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The Unutterable as a Mode of Utterance: Wittgenstein’s Two Remarks on “Count Eberhard’s Hawthorn” by Ludwig Uhland

  • Christoph König
From the journal Wittgenstein-Studien


Uhland’s poem has found fame as a litmus test in philosophical debates about Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Like many works of art, the poem is dynamically produced in its effort to resolve a fundamental conflict. The poem’s conflict arises from the difficulty to connect the count’s life and his daydream. In the end, the poem as a whole serves to embody a critique of the capacity of a daydream to recover memories faithfully. Wittgenstein makes two remarks in a 1917 letter to Paul Engelmann that pertain to the poem. They are to be read in keeping with a resolute reading (James Conant, Cora Diamond) of the Tractatus; Wittgenstein’s first remark imitates the very movement of thought we find in the poem – and in doing so Wittgenstein makes good on his claim to talk about the poem: “the unutterable is, – unutterably – contained in what is uttered.” His second remark has, thus far, played no role in literature – Wittgenstein speaks of Engelmann’s dreams, yet he does not explicitly formulate the poem’s bearing on them. Here, too, he reenacts, in the formulation of his remark, the core conflict of the poem. My interpretation of the poem, finally, distinguishes three interpretive approaches (symbolistic, realistic, critical) in order to capture the understanding of the poem embodied in Wittgenstein's remarks.

Translated from German by Daniel Smyth.


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Online erschienen: 2021-02-03

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