The “Mystical” Phenomenology of the “Life-World” in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus


Scholars have often struggled with the notion of mysticism in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus-logico-philosophicus (TLP). The paper develops a taxonomy of the multiple species of mysticism in TLP in order to show that its notion of the mystical actually has a complex hierarchial structure.  A key notion in TLP’s account is its neglected notion of the “life-world” (5.621), specifically, that realm in which the “mystical” “shows itself [zeigt sich]”.  A comparison is made with Heidegger’s notion in Being and Time of the fundamental phenomena of phenomenology as that that sort of phenomena that “shows itself [sich zeit].” That is, TLP’s notion of the mystical is at the same time a sketch the phenomenological structure of the “life-world”. On this basis it is argued that TLP’s account of linguistic meaning is parasitic on its notion of the “mystical” dimension of the “life-world”, which has the consequence that one cannot separate the “safe” logical and scientific portion of TLP from its mysticism as Russell and the logical positivists tried to do.  The “mysticism” and “phenomenology” must stay.  Finally, the paper argues that TLP is not, as often thought, a proponent of Russell’s method of analysis into “logical atoms” but actually presents a powerful critique of the analytical method.

Keywords: Wittgenstein, Tractatus, mysticism, phenomenology, life-world, holism

[Full Article PDF]