Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarme & Duchamp
             MOTTO: Know you not that I must be about my mother's business

  • The mature works of Darwin, Wittgenstein,
    Mallarme and Duchamp were based in aspects
    of natural logic. Their work when combined enabled
    an insight into the comprehensive articulation of
    natural logic in Shakespeare's Sonnets.

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearen Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
    Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint



    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Ludwig Wittgenstein: the logical

    The wrong paradigm

    The inclusion of Ludwig Wittgenstein in this selection is not meant to suggest that his way of thinking, his understanding of the world, is in complete agreement with that of Mallarmé, Duchamp, Darwin or Shakespeare. On the contrary, Wittgenstein found himself unable to appreciate the greatness attributed by others to Shakespeare and did not believe the evolutionary process was capable of generating the qualities he valued in the human mind (see quotes below). The logic of eroticism, which is at the basis of the works of Mallarmé, Duchamp, Shakespeare, and even Darwin, had no apparent influence on his writings.
          Because Wittgenstein operated within the proscriptions of traditional apologetic philosophy he took no account of the relation of the sexual to the erotic in his appreciation of the logic of language. Similarly, he excluded physiological sensations from his metaphysical sense of ‘aesthetics’. He did entertain the idea, though, that language derived its capacity to represent the world from an inherent logical relation between the world and the mind. And he maintained that everyday language did not need logical reform because it already adequately represented the world.
          But it is principally in Wittgenstein’s later work, where he uses biological metaphors to account for the logic of language, that there is a suggestion of a logical connection between functions of the body and the operations of the mind. His later investigations move closer to the understanding of Mallarmé, Duchamp, and Darwin and Shakespeare.
          While Wittgenstein takes no account of the logical implications of the sexual/erotic dynamic for the operations of the mind, neither can it be said that Mallarmé or Duchamp explicitly elaborated a position on the sexual. Both, though, did produce artworks that recognise the logical status of the aesthetic in terms of sensations, and an art conscious of its logical status as erotic. But unlike Wittgenstein, they did not purposefully engage with the ethical. Duchamp had an attitude of determined indifference towards anything that was not ‘aesthetic’ or reducible to sensation.
          Darwin, though, did have a consistent and comprehensive appreciation of the relationship between the sexual dynamic and the dynamic of understanding in the human mind. In The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex he argues for the logical development of the human mind from evolutionary predecessors. He gives greater consideration, though, to the ethical or ‘moral sense’ than he does to the aesthetic. This is in keeping with his comment that his scientific researches allowed little time for artistic pursuits.
          Because Darwin had little or no time to consider the aesthetic in depth he deferred to Kant, the most noted philosopher of his day. Darwin’s clarity of insight belies the fact that Kant, as an apologist, was quite confused about both ethics and aesthetics. Kant took no account of the philosophic implications of sexual dynamic, so he misrepresents the priority of the body over the mind, and hence confounds the logical relation of aesthetics and ethics.
          Kant, like anyone with an apologetic programme, was unable to present a consistent understanding of the operations of the mind. Kant cannot be understood, nor can Descartes, except as apologists. Both attempted to reconcile the processes of reason to their transcendental faiths. Along with Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and many others, they were apologists for their beliefs. Historically, philosophical apology or its complement scepticism were, like theology, no more than psychology disguised as philosophy.
          Wittgenstein is the first professional philosopher to attempt systematically to present a philosophy free of the psychology of apologetics. Yet his work was still conditioned by residual elements of the traditional psychological programme. Wittgenstein’s achievement was to establish a logical bridgehead beyond the psychology of apologetics while avoiding the indeterminacy of scepticism.

