On David Antin’s Tractatus

In “Wittgenstein among the Poets” David Antin warmly reviews Marjorie Perloff’s Wittgenstein’s Ladder, a study on “the kind of connection or kind of connections his [Wittgenstein’s] work has created as it has been mirrored, disassembled, and reassembled in the light of experimental Modern and Postmodern poetry” (originally published in 1998; rep. in Radical Coherency, U of Chicago, 2011).  Accordingly, poets have been interested in Wittgenstein’s philosophical style and his methodological approach to language analysis.  Also contributing to Wittgenstein’s appeal is a remark he made that philosophy can be written as a form of poetry.  Antin’s review partially summarizes Perloff’s treatment of Wittgenstein.  Most significantly, his reading of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, as a case study in Wittgenstein’s “poetic” practice, requires supplemental discussion.

Did Wittgenstein write philosophy in the form of poetry?  And what if he did?  What’s new or intriguing about it?  The Pre-Socratics did not distinguish between poetry and philosophy, myth and history, physics and cosmology.  What do philosophers think about Wittgenstein’s “poetic” writing?

With rare exceptions, professional philosophers have adopted Plato’s attitude to poetry: it can be a corruptive influence.  With its hyperbolic language, pernicious metaphors, similes, and rhetorical modes, Plato believed that poetry leads us to false beliefs; it lacks formal properties to filter ordinary thoughts; it imitates the rhythms of primitive language patterns, illegitimate human behavior, and the sensory matrix of the world.  In other words, poetry does not provide us with access to the truth.  It only imitates or shadows the truth.  If mimesis is at the forefront of its faults, then what poetry imitates all too casually are the untutored thoughts of the masses, the philistines, the illogical, and those who challenge the value or purpose of philosophy (who, ironically, are oftentimes philosophers themselves).   If poetry is suspicious draft to begin with, then so are the proceedings of a philosopher who might be deemed poetical.  Wittgenstein is not alone.  He’s in good company with Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Hegel, among others, who demonstrate ‘literary’ proclivities (aphorisms, maxims, parables).  In other words, most philosophers in the United States (there are exceptions in the UK and elsewhere) consider Wittgenstein like a distant relative who needn’t be invited to the party of current debate.

Although the problems Wittgenstein concentrated on are still relevant to us, and many scholars champion his philosophical contributions, especially the ‘analytic’ or ‘linguistic’ method of solving problems in ordinary language, the study of Wittgenstein’s place in twentieth century analytic philosophy is mainly confined to undergraduate curricula.  Wittgenstein’s star has risen, glimmered, and faded into the midnight sky.  Presumably, this is because his problem-solving ignores formal methods, hinges on ambiguity, and is hard to pin down.  Also, as much as Wittgenstein espouses clarity, his thought processes on paper are not always explicitly clear.

Also, Wittgenstein often had harsh things to say about philosophy.  In fact, he rejected it in personal practice time and again; several times he walked away from it to pursue ‘practical’ labor.  He was his own worst critic, and his fatherly conscience criticized unprofitable pursuits.

Throughout his career, he was variously concerned with problems of language, meaning and reference, and the “grammar of our linguistic practices.”  Typically, his career divides into “early” and “late” periods.  Primed with puzzles in Frege’s and Russell’s respective logical work,  the innovative early Wittgenstein attempted to restrict spoken language to the scope of propositional logic, that is, he believed that language can “picture” reality.  He also temporarily believed, as Russell did, that mathematical models are based on logic.  After completing the Tractatus, he asserted that he had “solved” all the problems of logic and language, and thereby concluded that philosophy was no longer a viable, or necessary, endeavor.

The early period is defined by Wittgenstein’s only book-length publication: the Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus.  Here he addresses several problems in Frege’s and Russell’s logic.  The book is flawed, but the main problem is, as Russell notes in the Introduction, how to account for the so-called mystical or religious musings at the end.  Although Wittgenstein made major contributions in logic, and was an innovator of linguistic analysis, his ‘poetical’ remarks on religion, ethics, and aesthetics have been perplexing, if not sticky subjects, for most philosophers.  Most think that the contending realms of discourse are incommensurable.

Wittgenstein scholars have a difficult time melding the early and late periods.  Prima facie, Wittgenstein’s early concerns with propositional logic and truth tables seem very different than his later concerns with ordinary language.  In addition, interpretative scruples on textual transmission and Wittgenstein’s problem solving methodology have led to the “new Wittgenstein” debate.  Also, scholars have been recently embroiled in the “Tractatus war.”  Controversy in current Wittgenstein studies abounds.

