Looking at Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus....



....and later Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen)....

....from a personal view (in three parts).
December 28th, 2007
Part One: A few observations…. 

Some notes on the works of a reasonably well-known philosopher-psychologist. It is a hard read, but I had to find a way of understanding the brain-injury process (particularly the rather different communicative abilities and existential questions one experiences). Please show it to anyone you can, because a diverse appreciation of his objective matters is better for everyone. For your information, I am only going to be calling brain-injury by my preferred name from here on: a closed head-injury (the name, in itself, describes the sickness better than any other terminology).

I have looked up Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ propositions on mans’ pictorial logic as a means of understanding our verbal consonance, verbal acuity and literacy. On those particular matters, these are some of Wittgenstein’s relevant propositions:



  2.11 A picture presents a situation in logical space, the existence and non-existence of states of affairs.  
  2.14 What constitutes a picture is that its elements are related to one another in a determinate way.  
  2.1511 That is how a picture is attached to reality; it reaches right out to it.  
  2.1512 It is laid against reality like a measure.  
  2.17 What a picture must have in common with reality, in order to be able to depict it – correctly or incorrectly – in the way it does, is its pictorial form.  
  2.201 A picture depicts reality by representing a possibility of existence and non-existence of states of affairs.  
  2.21 A picture agrees with reality or fails to agree; it is correct or incorrect, true or false.  
  4.01 A proposition is a picture of reality. A proposition is model of reality as we imagine it.  
  5.556 There cannot be a hierarchy of the forms of elementary propositions. We cannot foresee only what we ourselves construct.  
  5.641 What brings the self into philosophy is the fact that ‘the world is my world.’  


Well, those words are associations I can make to head-injured recuperation; but to sum it up in a more conventional sense: one cannot, initially, augment an argument (I mean that in the cognitive sense, not the verbal one (as in an argument)) with oneself, and so the use of pictures can make us see the rational limits we have made at the time, and promotion of original thought (as in looking for a meaning for everything). A picture paints a thousand words is an old saying; but one could express it (in a relative sense) to a picture promoting a thousand thoughts, or even concepts. Our earliest attempts to make a 'structural' analysis of the pictures (in whatever way we can) are an initial step into the contemplative structure of logic (and have the ability to formulate memory, and to give a reason for what we are experiencing). The propositions dealt with here are mostly Wittgenstein’s introductory ones, and follow his words on symbolism (hence the inference of pictures as a suitable medium – please do not sense I am suggesting that the picture books I give to my wife are in any way curative; they are merely a communication tool, or possibly a stimulant). One of the problems you may encounter in your analysis of the propositions listed above, is in them relating actual pictures to thought; they do not, and are actually on the use of words in speech (these symbols/pictures are reality, or, in my particular observation, the closed head-injured patients’ method of expressing reality to themselves – do not take the sentences in the standard milieu you are used to, because it may not make sense in that context). The pictures alluded to can only be seen in the mind’s eye – and are potentially formed by sometimes attempted and sometimes successful comprehension.

Since I suspect that exposure to one’s artistic senses can promote the desire to ‘read’ the mind’s symbols, and that certain types of art are better at stimulating thought than others, I have recently given Courtney a calendar of Monet’s sea/water-scapes. Impressionism will make an impression on the viewer, who must think, or contemplate the meanings that are given them; and 19th Century Japanese woodblocks will similarly stimulate thought through their use of colour. If nothing else, these were a collection of appropriate paintings, which I thought might alleviate some of the boredom Courtney might be feeling (which can become very depressing). Their relativity to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus symbolism I am trying to see (and thus find them appropriate).

Having touched on depression, it might be worth mentioning the irritation of being provoked. Note that the provoking can seem relatively normal to the standard behavioural patterns you're used to (with an example of this being forced to watch a show that you are not enjoying, or are finding boring). This provoking may well instill the desire to return the ‘compliment’. One’s method of knowing how to irritate those around you can also be a good demonstration of a returning memory: mannerisms that annoy people she knows, are a perfect example of a blossoming memory. This desire to provoke people she sees, or meets, is a superiority issue (and the closed head-injured are, I seem to remember, irritated by being treated as inferior – thereby showing examples of the superiority complex). I certainly used to take pleasure in knowing how to insult my visitors. The head-injurée's peace of mind, and location, will be nigh on impossible to fathom.

On reflection, I would suggest that Wittgenstein’s symbols can be built, or promoted, by listening to opera in a language you don't know, or by watching the foreign version of a well-known film. Listening to classical music is an alternative to this, with its lack of words being used as a force majeure, and by making you give a reason to it, or a passage to your typically abstract mind. These were the sort of things I used to do in my ward in England. The same might be said of the Impressionist art form, which will make you look for a meaning in what you see. Impressionist music, or classical music in general, will help you wander down the path you need to take. A good example of classical musics’ symbolism would be Telemann’s Table Music, Suite No. 2, and Dante's VIIth Canto of Purgatorio explains the wandering quite well from a literary perspective.

