Grammar and Aesthetic Mechanismus. From Wittgenstein’s Tractatus to the Lectures on Aesthetics

Fabrizio Desideri


This paper takes distances from two influential images of Wittgenstein's philosophy: the image of a primarily ethical philosopher defended by the so-called «resolute» interpreters and that of an ascetically "analytical" philosopher transmitted by the standard interpretation. Instead of contrasting images (that of Wittgenstein as an "aesthetic" philosopher and that of the "ethical" Wittgenstein), this paper focuses on the analysis of the fractures and tensions characterizing not only the relationship between Wittgenstein's philosophy and aesthetics, but also the very style of Wittgenstein's thought. Addressing a specific issue from a conceptual and textual standpoint (the unity of Ethics and Aesthetics in the Tractatus) seems to the author to be a fruitful strategy that allows us not only to understand whether and how determinant and central the aesthetic problem is for Wittgenstein, but also to see how aesthetics itself can be radically reshaped through the filter offered by his thought. In the first place, then, it is clarified what the Tractatus claim that ethics and aesthetics «sind eins» might entail. Secondly, it is checked if and how the conceptual consistency of the «being one» of ethics and aesthetics is transformed during the 1930s, to the point that it requires a different configuration: the metamor¬phosis of the logical unity between the two conceptual fields into an analogical affinity. Analyzing this conceptual metamorphosis the paper considers also the idea of an asymmetry of the aesthetic over the ethical as already evident, despite appearances, in the 1929 Lecture on Ethics. This asymmetry is then developed focusing the image of grammatical mechanism with its degrees of freedom of which Wittgensteins writes from 1930. In connection with this image the author outlines finally the idea of an aesthetic mechanism arising from primitive reactions and strictly related with the genesis of language games.


Wittgenstein; Aesthetics; Grammar; aesthetic mechanism; degrees of freedom

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