    Wittgenstein’s method

    The philosophic method Wittgenstein introduces into Western thought stands in marked contrast to the methods of apologetic thinkers. It avoids Kant’s disembodied transcendentalism as much as it avoids Hume’s scepticism. His method treats philosophy not as a process of justification in which the formal methods of philosophy are used to give the appearance of rationality to a set of beliefs, nor as a means to counter those justifications. Rather it considers the philosophic as the pre-existing basis or dynamic for thought and language that enables effective expression in terms of the processes of life. Wittgenstein attempted to apply the method to the relationship between the world and language throughout his life.
          Wittgenstein’s method offers a philosophic approach capable of distinguishing between the philosophic basis of life and the psychological - ramifications of apologia or ideology and their logical counterpart, scepticism. For apologists, the possibility of forming thoughts and ideas independent of other human beings is a prime condition for the possibility of an intelligent relationship with a transcendental entity such as God. Wittgenstein’s arguments avoid the illogicality of such apologetic expectations.
          When Descartes attempted to isolate the certainty of the subjective act of knowing, he hoped to demonstrate the independence of reason. Kant similarly isolated reason because he wanted to validate his belief in God. Likewise attempts to reshuffle the pack of reason, without addressing its logical basis in nature, failed for Schopenhauer as much as it does, in the final analysis, for Wittgenstein.
          Wittgenstein’s argument against the possibility of a private language in the Philosophical Investigations demonstrates the logical relation between language, as a human faculty, and life. In the private language argument he demonstrated, against the premises of his earlier work, that the only way to account consistently for human reason was from an understanding whose criteria were determined by the social function of language within the dynamic of life. In general terms Wittgenstein was moving away from the illogical belief in the priority of the ideal, toward a philosophic understanding that prioritised the processes of life, or, as he called the cultural manifestations of life, ‘forms of life’.

    Where the method failed

    Wittgenstein’s gradual development toward a sound philosophic method in his later period did not mean he applied the method consistently to all aspects of philosophy. He retained practices from the idealist philosophy of the Tractatus. Because he developed his new method from a critique of his earlier idealism, the method was not fully grounded in the logic of the dynamic of the body and mind. It was only in his last writings, in the collection of thoughts that constitute the book On Certainty, that he came close to such a possibility. Even though he worked toward a consistent application of his new method he did not correctly identify the basis of the certainty it engendered.
          The residual idealism of his later work ensured he remained something of a Kantian, particularly in his confusion over the status and relationship of ethics and aesthetics. Wittgenstein’s earlier position that ‘aesthetics and ethics are one and the same’ depended on just such a transcendental understanding of ethics as beyond the contingency of propositional discourse. In terms of the logic of aesthetic and ethics derived from Duchamp and Shakespeare this amounts to saying ‘aesthetics and aesthetics are one and the same’. Wittgenstein never overcame the early influence of Schopenhauer’s modification of Christian apologetics. Schopenhauer’s elevation of the Will, following on the abstract tendency in thought epitomised by Hegel, to the transcendental throne merely perpetuated the reduction of ethical processes to the aesthetic.
          Yet at the same time as Wittgenstein denied the possibility of the ethical to propositional language in his early work, he developed a complex theory of language to account for seemingly ethical concerns as the truth and falsity of propositions. These, he claimed, referred to contingent facts that supposedly had no ethical or moral status. Nor did his arguments acknowledge the logical status of aesthetics. His idealism prevented him from appreciating that aesthetics includes all possible sensations from the immediacy of pain to the apprehension of sublime unity. Nor did he explore the logic of understanding where a sensation, once named in the language dynamic, enters the domain of ethics.
          Wittgenstein’s dismissal, in the Tractatus, of Darwin’s evolutionary ideas is symptomatic of his difficulties. He did not appreciate that Darwin was presenting verifiable facts in a way more logically sound than did the Tractatus. Darwin at least based his understanding on the human dynamic and not on speculations about atomic and molecular physics. To have both an awareness of profound sensations and a capacity to express sensations profoundly as language is what it means to be human in the Darwinian sense. (Shakespeare details the dynamic in the logical structure of his Sonnets and explores its ramifications in his poems and plays.)
          Neither was it possible for Wittgenstein, out of his later theory of ‘language games’, to see the logical relationship between the language games of ethics and the language games of aesthetics. His philosophical position admitted of no unified reading that would show the logical connection between different games. He did not consider the possibility that the idea of language games carried a logical connection that accounted for the relation of ‘language games’ to the bodily dynamic.
          Wittgenstein, however, did make some effort to modify his understanding of the transcendental. Rather than being a mystical realm beyond language, in his later work it became embodied in the limit of the actual, at the boundary of language. ‘Value’, both ethical and aesthetic, was at the limit of language and so still not expressible in language.
          Darwin and Shakespeare avoid Wittgenstein’s self-inflicted impasse by locating the source of logic, and so the possibility of language, in the sexual or bodily dynamic that ensures the continuation of human being. Not surprisingly Wittgenstein confessed in his notes and conversations an inability to comprehend the basis of Shakespeare’s greatness. He also had great difficulty accepting that the evolutionary understanding of Darwin had sufficient ‘multiplicity’ to account for the complexity and depth of human understanding.
          In his later work Wittgenstein was unable to overcome his acquired resistance to natural logic. His attempts to correct and supersede the flawed crystalline structure of the Tractatus failed because he was caught between the comfort of the old beliefs and an appreciation that logic is based in nature not God. Consequently, the Philosophical Investigations (like many of his posthumously published writings) was published as an ‘album of notes’.
          While Shakespeare, Darwin and Duchamp were able to produce structured philosophic works of great logical consistency, Wittgenstein failed miserably in his first attempt in the Tractatus, and gave up trying in his second attempt. Behind his failure is the shadow of Kant’s overt apologetics in the Critique of Practical Reason following on the covert apologetics in the Critique of Pure Reason.

