i taught a cool high-level class today at a local IT company. To give some idea: out of four students, one is a busty and pretty German babe who studied German Literature & History (she was called “Witte”), another some kind of business specialist versed in philosophy. Conversation:
Elberry to Witte: Did you read philosophy?
Witte: No, I didn’t want to read anything like Hegel.
Elberry: Never read Hegel. i live on Philosophenweg and everytime i pass Hegelweg [a side alley] i spit.
Business Guy: In England you read the empiricists like Hume?
Elberry [artfully concealing his almost total ignorance of Hume]: Uh…probably.
We later talked about Wittgenstein, Business Guy proving disturbingly well read, more than me. i’ve just re-read the Philosophical Investigations, understanding almost nothing, as in 2009. At times i began to wonder if Wittgenstein was insane, as i am unable to make even the most rudimentary sense of large chunks of his thinking. The language itself is perfectly clear, as far from Derrida et al. as possible; but the thought…i often have absolutely no idea what he means, despite the lucidity of language, and fall back on a despairing “perhaps he’s insane”. Compare with Nietzsche, whose Ecce Homo has a strange, hysterical note, akin to insanity. Wittgenstein is never hysterical or strident, but he is often impenetrable. There is a curious calm; and yet i stand outside, and i fail. i have the feeling i am totally missing the point. It would be reassuring to think he was just insane, but i think it is rather that he places the question marks so deep as to be invisible, so a superficial mind (such as mine) can make almost nothing of it. In a sense i do not need to understand, i have different concerns and a different, weaker mind.
i sometimes have the feeling of coming after myself, of being a kind of unintended residue, a recurring decimal fraction. In a sense, my writing is an attempt to convert myself from a decimal to a vulgar fraction, to find my own awkward simplicity, not to go on too long, cancer of myself.