Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wittgenstein's Type-Written Pages

Wittgenstein remarked in the Preface to Philosophical Investigations "I have written down all these thoughts as remarks, short paragraphs, of which there is sometimes a fairly long chain about the same subject, while I sometimes make a sudden change, jumping from one topic to another.—It was my intention at first to bring all this together in a book whose form I pictured differently at different times. But the essential thing was that the thoughts should proceed from one subject to another in a natural order and without breaks."

And: "After several unsuccessful attempt to weld my result together in such a whole, I realized that I should never succeed. The best that I could write would never be more than philosophical remarks; my thoughts were soon crippled if I tried to force them on in any single direction against their natural inclination.—and this was, of course, connected with the very nature of the investigation. For this compels us to travel over a wide field of thought cris-cross in every direction."[1]

Wittgenstein had typed up these notes, cut them up, and clipped some of them together again with staples to "achieve" this purpose. In another context, he confessed: "Each of the sentences I write is trying to say the whole thing, i.e. the same thing over and over again; it is as though they were all simply views of one object seen from different angles." So much for the supposed hypertextual deep-structure of his thinking![2]

1. See also Wittgenstein "on" Note-Taking and Long-Hand and Type-Written.
2. Compare Nabokov's approach. He also "saw" the whole thing and used short clips, i.e. index cards, to record it. Yet, he was not so "vermessen" or daring to think that one sentence could say the whole thing.

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