Antin’s review primarily focuses on a controversy surrounding Wittgenstein’s numbering system in the Tractatus.  However, his review opens with a discussion of Wittgenstein’s The Blue Book, citing its “process of narrativization” on various questions and analyses.  Presumably, the description of this process as story-telling makes Wittgenstein’s technique comparable to fictionalizing or poeticizing.  Also, as Antin says, the ways that writers such as Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett struggle “with the representational capacities of natural language” relate to the objectives of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus “to create a perspicuous way of “picturing” thought.”

There are a few problems with this opener.  First, The Blue Book was compiled by Cambridge students many years after the Tractatus, and we can say that its concerns are only indirectly related.  The problem-solving procedures of the two texts are vastly different; the former hesitates to make bold assertions while playing cat and mouse with questions, whereas the latter makes numerous aphoristic claims and assertions.

Second, The Blue Book follows a narrative format because it compiles student lecture notes written as narrative.  He says this, that, and concludes the other.  It provides us with telling glimpses of Wittgenstein’s “on his feet” thinking, which Antin acknowledges, but his “lecturing” involves less plotline story-telling with a beginning, middle, and an end, than an interrogation of an expression, or a premise, in the manner of a thought experiment.  Imagine a man who walks into the rain without an umbrella. Or: What if I say “The umbrella stands against the wall”?  Wittgenstein’s procedure is more akin to a Platonic dialogue in which the philosopher performs all the voices at once; he’s both the interrogator and the interlocutor.  Socratic adduction doesn’t provide an audience with a story but is more similar to a forensic report or a courtroom transcript—in Wittgenstein’s case he served as both judge and jury.

Third, Wittgenstein’s “process of narrativization” could as well describe the procedure of transcription.  Such a narrative hardly accounts for what actually happened in the classroom, or what Wittgenstein meant to say, story-telling or not, and it doesn’t really describe his procedure of philosophical analysis.  As Antin admits, Wittgenstein was given to false starts, long awkward pauses, and abrupt changes in direction.  If anything, his problem solving approach often lacked a coherent narrative thread, and it often proceeded by random association, or stream-of-consciousness.  Is stream-of-consciousness talk a “process of narrativization”?  It’s more like talking to oneself.  If one-sided monologue zig-zags by ideas like a skier negotiating a steep slalom, then is that story-telling?

Fourth, Antin mostly focuses on the Tractatus, so it’s curious that he opens the essay with The Blue Book, which demonstrates slightly different concernsAs stated, The Blue Book is student lecture notes, not written by Wittgenstein himself.   The Blue Book anticipates many issues of the later Philosophical Investigations, such as the famous presentation of “language games,” family resemblances, rule-following, private languages, and analogy as a source of philosophical confusion, not the logic-chopping in the Tractatus.

The Blue Book tends to disengage with most of the Tractatus’s so-called assertions or theses.  After the Tractatus was published, Wittgenstein realized several mistakes he made in it, most notably the conclusion that he had solved all the problems of philosophy.  As a record of his teaching interests, The Blue Book moves forward, not backward.  Wittgenstein adopts a different angle of vision, not necessarily different assumptions.

Did this angle of vision include a turn to poetry or “the poetic”?  In Culture and Value Wittgenstein remarks, “I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: philosophy ought really to be written only as a poetic composition.”  Antin quotes Perloff’s translation of Wittgenstein’s remark, “Philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry” (Philosophie durfte man eigentlich nur dichten).

I think we often place too much emphasis on the ‘ought’ in this sentence.  It’s hard to know exactly what Wittgenstein meant by the statement, but he likely meant to impress on the reader the importance of simplicity, concision, and precision—the virtues of critical thinking.  Such virtues, along with the laws of logic (tautology, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle), are poetic.  In addition, the philosopher should perhaps adopt a poet’s attention to word choice, rhythm, and form of expression.  A contemporary philosopher always believes that the less said is better: keep it simple by showing only the necessary logical steps.  A typical philosophy paper tends to be brief, reads like a computer manual or directions for IKEA furniture assemblage, and sticks close to the scope of a formal deductive proof.  Brevity amounts to elegance, and elegance is always clear.  Clarity cuts the fat.

