Taoism and Wittgenstein

Aimin Shen

[Editor’s Note:] The author majored in English at Nanjing Teacher’s College, Nanjing, China; she received her M.A. in Philosophy from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, IL. This work is excerpted from her dissertation (2001) under the direction of Professor David S. Clarke. Her area of specialty is metaphysics, philosophy of language, and comparative philosophy. We appreciate both Dr. Clarke for his recommendation and Dr. Shen for her contribution. She is currently teaching in the Department of Philosophy at the McHenry County College, McHenry, Illinois.

I. Introduction

In this paper, I compare Wittgenstein with the Taoists. There are two parts: first, the concept of the inexpressible Tao, second, the doctrine of silence in Wittgenstein. The comparison is presented after the main ideas are discussed. Let me begin with the definition of the basic terms I use in this paper.

There are two basic terms employed in this investigation which require special definition. The terms are "transcendental philosophy" and "strict logical priority." Let me begin with the latter term. I adapt Kantian rubrics for "final purpose" to formulate the technical phrase "strict logical priority" in this work. In his Critique of Judgment, Kant says that "a final purpose is a purpose that requires no other purpose as a condition of its possibility."[1] Kant continues with this thought,

The final purpose is unconditioned, and that nature would therefore be incapable of achieving it and producing it in accordance with the idea of this purpose. For nothing in nature (considered as a being of sense) has, within nature itself, a basis determining it that is not always conditioned in turn. This holds not merely for nature outside us (material nature) but also for nature within us (thinking nature), though it must be understood here that I am considering within me only what is nature. But a thing that, on account of its objective character, is to exist necessarily as the final purpose of an intelligent cause must be of such a kind that in the order of purposes it depends on no condition other than just the idea of it.[2]

The final purpose, then, derives from a chain of subordinate conditions, but it is unconditioned. Analogously, a "strict logical priority," as I shall use the term, is a logical priority that requires no other logical priority as a condition of its possibility. It marks the limit of an analysis in a chain of subordinate logical priorities, but it depends on no other logical priority. Or to put it differently, it marks the limit of an analysis in a chain of subordinate conditions, yet it is unconditioned. I further term the philosophical effort to reflect on strict logical priority "transcendental philosophy." So let me reiterate then that by the term "transcendental philosophy" in this investigation I mean only the philosophical effort to reflect on strict logical priority. A strict logical priority is a logical priority that requires no other logical priority as a condition of its possibility.

II. Taoism: The Inexpressible Tao

In this section I present Taoism as a transcendental philosophy. The concept of the inexpressible Tao unifies Taoism as a system of thought in the sense of leaving nothing unaccounted for and nothing to be completed. The inexpressible Tao also completes the series of conditions leading to the unconditioned, thereby satisfying the rubric of "strict logical priority" in virtue of which Taoism can play the role of a transcendental philosophy.

The idea of the inexpressible Tao must be stated negatively. The same is true of all its major characteristics, of which I distinguish three: nothingness, the formless, and the unconditioned. There is no chapter more suitable for quotation than the first chapter of the Lao-tzu as a starting point of our inquiry into the inexpressible Tao . Let us look at Wing-Tsit Chan’s translation of it:

The Tao (Way) that can be told of is not the eternal Tao;

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;

The Named is the mother of all things.

Therefore let there always be non-being so we may see their subtlety,

And let there always be being so we may see their outcome.

The two are the same,

But after they are produced, they have different names.

They both may be called deep and profound.

Deeper and more profound,

The door of all subtleties![3]

This is the inexpressible Tao. The inexpressible Tao is also discussed in Chapter 25 of the Lao-tzu. Chan translates it as follows:

There was something undifferentiated and yet complete,

Which existed before heaven and earth.

Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change.

It operates everywhere and is free from danger.

It may be considered the mother of the universe.

I do not know its name; I shall call it Great.

Now being great means functioning everywhere.

Functioning everywhere means far-reaching.

Being far-reaching means returning to the original point.

Therefore Tao is great.

