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William Burcher — "This is serious business"

Author. Traveler. Contemplative. Colorado raised. Seeker of beauty, of truth, and a great beer.

A Mystery of a Book—And a Reputation

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus - Ludwig Wittgenstein

A mystery of a book—if you could even call it that. Throughout my reading of it I had the sneaking suspicion that much of Wittgenstein's hailed "genius" was effectively a social meme; the early 20th century academic equivalent of some strange internet video gone viral that "everyone" has seen and "everyone" proclaims is brilliant for the sole reason that "everyone else" has proclaimed it such. I thought this, until I began flipping through the book (to determine if I wanted to continue) and arrived at his proclamation: "Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present." — Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 6.431

This is not a book for a casual reader or even most philosophical adepts. The rare moments when I felt something profound was being said were far outweighed by those when I felt the "logic" was merely self-obsessed thought taken to an extreme; a child perpetually asking "why?" And upon researching the man behind the work, I discovered much to question.

His apparent dying declaration is misleading: "Tell them I have had a wonderful life …" For in reality, he appeared to be an exceedingly unhappy man prone to bouts of depression and even violence. The sources seem to be limited on the subject, but one incident in particular leads me to serious pause. Wittgenstein, when working as a school teacher in Austria, was known to physically abuse his pupils. At one point he allegedly struck an intellectually slow pupil forcefully in the head multiple times, hard enough to cause unconsciousness (or worse). If true, the man would not have had the opportunity to have been hailed a genius in our modern world—he would have been rightfully labeled an abuser of children and imprisoned.