A fairly insightful pairing: Wittgenstein/Marx

“The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.” [The German ideology.]

“When I talk about language (words, sentences, etc.) I must speak the language of every day. Is this language too coarse and material for what we want to say? Then how is another one to be constructed?” – [Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations]

” Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists also for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as well; language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men. Where there exists a relationship, it exists for me: the animal does not enter into ‘relations’ with anything, it does not enter into any relation at all. For the animal, its relation to others does not exist as a relation. Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all.” [Marx, The German ideology.]

“What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use…. The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language….

“Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. — Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain…. The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose. If one tried to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree with them.” [Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations,]

“He was opposed to it in theory, but supported it in practice” -[George Thomson on Wittgenstein's relationship to Marxism]

It is clear that there can be no way of saving that Marx is Wittgenstein avant la lettre, their (anti)philosophical projects were divided in aims and in content, Wittgenstein arguing out from under positivism and Aristotelian thought, and Marx from German Idealism and Hegelian “dialectics.” Furthermore, while it has been said that both men thought philosophy left the world as it is, Marx placed the emphasis on a means to change it and Wittgenstein thought clarity stemming from philosophical dissolving of pseudo-problems would alter the world. For Wittgenstein this is bracketed out, it is not his job. Yet the emphasis on dissolving problems of the ideal that stems from language’s mystification and reification of abstraction seem, at base, to be a crucial parts of both projects, and given how their successors have taken up the task, an oft ignored one.

(I’d like to think Rosa Lichtenstein, Ray Monk’s book on Wittgenstein and the collection of essays editted by Kitching and Pleasants, “Marx and Wittgenstein: Knowledge, Morality and Politics” for pointing me to this line of inquiry.)

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About El Mono Liso

Por una civilización de la pobreza.

Posted on July 17, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’ve written about this recently. – See ‘Leave Everything As It Is: A Critique of Marxist Interpretations of Wittgenstein’ http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03017605.2013.776233?journalCode=rcso20

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