The Literary Wittgenstein: a footnote
More from the mail bag, re The Lit Witt:
asking a philosophy of language to account for the linguistic practice of fiction is a pretty standard “check” in my opinion. You have to be able to explain reference even when the entities referred to don’t exist, and this has been a stumbling block for many. So I don’t think it’s the ridiculous, non-immanent kind of reading of Wittgenstein that you’re claiming it is. I have no idea about Lacan and capital, however!
I’m all for requiring philosophies of language to account for fiction; after all, fiction is my favorite thing that language does. What mystified me is why people would bother to go back and do this with the Tractatus in particular; it’s a wonderful and weird book and certainly of interest, but I didn’t think anyone still took all of its claims at face value. Later in his career Wittgenstein himself refuted many of them: the idea that propositions might have a single general form, or that logical simples might exist. One of the essays about which I carped claims that, from a Tractarian perspective, fiction lacks cognitive value because you can’t investigate its claims and decompose them into logical simples.
For fictional entities have no depth; in contrast to actual ones, that is to say, they admit of no complete analysis and cannot, therefore, be decomposed in a unique and definite way into their fundamental constituents.
This might be true, but only in the sense that the Wittgenstein who wrote the Tractatus might have said something like it; it’s historical fiction, and not of a very high order, like that part in Within a Budding Grove where the schoolgirls have to write an imaginary letter of congratulation from Sophocles to Racine. It just doesn’t strike me as a very useful way to talk about the logical form of fiction. And that only matters because, as the mail bag reminds us, the larger project is certainly worthwhile.
-actual- entities admit of a complete analysis? which one?! sigh