I think it’s fair to say that in my recent post on Wittgenstein and Heidegger, I got Wittgenstein wrong. (And one of the things I love about doing philosophy as a blogger is the ability to be wrong in writing, and then simply retract it. If one is seeking an academic career as a philosopher, that sort of thing could easily bring said career to an ignominious end. Here, I can simply offer my apologies and move on with a revised position.)
I characterized Wittgenstein there as having “an indifference to ethics and concerns about the good life…” Given the concerns that occupy the bulk of his writing, it’s very easy to get that impression; compared to his voluminous prose about epistemology and philosophy of language, the amount of published or unpublished writing that he devotes to ethics and the good life is almost negligible.
But as several respondents to the post pointed out – both in the comments and in private emails – it’s really not fair to characterize that lack of ink as indifference. (And though I am by no means well versed in Wittgenstein’s thought, I did know enough about him that I should have remembered that.) The things Wittgenstein said about ethics were certainly limited; but they did exist. And those relatively few remarks tell us in his own words why he said so little. Continue reading