Saturday, 8 March 2014

"Wittgenstein's Vienna", Toulmin & Janik - comments 1

I'm continuing to read Toulmin & Janik's book, from 1973.
It was evidently addressed to contemporary "analytical" "Anglo-American" philosophy, which, the authors believed, had taken up Wittgenstein's work but missed its significance as ethical in intent.

Chapters 3 and 4 present the cultural life of late 19th century Vienna, and the "disease" which Kraus and others find in artistic expression of all kinds, which has become subservient to ornament or spectacle, to the extent that objective conditions can't be grasped.

Chapter 5, "Language, Ethics, Representation", considers the prevailing philosophical concerns in late 19th century Vienna. Here is where I begin to detect the date of the book, the authors' awareness of their target audience - analytical philosophy - and that they were engaged in influencing  its reception of Wittgenstein "from within".
Into view come Ernst Mach, "sense data", "psycho-physics", 19th century positivism, problems of representation, Fritz Mauthner (new name to me) is - for these authors - "the first modern European writer to consider language itself as the central and crucial topic for philosophical examination" (p.119) (what about Hamann? I thought. Andrew Bowie's work may be familiar. I think he would contest that assertion.).

So, yes, the book is of its time, and it is coming to Wittgenstein from the perspective of two authors who were themselves either pupils of Wittgenstein or else students of him, i.e. analytical philosophers. The book is going to give a picture of philosophical concerns in fin-de-si├Ęcle Vienna of which I have read something in Popper (e.g. "Mach as Precursor to Einstein", in Conjectures & Refutations; Popper saw the philosophical concern with language as wholly mistaken) and Hacohen, but which will presumably be the story of analytical philosophy as 1970s analytical philosophers would have presented it.

(There is no mention of Popper in the book. However, I noticed on p.138 mention of Max Planck's criticism of Mach, which is very reminiscent of Popper: "In Planck's view, the physicist creates the system of the physical world by imposing form upon it.")

I'll read on, cautiously.

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