A rather strange chain of events has just occurred, which I thought was interesting enough to share. After getting to work, I sat down at my desk and started leafing through the new edition of Library Journal. In the section devoted to audiobooks, I saw a blurb about The Broom of the System, a novel by David Foster Wallace that I just read a few months ago. I didn’t love the book, but that’s beside the point. The blurb points out that the main character has a “Wittgenstein-obsessed grandmother,” referring to Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian philosopher. At the time I read the book, I had no knowledge of Wittgenstein or his philosophical theories, and pretty much glazed over those parts of the book, which I deemed esoteric and boring. Anyway.
I continued skimming through the magazine until I came upon a picture of another book. This one is called Philosophy Bites, and I have most definitely not read it. However, the cover struck me because I recognized the image from a picture book that I’ve been seeing pretty regularly at my last two jobs.
The name of the picture book is Duck! Rabbit!, and I can’t say I’ve read that one either, but I definitely recognized the cover. I concluded that the duckrabbit image must have some ties to philosophy, so I dug a little deeper. The duckrabbit is cited in a lot of places, namely a book called Philosophical Investigations, written by none other than LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN. Weird, right? I won’t pretend to have understood most of what I read during my cursory research of the duckrabbit and the theories behind it, but here’s a quick paragraph from Wikipedia that sort of scratches the surface of his ideas.
Wittgenstein discussed figures which can be seen and understood in two different ways. Often one can see something in a straightforward way—seeing that it is a rabbit, perhaps. But, at other times, one notices a particular aspect—seeing it as something. An example Wittgenstein uses is the “duckrabbit,” a picture that can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit. When one looks at the duckrabbit and sees a rabbit, one is not interpreting the picture as a rabbit, but rather reporting what one sees. One just sees the picture as a rabbit. But what occurs when one sees it first as a duck, then as a rabbit? As the gnomic remarks in the Investigations indicate, Wittgenstein isn’t sure. However, he is sure that it could not be the case that the external world stays the same while an ‘internal’ cognitive change takes place.
Anyway, Wittgenstein aside, I am left pondering the links that led me to read about him and contemplating the interconnectedness of all things. I think I may need to watch I Heart Huckabees again.