Estetik, matematik och filosofisk metod – Wittgenstein om «den sällsamma likheten» mellan en estetisk undersökning och en filosofisk undersökning i matematiken

av Simo Säätelä

Simo Säätelä

Professor, Institutt for filosofi og førstesemesterstudier, -Universitetet i Bergen


Simo Säätelä is currently working on the relationship between aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy in Wittgenstein’s thought, and is especially interested in how this relationship is articulated in his philosophy of mathematics. A paper touching on this subject will appear in The Wittgenstein Handbook, ed. O. Kuusela & M. McGinn (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2009).


Aesthetics, Mathematics and Philosophical Method: Wittgenstein on the ‘Queer Resemblance’ between an Aesthetic Investigation and a Philosophical Investigation in Mathematics

Among Wittgenstein’s remarks we also find scattered reflections on the nature of philosophy and its methods. These remarks, which frequently take the form of comparisons or analogies, often seem either trivial or incomprehensible if taken out of their context. This essay deals with one such remark, in which Wittgenstein wants to draw attention to “the queer resemblance between a philosophical investigation (especially in mathematics) and one in aesthetics”. By placing this analogy in its context, I want to show how it can shed light on some key features of Wittgenstein’s philosophical work (especially his lectures on aesthetics and the foundations of mathematics) and his conception of philosophy. I argue that the “methodological” similarity that the analogy alludes to has to do especially with the idea of “a synopsis of trivialities” or a “perspicuous representation”, i.e. the Darstellungsform that is fundamental to Wittgenstein’s later philosophical work. In this connection, I will address Wittgenstein’s controversial criticism of set theory, and show how it can be seen as an example of a “philosophical investigation in mathematics” that can be clarified by the analogy with an “aesthetic investigation”.

Keywords:esthetics,Cantor,mathematics,method,perspicuous representation,Wittgenstein.

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