Anti-Wittgenstein ladders

You must throw away the ladder after you have climbed up on it
-Wittgenstein, Tractatus


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5 Responses to Anti-Wittgenstein ladders

  1. Susan Scheid says:

    My words will be poor in the face of these images, which I find powerful and disturbing, and in at least one case (the fourth), darkly comic. I don’t know the context of the Wittgenstein quotation, but, as signalled by your title (or at least I think so), the images portray the full terror of the impossibility/futility/struggle of climbing the ladder. I think of all of them, the one that really made me do a double-take was the second. I had this sense of relief that here was one ladder I could mentally climb, until I realized the missing top steps would prevent me from ever being able to look over the wall.

    • Sue: thanks very much for the feedback. It’s nice to know how a viewer responded to these. On Wittgenstein: at the end of the Tractatus he refers to the book itself as the ladder. Once the student has absorbed the lessons he can discard them and move on. Since I lack the brain power to ever fully understand Wittgenstein, I’ll never be in a position to discard his “ladder”. These sketches aren’t about that though; they’re just impossible ladders.

  2. John Wiswell says:

    You could certainly keep the first one. By turning it upside down, it would stick better to the ground than most and thus be useful in the future.

  3. friko says:

    If you throw away the ladder once you’ve climbed it there’s no way of getting down again.

    Why would you want to be stuck.

    I am sorry for my levity, what I really want is for you to explain the words.

    Your ladders are like many ladders I’ve tried to climb in my lifetime; they all proved unequal to the job. How did you know? Experience?

    • I feel the same way, both as a person who needs ladders for his work AND as a reader of Wittgenstein. I am by no means an expert on Wittgenstein, but one of his basic ideas seems to be that philosophical problems disappear when they are seen for what they are : illusions arising from a misuse or an unclear view of language. If the manner of getting to this “solution” was specific to the “problem” then it too disappears. However, I am not brilliant enough to dispense with Wittgenstein’s “ladders”, and the truth is I enjoy reading him. But there’s also the possibility that he isn’t always right: what if the ladder is faulty?

      Essentially though I agree with you; a person cannot have enough ladders, so I suppose I disagree with the Master on this one. (And yes, I’ve known many faulty ladders in my life.)

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