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A quote from Wittgenstein

by marcus
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marcus
#1
Sep30-06, 12:59 PM
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A new member of PF (July 2006) called my attention to this quote from Wittgenstein, which I pass along in case anyone wants to comment or expand on it

===quote===
There are problems I never get anywhere near, which do not lie in my path or are not part of my world. Problems of the intellectual world of the West that Beethoven (and perhaps Goethe to a certain extent) tackled and wrestled with, but which no philosopher has ever confronted (perhaps Nietzsche passed by them). And perhaps they are lost as far as western philosophy is concerned, i.e. no one will be there capable of experiencing, and hence, describing, the progress of this culture as an epic. Or more precisely, it just no longer is an epic, or is so only for someone looking at it from outside, which is what Beethoven did with prevision (as Spengler hints somewhere). It might be that civilization can only have its epic poets in advance. Just as a man cannot report his own death when it happens, but only foresee it and describe it as something lying in the future. So it might be said: If you want to see an epic description of a whole culture, you will have to look at the works of its greatest figures, hence at works composed when the end of this culture could only be foreseen, because later on there will be nobody left to describe it. So it's not to be wondered at that it should be only written in the obscure language of prophesy, comprehensible to few indeed.
===endquote===
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marcus
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Oct1-06, 04:53 PM
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My informant has provided another passage from what I understand to be the same book or essay by Wittgenstein.

===quote===
"This book is written for those who are in sympathy with the spirit in which it is written. This is not, I believe, the spirit of the main current of European and American civilization. The spirit of this civilization makes itself manifest in the industry, architecture and music of our time, in its fascism and socialism, and it is alien and uncongenial to the author. This is not a value judgment. It is not, it is true, as though he accepted what nowadays passes for architecture as architecture or did not approach what it called modern music with the greatest suspicion(though without understanding its language), but still, the disappearance of the arts does not justify judging disparagingly of the human beings who make up this civilization. For in times like these, genuine strong characters simply leave the arts aside and turn to other things and somehow the worth of the individual man finds expression. Not, to be sure, in the way it would at a time of high culture. A culture is like a big organization which assigns each of its members a place where he can work in the spirit of the whole; and it is perfectly fair for his power to be measured by the contribution he succeeds in making to the whole enterprise. In an age without culture on the other hand forces become fragmented and the power of an individual man is used up in overcoming apposing forces and frictional resistances; it does not show in the distance he travels but perhaps only in the heat he generates in overcoming friction. But energy is still energy and even if the spectacle which our age affords is not the formation of a great cultural work, with the best men contributing to the same great end, so much as the unimpressive spectacle of a crowd whose best members work for purely private ends, still we must not forget that the spectacle is not what matters.
I realize then that the disappearance of a culture does not signify the disappearance of human value, but simply of certain means of expressing this value, yet the fact remains that I have no sympathy for the current of European civilization and do not understand its goals, if it has any. So I am really writing for people who are scattered throughout the corners of the globe...."
===endquote===

I have to say this speaks to me. the presumed date of the writing is 1930 but there are ways it applies to the present.


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