The Structure of Philosophical Investigations (and the Tractatus)

Here are a couple of paragraphs from a current draft of a paper of mine.  It touches on a point I have been concerned to make in more than one place of late, a point about the structural similarity of TLP and PI.

In TLP and PI, the concentration of metaphilosophical remarks occurs in the dialectical middle (a middle not necessarily the same as its paginal middle): the 4s in the TLP and in 89-133 in PI. Rhetorically, each of the books is a large epanados, a chiasmus. That is, each of the books is organized spatially around a center or middle. Each book has the structure, roughly, of a large ‘x’, with the metaphilosophical remarks stationed at the crux of the ‘x’. (A handy example of a small epanados is Unamuno’s false but memorable sentence, “Martyrs create faith, faith does not create martyrs.”) The similar chiastic structures of the two books has not been stressed as it should be.

Placing the remarks as Wittgenstein does is a broad hint about how not to understand them. It is a broad hint not to think, among other things, that the remarks can be understood in isolation from the other non-metaphilosophical remarks that stand to the left of them and to the right of them. I like to think of PI as unified by both a centripetal and a centrifugal energy, the first the movement of the left-hand and right-hand remarks inward toward the center, and the second the movement of the center outward toward both the left-hand and right-hand remarks.

2 responses

  1. The diagnosis here has the capacity to force itself on me.
    Ever since I first heard this from you, I am compelled to look for it in whatever I read (and am disappointed if I don’t).

    Three requests/questions:
    1. Could you say more about the centripetal and centrifugal forces?
    Do you take this discussion to be part of a discussion about what we are looking for in philosophy? Where do we need philosophy to make it possible for us to go (what is on the right and on the left)? Of what we constantly need to be reminded (the center)?

    2. Is there an implicit view here about the structure of a philosophical problem – that it has both a center and a periphery?

    3. What are the the right words here anyway: center and periphery? I tend to want to look for words that indicate function, but I’m not sure if this is the right thing to look for, and if it is, what the right image is :
    – city-center and suburbs?
    – genus and species?
    – central-command and soldiers?
    – government and citizens?
    Or maybe:
    – anchor and ship?
    – trunk and roots?
    – brain-heart and sense organs?
    – Jesus and the disciples at the last supper?
    – soul and body? (I’m very much attracted to this one.)

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