onsdag 3. desember 2008

Ronny Wittgenstein

Just for once I will publish something here in English. Below is my translation from an old exam script. The student was smart, but not very energetic. Rather than just leave, he wrote the following during a six hour exam some 12-13 years ago. It is worth keeping in mind that Wittgenstein wrote: 'A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes'. But that was Ludwig. Here is Ronny:

Ronny Wittgenstein

It has been claimed that Wittgenstein's later philosophy represents a break with the philosophical tradition. Explain a few points in Wittgenstein's philosophy where such a break can be said to be evident.

The answer of student nr. **** (translated by O M Skilleås)

Ronny Wittgenstein (1907-1992) is the founder of the philosophical tradition we today call 'ronnism'. He left a number of philosophical works on almost any conceivable topic. Yet the main interest in Ronny Wittgenstein's late philosophy remained epistemological. Is it possible to have secure knowledge? And if not - how can we be sure of that?

Ronny led a life in loneliness. His grotesque exterior made social intercourse near impossible. Even his own mother wanted nothing to do with him, and it is gripping to read his autobiography Ronny W., where he relates his difficult upbringing.

'When I started school', he writes, 'my mother wrapped my school lunch in maps. All the exits from town were marked in red. I understood I was unwanted.' Ronny's difficult relationship with his mother made its mark on his whole life. Towards the end of his life he wrote a book about her called The Castrating Zionist.

Ronny Wittgenstein was in continuous philosophical development. For a long time he was a believer in idiotism, but gradually he came to the realization that thought has a major role in consciousness, and this led to his first major work of philosophy, Cactus. In this work, Ronny claims that he is the only consciousness in the Universe. All others are just figments of his
imagination [here the student has crossed out 'philosophy']. This philosophy gained very few adherents, which made Ronny very depressed. He used most of his time and energy to persuade his only friend Helmer of the truth of his theories.

The later philosophy of Ronny Wittgenstein gives more attention to language. He dreamt of creating a new and better language, without the shortcomings of daily language. It can often be difficult to hear the difference between 'paté' and 'patted'. Ronny's main thesis was that by cutting out vocoids you would get a scientific ideal language. Wittgenstein never got to publish his
main work on language. He writes in a letter to the publisher:
Jg frstr kk hvrfr dt flskkt fllskpt kk trr mnltp. Gt stpt kk nstn!
[this is quoted from the Norwegian]

This programme later proved very difficult to carry out, and Wittgenstein was forced to give up his ambitious project. He now adopted a new view, that language is not a suitable medium of communication at all. After attempting telepathy for a while, he started using semaphore.

In his ethics Wittgenstein is mostly concerned with the relationship mother-son, but other topics are also broached. His main work in ethics has the form of a dialogue. Ronny converses with his best (and only) friend Helmer. This is an excerpt from the famous garden conversation:

Ronny: "Look at that rose, Helmer."
Helmer: "Yes, it's really nice, that one."
Ronny: "I just picked it. Soon it will die. So frail is life. Don't cry,
Helmer: "I'm not crying. I'm allergic to flowers."

This passage shows how Ronny, with the aid of his ironnyc method, makes Helmer realize something very deep. Reluctantly, Helmer is almost pulled into philosophic speculations on almost anything between heaven and earth.

It was a pity that his contemporaries did not open their eyes to the thoughts of Wittgenstein. While he lived he gained next to no recognition. It's only now, after his death, that we are beginning to understand the depth of Ronny Wittgenstein's philosophy.

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