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Saturday, September 20, 2008

how Wittgenstein (and Nietzsche) may want to be read

Perhaps everyone who achieves an important piece of work has an imaginative idea - a dream - of how it might be further developed; but it would all the same be remarkable if things were really to turn out according to his dream. Nowadays of course it's easy not to believe in your own dreams.

Nietzsche writes somewhere that even the best poets and thinkers have written stuff that is mediocre and bad, but have separated off the good material. But it is not quite like that. It's true that a gardener, along with his roses, keeps manure and rubbish and straw in his garden, but what distinguishes them is not just their value, but mainly their function in the garden.
      Something that looks like a bad sentence can be the germ of a good one.

Ludwig Wittgenstein Culture and Value p. 59e
This quote may have some bearing on how we read Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, and what sort of license we take with their work. Of course we can always do whatever we want with them. They're dead after all but some of us don't enjoy stomping around on their graves. The "somewhere" Wittgenstein is referring to there is the quote I posted a couple days ago:
Belief in inspiration. - Artists have an interest in the existence of a belief in the sudden occurrence of ideas, in so-called inspirations; as though the idea of a work of art, a poem, the basic proposition of a philosophy flashed down from heaven like a ray of divine grace. In reality, the imagination of a good artist or thinker is productive continually, of old, mediocre and bad things, but his power of judgment, sharpened and practiced to the highest degree, rejects, selects, knots together; as we can now see from Beethoven’s notebooks how the most glorious melodies were put together gradually and as it were culled out of many beginnings. He who selects less rigorously and likes to give himself up to his imitative memory can, under the right circumstances, become a great improviser; but artistic improvisation is something very inferior in relation to the serious and carefully fashioned artistic idea. All the great artists have been great workers, inexhaustible not only in invention but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering. (HAH, I, 155)
Both quotes have some bearing on how to read the Nachlass (unpublished works). Wittgenstein thinks a germ can be found and explored and it looks as if he wouldn't be averse to someone else doing just that with his work (especially if they adopt his "function in the garden"). Nietzsche, on the other hand, saw the artistic genius in the "rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering".

So, from these quotes alone (this is no kind of exhaustive study):

With Nietzsche, don't use the Nachlass.*
With Wittgenstein, use them.**


*It may also be important to take Nietzsche's illness (likely NOT syphilis) into account, sympathetically.
**Yes, the quote I'm using here is, itself from Wittgenstein's Nachlass.

4 comments:

David Owen said...

"With Wittgenstein, use [the Nachlass]." (from the Nachlass of Wittgenstein).

It would have been hilarious if he had said, in his Nachlass, to never heed the Nachlass of an author.

Mike said...

What I would like to do is create a creative commons type license which allows people to quote the author without attribution and that they must attempt to pass off the quote as themselves.

David Owen said...

How about the other way around?

"Some people, such as David, have a horrible tendency to make gross errors (including bad citations) when submitting blog comments." - Isaac Newton, "Principia" CC 1687.

Anuj D said...

More reasons to use Nachlass for Witt and the reverse for Nietzsche!