Language and reality
THE GREAT MIRROR An essay on Wittgenstein's Tractatus: R. C. Pradhan; Published by Kalki Prakash, 9F, Sector 8, Jasola, Near Indraprastha-Apollo Hospital, New Delhi. Rs. 565.
WITTGENSTEIN IS one of the very few western philosophers who have brought to the forefront the connection between philosophy and language.
He discussed issues such as the task of philosophy, the relation of language, reality and thought, the relation of truth and meaning, the nature of logic and other issues, which have profoundly influenced various major contemporary philosophical movements. His philosophy falls broadly into two parts the early and later philosophy.
The book under review is the collection of essays on his work, Tractatus. The phrase "great mirror" which is the title of the book, is used by him to show how language mirrors reality.
The author has taken the responsibility of explaining the major concepts discussed in the above work, which is a difficult one for the main reason that it is in crisp, short aphoristic sentences. It is marked by its system of numbering which indicates assumptions, definitions and summaries.
The author's skill is visible in his interpretation of the work in a clear and lucid manner. The work has an interesting foreword by the well-known thinker, D. P. Chattopadhyaya, who says that the main agenda of Wittgenstein was to tell us to what extent the experience of life, rather of thought, could be expressed in language.
The book contains 12 chapters with a brief introduction and a select bibliography. The author believes that the originality of the Tractatus is the new synthesis of the age-old ideas.
He further says that Wittgenstein could successfully integrate the logical system from Frege and Russell and spiritual understanding of life from Plato, Kant and Schopenhauer. Also he has nostalgia for the Eastern mysticism found in Vedanta and Buddhism.
In the first chapter, he presents the conceptual background of Wittgenstein's work very well. In his letter to Russell, Wittgenstein wrote that logic is still in the melting pot, and made a distinction between "saying" and "showing". Logical form cannot be described but must be shown.
In the next two chapters, he explains how Wittgenstein was influenced by Russell and Frege. Russell says that Tractatus was an important event in the philosophical world. There were differences between Russell and Wittgenstein with regard to the problem of logic, language and metaphysics.
But the mystical understanding of logic and language was not acceptable to Russell. For Wittgenstein, language was not a mere means of communication. It represented everything in the world. It was a "great mirror". Similarly in chapter four, the author traces the roots of Schopenhauer and Kant in Wittgenstein. Schopenhauer, who criticised western rationalism, supported the metaphysics of will, which constitutes the ultimate reality.
Kant's notion of transcendental self and Schopenhauer's metaphysics of will helped Wittgenstein to develop his notion of transcendental self.
The author deals with how in the Tractatus, philosophy is treated as critique of language. Wittgenstein's method of analysis of language can be called transcendental because it is meant to bring out the necessary structure of language and the world. He shows how language mirrors reality.
The author examines the nature of language and logical truth, the limits of the world, the metaphysics of the self and the problem of free will. The concluding chapter is based on Wittgenstein's famous statement that what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence, and examines the mystical side of his philosophy.
The book is a systematic presentation of Wittgenstein's early philosophy. The author deserves praise and appreciation for making his philosophy simple, without losing its depth. Both in substance and in form, the book is excellent.
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