Earth is great.

And the king is also great.

There are four great things in the universe, and the king is one of them.

Man models himself after Earth.

Earth models itself after Heaven.

Heaven models itself after Tao.

And Tao models itself after Nature.[4]

Chan says in a footnote that some Chinese texts of the Lao-tzu use the word "man," others "king;" but that here "king" is understood to be representative of man. I say that this "unnameable" fulfills the role of something prior to heaven and earth. It has logical priority. It is timeless, formless, and soundless, and therefore it is a transcendental idea of strict logical priority. Since it is beyond our spatial-temporal experience, it is nonspatial-nontemporal. Yet the inexpressible Tao is self-sufficient. The following is Gu Zhengkun’s translation of the same chapter, Chapter 25:

There is a thing integratedly formed

And born earlier than heaven and earth.

Silent and empty,

It relies on nothing,

Moving around for ever.

We may regard it as the mother of all things.

I do not know its name,

So I name it as the Tao,

And further name it as the Great.

The Great is moving forward without stopping,

Extending to the remotest distance,

And then returning to where it was.

That is why I say

The Tao is Great;

Heaven is Great;

Earth is Great;

And man is also Great.

There are four things that are great,

Of them man is one.

Man takes earth as his model;

Earth takes heaven as its model;

Heaven takes the Tao as its model;

The Tao takes what is natural as its model.[5]

The logical sequence is, as rendered by Gu, that of man, earth, heaven, and the Tao; or that of the Tao, heaven, earth, and man. Man depends on the earth. The earth depends on heaven. Heaven depends on the Tao. In each pair of the depen-dent concepts, the former relies on the latter of the sequence until the Tao. Lao-tzu gives the name "Tao" to the inexpressible something, which is logically prior to everything both nameable and named. The inexpressibility of the Tao thus becomes the necessary condition for all other names, but itself is unconditioned. The terms "man," "earth," and "heaven" in this passage are all used metaphorically rather than literally. And the same is true of the terms "One," "Two," and "Three" in the important Chapter 42. None of these and kindred terms bears a literal sense in the Lao-tzu, but rather they are used to direct the mind to something beyond themselves. Used as names, they refer to the unnamed and the unnameable. To neglect this point is to misunderstand the Taoist use of language.

However, there is another dialectical shift of the Tao in the last sentence, "The Tao takes what is natural as its model." In this last sentence, the meaning of Tao is shifted to the expressible Tao, which models itself after Nature. This Tao, since following Nature, cannot be logically prior to everything nameable and named that has been just mentioned. This shows that, when reading or interpreting Taoist writings such as the Lao-tzu and the Chuang-tzu, we should always bear in mind the distinction between the expressible Tao and the inexpressible Tao. The task is made more difficult because the expressible Tao and the inexpressible Tao have the same written form as "Tao" in Chinese characters.

Let me emphasize again that the expressible Tao is not a transcendental idea, but the inexpressible Tao is. The Tao in Chinese is formu- lated positively, but has to be explained negatively. This is also characteristic of transcendental philosophy, because the nature of transcendental philosophy is a priori. Any a priori inquiry is one into the nonspatial-nontemporal, which is beyond our spatial-temporal experience. In the following, we shall examine the major characteristics of the inexpressible Tao one by one. They have to all be stated in negative form. The first to be discussed is the characteristic of nothingness.

In his article "Nothingness in the Philosophy of Lao-tzu," Gi-Ming Shien cautions us that "in order to understand the true meaning of nothingness in Lao-tzu’s philosophy we must make every effort to dissociate our minds from Western ideas of nothingness."[6] "In Lao-tzu," Shien claims, "a negative statement is often an expression of the most positive truth."[7] The reader may observe that the opening line of the Lao-tzu is expressed in negative terms. The Lao-tzu begins with the line that the Tao that can be told is not an unchanging or eternal Tao. For a comparison, the reader may observe that Wittgenstein ends his Tractatus with a negative proposition. This comparison arouses a curious wonder whe-ther the Lao-tzu was written and arranged by design as much as the Tractatus. Let us continue with the Taoist conception of nothingness.

