30 June 2006

Wittgenstein and Culture

This blog is quickly turning into some sort of reluctant defense of postmodernism type piece. I don't really like that. But ideas that aren't stupid must be defended from that moniker. (Wittgenstein is a postmodernist.) This is a Wittgenstein blog!

Wittgenstein in the news.

Outing Wittgenstein
The Developing Community Theatre (DCT), presents a staged reading of Fred Newman's outrageous comedy, Outing Wittgenstein, on July 15, 2006 at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St., San Francisco. In Outing Wittgenstein, the deceased Viennese philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein comes back to life along with his gay alter ego and a ragtag assortment of famous and infamous relatives, friends and acquaintances who appear together on the popular TV show, This is Your Death. A classic comedy with a philosophical twist. Directed by Denzil Meyers. Tickets are $15, $8 with student ID. To purchase tickets or for more information contact Caroline Donnola @ 415-986-2565.

Matmos has an album called The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast. Pitchfork sez,
Matmos returns with their fifth, most-engaging full-length, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast. These 10 works are described as biographical "sound portraits" of historically and culturally important gay figures, which incorporate details relevant to a particular person's life or practice.

An mp3 of "Roses and Teeth for Ludwig Wittgenstein" (courtesy of Matador Records). The recording features Bjork and roses making percussion.

A few things. This latter topic, the Matmos album, has to do with a passage in the Philosophic Investigations

“A new-born child has no teeth.”—“A goose has no teeth.”—“A rose has no teeth.”—this last at any rate—one would like to say—is obviously true! It is even surer than that a goose has none.—and Yet it is non so clear. For where should a rose’s teeth have been? The goose has none in its jaw. And neither, of course, has it any wings; but no on means that when he says it has no teeth.—Why, suppose on were to say: the cow chews its food and then dungs the rose with it, so the rose has teeth in the mouth of a beast. This would not be absurd, because one has no notion in advance where to look for teeth in a rose.

((Connexion with ‘pain in someone else’s body’.)) (188-189)

which seems cryptic, but maybe it isn't. It comes from Part II of the work, and it's not as tightly organized. I believe at this point Wittgenstein is talking about private language to some extent; or at least, he is talking about whether you can doubt someone else is in pain. You cannot doubt that you yourself are in pain; but if I am writing on the ground holding my leg, would you doubt my leg pains me? Why would you?

Is it absurd to say the pain is in my leg? Is it absurd to say, 'The rose has teeth in the mouth of the beast'? I suppose that cryptic paranthetical is supposed to make an analogy between looking for teeth in a rose and looking for pain in another person. But I had characterized to myself Wittgenstein's pain argument as saying that other people do feel pain, and it just makes no sense to doubt it when you think someone is in pain. Maybe that's the point of the passage above.

Second, Wittgenstein was gay. More on this later.