It is difficult, or nigh on impossible, to understand a closed head-injured person’s behavioural patterns from a standard psychiatric methodology: as the patient will do or say what seems right to them, and not to people in the ‘real’ world. You should note the suggestion that they are experiencing an illusory world (and it certainly can feel like one at times). See propositions 5.556 and 5.641 in reference to that. Their speech and physical use of symbolism are not necessarily understandable to those on the outside of it (and quite different to what everybody around them is experiencing). This is, again, dealt with in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus - with the use of an appropriate context being important in understanding Wittgenstein’s work, use of symbolism, and one’s own manifestations of it. These are likely to be quite negative contemplations, and an interest or disinterest of one’s own current existence/environment. ‘I exist’ is the prime understanding of existence; but it needs an essentiality to blossom. Take that essential requirement to be a person’s stimulation of interest in their surroundings, or interaction with it. It's possible to express that interest, and curiosity, to an outsider as an exploration of the unknown, or of what has become the unknown, and it can be very interesting.

I apologise that there is no structure to my observation of Wittgenstein’s propositions; but that is merely because this part of the man’s work is little more than the introduction, or stimulation of materials. To quote the Tractatus’ introduction by Bertrand Russell it questions: ‘whether or not it' could 'prove to give the ultimate truth of the matters with which it deals’. The ultimate truth there, or in closed head-injury in particular, is not possible. Russell calls it an inquiry, and it is: it asks you the questions, to which only you, or, in the case I am trying to write about, only a closed head-injured person can answer for themselves. To end on a positive note, the experience of closed head-injury can be an expansion of one’s consciousness, and even occasionally a strangely inspiring and extensive education.

Please pass on these observations to any therapists you meet. Any reciprocal thoughts on the matters involved are very welcome. And Wittgenstein, I have found, has much, much more to say on the issues he delves into, and, possibly unintentionally, of this type of head-injury. That’s called having been on the Western Front in the First World War, I think….

This, I think, expands a fair bit on the brief discussion of the matter in my brother-in-law’s car.…



January 3rd, 2008 
Part Two: Continuing observations….


....on Wittgenstein’s Logico-Philosophicus in the context of closed head-injury; and on the history of symbolism (as in what Wittgenstein’s original propositions said about it, their inadvertent relationship to head-injury and general compliance with the subsequent recovery process).

Symbolism goes back to before we had written abilities, to some, though not all, of Egyptian hieroglyphics, if not earlier (as in using pictures to express thought or communication rather than a literary script). A reiteration of that sort of historical human thought-processing is what I think I experienced in hospital, and possibly this is what Courtney is experiencing. Like the historical processes, her use of hieroglyphic/symbolism will hopefully lead her to a more logical thought-processing. I have pages and pages on hieroglyphics that I'm not putting here....

I began to feel, very early on in the recovery process, that the whole experience was a kind of reversed repercussive childhood, and you can link that with what I have just said of our written/writing ability’s history.

My wife is, at this time, in the later stages of symbol-based accumulation and expression; but there are occasional glimpses of her logical imperative (although these do emerge at random, and for short periods). Conceive, if you will, that her likes and dislikes, and her moods, are based upon what symbol she is seeing (and I repeat that these symbols are thought-processing, not visual/pictures, although she could very well conceive of them as the latter). One thing to note on these symbols are that whilst they do assimilate positive moods, they can also (and I speak from experience here) integrate some very negative ones. It is best to leave these negative feelings in a tranquil environment (moments of quiet and solitude seemed to alleviate them, as far as I was concerned).

If you want to consider a musical piece whose lyrics represent a few parts of the logical examination one submits oneself to (and notice the use of the word submit), listen to R.E.M’s Great Beyond. I apologise for the rather figurative illustration there….

Some further propositions of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that relate to closed head-injured understanding are in 4.1121 and part of 4.12. Proposition 4.1121 states that….

Psychology is no more closely related to philosophy than any other natural science [and] theory of knowledge is the philosophy of psychology.

I sincerely doubt that you will receive a medical admission of psychology or psychiatry being related to philosophy…. or of it being more prevalent to an understanding of the patient's recovery outside of the more mainstream scientific knowledge of how the brain works. 4.1121 continues with….

Does not my study of sign language [read my earlier observations of Wittgenstein’s use of symbolism/pictures to describe this sign-language/logic] correspond to the study of thought-processes, which philosophers used to consider so essential in the philosophy of logic? Only in most cases they got entangled in unessential psychological investigations….