The physicist Fritjof Capra uses the terms "emptiness" and "void" to describe the "nothingness" to which Shien refers. Historian of civilization Joseph Needham also makes reference to the word "emptiness." He quotes Fung Yu-lan’s translation of Chapter 4 of the Chuang-tzu. "The mind should be an emptiness, ready to receive all things."[8] Capra discusses the Taoist’s conception of emptiness. Capra writes of this conception:

The Taoists ascribe a similar infinite and endless creativity to the Tao and, again, call it empty. "The Tao of Heaven is empty and formless" says the Kuan-tzu, and Lao-tzu uses several metaphors to illustrate this emptiness. He often compares the Tao to a hollow valley, or to a vessel which is forever empty and thus has the potential of containing an infinity of things.

In spite of using terms like empty and void, the Eastern sages make it clear

that they do not mean ordinary emptiness when they talk about Brahman, Ÿ ñ nyatª or Tao, but, on the contrary, a Void which has an infinite creative potential. Thus, the Void of the Eastern mystics can easily be compared to the quantum field of subatomic physics. Like the quantum field, it gives birth to an infinite variety of forms which it sustains and, eventually, reabsorbs.[9]

From Capra we can see that the Taoist’s notion of emptiness means that which makes everything possible. Taoist emptiness is infinite in contrast with everything else that follows logically. Because there is a similarity between the emptiness of Eastern mystics and quantum physics, physicists try to find a model after the mystics to unify all sciences. As an example of such effort, Capra uses Einstein in the following citation:

Einstein, in particular, spent the last years of his life searching for such a unified field. The Brahman of the Hindus, like the Dharmakaya of the Buddhists and the Tao of the Taoists, can be seen, perhaps, as the ultimate unified field from which spring not only the phenomena studied in physics, but all other phenomena as well.

In the Eastern view, the reality underlying all phenomena is beyond all forms and defies all description and specification. It is therefore often said to be formless, empty or void. But this emptiness is not to be taken for mere nothingness. It is, on the contrary, the essence of all forms and the source of all life.[10]

Capra here sums up well the import of the negative statement for its positive implications. Therefore, one may conclude that the inexpressible Tao is the nothingness that gives rise to everything. The inexpressible Tao is that which gives rise to the expressible Tao. The formless is that which gives rise to the forms. Now let us turn to the formless Tao.

The idea of the Tao as formless in both the Lao-tzu and the Chuang-tzu has been rendered by several translators. Burton Watson translates a passage in the sixth chapter of the Chuang-tzu as follows:

The Way has its reality and its signs but is without action or form. You can hand it down but you cannot receive it; you can get it but you cannot see it. It is its own source, its own root. Before Heaven and earth existed it was there, firm from ancient times. It gave spirituality to the spirits and to God; it gave birth to Heaven and to earth. It exists beyond the highest point, and yet you cannot call it lofty; it exists beneath the limit of the six directions, and yet you cannot call it deep. It was born before Heaven and earth, and yet you cannot say it has been there for long; it is earlier than the earliest time, and yet you cannot call it old.[11]

What Watson renders as the "Way" is equivalent to the Tao in most other trans-lations. What is clearly indicated in this passage is that the Way is formless, yet it gives rise to other things. The same idea appears in the Lao-tzu as well. Richter translates Chapter 14 of the Lao-tzu as follows:

Watched for but not seen, its name is "erased."

Listened for but not heard, its name is "rare."

Grasped at but not reached, its name is "abstruse."

These three are unfathomable; therefore they mix together as one.

Above the one there is not brightness; below it there is no darkness.

It is restricted; it cannot be named; it returns to the immaterial.

It is called "the formless form;

the image of the immaterial."

It is called "dim."

If one faces it, its beginning cannot be seen; if one follows it, its end cannot be seen.

Hold fast to the ancient Dao to handle today’s affairs.