    The trajectory of Wittgenstein’s thought

    Despite these considerations or difficulties, there is a trajectory followed by Wittgenstein’s intense philosophic questioning from the early to the later periods that is relevant to the thoughts presented here.
          A trajectory toward a greater consistency in the logic of language is absent from the writings of Hume or Kant. Hume, whose radical scepticism provoked the transcendental philosophy of Kant, was not able to relate his philosophical scepticism to the events of everyday life. And Kant’s later thought is retrogressive rather than progressive as he moved to connect his early arguments with his beliefs.
          The direction of Kant’s thinking after the Critique of Pure Reason, with its prima facie case for the independence of reason, was compromised by the apologetic requirement of reintroducing the concepts of ‘God, Immortality, and Freedom’ into the area of practical reason. This was not an option favoured by Wittgenstein. He grounded his philosophy firmly in the facts of language, in the logic of everyday discourse. He was able to prevent everything but his most private reflections turning to such possibilities as a ‘Last Judgment’.
          If Duchamp offers an expression of the logic of aesthetics, or sensation, then Wittgenstein offers a persistent analysis of propositional language, which was anathema to Duchamp. At the same time Wittgenstein was attempting to detail the logic of language in the Tractatus (1914-8) Duchamp had successfully expressed the logic of aesthetics in the early schematic for the Large Glass (1912-5). Duchamp appreciated that the inexpressible was the aesthetic, while Wittgenstein thought it was both the aesthetic and the ethical. Both sought to proscribe language in favour of the inexpressible. That both thinkers were independently considering the relation of the two modes of understanding is an irony Duchamp may possibly have enjoyed, but one that was beyond the reach of Wittgenstein’s crystalline world.
          Consequently it is not surprising that Wittgenstein determined ‘it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics’. Yet he persisted in claiming in the Tractatus that propositions present the ‘existence and nonexistence of states of affairs’, that they can be analyzed into the relationship between the ‘true or the false’, that they have ‘truth-grounds’, ‘truthfunctions’, ‘truth-operations’, and that there can be the ‘good and bad exercise of the will’.
          Critics point out that Wittgenstein appears to want it both ways. On the one hand he claims that, because ethics is beyond discourse and can only be ‘shown’, all the propositions of the Tractatus are nonsensical, to be transcended so that one ‘will see the world aright’ (84) Yet he also said that only the propositions of natural science merit ‘saying’ because it is only in the scientific process that determinations are made between the true and the false.
          Wittgenstein’s conflation of aesthetics with ethics and his dismissal of ethical processes as non-ethical is a consequence of his adherence to the remnants of apologetics. Wittgenstein’s distinction between the aesthetic/ ethical as ‘showing’ and ‘saying’ as non-ethical confounds the natural division of understanding into sensations and ideas, or aesthetics and ethics. Some scientists such as Einstein, affected by the same corrupt paradigm, believed the scientific programme of discovery and verification of facts was a-moral.
          Wittgenstein was unable to accept that the aesthetic is the dynamic of sensations and the ethical is the dynamic of ideas. It is not surprising then that he struggled to understand Shakespeare’s achievement. Wittgenstein’s Romantic flight from the ethics of discourse is an option Shakespeare rejects. Its direst consequence is the distortion of the logical relation between the aesthetic and the ethical.

