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Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language (above all in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, known as the Tractatus, 1921) was of paramount importance to Vilém Flusser all his life. Even though Flusser read the text against the backdrop of Bertrand Russell’s logical atomism and the (antimetaphysical-positivist) Vienna Circle (Rudolf Carnap, Willard Van Orman Quine), he recognized in it existential and mystical-religious connections, for example, in the multiple meanings of Propositions 1 (“The world is everything that is the case,” Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922, p. 25) and 7 (“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” ibid., p. 90).

Wittgenstein’s theory of the isomorphism in which the facts of the world are reflected in pictures based on the logic of language (and vice versa) was central for Flusser. It inspired him to create his own ontology and epistemology: the “translation” of the world (of experience) into linguistic likenesses is an existential activity of opening up the world; in the course of “becoming human,” it passes through various a priori media (“ages”). In a turn that does not derive from Wittgenstein’s work, Flusser made the say/show distinction of the Tractatus, which culminates in a philosophical commandment to remain silent, fruitful for dialogue: By translating something into another language, one can say what one can only show in the first language by interpreting the world. In this way Flusser overcame the closed quality of Wittgenstein’s logicism to create (linguistically) playful poetry of creative translation between languages and hence between worlds (dialogism instead of solipsism), embedded in a comprehensive theory of human communication.

Original article by Matthias Kroß

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ludwig_wittgenstein.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by