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Idealistic Studies


published on December 1, 2017

Richard McDonough

A Gestalt-Model of Zettel 608

Most scholars understand para. 608 of Zettel (Z608) to suggest that language and thought might arise from chaos at the neural centre. However, this contradicts Wittgenstein’s signature view that the philosopher must not advance theories. The paper proposes an alternative model of Z608 based on the Austrian Gestalt-movement that influenced Wittgenstein. Z608 does not suggest that language and thought might arise from chaos in the brain but that they may arise in a different non-causal sense from the “chaos” of activities in forms of human life on analogy with the way a Gestalt-image “arises” from a “chaos” of perceptions. The concepts of chaos and the centre in Z608 are not neurophysiological concepts but refer to aspects of forms of human life. The Gestalt-interpretation also clarifies why Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is quite different from “ordinary language philosophy.” Finally, the Gestalt-interpretation clarifies why Wittgenstein is not, as is often believed, making an attack on legitimate empirical psychological investigations.

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