Knowing the ancient beginnings is called "the law of the Dao."[12]

It should be noted again that Richter uses the "Dao" for "Tao." The Tao that cannot be named is "the formless form" as he renders it. It is "the formless Way" that Watson translates from the Chuang-tzu.

Needham quotes Fung Yu-Lan’s translation of the same passage from Chapter 6 of the Chuang-tzu, the same passage translated by Watson at the beginning of this section. Fung’s version of that passage is:

The Tao has reality and evidence, but no action and no form. It may be transmitted but cannot be received. It may be attained but cannot be seen. It exists by and through itself. It existed before Heaven and Earth, and indeed for all eternity. It causes the gods to be divine and the world to be produced. It is above the zenith, but it is not high. It is beneath the nadir but it is not low. Though prior to heaven and earth it is not ancient. Though older than the most ancient, it is not old.[13]

Needham comments that "we have a naturalistic pantheism, which emphasises the unity and spontaneity of the operations of Nature."[14] Needham must be taking the Tao in this passage as the expressible Tao. Needham’s assertion does not address the logical priority of a formless Tao which is prior to Heaven and Earth. The formless Tao is self-sufficient, and is that which gives birth to Heaven and Earth.

In an article "Being and Nothingness in Greek and Ancient Chinese Philosophy," Gi-Ming Shien compares the ancient Chinese thinkers with the Greek philosophers. Shien points out that "the attainment of absolute simplicity was the goal of ancient Chinese and Greek metaphysicians alike."[15] He contrasts their philosophical ideas by observing that "in Chinese Taoism, the teaching of Lao-tzu, there is the simplicity of the Tao or the One;" and "with Plato, simplicity is found in ‘absolute Goodness.’ Aristotle finds simplicity in the ‘Unmoved Mover.’"[16] Shien comments that "Lao-tzu asserts the priority of the Tao" and "it is agreed that the ultimate principle must exist before all else." [17] Shien regards the formless Tao as the strict logical priority as I have used the term. The formless Tao is logically prior to all the forms. Shien continues that "Aristotle’s ultimate principle is the Unmoved Mover."[18] The Unmoved Mover, also, is an idea of logical priority. Aristotle says little of the Unmoved Mover, and perhaps, in his mind, there is little he can say about it. In that sense, there is something common to Lao Tzu and Aristotle. Both of whom may have realized the necessity of negativity to express strict logical priority. Shien argues that "in China, Lao-tzu develops the idea of Being to its culmination in nothingness, regarding the ‘nameless’ as the origin of nature."[19]

Needham also compares Lao Tzu with Aristotle. Needham observes that "on the whole the Taoists avoided the elaboration of a cosmogony, wisely considering that the original creative operations of the Tao must remain for ever unknow-able."[20] Needham uses the word "unknowable" to replace the word "inexpressible" for the Tao. The wisdom of this choice of the word is questionable. But we need not prolong here such a debate with Needham on the issue, in order to pay particular attention to the comparison he makes between Lao Tzu and Aristotle. Needham chooses Chapter 42 of the Lao-Tzu for the point of com-parison, because he believes it embodies a cosmogonic myth. He translates it as follows:

The Tao produced one, the one produced two, the two produced three, and the three produced the ten thousand things (everything). The ten thousand things are all backed by the Yin and embrace the Yang (i.e. stand between these two forces), and are harmonised by the Chi (pneuma) of the void…. Reducing a thing often increases it; and making it flourish often leads to its decay….[21] (Ellipses are Needham’s.)

