The Limits of My Language are the Limits of My World (#4)

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logigo-philosphicus, 1922


To understand this most profound of propositions, we must first transmogrify it into ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my expression'. This is because Wittgenstein was, after all, a linguist and a man of subtlety as well as someone who was known to engage in polemic against the strict rationalists, at least early on in his life. The great philosopher and logician Bertrand Russel described him as “the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense, and dominating.” As such, it would be an insult to attempt to decipher the proposition with its literal meaning. What this leaves us with then is a very subtle statement that has huge ramifications on aesthetics, linguistics, morality, psychology and epistemology (particularly the fact-value dichotomy) when combined with the notion that words serve a purpose as opposed to being strictly compliant with a definition. ‘Look at the grammar of ethical terms’, Wittgenstein said, ‘If you understand that, then you have understood all that there is to understand’. To put it simply, this notion identifies the role that each form of expression has to play; it defines the nature of the expressed by defining the essence of the unexpressed.


In other words, why or how it is perhaps isn't the best line of questioning, but that it is. Nothing needs to be resolved, it is already necessarily resolved by the mere fact of our existence. The point of philosophy isn't to push forth a certain point and to resolve highly complex and abstract issues, but to make us question whether it is so. This is why Wittgenstein proclaimed that “A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes." and that ‘Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.’ It is all about the emotion that language evokes in our unconscious, the purest form of knowledge.


To conclude, combine Plato's world of ideal (mathematical and moral) forms and his distinction of intuitive knowledge (Noesis) and Jung's model of the unconscious with Wittgenstein’s work from the Tractatus and you have a wonderfully simple, elegant and transcendental model of the world that simultaneously explains away all transcendence. There can be no more herculean a task complete.

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