't be helped, and all I can reply is that I have done my best.
  • Also, I am a serious philosopher, with a very large amount of relevant knowledge of logic and philosophy of science and of classic philosophy (meaning here: everything until the 20th C).
  • The reason you don't know me is that I have been kicked from the University of Amsterdam, while I was ill, and I did not see any reason to try to make it in philosophy after that, as long as I was ill, which has been the case ever since.
  • Nevertheless, I did write a great amount of philosophy: If you check out my list of philosophers you'll find that I have commented over 20 philosophical books, usually with comments that are as long as the books. Most of these comments are in English, and some - such as those on Leibniz - have been lauded. (See also Maarten Maartensz.)
  • If I have to place myself in philosophy, I should say I have learned most from Peirce, Russell, Ramsey, Broad, Bunge and Zinovyev, and have opposed marxism, totalitarianism, and postmodernism - and the last three were the strongly dominant modes in the University of Amsterdam from 1971-1995, when I was at it.
  • Apart from the 20th Century philosophers I mentioned, I have learned much from Aristotle, Lucretius, Ockham, Montaigne, Galileo, Hobbes, Hume, Leibniz, Hazlitt, Schopenhauer, and Boole.
  • Each of the men I mentioned by name were greater or far greater men than Ludwig Wittgenstein, but then indeed Wittgenstein lived and flourished at a time that was mostly quite bad for real and serious philosophy.
Finally, the text you have now of the Tractatus plus my comments takes on my site around 5 MB. It is fairly well organized, with each thesis its own file, with my comments under it.

Since these comments of mine started over 45 years ago, when I was 18, and since I have worked - sporadically and rarely - some 15 years to get them done as html, you can be sure I have made some mistakes, committed some infelicities, and left quite a lot of unclarities.

Then again, at least my text is fairly clear philosophy. If I live long enough, and my health does not get worse, I probably will go through it once more, but for the moment I am relieved I have, indeed at long last, finished this first version of my criticism of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

So far for the text I wrote yesterday. Here is a bit from the same source for those who want to dive in:

Introduction by   .......  Russell's intro, with my notes
Bertrand Russell  ..   Link to my BR-pages
Title page   ...............  Titlepage Tractatus + dedication + motto 
Foreword  ...............
  Wittgenstein's foreword
Ludwig Wittgenstein  To follow
Contents   ...............    Links to the main theses in Comments seriess

   Logico-Philosophicus Full text without comments, with links, 1 file.

If you want the text of the Tractatus, you want the last link. It's numbers link to my comments to the theses with those numbers, but these you thus avoid. By contrast

Start of text with notes

is Tractatus 1 with my comments, from which you can step through the whole Tractatus per thesis + my comments, with links to the whole text.

A feature of my comments is that it has many links to my Philosophical Dictionary, which should have the merit of clarifying at least my own terminology as well as I can.

Probably the best start is Russell's  Introduction, that comes also with my comments, or the Start of text with notes.

And no, I will not blame you if you don't finish, while I should say that the links to my comments in the text of the Tractatus, except for the main numbers, does not work anymore.

2. Some additions

I really think, and indeed thought all of the 45 years I have known the Tractatus, that Wittgenstein's own words fully apply to the Tractatus - so to that extent, he and I do not disagree, and indeed never disagreed, though we do disagree about most things:

‘Most propositions and questions that have been written about philosophical matters are not false but nonsensical. ... Most questions and propositions of the philosophers result from the fact that we do not understand the logic of our language’ (4.003, with some interesting remarks by me - MM).

This seems to me a remarkably correct, if probably unintended, truth about the Tractatus as well. [1]

But I certainly do not think - as Mr Goldstein appears to - that Wittgenstein's later "Philosophische Untersuchungen" are any better - in fact, I think they are worse. (See e.g. Ernest Gellner, "Words and Things". This book, incidentally, has a praising foreword by Russell, at least in the Penguin copy I have.)