This last part of Proposition 4.1121 can envelope my own conclusion on how underwhelming a standard human perspective can be in its understanding of ‘where’ a head-injured person is.

4.12 goes on to include this temporary and self-imposed illusory world on the reader by explaining that:

In order to represent a logical form, we would have to station ourselves somewhere outside of logic itself. Or outside of the world in which it exists.

I fear that this world is not visible to you or I – it is unique (and by that I mean illusory again, as well as individual) and brings us back to 5.541:

What brings the self into philosophy is the fact that ‘the world is my world.

Unique, or individual? That is what it is; and thus defies 4.1121’s concept of knowledge.



January 20th, 2008
Part Three: Some more looks at Wittgenstein….


I’m not sure what you think of my Wittgenstein-inspired analysis of head-injury; and any reviews of it from a third-party are welcome. I apologise, because I am now reaching a look into his second (he only published two) written piece on the matters started in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. It somewhat derogates the original Tractatus’ observations on logical thought-processing; though, fortunately, not in the context I was looking at – if anything it expands on my look at how his original work explains a head-injured person’s cognitive abilities. His second piece of work was called Philosophical Investigations, and was only published posthumously. One section of the Investigations negotiates the mind, and covers such things as ‘mental states that are entirely unconnected to the subject’s environment,’ ‘an inner process that stands in need of outward criteria,’ and is a perfect example of why a patient occasionally says that they are uncomfortable, and Wittgenstein sees that ‘a private mental state (a sensation of pain, for example) cannot be adequately discussed without public criteria for identifying it. As far as I can see, or predict, this demonstrates that when Courtney says that she is in pain, it is not what we should conceive of, or understand, in the standard human way: ‘the world is my world’, not yours, from the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ Proposition 5.641. The ‘pain’ (I think) is Courtney’s own expression of her starting to realise she is in a bad condition, and that she wants to ‘fix’ it (one of the reasons she says the word ‘pain’ is, possibly, because that ‘fixing’ is difficult).

On a positive note, and by reverting to the Tractatus (again!), Proposition 4.1213 hopefully follows where Courtney is starting to arrive (bear in mind I hadn’t seen her for seven weeks when I wrote this), when it says: Now…. we understand our feeling that once we have sign-language [this follows on shortly after 4.1121’s analysis of the sign-language being the early method of thought-processing] in which everything is all right, we already have a correct logical point of view. Proposition 4.2 goes on to declare that: the sense of a proposition is its agreement and disagreement with possibilities of existence and non-existence of states of affairs. In that Proposition we can tell why Courtney is questioning (as in logically calculating) her situation. Questioning, I hasten to add, that can be both very enlightening, and also very disenchanting. We must be careful that she is treated as she always used to be; and not as an invalid (I use that unpleasant term because that was always how I felt I was treated – and it depressed me quite badly).

Note that 4.21 says that: the simplest kind of proposition, an elementary proposition, asserts the existence of a state of affairs. 4.21 is what Courtney will be looking for: simple remembrance of her times before the accident. I can sum up her searching for her elementary proposition by saying that the sensibility of the propositions is like a sea that Courtney is swimming in – and she needs to find that elementary proposition to go further on the 'road' to recovery.

As an abstract to my pondering on Wittgenstein’s work, I would like to tell you of how it feels to be lost in this illness. It is like wandering beyond one’s physical environment, and beyond one’s own timeframe (I seem to remember being back in my childhood days – and I do mean traipsing through the 70’s again, and not just remembering the events of the past). It felt fairly real to me, just then. That lost-ness was, at times, a pleasant environment away from the reality I was in; a holiday away from my bed, if you like. I seem to remember going away from Earth a couple of times (sorry if that sounds a little preposterous, but that was what it felt like, and was, to me, very real). The moon is quiet pretty, you know....

Now, I have been trying to give Courtney as much Impressionist artwork as I can find/afford in the last several months. This, I thought, could be a visual holiday, away from what she might feel is a mundane existence (careful or I will start on Kierkegaard or Sartre here; and see Proposition 4.2 and 4.21 above). Impressionist art DOES ask you to make an impression of it – a holiday away from what you are currently experiencing (and I do, very much, think it an agreeable way of instigating Courtney’s recovery process, and desire to ‘fix’ herself). As far as being lost is concerned, I suggest it might possibly be looked at in a positive way: a desire to explore, because one is not happy where one is; in retrospect it can be looked at as trying to start the recovery process (and a recognition of one’s discomfort/illness/misery will inspire that process).

Thank you for your patience in reading my, quite possibly, non-sensicle and un-cheerful thoughts….

Tim Atherden

February 4th, 2013
I've corrected the December 28th, 2007 entry's grammar. Its content is the same as it was: except for the addition of Dante's La Commedia to the note on Telemann's Suite No. 2 being a reflection of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus' symbolism.