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Dialectic of the Ladder : Wittgenstein, the Tractatus and Modernism (Hardcover) (Ben Ware)
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Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) remains one of the most enigmatic works of twentieth century thought. In this bold and original new study, Ben Ware argues that Wittgenstein's early masterpiece is neither an analytic treatise on language and logic, nor a quasi-mystical work seeking to communicate 'ineffable' truths. Instead, we come to understand theTractatus by grasping it in a twofold sense: first, as a dialectical work which invites the reader to overcome certain 'illusions of thought'; and second as a modernist work whose anti-philosophical ambition is intimately tied to its radical aesthetic character.
By placing the Tractatus in the force field of modernism, Dialectic of the Ladder clears the ground for a new and challenging exploration of the work's ethical dimension. It also casts new light upon the cultural, aesthetic and political significances of Wittgenstein's writing, revealing hitherto unacknowledged affinities with a host of philosophical and literary authors, including Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche, Adorno, Benjamin, and Kafka.
Drawing upon continental philosophy, critical and literary theory, and the history of ideas, the book challenges conventional readings of Wittgenstein's early work. It demonstrates how the Tractatus can be examined alongside narratives of progress and enlightenment, as well and explores how it actively engages with the linguistic and aesthetic ideologies of literary modernism.
Importantly, the study also contends that the Tractatus is not simply a text which emerges out of the author's attempt to work through the influence of his philosophical predecessors (Frege, Russell et al.) ? rather, it is to be grasped as an experimental and dialectical work which invites the reader to radically rethink questions of language, ethics, agency and subjectivity, as well as the relationship between the philosophical and the literary.
By elucidating the Tractatus in the contexts of modernity and modernism, Dialectic of the Ladder provides unique insights into Wittgenstein's early masterpiece, developing challenging suggestions regarding its enduring historical, ethical and political significances.