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Zen and the Work of Wittgenstein Author(s): Paul Wienpahl Source: Chicago Review, Vol. 12, No.

2 (Summer, 1958), pp. 67-72 Published by: Chicago Review Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/09/2011 02:11
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Ludwig Wittgenstein bridge, England, where
Russell because of

came to philosophy in 1912 at Cam he had gone to study with Bertrand

in the foundations of mathematics.

an interest

In 1922 he published the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a book in which powerful innovations in semantics and logical theory
are followed removed a set of utterances, mystical by from the foundations of mathematics. which However, seem far it was

the logical and semantical portion of the book which, through the Vienna Circle, gave birth to logical positivism. In the 1930's lectured at Cambridge. A precipitate Wittgenstein of his thinking during this time, the Philosophical Investigations,
was posthumously published movement another influential in 1953. These in philosophy, are later activities the started of treatment

philosophical problems by a sort of linguistic analysis during

the course of which the problems supposed an to dissolve rather

than be solved.Wittgenstein
movements for which his work

dissociated himself from both the

was inspiration. of Buddhism. called then satori comes bothered Its adher in which the

Zen Buddhism developed

as an off-shoot ents of the seek a condition is transcended. of them out things,

in China in the sixth century a.D.

religion-philosophy of enlightenment The in which practitioner he is no

intellect knowledge preting worked

to a direct inter have

the medium through methods characteristic a form

longer of ideas.

by Zen masters satori

the mondo, speeding I should

the process like to call

as producing of which aims at so rapid question-answer that it is of transcended. suddenly thought such attention to some resemblances between


the work of Zen masters and that ofWittgenstein.

first noting by some quotations. the Toward necessity some general of features

I shall do so
turning to

of each and then


the Tractatus to happen

for one


Wittgenstein because another

wrote: has


happened 67

does not exist. There

the basis of the whole that the so-called (TLP,

is only logical necessity" (TLP, 6.37).1 "At

modern view of the world lies the illusion are the of natural explanations sense of the world must "The lie

laws of nature 6.371).


outside theworld. In theworld everything is as it is and happens as it does happen." (TLP, 6.41) "The riddle does not exist" (TLP, 6.5). "The solution of the problem of life is seen in the
of this vanishing problem. after whom long doubting not say wherein this sense Statements genstein, such such as a result of his to (Is this not the reason why men sense of life became the clear, could consisted? )" (TLP, 6.521 ). be taken to indicate that Witt investigations, and was close to a

as these may logical

state of mind

(in contrast to a theory) inwhich he had attained

from theories that he believed concepts were "solved" because they For him, that is, the sense of nor in a Platonic realm or

of that all the problems philosophy had dissolved with the detachment. the world essences, language, lies neither which in the world


seem to is with which things happen experiences. due to the conventions the necessity of concepts, the necessity real world is the realm of so-called of our languages. The really this realm this enables one to get beyond and seeing concepts, are in it. Differences between of instead things being caught-up then seen to be not real but conceptual. Philosophic problems, therefore, it, his ment do not exist.

in the concepts The necessity

the world but in its structure, give our we seek to deal with with which

In 1922 Wittgenstein
later work consisted

left philosophy. When

in the development cannot He wrote: tell

he came back to
of a method for

bringing about the insight which

to problems concepts. are not (You real.)

frees the mind from its attach

just people that philosophic

A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably. (PI, 115)
1 from Wittgenstein Quotations 1922) (London: Paul, Kegan Basil ford: 1953). Blackwell, spectively. are from the Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus the Philosophical and from (Ox Investigations are abbreviated books TLP and PI re These


For the clarity that we are aiming at is indeed complete clarity. But this simply means that the philosophical problems should completely disappear. The real discovery is the one that makes me capable of stopping doing want to.?The one that gives philosophy peace, so that philosophy when I it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself in question.?
Instead, we now demonstrate a method, by examples; and the series of

examples can be broken off. Problems not a single problem. (PI, 133) The method of consisted linguistic in

are solved




constructing behavior in such

or attention calling as to shock a way

to the


into noticing something which had not been noticed and thereby to free it from what might be called the bind of concep
tions. To use an that, when the flower the words suppose example I order of Wittgenstein's someone to bring to his a a person yellow is likely to he flower,


understands the order by imagining something yellow

chooses hears Yet according and selects the flower to him

and them

say that he just image. To does not sound reasonable. the order, a

give "Imagine yellow " patch? How does he understand that order? Does he first imagine and then such as this yellow patch imagine one??A procedure to* show that not have to be the do way we think they things helps

that Iwere

In other resembling out worked the methods Wittgenstein

had words, Wittgenstein that which the Zen master a method of of inducing and koans.