This can be seen in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus assertions, which are styled in simple sentences, even if they are profound or deeply complicated to interpret.  He tends to avoid unwieldy adjectives or adverbs; he describes the nature of propositions, their scope and function, which he thinks is to “picture” the world, and does not bother with describing features or pictures of the world itself.  Perhaps the best we can find is an occasional curious statement: “The world of the happy is a happy world.”  (By the way, this is not quite a tautology).

In his later work, Wittgenstein stresses the importance of appropriate similes and metaphors in addressing philosophical ‘scenarios.’ He frequently describes his role as being a creator of new similes to clarify unsound analogies.

Moreover, Wittgenstein’s method of analysis can be elegant like a mathematical proof, distinguishing the “sayable” from nonsense or the illogical.  In regard to that which can be said, our saying too much can be as erroneous or imprudent as saying too little, or not providing enough contextual evidence.

Although many philosophers would begrudge the idea we can assume that logic is ‘elegantly’ poetic.  It involves inferential implicature and sleight-of-hand maneuvers spelled out in explicit steps.  Logic problems unfold by static “story-telling,” and some finish paradoxically without closure.

We must not think that Wittgenstein recommends a hard imperative in the form of a thesis: “Philosophy ought to be written as poetry.”  For him, the “poetic” aspect of philosophy is its open-ended interrogation.  In that way, Wittgenstein’s remark could be closer in meaning to John Keats’s ‘negative capability’: the poet-philosopher must be content with not having all the answers, the converse of the Tractatus’s final conclusion.  In contrast to the numbered assertions of the Tractatus, the later Wittgenstein espoused quietism; that is, rather than theses or theories, he encouraged the click and clack of the cat and mouse chase.

For most philosophers today, such an approach is perturbing, because they don’t always admire speculative detours, circuitous alleyways, or the rag-and-dust of rodent-friendly granary bins.  As Wittgenstein says,  If I am inclined to suppose that a mouse has come into being by spontaneous generation out of grey rags and dust, I shall do well to examine those rags very closely to see how a mouse may have hidden in them, how it may have got there and so on. But if I am convinced that a mouse cannot come into being from these things, then this investigation will perhaps be superfluous. But first we must learn to understand what it is that opposes such an examination of details in philosophy.

Wittgenstein didn’t necessarily change his mind or turn his back on the Tractatus.  At first, he attempted to illustrate the scope of logic in its capacity to delimit language: sense and nonsense.  By definition, logic does not make commitments to a world of objects (it is ontologically neutral), or reality as a whole, but provides permission slips on what we’re allowed to think and say.  Logic does not make commitments to the world or reality, so truth is never a discovery, but is a property of a sentence.  Eventually Wittgenstein settled on the notion that truth is not an abstract concept, or what a proposition “pictures,” stands for, or represents.  Neither is truth an isomorphic relation between a word and an object.  For more information on these matters, the reader should refer to any excellent logic book, such as those by W.V.O Quine, Irving Copi, Benson Mates, or Kalish and Montague.

I make this recommendation because Wittgenstein was a logician.  A reader trained in basic logic would have a better apprehension (and appreciation) of the Tractatus.  As Antin would likely agree, the Tractatus is a philosophical classic.  But, apropos of Wittgenstein, it’s not easy to pin down.

Is it a book on metaphysics or logic? Or is it occult mysticism?

In addressing these questions, Antin explores Wittgenstein’s ladder metaphor, which Perloff references in the title of her important bookHe quotes Wiitgenstein’s Preface to the Tractatus: “My propositions elucidate in such a way that whoever understands me will recognize them as senseless when he has climbed out through them—on them—over them.”  Surely, the ladder directs the journey of the fellow-traveler; one takes each step as he may, slowly, carefully, and deliberately.  Where does the ladder lead?  Why this metaphor?

At this point in his career, Wittgenstein believes that logic is transcendental—it offers the practitioner a view of the field sub species aeternis.  That is, logic is a ladder.  On the one hand, logic has various strata; it is hierarchical: there’s the ground level, the lower and middle rungs, and the upper rungs of mathematical logic.  On the other hand, the ladder shows us how to proceed logically.  If you proceed on the ladder, then each rung matters or else you could lose your spot or fall away.  Each step matters to reach a valid conclusion.  But once the conclusion has been reached then the steps become more or less superfluous, only useful for demonstration purposes.  The point is to reach valid and sound conclusions, and once you arrive the method is no longer as relevant as it once was.

