Advertisement

Wittgenstein “in the Midst of” Life, Death, Sanity, Madness—and Mathematics

  • Richard McDonough
Chapter
Part of the Philosophers in Depth book series (PID)

Abstract

One of Cavell’s most striking themes, which he associates with Wittgenstein's Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (IV. 53), is that there is a close connection between philosophy and madness and that madness lurks just beneath the surface of ordinary life. However, he does not quote the final remark of that section which suggests that just as madness permeates sanity so also death permeates life (Wittgenstein’s “Midst of Death and Madness”, hereafter MDM). The extensive religious-literary history of MDM, including Augustine, Luther, Milton and Rilke (several of which are admired by Wittgenstein) is explored. MDM is viewed in the light of Wittgenstein’s Remark to Drury that he cannot help looking at problems from a religious point of view. The view of death in Wittgenstein’s “later philosophy” is contrasted with his view in the Tractatus. It is shown how Wittgenstein uses MDM to bring the deceptive sublimity of mathematics “down to earth” (where the people and the madness are). Finally, it is shown how these insights suggest that mathematics is, within limits, akin to literature, and, following Cavell, that some great literature can be seen as making what Wittgenstein calls “grammatical” points.

References

  1. Augustine. 1993. Confessions. Translated by F.J. Sheed. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  2. The Book of Common Prayer According to the Episcopal Church in the United States. 1853. New York: D. Appleton and Company.Google Scholar
  3. Brann, Noel. 2002. The Debate over the Origins of Genius in the Italian Renaissance. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  4. Carr, David, and Colleen Conway. 2010. An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  5. Casey, Maurice. 2010. Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of his Life and Teaching. London: A&C Black.Google Scholar
  6. Cassirer, Ernst. 1969. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cavell, Stanley. 1976. Must We Mean What We Say? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 1979. The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 1989. This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Wittgenstein. Albuquerque: Living Batch Press.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1990. Emerson: Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism. La Salle: Open Court.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2005. Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Feyerabend, Paul. 1993. Against Method. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  13. Gonzalez, Francisco. 2011. The Hermeneutics of Madness: Poet and Philosopher in Plato’s Ion and Phaedrus. In Plato and the Poets, ed. Pierre Destrèe and Fritz Gregor Herrmann. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  14. Hatfield, Gary. 2014. Rene Descartes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes/
  15. Heaton, John. 2000. Wittgenstein and Psychoanalysis. Totem Books.Google Scholar
  16. Heidegger, Martin. 1961. Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by Ralph Manheim. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 1962. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.Google Scholar
  18. Hume, David. 1967. A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  19. Husserl, Edmund. 1970. Cartesian Meditations. Translated by Dorian Cairns. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  20. James, William. 1981. Pragmatism. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  21. Kripke, Saul. 1982. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Luther, Martin. 1884. Mitten Wir in Leben sind. In The Hymns of Martin Luther, ed. Lord Woosley Bacon. London: Hodder and Stoughton.Google Scholar
  23. Malcolm, Norman. 1977. Memory and Mind. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 1997. Wittgenstein: From a Religious Point of View? New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2001. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. McDonough, Richard. 2015. Wittgenstein’s Augustinian Cosmology in Zettel 608. Philosophy and Literature 39 (1): 87–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. ———. 2017a. A Gestalt Model of Zettel 608. Idealistic Studies 68 (2): 163–182. Online First (Dec. 1). https://www.pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=idstudies&id=idstudies_2017_0999_11_28_63.
  28. ———. 2016/2017b. A Music Model of Zettel 608: Haydn and Beethoven. The Journal of Music and Meaning 17: 21–40.Google Scholar
  29. Monk, Ray. 1990. The Duty of Genius. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  30. ———. 1996. Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude (1972–1921). New York and London: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  31. ———. 2001. Bertrand Russell: 1921–1970, The Ghost of Madness. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  32. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1966. Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  33. ———. 1968. Thus Spoke Zarathustra in The Portable Nietzsche. Edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking, 112–439.Google Scholar
  34. ———. 2000. Human, All Too Human I. Translated by Gary Handwerk. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Plato. 1968. Republic. Translated by Alan Bloom. New York and London: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  36. ———. 1969a. Phaedo. Translated by Hugh Tredennick. The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Edited by Hamilton and Cairns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 40–98.Google Scholar
  37. ———. 1969b. Phaedrus. Translated by R. Hackforth. The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Edited by Hamilton and Cairns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 475–525.Google Scholar
  38. ———. 1969c. Sophist. Translated by F.M. Cornford. The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Edited by Hamilton and Cairns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 845–919.Google Scholar
  39. ———. 1969d. Laws. Translated by A.E. Taylor. The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Edited by Hamilton and Cairns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1225–1516.Google Scholar
  40. ———. 1997. Symposium. Translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. Plato: Complete Works. Edited by John Cooper. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 457–505.Google Scholar
  41. Randall, John Herman. 1970. Plato: Dramatist of the Life of Reason. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rilke, Rainer Maria. 1994. Closing Piece. The Book of Images. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press, 252–253.Google Scholar
  43. Robson, Ernest, and Jet Wimp. 1979. Against Infinity. Parker Ford, PA: Primary Press.Google Scholar
  44. Spinoza, Benedict. 1991. Tractatus-Logico-Politicus. Translated by Samuel Shirley. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  45. ———. 2015. Ethics. Translated by R.H.M. Elwes. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.Google Scholar
  46. Storr, F. 2014. Antigone in The Three Theban Plays. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.Google Scholar
  47. Taylor, A.E. 1952. Socrates. New York: Doubleday and Company.Google Scholar
  48. Tiles, Mary. 1989. The Philosophy of Set Theory: An Historical Introduction to Cantor’s Paradise. Mineola, NY: Dover.Google Scholar
  49. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations. 2nd ed. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  50. ———. 1961. Tractatus-logico-philosophicus. Translated by David Pears. London: Routledge and Kegan PaulGoogle Scholar
  51. ———. 1965. The Blue and Brown Books. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  52. ———. 1966. Notebooks, 1914–16. G.E.M. Translated by Anscombe. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  53. ———. 1969. On Certainty. Translated by Denis Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  54. ———. 1970. Zettel. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  55. ———. 1972. Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. ———. 1980. Culture and Value. Translated by Peter Winch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. ———. 1989. Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  58. ———. 1993. Notes for the Philosophical Lecture. In Philosophical Occasions. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  59. ———. 2007. Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard McDonough
    • 1
  1. 1.Arium School of Arts and SciencesSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations