Authors Name: 
Sam Mc Grath
University of Chicago
Philosophy & Theology
Award winner

The Zen of Ludwig Wittgenstein: An Elucidation of the Elusive ‘Ethical Point’ of the Tractatus

This paper strives to elucidate the “ethical point” of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by means of an analogy with Zen Buddhism. By developing a comparison between these two philosophies in terms of their parallel method and parallel purpose, a fresh attempt is made to resolve the most profound problem raised by “resolute readings” of the Tractatus: How can a work of nonsense lead an individual to ethical realizations? These resolute readings, as exemplified in the work of Jim Conant, Cora Diamond, Michael Kremer, Warren Goldfarb and Piergiorgio Donatelli, among others, have toppled decades of accepted interpretation of Wittgenstein’s early work and risen to great prominence in recent years. This paper represents an attempt to take up the problem from a new perspective, in hopes of pointing the way towards a solution to one of the great lingering dilemmas in the field.