18 January 2008


"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." Wittgentstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Let's see, that's the quote we left you with last time. You want to know who really understood silence? Sure, I would accept the Buddha as an answer, or even Lao Tsu—good answers both; but those aren't quite the ones I had in mind. No. Someone who really understood the concept of silence in all its full ramifications was Stalin! Yes. If you did not agree with Stalin, you were silenced (exiled, sent to a gulag, disappeared, humiliated, assassinated, executed, etc.). And, thus, he did not have to speak about you. Perfectly rational.

Surely, that isn't what Wittgenstein meant (and, of course, subsequently repudiated) in the Tractatus, though, at the time, he felt it was the answer to (or at least the correct approach to answering) all the intractable questions of philosophy.

Is monomanical ideology (a/k/a sameness, conformity, totalitarianism) necessarily the natural outcome of reason and rationality? Its desideratum? When philosophy searches its soul, this is a question it must confront—especially in light of the brutal history of the mid-20th Century.

Maybe John Cage intuitively sensed this problem: "There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot." — John Cage, from Silence. See also 4'33" here and here.

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