    The atomic model does not provide the correct multiplicity

    Wittgenstein’s basic intuition was that for language to be meaningful it must have the same logical multiplicity as the world it represents. In his early work the model he used to demonstrate the relationship was pre-determined by that used by his contemporaries in philosophy, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead, which was in turn derived from the atomic physics of scientists such as Heinrich Hertz, Ludwig Boltzman and Ernst Mach. By analyzing language into atomic and molecular propositions in the Tractatus Wittgenstein thought he could show the one-to-one relationship between the micro-world of atomic physics and the logic of language.
          Under the influence of scientific determinism and religious idealism, some atomic physicists did not doubt their capacity to locate the ultimate constituents of matter. Albert Einstein’s unwillingness to accommodate the uncertainty inherent in quantum mechanics was a consequence of his faith in the capacity of language and reality to be, at some point, reconciled with the discoveries of atomic physics. He brought a religious fervour to his scientific investigations. His idealist philosophy of science was a form of apologetics. The logical consequence of the idealist attitude to science was that both Einstein and Russell considered science a-moral. In reporting the ‘facts’ of the world both idealists ignored the logic of language.
          The young Wittgenstein was influenced heavily by their scientific idealism. It led to his denial of an ethical consequence to propositions, and the location of the ethical in the ‘mystical’. Consequently the seemingly ‘a-moral’microscopic world of atoms and molecules was the level of ‘reality’, or the ‘describable’world, on which Wittgenstein based his logical structure of language. The expectation that elementary particles of physics could be equated with the constituents of language implied that human logic was derived from the atomic, or microscopic, dimension.
          Ironically, the inability of science to isolate individual colours of the visible spectrum without implicitly referring to the rest of the spectrum led to the collapse of Wittgenstein’s faith in discrete atomic objects as the logical basis for language. The basic units of meaning in the Tractatus could not represent the conventional names for colours in the spectrum. Although Wittgenstein’s later work addressed the inadequacy of comparing human beings and their language to a model derived from atomic physics he never satisfactorily resolved the dilemma.
          Once Wittgenstein realised the inadequacy of the atomic model for demonstrating philosophic consistency between the world and language, he began to move toward a model that more adequately accounted for the human dynamic in language. He shifted his focus from discrete atomic objects to the ‘subjective’ aspects of human observation, basic to the sense of indeterminacy in perception (which influenced Niels Bohr and others to formulate the uncertainty principle). Not surprisingly the reforming idealist in Russell did not understand the significance of Wittgenstein’s abandonment of the theories of the Tractatus in favour of a deeper investigation into the living logic of language.
          Wittgenstein’s move from an idealised scientific model to one based in human propensities was still not rigorous enough to account for correct logical multiplicity between the world and language. He was not able to give his later thoughts, which took account of the vagueness in meaning, the logical structure of the early work. Only Shakespeare’s Sonnets show how to combine the structural expectations of the Tractatus logically with the Philosophical Investigation’s unstructured ‘album of notes’.