attained calls

a state satori, which

of mind

and he had resembles

it in others It

the mondos


said that "There

is not

be added that might a method, philosophic

though there are indeed methods,

like different therapies" (PI,

in both Wittgenstein's state of mind and in satori 133). Anyway one is not bothered about "the of it all." by questions meaning There the general similarities between are, then, characteristic

states of mind
noted when There

and methods

for inducing them which

are viewed

can be

work and Zen in the Wittgenstein's large. to be noted when is also a the matter of the similarity roots of Zen and is considered. respective thinking Wittgenstein's

of relational

didwhat he did in connection with the development

logic, that is, logic in which the subject-predicate 69

of This is abandoned. analysis analysis propostitions source of the substance-attribute view of the world, characterized of relation of Western logic things, is the thought. possible of abandonment the realization A


a main has


analogue metaphysical the substance-attribute that many views are


or at least

Zen beings Buddhist springs are

a central part of the Buddhist thought from which

is the notion of non-ego. Both and sentient things to be that is, without substance. The ego-less, view of things. have the substance-attribute said, "What is troubling wrote: us is the tendency

thought does not

Wittgenstein the Cat's Yawn, ...


to believe that the mind is like a little man within."3 A writer

a Zen periodical, "Ego is that something


which may be termed the supervisor within oneself. It is like the

king man or the master of a concern. Human beings believe that

everyone has this supervisor within himself. Buddha denied that

has an ego or a supervisor within himself."4 Buddha said,

"And it is impossible that a being possessed of right understanding

as an Ego."5 regard anything some remarks of now Let me Wittgenstein place I am aware in Zen writings. of those to be found should the other beside of I am not some in

the risk

from contexts. On hand, trying lifting sayings was a Zen master. that Wittgenstein to suggest at is indeed we are said, "For the clarity aiming Wittgenstein that the philosophical this simply means But complete clarity.
of sub 2 It that there is no giving be argued of course, up of the concept may, into it. I am not con which or in the thinking in relational goes logic I do think, is not. is or that there however, that there to urge either cerned the only is not of propositions that the subject-predicate that seeing analysis of the world view of the substance-attribute can lead to an abandonment one of these be treatment one's whether one turns to metaphysical when questions, a source of the is the case because This or that of Wittgenstein. of the old style am I Nor is the subject-predicate view suggesting analysis. substance-attribute and the giving of no-substance the doctrine up between is an identity that there that there is a resemblance. I am only view. of the substance-attribute suggesting of Cam Mr. to me 8 remark was John Wisdom by reported Wittgenstein's stance bridge.

4Cat's Yawn, I,No.

5 Buddha's statement

1 (July 1940), 4.
is from the Pali sources reproduced in A Buddhist Bible,

ed. Dwight Goddard 70

(New York: E. P. Dutton,

1938), p. 38.

problems should completely disappear" (PI, 133). Of amaster it

is reported: when asked what he was doing sitting cross-legged

quietly, Yao-shan said, "Thinking of that which is beyond thinking."" "How do you go onwith thinking thatwhich isbeyond
thinking? plete clarity" asked a visitor. Yao-shan: and the Zen notion "Com By not-thinking."6 ... or mindlessness of no-mind

said that philosophical problems should complete Wittgenstein ly disappear. The Zen master, when asked a philosophical
problem, indicating with may reply that there is no nonsense or a and trying problem which makes intellectualizing once does seeming irrelevancy, to get the questioner it appear that there

the beyond A monk is a problem. to the One, but where answered: "When garment made real discovery

asked Chao-chou, "All things return the One return? To which the master

in the of I had a monkish pro^vince Seiju seven kin."7 which "The weighed Wittgenstein: the one that makes me of is capable stopping


want to" (PI, 133). "What is your aim doing philosophy when I in philosophy?To shew the fly the way out of the flybottle" (PI, 309).
are mountains and you have studied Zen, mountains are are no are rivers: while it mountains rivers you studying mountains and rivers no longer rivers; but once you have longer are once mountains and had enlightenment, again mountains "Before rivers before "Philosophy simply puts everything nor deduces us, and neither anything.?Since everything explains to For what lies open to view there is nothing is hidden, explain. name also is of no interest to us. One might for example, give the are rivers."8

'philosophy' to what
inventions" From
?D. T. 7 8

is possible before all new discoveries and

"While the Tathagata,
of D. T.

(PI, 126). the Diamond Sutra:9

Zen Buddhism:

in his teach
Suzuki, ed. William




Barrett (New York: Doubleday,

Suzuki, Suzuki, p. 100. p. xvi. before

1956), p. 208.

9This Sutra was written ence to it by Zen writers

is frequent.

the development The translation

of Zen

Buddhism, is from Goddard,

but p.

refer 105.


ing, constantly and ideas.


use of






disciples should keep inmind the unreality of all such conceptions

use should recall that the in They making Tathagata, uses them in the resem the Dharma of them in explaining always blance of a raft that is of use only to cross a river. As the raft is of no further So these be wholly use after the river is crossed, it should be discarded. of things and about things should conceptions as one attains up Wittgenstein: enlightenment." are under in this way; he who elucidatory as senseless, when he has climb them recognizes so to on them, over them. (He must them, speak on it.) He must ladder, after he has climbed up

arbitrary given

"My propositions stands me finally ed out through throw away the

surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly" (TLP, 6.54). Tractatus 7 has been read differently, but itmay also fit here:
"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."