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thereviewman

The Review Man

Formerly of Goodreads, now of both words, in the coming times only here?

Currently reading

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
Robert M. Pirsig
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Jean Baudrillard, Sheila Faria Glaser
Leaven of Malice
Robertson Davies
The Salterton Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Effi Briest (Penguin Classics)
Theodor Fontane
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Cases And Materials On The Law Of Torts
Robert M. Solomon
Public Law : Cases Materials and Commentary
Philip Bryden, Craik, Neil, Craig Forcese, Forcese, Craig
A Property Law Reader
Bruce H. Ziff
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus - Ludwig Wittgenstein There's a great moment in Kathryn Bigelow's otherwise-shifty Zero Dark Thirty where two characters are discussing some particular element of the search for bin Ladin. The first guy, Dan, expresses his frustration by saying "We don't know what we don't know." The other guy, Joseph, asks "What the fuck is that supposed to mean"? Dan shoots back: "It's a tautology".

The theatre wasn't very full when I went to see ZD30 (that was probably its Oscar death knell, come to think of it), but I found myself laughing along with the guy sitting behind me when Mark Boal's characters name-dropped tautologies. I can't say I giggled through the rest of the film (Jessica Chastain is pretty; the plot, not so much), but that moment was worth the price of admission.

That's sort of how I felt about Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I naturally found the sections discussing mathematics quite interesting. Not having yet read Russell and Whitehead's behemoth, Principalia Mathematica, Wittgenstein's definition of numbers was new for me. I'll admit that I don't see the utility of defining 2 times 2 as
[
Omega^{u,v}x = Omega^{2,2}x = ldots = Omega^{1+1+1+1}x = 4 text{ (LaTeX{} humour!)},
]
but I'm sure there's some logic (heh) to it. But the rest of the treatise didn't interest me terribly. Wittgenstein's discussion of pictorial and representational forms struck me as very basic, while other parts were almost incomprehensible. Perhaps more than a little ironic, given that the book basically deals with the problem of philosophy not explaining itself well. I knew I was in for a rough start when the first proposition reads 1. The world is everything that is the case but case isn't defined. I wonder whether contemporary linguistics takes Wittgenstein seriously or whether he's as out to lunch as de Saussure. (Maybe this is just me stirring the pot, but I don't find semiotics useful in the least.)

Philosophy has always sort of bothered me. Maybe it's because the only "philosophers" I know are insufferably lame university students. I think I prefer theology to philosophy, if only because I like the narrative more. (Apparently I am still a child.) I was pleasantly surprised, then, to see a bit of a theological influence in Tractatus. First, we have the title itself, a supposed corruption of a Spinoza work. Secondly, there're Wittgenstein's Ecclesiastes-channeling mantras about logic and knowledge. I haven't thought about it enough yet, but I bet the connections would make for an interesting thesis.

Anyway, it was an interesting read; I probably won't return to it though. I hear a lot of the work's arguments are considered to be wrong now, and I have a suspicion it has something to do with the Incompleteness Theorems. But it wasn't a half-bad read.