If we are interested in Wittgenstein’s logical conundrums, then we must think similar thoughts, nearly the same way, as he did.  If you’re on a different ladder, you may arrive at a completely different point.  If you step on different rungs, or skip a few, then you might not have the same perspective.  You must be on the same ladder and take similar steps.  In other words, you must be kept awake at night by the same logic problems: how does logic clarify our language use?  What does logic permit us to think?

Once problems are solved, then you have a different perspective on how you have arrived at that point.  You have a different relationship to the problem.  You’ve been with it, through it, and are now above it.  You see the steps, strategies, premises, and logical rules; you have reached the vista of steps followed by logical inference.  The ladder is both the problem AND the solution, for the former can reveal the rungs of resolution.  As one climbs the ladder each rung falls behind and dissolves into the premise set; the rungs or steps taken become more or less senseless—they fade out and one can “see” differently—a new logical terrain.  This “seeing new” is not a discovery; it is the truth that logic allows us to think.  The ladder, if anything, does not make a commitment to truth, rather it preserves it, one rung at a time.  But you have to take the steps.  The ladder is a model to preserve the truth.

However, in logic, as we know with steps on a ladder, the rungs are always endless.  One problem leads to another.  Or we realize our solution goes only half-way; it’s incomplete, even perhaps wrong.  The ladder continues on.  Questions remain.  Finally, we realize that philosophy, or logic, does not provide final answers.  Our solutions are tentative.

A model that Wittgenstein helped develop is the truth table.  It may be too convenient to point out that the truth table with its rows and columns have a visual similitude to a ladder.  Here is a basic truth table:

In the interest of space, I cannot explain all the details of the truth table.  However, the truth table allows us to see all the values for the statement “P and Q.”  For present purposes, let’s say that “P” is shorthand for the statement “Bill is tall.”  And “Q” is shorthand for “Mary is tall.”  The “and” is a logical word, a conjunction, which establishes a complex sentence: “Bill is tall and Mary is tall” or “Bill and Mary are tall.”  Under what conditions is the statement true?

The model provides a way for us to know all the truth-values of “P and Q.”  The only instance “P and Q” is true is when both statements are true; otherwise, in any other case the statement is false.  This is in consequence of the logic of “and”—the conjunction.  Both statements must be true for the conjunction to be true.

Each row signifies a possible world.  With the given expression, only four worlds are permissible.  In one world is the expression “P and Q” true, and it’s the world in which “P” is true and “Q” is true.  In all the other worlds the expression is false.

Thus, logic allows us to preserve the truth.  We know in which case “P and Q” is true.  It’s true in one case, situation, or world.  The world in which “P and Q” is true is the world in which “P” and “Q” are respective facts.  That does not imply that the other instances represent false worlds or nonexistent states of affairs.  It shows, for instance, that when “P” is true and “Q” is false, then in that world “P and Q” is false.

In some world, “Bill is tall” is true and “Mary is tall” is false.  Thus, the conjunction is false.  And that is a fact.

At a certain point, we can use the model to ascertain the validity of arguments.  It’s a time-consuming and laborious model, but very effective.  It’s the only model that allows us to check the truth conditions of premises and visualize possible worlds.

According to Antin, the Tractatus “is a queer work all the way through.”  This is because of the “curiously numbered set of paragraphs that seem to form a meditation on the nature and limitations of human understanding, deriving from the nature and limitations of logic and language.”  This statement says too much.  Antin calls Wittgenstein’s theses and assertions “paragraphs.”  I won’t quibble with his terminology; I don’t agree with it, but I won’t belabor a minor detail.

The Tractatus sets forth the logical limitations of language use.  Primarily, it is a logic book.  As it turns out, it’s a logic book with ample repetition and digression.  That’s why you won’t see the Tractatus as the main textbook in a basic logic course.  It’s overwhelming (or underwhelming as the case may be) for the beginning logic student.  But it’s an important book in the history of logic.  Nonetheless, logic does not make any commitments to what is knowable or within the scope of human knowledge.  Logic preserves the truth and shows us how to think, not what we can or ought to know.  It can tell us that in some world a statement about a state of affairs is true.  We grant it out of charity.  But merely thinking does not amount to knowledge.  Thinking that an apple is on a desk does not have the same epistemic status as knowing it is on the desk.  If logic doesn’t make epistemic commitments, then it is also neutral on the topic of human understanding.  But it can be a very helpful tool.

