Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that
we make for ourselves a model of the world, a picture of facts. The
elements of the picture represent objects in the world, and the way
the elements are related to each other in the picture, or model, states
how the objects are related to each other in the world. Maybe here he
is talking about an interior "map" of the world that each of us
possesses, a representation of the world, that enables us to interpret
what we perceive and navigate our environment. I don't know for sure
what he meant. I don't know if he was unaware of abstract art in 1914
and wrote his first notes for the book, or if that even matters. What
he wrote(and what is given in the original German in the collage below)
was, "Let us think of hieroglyphic writing in which each word is a
representation of what it stands for." The problem is that in
"hieroglyphic writing," at least the Egyptian kind, the pictures are
used to represent sounds, not objects, so the cobra represents a soft
G, for example. Of course, it also represents a cobra, but the way the
pictures are lined up and made to relate to each other, has to do with
representing words and phrases, not relationships of objects. But that
just means that W's note tells us nothing about how Egyptian
hieroglyphic writing works. In the collage below I also show some
examples from English Through Pictures that show what he was thinking
about, maybe, where stick figures represent the sentences "I am here,"
"He is there," She is there," but I doubt that I would know that the
pictures were saying these specific things unless the English sentences
were also there. It is thoughts like this that made me wonder what W
thought he was saying, and why he thought his theory made sense. That's
why it was so difficult to write a paper about the Tractaus. I think we
do carry representations of the world within us, so to speak, and that
they are based on language, and that we reality test our models, and
adapt them. The Lascaux pictures are representational, but we don't
know if the hunting scene depicts some specific hunt that had happened,
or one the artist was planning, or one the artist was imagining and
depicting for "entertainment." I think Penck had encountered W's
notebook and the pictographic proposition, and Penck was making a kind
of writing, but it wasn't the kind being discussed in the Tractatus.
Richards seemed to be looking for a kind of universal pictographic
writing, or one that could be universally comprehended, so people could
use it to learn languages. I don't think it worked very well. I thought
that the problems in Richards system could help show problems in
Wittgenstein's Tractarian system and could make a possible groovy
dissertation topic. I'm really writing about this to try to explain why
I got involved in doing a pictographic, and ideographic, kind of art,
that it infected me (pictographic germs). It wasn't that I wanted to be
another Penck or Haring, although they also carried the virus.


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