Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Shotanization Notes

November 3, 2006
Author: Mr. Elitist Fuckhead
And don't even get started on Husserl's thing for cat ears.

In July 2006 a text file in German appeared on the internet claiming to contain a transcription of previously unknown writings by early 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. This has caused a minor controversy to flare up over, first, whether the notes contained were authentic, and second, what their veracity would mean for future Wittgenstein scholarship. The source of the transcription is unknown. They only add a single notice at the beginning of the document:

“This contains two sets of previously unpublished notes written by Wittgenstein on the subject of sexuality. The first set is from a box marked ‘Sexuality - Spring ‘39.’ The second, smaller set is unmarked. Evidence suggests it was written shortly after the first. I have updated Wittgenstein’s logical symbology and numbered the notes for easier reference.”

This document has been more or less ignored by established scholars, no doubt due to its dubious origin. I myself am not completely sure of its authenticity - certain syntactical constructions are odd for Wittgenstein, and the subject matter even moreso. Nevertheless, a translation seems warranted. I have fixed obvious errors in the original transcription, but have remained faithful otherwise; while the present attempt ought to serve in the meantime, it is only preliminary and should not be mistaken for a proper English edition. I have also invited a number of in-house scholars to briefly comment on the text, and their contributions appear at the end.

Finally, I thank Ecchi Attack for hosting this - the choice may initially seem odd, but after reading the material most will agree that there is no better place for it.

Figure A: These are girls


1. Suppose I am with Smith. He points and says to me: “What a pretty girl that is!” But I reply: “Smith, I’m not so sure that’s a girl.” How could we check this? “You ought to look for a penis.” But why would this be conclusive? The first problem: what kind of a role do propositions like “that girl is pretty” play?

2. “The general form of a proposition is: This is how things stand.” A proposition makes a picture of reality. It says: “Things are like this!” It points to something - “That’s what it’s like!” For the proposition to have a sense I must understand what it is pointing at. I must know what the picture is representing. A proposition on its own does not explain anything past: “It’s like this!”

Figure B: Frolicking young nuns in habits. Due to Catholic tradition, one assumes nuns to be girls as well.
3. But the game goes beyond pictures. Suppose I have a certain picture in mind when I hear the word “girl.” “A girl - they’re thus and so.” I do not know if this is the same picture that everyone else has. But I never think about this. Suppose that I were to say, without any philosophical intention: “That’s a girl.” When I tell this to someone, the thought never crosses my mind that this “girl” is only my own picture. I feel no need to add, “By ‘girl’ I mean they’re without any kind of dick, etc..” Conversation could not proceed if we prefaced every sentence with a series of definitions and axioms. (in any case this would not eliminate the problem)

4. I don’t think about a picture that I have, the picture that you have, or whatever all the pictures might share in common. I only say: “that girl,” “this girl,” etc..

5. “That’s a girl” - something is queer about this sentence. When would I say this? This moves us from one subject matter to another.

6. Suppose I’m working a problem on the blackboard. Afterwards Jones tells me, “You’ve made a mistake, look!” And it turns out that I didn’t carry a number somewhere. I wouldn’t hear this and tell him, “No, this is a question of taste.” Mathematics is not a matter of “appreciation.”

Figure C: This classic school uniform is also an indicator of femininity.
7. “You made a mistake!” This disagreement can happen because Jones knows the rules of what I am doing. He knows how it is properly done, and how you might make an error. A grade school teacher instructing children: “This is how you do mathematics.”

8. Jones tells me he’s going to work a math problem. He goes to the blackboard and begins to write poetry in blank verse. I wouldn’t say: “You’re making a mistake!“ Instead I would tell myself: “I don’t know what Jones means when he says ‘math.’” The poetry is sensible, but only in a different game than I expected.

9. “What a pretty girl that is!” “I don’t think that’s a girl.” I shouldn’t say that Smith is making an error, but that we don’t agree on what girls are.

10. Think of a scenario where everyone keeps a girl in a box. These girls may be completely different, (one is short, another tall, another has a penis, etc.) but no one is allowed to look into another’s box to see what kind of girl they have. But this comes to nothing: here I can still talk about girls with others without knowing at all what they keep in their own box. What matters is how the girl is used, and everything else comes out in the wash. You can simply drop the girls in the boxes altogether.

11. Smith says: “That girl is pretty.” What he says could be understood in two ways. First, as simply two distinct propositions “P(x) = x has no penis” and “Q(x) = x is pretty,” or second as under the argument “((P(x) → Q(x)) & P(x)) ∴ Q(x).” In the second case Q(x) fails if x has a penis (Smith only intended to call x pretty because he believed x was a “girl” in the strict sense). But I do not take back a compliment to well-cooked trout because I believed I was actually eating salmon. (I simply meant this food here)

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