Explanation, Wonder, and the Cultural Point of the Tractatus

In a well-known 1919 letter to Der Brenner publisher Ludwig von Ficker, Wittgenstein writes that the point of his Tractatus (der Sinn des Buches) is an ethical one. Approaching the Tractatus within an overall resolute framework and taking as its direction some of the central motifs in the work of Michael Kremer, Cora Diamond, and other resolute readers, this paper examines a relatively neglected topic, the sense in which the book can be understood as having a cultural point as well. The idea gains plausibility from the fact that Wittgenstein’s sense of the philosophical significance of cultural matters and his sense of the state of Western culture were fairly constant from the time he wrote the Tractatus until the end of his life. Of particular significance for him in this regard was what he saw as the distorting effect that causal-scientific modes of thought exerted on our understanding, both in philosophy and in the broader intellectual and spiritual life of the West.

Keywords: cultural criticism, ethics, modernity, science, Tractatus, Wittgenstein, wonder