Furthermore, Antin says that the Tractatus begins with “a kind of logicist’s metaphysical litany.”  Again, this statement is misleading.  Logic does not make commitments to there being any objects in the world.  Of course, logic is relevant to metaphysics because of modality, necessity and possibility, and it helps us approach certain metaphysical problems, but logic remains neutral.  It does not permit us to make any metaphysical commitments.

Antin cites propositions 1 – 1.21, saying, “At first the decimal numbering system appears to show with the utmost clarity the relations among the paragraphs.”  Actually, do we believe appearances?  Is seeing believing?  The numbering system begs the question of whether there is order, but at no point is order clear.  At no point does Wittgenstein argue for order among the propositions; they are not axioms, rules, or theorems.  The opening of the Tractatus makes us think of Euclid’s laws, but the propositions do not resemble geometric premises in a larger argument or proof.

Antin continues by quoting Wittgenstein’s footnote: “The decimal figures that number the separate paragraphs indicate the logical weight of the paragraphs, the emphasis they bear in my exposition.  The paragraphs n.1, n.2, n.3, etc are comments on paragraphs No. n.m; and so on.”  Antin comments, “This sounds very orderly and may be an accurate description of 1.1 since “what is the case” is a “fact” and 1.1 can count as a clarification of 1, though it is also an elaboration that tells us that this is a phenomenological world that is made up of “facts, not things.”

If you’re ascending the rungs of a ladder, then it could be helpful to notate which steps can bear weight and which ones are less supportive because, presumably, you may have to move up and down the ladder again.  Also, the notation may be helpful to others who climb the ladder.

Or we may illustrate the situation with simile.  It’s like moving chess pieces.  You write down the steps.  Most notably, you write down the steps that carry weight, which do the most work for you.  Or maybe the logical situation is not entirely different from a cat and mouse chase; you notate the thoughts that lead to the next.  The order is retrospective.  It’s based on “weight,” the significance of one idea in association with another.  One idea doesn’t necessarily lead to, follow from, or explain a previous proposition.  There may be not much difference between two or three propositions.  But one proposition could be essential, carry more logical “weight,” without which the others don’t quite belong or fit, and it is a complete thought.  Proposition 1 is an anchor: “The world is everything that is the case.”  The world is not necessarily the external world per se of our sensory knowledge; it is a logical world, or “logical space,” a square block in a row of the truth table.   Wittgenstein’s logic is not interested in “the phenomenal world.”

1.1: “The world is the totality of facts, not of things.”  Logic pertains to propositions that are true or false.  Logic is not the study of ontology, entities in the world, unless we consider propositions abstract entities.  A “fact” is a true proposition.  Only these facts are relevant to logic.

Antin remarks, “But 1.11 introduces a radically new notion—that the totality of facts determines the world both by what it includes and by what it excludes.”  “Inclusion” is not the right terminology here, and Wittgenstein is not introducing a radically new notion.  He does not trade on a containment metaphor, as if a fact can overflow, fall into, or somehow be contained by the world.  1.11 reads as follows: “The world is determined by the facts, and by these being all the facts.”  Basically, this is nearly a tautology.  The facts are the facts; that’s all there is and all we have access to.  The world is a collection of facts, true propositions, for it cannot represent false ones.  There cannot be a world of false propositions, because they do not picture a world; they don’t picture anything at all.

Then Antin says, “1.12 creates a new puzzle by introducing the notion of “what is not the case” in its assertion that “The totality of facts determines both what is the case and also whatever is not the case.”  Wittgenstein had a very difficult time with the logical function of negation, or what is not the case.  How do we represent a negative fact?  Does negation imply non-existence?  Can it be pictured?  What do we make of a sentence, such as “The dragon is not brown”?

There is a cottage industry on the issue of non-existence (semantics and metaphysics).  An interested person who wants to pursue the literature could begin with W.V. O. Quine, Saul Kripke, Scott Soames, Nathan Salmon, or Terence Parsons.  We must also recognize that numerous Wittgenstein scholars have commented on the opening of the Tractatus, including the numbering system, such as G.E.M Anscombe, Irving Copi, and David Pears.

