Coffee and Wittgenstein


The nice thing about beginning here is that you can land here and subsequently here!  That’s what a link to Sartre will do!  And that’s also what will happen when one has TIME to enjoy a coffee in the morning; a luxury for people on a Friday morning, unless of course, you are retired OR unemployed.

I became wrapped up in this response by Toby Simmons.

Wittgenstein wrote a book called ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ in which he attempted to show how language can correspond to, or ‘map’, the world.

He tries to lay the ground for the construction of a “logically perfect” language which is capable of corresponding to facts (and the sum total of all facts is the world).

Basically, this project has, as its result, a view of scientific language as a kind of layer over the top of the facts.

He says this:

“Let us imagine a white surface with irregular black spots on it. We then say that whatever kind of picture these make, I can always approximate as closely as I wish to the description of it by covering the surface with a sufficiently fine square mesh, and then saying of every square whether it is black or white. In this way I shall have imposed a uniform form on the description of the surface. The form is optional, since I could have achieved the same result by using a net with a triangular or hexagonal mesh. Possibly the use of a triangular mesh would have made the description simpler: that is to say, it might be that we could describe the surface more accurately with a coarse triangular mesh than with a fine square mesh . . . The different nets correspond to different systems for describing the world.”

So, for Wittgenstein, a scientific ‘law’ is merely a linguistic construction that has been ‘pinned’ to the world. An equally adequate but different arrangement of words could describe the world just as well.

In the quote, he is contending with the prevailing view of scientific ‘laws’ as the ultimate explanations of events within the natural world, or as the all-embracing answers to the question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Science, he maintains, is just a ‘mesh’ of language corresponding to the world. In this sense, it is fairly trivial, and not explanatory at all.

Does this explain it?

(It is worth mentioning that Wittgenstein did go on to repudiate most of what he wrote in the Tractatus in his later work, ‘Philosophical Investigations’ — but his attitude towards science was something that he maintain throughout his whole life.)

Wittgenstein is a fascinating philosopher, and definitely worth exploring!

In keeping with this reply written by Toby from

I suggest a wonderful and mind-bending experience, a Canadian artist, David Clark, creates the ambitious online art piece 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (to be played with the Left Hand).

I also came upon this wonderful reading list while looking at a number of related sites and it may be of interest to some readers that land HERE quite by chance.  Image borrowed from  This blogger has written of Lake Superior…and I can’t help but include the link here to this beautiful poem.

by Janet Lewis

Remember for me the river,
Flowing wide and cold, from beyond Sugar Island,
Still and smooth, breathing sweetness
Into still air, moving under its surface
With all the power of creation.

Remember for me the scent of sweet-grass
In Ojibway baskets,
Of meadow turf, alive with insects.

Remember for me
Who will not be able to remember.
Remember the river.

The Selected Poems of Janet Lewis, edited by R. L. Barth (2000).  According to Mr. Barth, the river of the poem is the St. Mary’s River, which “flows generally from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, for a space forming the international boundary between the U.S. and Canada.”

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