    The metaphor of life

    Not only did Wittgenstein’s later work look to language as human beings use it in everyday life, he began to use everyday ‘life’ as a metaphor for the description of the range of possibilities manifest in what he now called ‘language games’. Phrases such as ‘family resemblances’ and ‘forms of life’ came to represent the type of multiplicity that language games exhibit in the language of everyday life.
          Even Wittgenstein’s sense of ‘certainty’ was founded on such givens as ‘family’ or ‘parents’. In place of the abstractions based in atomic physics of his earlier work there was the gradual intrusion of biological metaphor into his descriptions of the function and limitations of language.

    What a Copernicus or a Darwin really achieved was not the discovery of a true theory but of a fertile point of view…I think there is some truth in my idea that I think only reproductively. (85)
          I can think of no better expression to characterise these similarities (between various forms of games as a model for the nature of Language Games) than ‘family resemblances’; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way. – And I shall say: ‘games’ form a family. (86)
          Now it gives our way of looking at things, and our researches, their form. Perhaps it was once disputed. But perhaps for unthinking ages, it has belonged to the unthinking scaffolding of our thoughts. (Every human being has parents.) (87)
          I cannot say that I have good grounds for the opinion that cats do not grow on trees or that I had a father and a mother.
          If someone has doubts about it – how is that supposed to have come about? By his never, from the beginning, having believed that he had parents? But then, is that conceivable, unless he had been taught it? (88)
          The procedure in a court of law rests on the fact that circumstances give statements a certain probability. The statement that, for example, someone came into the world without parents wouldn’t even be taken into consideration there. (89)
          Now I would like to regard this certainty, not as something akin to hastiness or superficiality, but as forms of life. (90)
          But that means I want to conceive it as something that lies beyond being justified or unjustified; as it were, as something animal. (91)
          Wittgenstein’s later work is transitional between the logical atomism of a Russell, and the acceptance of the biological level for philosophic structuring in the recent work of cognitive scientists such as Lakoff and Johnson in Woman, Fire, and Dangerous Things, Metaphors We Live By, The Body in the Mind, and Philosophy in the Flesh. (See essay 8.)
          So instead of the microscopic modeling of the religion of science or the macroscopic modeling of the science of religion, Wittgenstein begins to use the intermediate or basic level imagery of the human form (basic level in the sense of a cognitive category). This is the level at which the human being operates for its evolutionary persistence through the sexual dynamic.
          Symptomatic of the residual apologetic reluctance to accept the biological as the basic level of cognition was the above-mentioned difficulty Wittgenstein expressed about understanding Shakespeare.

    It is remarkable how hard we find it to believe something that we do not see the truth of for ourselves. When, for instance, I hear the expression of admiration for Shakespeare by distinguished men in the course of several centuries, I can never rid myself of the suspicion that praising him has been the conventional thing to do; though I have to tell myself that this is not how it is. It takes the authority of a Milton really to convince me. I take it for granted that he was incorruptible. – But of course I don’t mean by this that I don’t believe an enormous amount of praise to have been, and still to be lavished on Shakespeare without understanding and for the wrong reasons by a thousand professors of literature. (92)
          My failure to understand him could (then) be explained by my inability to read him easily. That is, as one views a splendid piece of scenery. (93)
          I do not believe that Shakespeare can be set alongside any other poet. Was he perhaps the creator of language rather than a poet. I could only stare in wonder at Shakespeare; never do anything with him. (94)
          The reason why I cannot understand Shakespeare is that I want to find symmetry in all this asymmetry. (95)
          And in a conversation with Maurice Drury, Wittgenstein revealed the difficulty he had with the implications of Darwin’s arguments.

