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Oever, A.H. van den

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

The Intersection of Mysticism and Philosophy in Wittgenstein’s Ethics

To me, the most important philosophical question is how to live. But most of the time when I read something philosophical about how to live it annoys me. It annoys me because I have a hard time accepting the building blocks of most normative theories. Needless to say, I find philosophy as it exists today to have a very troubled relationship with the most important question.

One strategy of dealing with this ‘pain’, if you will, is to rethink the role of philosophy. That is what Ludwig Wittgenstein did at the beginning of the twentieth century. With the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus he wanted to silence all the metaphysical nonsense philosophy had ever concerned itself with, including ethics; including all the answers to the question of how to live. These questions, Wittgenstein contended, are of a spiritual nature. The answers are divine; they are mystical, and all attempts to distill them in philosophical terms are absolutely hopeless.

I find this strategy entirely interesting, and in my thesis I have made an attempt to portray Wittgenstein’s view of ethics the way I think it should be portrayed: anti-theoretical, no-nonsense, and right at the intersection between mysticism and philosophy.

Last modified:15 December 2016 3.04 p.m.