Needham claims that Chapter 42 "apart from the reference to cyclical change, coming-into-being and passing-away, which again reminds us of Aristotle’s peri geneseos kai phthoras [peri geneseos kai fqwraV], the mean-ing of the state-ment is not at all clear."[22]

I argue that it is a mistake to treat the idea of Chapter 42 as "a cosmogonic myth" as Needham does. Rather, Chapter 42 should be treated as a simple idea of Taoistic logic. It implicitly, perhaps crudely by western standards of sophisticated logical analysis, reveals the logic of Taoism; for which the inexpressible Tao gives rise to the expressible Tao, One to Two. The logical priority and the logical pos-teriority are quite explicitly shown, but Needham thinks otherwise, claiming that "the meaning of the statement is not at all clear." Because Needham does not see the logical significance of Chapter 42, he misses the point of comparison with Aristotle made by Shien. While the tenability of the comparison, doctrinally speaking, is of course open to debate, the important point for my analysis is that both Lao Tzu and Aristotle can be seen as attempting to answer the same question of the logical origin of the strict logical priority in our thinking. Lao Tzu sees it in the inexpressible Tao, and Aristotle in the Unmoved Mover. Due to his failure to understand the idea of strict logical priority in Chapter 42, Needham portrays the Taoists as lapsing into an uncharacteristic mode, the metaphysical or as he terms it, cosmogonic myth, in Chapter 42. He speaks of them as having "the characteristic distaste for metaphysics; the ultimate beginning and the ultimate end are the Tao’s secret, all that man can do is to study and describe phenomena; it is indeed a profession of faith in natural science."[23] For Taoists, to study and to describe pheno-mena however, while important, is only part of the whole picture. It is not "the ultimate beginning and the ultimate end" as Needham asserts, but rather the inexpressible Tao is prior to the expressible, and so it has to be prior to describing phenomenon and cannot be otherwise.

Needham then quotes from Chapter 25 of the Chuang-tzu, which is a textual evidence against his argument. The following is the translation of Chapter 25.

Words can describe them and knowledge can reach them—but not beyond the extreme limit of the natural world. Those who study the Tao (know that) they cannot follow these changes to the ultimate end, nor search out their first beginnings—this is the place at which discussion has to stop. [24]

That we should stop at the first beginning in our inquiry is a Taoistic idea. There is nothing more metaphysical than the study of the "First Cause." As Needham points out, "the Taoists were close to an appreciation of the problems of causality, though they never embodied it in formal propositions as Aristotelians did."[25] While it is true that Taoists have not pro-duced a system of logic as Aristotelians have, Chapter 42 of the Lao-tzu explicitly and succinctly states the logic of tracing the causes of Two and One; and of stopping at the inexpressible Tao as the "First Cause" in the chain of reasoning. This most fundamental Taoist idea belongs to what I have called transcendental philosophy in the sense of the strict logical priority. Let us turn now to the last, but not the least important, of the transcendental ideas in Taoism that I shall investigate. This is the Tao as the unconditioned.

The inexpressible Tao as the unconditioned is an idea of strict logical priority. We shall take some translated texts from both the Chuang-tzu and the Lao-tzu for our discussion. Let us begin with Watson. Watson translates one passage from Chapter 2 of the Chuang-tzu as follows:

The understanding of the men of ancient times went a long way. How far did it go? To the point where some of them believed that things have never existed--so far, to the end, where nothing can be added. Those at the next stage thought that things exist but recognized no boundaries among them. Those at the next stage thought there were boundaries but recognized no right and wrong. Because right and wrong appeared, the Way was injured, and because the Way was injured, love became complete. But do such things as completion and injury really exist, or do they not?[26]

From Watson’s rendering, we can see the strict logical priority of the inexpressible Tao. The chief difference with Western usage is that the Taoist text is expressed in the negative, "that things have never existed," and "where nothing can be added." These negative statements, which, it must be reiterated, are to be taken metaphorically, mean for Taoism that things do not have names yet. The logical sequence in this passage shows a pattern of exact reasoning. The reason-ing moves from the inexpressible Tao to the existence of the expressible things; in this case things without "boundaries." The latter elements in the sequence lead us to things with "boundaries" but "no right and wrong." That there is no distinction between right and wrong leads later to the distinction between "right and wrong." A gradual differentiation occurs. Once the differentiation starts, i.e., giving names to things, categorizing things into different types, following duality rather than the principle of One, the inexpressible Tao is harmed by the more and more elaborate and artificial distinctions. People then only pay attention to the categorization and differentiation, but forget the root of them, the inexpressible Tao. On the contrary the ancient sages pursued only the inexpressible Tao. Lin Yutang, in contrast to Watson, better brings out the idea of the unconditioned in this same passage. Lin’s translation is as follows:

The knowledge of the men of old reached the ultimate height. What was the ultimate height of knowledge? They recognize that nothing but nothing existed. That indeed was the limit further than which one could not go. Then there were those who believe that matter existed, but only matter unconditioned (undefined). Next came those who believed in conditioned (defined) matter, but did not recognize the distinctions of true and false. When the distinctions of true and false appeared, then Tao lost its wholeness. And when Tao lost its wholeness, individual bias began.[27]

Apart from metaphorical and literary devices in this passage, its main philosophical idea can be summarized as tracing the sequence of what is logically prior and logically posterior, or how one thing dependent upon the other comes into existence. The first logical priority is the nothingness discussed above. This no-thingness is equivalent to the unconditioned. The unconditioned gives rise to the conditioned. That the conditioned is recognized provides another condition for the distinction of true and false. The logical priority and posteriority reasoned out by Taoists is as follows: the unconditioned gives rise to the conditioned, which in turn gives rise to another condition.

Chapter 25, in Needham’s rendering of the Lao-tzu, may help to support my interpretation of the unconditioned in the Taoist’s literature. Here is his modifica-tion:

(In the beginning) there was something undifferentiated and yet complete

Before Heaven and Earth were produced,

Silence! Empty!

Sufficient unto itself! Unchanging!

Revolving incessantly, never exhausted.

Well might it be the mother all things under heaven.

I do not know its name.

"Tao" is the courtesy-name we give it.

If I were forced to classify it, I should call it "Great".

But being great means being penetrating (in space and time),

And penetrating implies far-reaching

And far-reaching means coming back to the original point....

The ways of men are conditioned by those of earth, the ways of earth by those of heaven, the ways of heaven by those of the Tao, and the Tao came into being by itself.[28] (Ellipses are Needham’s.)

"The mother of all things" is equivalent to the Western concept of that which makes things possible. The inexpressible Tao is that which makes all things possible. Due to lack of an appropriate name, we give it a courtesy name "Tao." Once forced to do so, we are putting the Tao in space-time, so that the Tao be-comes the expressible Tao; however, the root of the expressible Tao is the inexpressible Tao. When reasoning logically to what serves as a prior condition from a posterior one, we find that men on earth are conditioned. The earthly earth is conditioned. Heaven as prior to earth is also conditioned. The logical order is that of men, earth, heaven, and the inexpressible Tao. The only thing that is un-conditioned is the inexpressible Tao, which is self-sufficient. The inexpressible Tao makes all things possible. That is to say, it makes possible all the other conditioned things. As Needham puts it, "in the whole universe the Tao needs no consciousness to bring about all its effects."[29] Needham provides another passage from the Chuang-tzu to support his contention.

It might seem as if there were a real Governor, but we find no trace of his being. One might believe that he could act, but we do not see his form. He would have (to have) sensitivity without form. But now the hundred parts of the human body, with its nine orifices and six viscera, all are complete in their places. Which should one prefer? Do you like them all equally? Or do you like some more than others? Are they all servants? Are these servants unable to control each other, but need another as ruler? Or do they become rulers and servants in turn? Is there any true ruler other than themselves?[30]