In regard to 1.12, it seems Wittgenstein meant that we can only trade in true propositions; that is, we don’t know what a false proposition looks like.  For example, “The green man is wearing a hat” is false.  What does a green man look like who is not wearing a hat?  It’s much easier to imagine a green man than it is to imagine any man lacking a certain characteristic.  What does a man look like who’s not wearing a hat?  How do we determine the truth value of the following statements?  (i) “Hamlet is not depressed.”  (ii) “The present King of France is not in France.”

A proposition is true or false.  If a proposition is true, then it cannot be false.  But we cannot picture a false proposition, just as we cannot picture something that is non-existent.  Such a state of affairs does not exist, yet we have notation for non-existence in the logical world.  The proposition cannot be pictured, because it is false.

Antin concludes that the system doesn’t work.  But we might think it worked well enough for Wittgenstein.  If the propositions are metaphorically similar to rungs in a ladder, then the propositions were at once helpful to clarify his perspective.  Once conclusions are reached, then the ladder can be thrown away.  The rungs had served an intellectual purpose.

Antin maintains that 2 and 2.01 together show the “absurdity of the whole system.”  Proposition 2 says, “What is the case, the fact, is the existence of states of affairs.”  Proposition 2.01 says, “A state of affairs is a combination of objects.”  He maintains that 2.01 explains proposition 2; that is, “it [2.01] is not obviously separated from it [2] by any significant gap.”  This is not accurate because there is a gap.  There’s a gap because the two propositions do not convey a single complete thought.

(i)                  A fact is a state of affairs (assuming they exist) [A cat on the mat].

(ii)                A state of affairs is a combination of objects [A cat, a floor, a mat; in the here and now].

(iii)               A fact is a combination of objects.

What’s the gap? (iii), and (iii) begs the question: How do we represent objects with words (propositions)?  How can logic help us “picture” objects in the world?

Proposition 2: the expression of a fact corresponds to a state of affairs.  “The cat is on the mat” is true if and only if there is a cat on the mat.  Alfred Tarski makes much of these kinds of statements.  But then proposition 2.01 is different; it only seems to be an explanation of 2.  It seems to clarify what a state of affairs is—that is, what constitutes a fact.  Not quite.  It tells us that a fact does not merely refer to an abstract entity, a proposition.  It tells us what makes a proposition TRUE.  Due to charity, if the logical world grants any objects at all, then a proposition is true if and only if it “pictures” or corresponds to them.  Here, Wittgenstein begins spelling out the foundations of his picture theory of representation.

By the time we reach the “3’s” section, Antin says that “the numerical eccentricity becomes even more startling.”  For example, he cites Proposition 3: “A logical picture of the facts is a thought.”  And then, Proposition 3.001, “’A state of affairs is thinkable’ means we can picture it.”  The first is shorthand for Frege’s notion of ‘thought,’ which I cannot fairly explicate here.  Then Wittgenstein jumps back to (ii) above—a state of affairs, a fact, is a proposition that corresponds to an object in the world; it is a true proposition; it is thinkable because it can be truly pictured, unlike a proposition lacking semantic content.

Antin cites other examples in attempting to show that Wittgenstein’s “ordered propositions” are not ordered.  But really, the difference between, for example, Propositions 3 and 3.001 is that 3.001is two steps, rungs, or thoughts removed from 3, hence the “OO1.”  Quite possibly, the zeros represent rungs or pertinent gaps in his mental processes.  If anything, a zero could very well signify quiescence, a skipped step, or a gap that could be filled later.  Thus, the numerical system orders propositions by weight; each proposition measures logical significance or provisionality.

In many ways, the Philosophical Investigations(PI) served to fill the many gaps and flaws of the Tractatus.  Rather than a “correction,” the PI seems to be more a sequel or continuation of it.  In fact, the PI begins with a critique of an atomistic Tractarian language scheme and a similar picture theory of representation.

Antin wants to think of the “poetic” aspects of the Tractatus as being utterly absurd.  By extension, then, what do we make of writers who admire its contributions?  Moreover, he doesn’t discuss any connections, even tangentially, between the Tractatus and the PI.

Despite Antin’s provocative analysis of the Tractatus, he doesn’t delve into the “poetic” aspects of the PI.   However, much of Perloff’s discussion pertains to it, such as the famous “language games” and Wittgenstein’s metaphors and similes.  Antin’s most glaring omission, in particular, is a detailed discussion of the individual chapters on Beckett and Stein, which perform brilliant textual explications and make several interesting connections to Wittgenstein’s later work.  As provocative as Antin’s review is, indeed, there are gaps.



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