    I have always thought that Darwin was wrong:his theory doesn’t account for all this variety of species (in the Zoological Gardens, Dublin). It hasn’t the necessary multiplicity. Nowadays some people are fond of saying that at last evolution has produced a species that is able to understand the whole process which gave it birth. Now that you can’t say! (96)
          Wittgenstein’s mistaken suggestion that Darwin presumed to ‘understand the ‘process’ that gave birth to species is amplified by Drury’s empathetic response,

    You could say that now there has evolved a strange animal that collects other animals and puts them in gardens. But you can’t bring the concepts of knowledge and understanding into this series. They are different categories entirely! (97)
          To which Wittgenstein replied, ‘yes , you could put it that way’.


    In his early work Wittgenstein failed to find an appropriate model for rendering the correct multiplicity between the world and language. His attempt to represent the logic of language was foiled by the scientific idealism in the Tractatus. The logical multiplicity he sought for the Tractatus, using the model of atomic physics, could not provide the appropriate relationship between language and the world. Wittgenstein’s idealism led him to confuse the meaning of aesthetics and ethics by considering them ‘one and the same’. And he designated propositions as true and false without attributing any sense of ethics to the rational processes of thought.
          Wittgenstein acknowledged most of these failures and spent the second half of his life attempting to rectify them. He went beyond his contemporaries but was still conditioned in significant respects by residual aspects of his old way of thinking.
          In Wittgenstein’s later work the idealism of the Tractatus is replaced by his notion of ‘language games’ which conformed more closely with language as it is used by human beings in everyday life. He turned to biological metaphors to evoke the appropriate degree of multiplicity that language games involved. While his attitude to ethics did not change, he no longer held to the claim that the aesthetic and ethics are the same. The variety of uses of each word gives rise to the sense of interrelating language games. Their commonality is reduced to the idea that ethics and aesthetics are something inherent in ‘forms of life’, the boundary conditions without which any language has no community of usage, no community of purpose.
          Wittgenstein does not, or was unwilling to, draw the obvious conclusion that language derives directly from the natural world. He does not accept that, for the human being, the mind is conditional on the body. In this regard he remained decidedly an apologist. His natural logic had not distilled itself sufficiently to appreciate the clear and simple logic of Darwin’s unconditional acceptance of life. A quote from Kant reveals the similarity of their struggle to counteract the consequences of their illogical programmes.

    The schematisation by which our understanding deals with the phenomenal world ... is a skill so deeply hidden in the human soul that we shall hardly guess the secret trick that nature here employs. (98)
          I can take Wittgenstein no further. He is significant because he has enabled me to see more clearly the logical moves needed to correct the consequences in his work of an illogical agenda and in Duchamp’s work of the effects of a logical but limited agenda and in Darwin’s work of a logical but empirically focused enterprise. He points in the direction that helps make sense of Duchamp’s narrowed focus on aesthetics to the exclusion of ethics. He points in the direction of Darwin’s more comprehensive philosophic position. And they all point toward Shakespeare’s complete and consistent philosophic system.


    Notes are numbered continuously throughout the webpages on Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarmé, Duchamp to Shakespeare

    84 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuiness, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, proposition. 6.54. Back
    85 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch, Chicago, University of Chicago, 1980, p. 18. Back
    86 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1968, no. 67. Back
    87 Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, trans. Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1974, no. 211. Back
    88 Ibid., no. 282. Back
    89 Ibid., no. 335. Back
    90 Ibid., no. 358. Back
    91 Ibid., no. 359. Back
    92 Ludwig, Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, no. 48. Back
    93 Ibid., no. 49. Back
    94 Ibid., no. 84. Back
    95 Ibid., no. 86. Back
    96 M. O'C. Drury, 'Conversations with Wittgenstein', in Ludwig Wittgenstein, Personal Recollections, ed R. Rhees, New York, Rowman and Littlefield, 1981, p. 160. Back
    97 Ibid. Back
    98 Emmanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1787, in William. H. Calvin, How Brains Think, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1996, p. 113. Back

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    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

         Introduction: Duchamp to Shakespeare
         Chapter 1 Duchamp     Chapter 2 Wittgenstein
         Chapter 3 Darwin     Chapter 4 Shakespeare & Back