Wittgenstein on the Nature of the Self and Solipsism from his Tractatus Rev. Randolph Thompson Dible II, U. L. C.

17/ 03/ 09 Wittgenstein was heavily influenced by a number of German thinkers from philosophy and the arts from the generations just before his era, and of them a huge influence influence, as well as a direct influence on Wittgenstein, is Arthur Schopenhauer, whose thesis is states as the title of his opus “The World as Will and Representation”. In Book 1 of Volume 1 of that work, he starts the work with the following proposition: “The world is my representation (vorstellung).” And that chapter he concludes with the proposition “And the world is my Will.” There is an obvious influent in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus’s proposition 6.373 “The world is independent of my will.” Yet, at first glance, it seems that Wittgenstein is antithetical to Schopenhauer. Both thinkers clarify what they mean by these propositions in their discussions of the substitutability of the notions of will and subject. In Schopenhauer we find a discussion of the “pure subject of knowing” in the chapter of Volume 1, of that title. Here, as elsewhere throughout that work we find a careful distinction between the subject as the thing-in-itself and the subject as the psychological phenomenon which is thereby objectified or represented. This echoes the trouble some readers of Schopenhauer have with the idea of the self as the origin and limit (source and telos) of the world as representation. This confusion is resolved by once again reminding such readers that the self referred to is none other than the transcendental base of reference, the pure self-reference of the self itself, not the subjective forms (Whitehead’s word as well as Schopenhauer’s (from the aforementioned chapter)) or individual self (the jiva or jivatman distinct from the true self or atman in the Hindu works Schopenhauer reads before going to bed.) Such a distinction is necessary to keep in mind to understand mystical work. Such a distinction keeps the limit of the finitude of the word clear, and thus the world and all its constituents in check. Knowing the limit is knowing the true nature of the self, and is the mystical key to placing nonultimate reality in the context of ultimate reality. The similar sounding propositions of Schopenhauer and Wittgensetin’s 6.373 resound of antipodal nodes in a harmonium, of mystical talk about the self, but in fact there is no such sphere of any dimensions, it is rather a metaphor of the dimensionless point Wittgenstein describes in Proposition 5.64: “Here we see that solipsism strictly carried out coincides with pure realism. The I is solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and there remains the reality coordinated with it. 5.641: There is therefore really a sense in which in philosophy we can talk of a non-psychological I. The I occurs in philosophy through the fact that the “world is my world”. The I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit – not a part of the world.” Certainly Schopenhauer’s two statements do not conflict with on another, so we must understand the sense in which he employs these motions of self, will and world. With that sense, we can make sense of Schopenhauer and his critics, and it is helpful to empirical scientistic critics of mysticism, such as the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle who were so attracted to what Wittgenstein did say in his opus, to the form of his brilliant work (formosus means beautiful.) But of course, the mystical side of things is

not the side we are presented with, but the side which is ever-present, the in-side. Take these two propositions for Wittgenstein to illustrate the point: 6.41: “The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it does happen. In it there is no value-- and if there were, it would be of no value. If there is a value which is of value, it must lie outside all happening and being-so. For all happening and being so is accidental. It must lie outside the world.” 6.6.522 “There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.” The subject cannot be seen naked, the self-aware self is aware of no objectification of the self, rather, but the self in any way is never absent, rather, it is everpresent, for it is the very presence which sees what is shown and known. So again, although it is invisible and cannot be sensed, there is nothing more necessary. The world as Wittgenstein understands it is the logical construct, the very structure that is the case, which is like Schopenhauer’s characterization of the world as representation. Wittgenstein’s logicism goes further than Schopenhauer on this point in describing the world as logically complete, precisely defined by the scaffold of the logical hierarchy which runs from the parallel structures of objects and atomic facts named through situations or states of affairs to the world which is the case. But this hierarchy is simply what can be stated, not ultimate reality. Many propositions in the propositions 5 and the propositions 6 clarify the more mystical points Wittgenstein has about the self, the subject and the place of solipsism in his understanding. Statements such as 5.62’s “…the limits of my language… mean the limits of my world…” are clarifications of such states as 5.6’ s state of the same (“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”) and 5.621 “The world and life are one” and 5.63 “I am my world. (The microcosm.)”. 5.631 clarifies the nature of the aforementioned distinction between the true self and the non-self subjective form, starting with “The thinking, presenting subject; there is no such thing….”. And the following propositions in this area continue with the subject. In 5.641 he clarifies the terminology using “the philosophical subject” and “the metaphysical subject”, predicates necessary only because of the normal usage of our colloquial language which has different senses. The non-psychological I and the extensionless point are other names he gives the self, the limit. The world felt as limited whole, indeed, is the picture painted by Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.

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