Monday, June 05, 2006


Wittgenstein is one of my favourite philosphers, although I haven't yet read one of his books from one cover to the other. I came across some nice quotations today, which really resonate well with Buddhist philosophy, Zen especially.

the problems vanish when you are in the nonverbal dimension of consciousness. You see the answers to all the questions that theologians and metaphysicians ask and you see why their questions are absurd. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course there are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer.
- Tractatus 6.52

The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem. -
- Tractatus 6.521

In other words, if a particular way of cognising/symbolising reality leads to seemingly intractable dualisms and problems such as 'The Hard Problem of Consciousness' those problems are not necessarily inherent in reality, but may be artefacts of the way the mind interprets, symbolises and communicates about reality.

Of course, Wittgenstein's concerns were slightly different and aimed at intellectuals rather than humanity in general. He saw his linguistic philosphy as a solution to traditional philosphy which he seems to have regarded almost as a pathology. He saw all or almost all of the problems of philosophy and metaphysics as being due to extending language beyond its appropriate use. Zen on the other hand seems to see the problem as being more deep-rooted and widespread - that taking the conventional truths of thought and speech as absolute truths causes suffering for all sentient beings. For me, whether this applies to animals or not, is an interesting question.


  1. Hi, Justin - Wittgenstein has often been compared with some of the more 'idealist' schools of Buddhist thought.

    Unrelated question: Is Nagarjuna beginning to look like a hammer, or are more questions on Buddhist Philopsophy just beginning to look like nails? ;)

    Be well, friend!


  2. Hmm... I've never thought of Wittgenstein as an Idealist or even 'quasi-idealist'. What makes you say that?

    The thing with Nagarjuna is, you have to remember that this hammer is also a nail - don't forget to hammer it with itself.


    Take care

  3. Hey, you wrote this entry on my birthday! I have a Wittgenstein blog; I thought maybe you'd like to look at it.

  4. :)

    Cool - a Wittgenstein blog.

    Maybe see you there.

    All the best,