I wrote earlier this week about Wittgenstein’s loneliness. I realise I didn’t explicitly acknowledge his own struggle against this, expressed not least of all in the shift from his earlier to later work. I watched Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein earlier today and I was struck by how beautifully the script interpreted this transition in existential terms, suggesting he was caught between the pristine beauty of the Tractatus and the striving towards worldliness of the Philosophical Investigations:
Let me tell you a little story. There was once a young man who dreamed of reducing the world to pure logic. Because he was a very clever young man, he actually managed to do it. When he'd finished his work, he stood back and admired it. It was beautiful. A world purged of imperfection and indeterminacy. Countless acres of gleaming ice stretching to the horizon. So the clever young man looked around the world he'd created and decided to explore it. He took one step forward and fell flat on his back. You see, he'd forgotten about friction. The ice was smooth and level and stainless. But you couldn't walk there. So the clever young man sat down and wept bitter tears. But as he grew into a wise old man, he came to understand that roughness and ambiguity aren't imperfections, they're what make the world turn. He wanted to run and dance. And the words and things scattered upon the ground were all battered and tarnished and ambiguous. The wise old man saw that that was the way things were. But something in him was still homesick for the ice, where everything was radiant and absolute and relentless. Though he had come to like the idea of the rough ground, he couldn't bring himself to live there. So now he was marooned between earth and ice, at home in neither. And this was the cause of all his grief.