This question relates to the correctness of a particular passage from Time of the Magicians by Wolfram Eilenberger and translated by Shaun Whiteside, which describes a decade of philosophical thought by Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer and Heidegger.
I've added the passage itself below, which describes Wittgenstein's thoughts on what philosophy and the natural sciences are equipped to do and how philosophy might address what gives meaning to life. Essentially, it seems to me that the last sentence contradicts the rest.
The author is describing (and quoting) Wittgenstein's thoughts as:
- The realm of the sayable is the world of facts, it is the set of things about which anything can be meaningfully said, and it is the set of scientific questions and their answers, and it is disjoint with the realm of philosophy.
- Nothing in this realm addresses at all "the problems of life," which I take to mean matters that concern what makes life meaningful.
Then the author goes on to contrast this with the positivist ideas of the era; everything significant or meaningful can be reasoned about or subject to logical analysis etc.
All well and good. But then the last sentence, he claims Wittgenstein was able to show that the things that give life meaning do lie within the bounds of the sayable, which contradicts the idea that the "problems of life" cannot be addressed by something from the realm of the sayable.
Please help clarify.
This is the relevant passage:
The realm of the sayable, which Wittgenstein’s work delineates “from within” through logical linguistic analysis, applies only to the world of facts; this is therefore the only realm about which anything can be meaningfully said.
But to grasp this world of facts with all its qualities as precisely as possible is ultimately the task of the natural sciences. For Wittgenstein, it is “something that has nothing to do with philosophy” (T 6:53). Against this backdrop, then, the problem, or rather the actual philosophical solution, consists in the following conviction, or more precisely the following feeling:
6:52 We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer.
The largely positivistic spirit of the age assumed that only things about which we could meaningfully speak could be significant for our own lives. These were things that could be proved to exist using the methodical foundation of this essentially scientific vision of the world—logical analysis. That is, so-called facts. But Wittgenstein was able to show that the truth was in fact precisely the reverse. Everything that gives meaning to life, and the world in which we live, already lies within the boundaries of what can be directly said.
Excerpt From: Wolfram Eilenberger. “Time of the Magicians.” Apple Books.