The problem that relatively few have seen that it is nonsense, are the combination of the artful and misleading style plus the prerequisites to read it. Besides, many of those who thought so were too impressed by his reputation to say so, in public.

Nevertheless, as Goldstein reports, in time Wittgenstein had come to see the Tractatus had made serious mistakes. In fact, he wrote in 1931 in a private notebook:

‘I don’t 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 clarification. That is how Boltzmann, Hertz, Schopenhauer, Frege, Russell, Kraus, Loos, Weininger, Spengler, Sraffa have influenced me’.

This was hardly fair to those mentioned, but correct about himself. Also, at least one man is missing here, and he was a greater man than Wittgenstein, namely Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, the 18th C aphorist and physicist. [2]

There are some who have mentioned him in connection with Wittgenstein, but very oddly:

Von Wright writes, ‘An author ... who reminds one, often astonishingly, of Wittgenstein is Lichtenberg. ... It is deserving of mention that some of Lichtenberg’s thoughts on philosophical questions show a striking resemblance to Wittgenstein’s’ (p. 34). Why von Wright should put things this way round (when Lichtenberg was writing two centuries before Wittgenstein) I do not know.

I do not know why Goldstein does not know: Clearly, Von Wright thought so much of Wittgenstein that he inverted the order of orginality. Besides, Lichtenberg [2] really is a lot better than Wittgenstein, for one thing because he does not have all this hullabaloo about proofs; for another because he never published his aphorisms, which were published after he died; and for a third because all he had were aphorisms, rather than a system, a thesis, or a metaphysics.

Having quoted Laurence Goldstein mostly quoting others, let me finish with quoting him directly:

Nevertheless, it is my serious contention that, had Wittgenstein’s
contemporaries not been so overawed by his personality, and had the dissertation been judged by normal standards of originality and quality of philosophical argumentation, it would have failed.

Yes indeed. And I agree it is mostly that his contemporaries were "overawed by his personality", rather than by the quality of his work. Also, unlike Goldstein, I think the same applies to Wittgenstein's "Philosophische Untersuchungen", and his other books.

And to stress that: It seems to me that all of Wittgenstein's published corpus of thought is for the most part mistaken and seriously set back analytic philosophy.

This does not mean it should not have been published; it does mean it should have been dealt with as if it were philosophy, rather than as it has been dealt with: as the scarcely dubitable utterings of a clear philosophical genius.

Indeed, I do not think he was a philosophical genius, as were Peirce, Russell and Ramsey, who indeed each did make widely respected major additions to logic and other things, unlike Wittgenstein.

The reasons Wittgenstein was treated as a philosophical genius is that he behaved as if he were one, and that his books were written in an awful, pretentious, fundamentally unclear style.

Had either or both not been the case, he would have been seen through long ago, in the manner of Russell, Broad, Popper, Gellner and some others: As an undoubtedly clever man, who was mostly mistaken, in the manner well described by Dr Johnson: What is true in it, is not new; what is new in it, is not true.

But it is difficult to establish this, mostly because of the style in which he wrote.

Other things

There may be - there will be, there are - other things today I may comment on, but in view of my bad sleeping record, general tiredness, and the things I have to do, you'll have to see later in the day.

The present file is uploaded very early in the morning of July 8, Dutch time.
[1] The problem here - "if probably unintended" - is that Wittgenstein also insisted that his book was like a ladder:
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)
This is 6.54 which has a remark by me:
Well, yes - except that I don't see a ladder but rather a philosophical cul-de-sac that is pretended to be a highway, and I don't see much elucidation and a lot of obscurantism, quite a lot intentional and dishonestly so.
[2] I am far more enthousiastic about Lichtenberg, whom I also know about 45 years, than about Wittgenstein, and have his complete "Sudelbücher" (scrap books) in German. There also is a good choice + translation in Penguin Classics:
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: Aphorisms
Translated with an Introduction and Notes by R.J. Hollingdale
This is well worh reading, and a lot better than Wittgenstein. My edition is of 1990.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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