"If a lion could speak, we would not be able to understand what he said. Why do I say such a thing?... To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life. It's what we do and who we are that gives meaning to our words. I can't understand the lion's language, because I don't know what his world is like. How can I know the world a lion inhabits? Do I fail to understand him because I can't peer into his mind?" says Wittgenstein in Derek Jarman's movie Wittgenstein. (at which a student jokes: If we could understand him, I shouldn't think we'd have too much trouble with a lion!)
It makes me wonder that maybe the reason Wittgenstein's contemporaries struggled and failed to understand him was because they couldn't peer into his mind. How could they know the world which Wittgenstein inhabited? How could they know the life he lived, his phenomenology? I cannot help but feel that Wittgenstein's psychological perception of the human life was very different from an average person's perception. In the movie, W writes to Russell about his Tractatus "It combines logical symbolism with religious mysticism." But there is nothing in Tractatus about religious mysticism! In a letter he writes to Ludwig von Ficker "... my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one." [In the movie he confesses at a point "The most important part of my philosophy hasn’t been written. I can’t write it. It can never be written."] And the reason he gives is that his Tractatus draws a limit to the expression of thoughts, a limit to what can be said. Therefore, things like religion, mysticism, ethics, aesthetics cannot be discussed, not because they are nonsensical themselves, but because any statement expressing them would be. Later on in his life, when Wittgenstein developed the idea of language games, he began to see religion in the same fashion: a self-contained language-game, with its own self-referential concepts and discourse. However, I suggest, the real reason behind Wittgenstein's silence may be that he was simply unable to articulate the way he perceived the world. In the movie he says "Philosophers in the tradition of Descartes start from the lonely self, brooding over its private sensations. I want to overturn this centuries-old model. I want to start from our culture, our shared practical life together, and look at what we think and feel, and say it in these public terms." Perhaps Wittgenstein's real dilemma is that there are no public terms for his private sensations.