“Just as the German word heimlich means both familiar and concealed, so Wittgenstein, like many a European intellectual émigré to these shores, was both at home and not at home.”
Wittgenstein's writings continue to intrigue with his enigmatic blend of clarity and riddle.
A striking example of Wittgenstein's suprizing turns can be found at the end of the Tractatus, just before inviting stunned silence to follow the famous last line of the work, where Wittgenstein points out that his
"propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them -- as steps -- to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)"
Wittgenstein's remark echoes the familiar Buddhist similes like that of the raft which has to be left behind after the river has been crossed, or of the finger pointing at the moon. What the expressions aim at is the limit of what can be expressed, and it is at the limits of the expressible that enigmatic contradictions flourish.
Terry Eagleton's review of THE LITERARY WITTGENSTEIN, edited by John Gibson and Wolfgang Huemer, takes you on tour of Ludwig's castle -- it is there, even if you can't see it.
The Artists' Wittgenstein
by Terry Eagleton
26 April 2005