Here "the real governor" does not bear a literal, but rather a metaphorical meaning. Metaphorically, "the real governor" has no trace or form, that is, spatial-temporal truth cannot be predicated of it. This passage makes clear that the inexpressible Tao is nonspatial-nontemporal and questions regarding the inexpres-sible Tao, therefore, cannot be answered in terms of spatial-temporal analysis. As Needham quotes Chuang Tzu commenting on the Tao: "The most extensive ‘knowledge’ will not necessarily know it; reasoning will not make men wise in it" (Needham 1969, 88). According to the above passage of the Chuang-tzu, the sooner we stop arguing about spatial-temporal matters such as the hundred parts of the body, and stop attacking the opponent’s position, the sooner we shall forget all the distinctions made about spatial-temporal affairs and forget the debates about them. Therefore, we shall finally return to the origin of all things, the nonspatial-nontemporal Tao. Since the origin of the expressible Tao is the inexpressible Tao, Chuang Tzu believes that once we start debating spatial-temporal concepts, we have forgotten the very origin of the expressible Tao. The inexpressible Tao is the Mother of all Things. To lose sight of the inexpressible Tao, then, is to land in irretrievable difficulties, both philosophically and practically. And this is the essence of Chuang Tzu’s criticism of other schools, especially the Confucian.

Readers may have noted that the methodology concerning the nonspatial-nontemporal is a priori, while that concerning the spatial-temporal is a posteriori. But of course, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu would not have made the distinction. Or, had they made the distinction, they could not have articulated it in this manner. Siao-Fang Sun makes a similar point for the Taoists, as he writes that "in western philosophy, some philosophers distinguish knowledge of two kinds, analytic knowledge and empirical or synthetic knowledge," but "Chuang-tzu did not make such a distinction in knowledge; yet for him empirical knowledge seems to be the only knowledge that describes the world, be it reliable or not."[31] It is in this sense that, as Chuang Tzu says, the most extensive knowledge will not necessarily lead to the inexpressible Tao. Or, to use a Kantian analogy, the most extensive know-ledge of the phenomenal cannot lead to knowledge of the noumenal. In Chuang Tzu the unstated presupposition of what is stated is often overlooked, and thereby misunderstood. The unstated presupposition is that on which knowledge depends. Knowledge depends on nonknowledge. Nonknowledge functions as a complementary term rather than a contradictory one, so that knowledge comes not from its opposite but from its precondition. This precondition constitutes its presupposition, stated or unstated. That is to say, it is nonknowledge which gives rise to knowledge. In Taoist writings, that which gives rise to something is often not stated, but is presupposed because it is always the inexpressible Tao. As Sun says, "when we say everything is changing, we presuppose something unchangeable."[32] It would be the same presupposition for the Taoist that there is something that cannot be said in asserting there is something that can be said. In knowledge there is nonknowledge. In that sense, Taoism is not skeptical, it is merely trans-cendental.

Watson may have used a different Chinese text in his translation of the same passage from the Chuang-tzu than the one Needham did. Watson translates the passage, dividing it into two paragraphs rather than one, as follows:

It would seem as though they have some True Master, and yet I find no trace of him. He can act that is certain. Yet I cannot see his form. He has identity but no form.

The hundred joints, the nine openings, the six organs, all come together and exist here [as my body]. But which part should I feel closest to? I should delight in all parts, you say? But there must be one I ought to favor more. If not, are they all of them mere servants? But if they are all servants, then how can they keep order among themselves? Or do they take turns being lord and servant? It would seem as though there must be some True Lord among them. But whether I succeed in discovering his identity or not, it neither adds to nor detracts from his Truth.[33] (Brackets are Watson’s.)

In Watson’s rendering, the second paragraph appears rhetorical; this again is Taoist metaphorical use of language. In the first paragraph the term "True Master" is used metaphorically to mean the inexpressible Tao; in the second, the different organs of our body broadly conceived are used, also metaphorically, to mean nameable things. Chuang Tzu has in mind the debates among different schools of thought in his own time. All the other schools of thought, he believes as a Taoist, do not add to, or detract from, the inexpressible Tao when they debate back and forth. Using analogies of the parts of the body, Chuang Tzu asks those rhetorical questions. Every school of thought can be compared to every organ of our body. Each organ has its own function. We cannot logically prefer one organ of the body to another; therefore, we should not favor one over the other. All organs are unified naturally under one without a real "Lord" governing them. Analogously, debates among different schools of thought are as useless and unnatural as are debates among the bodily organs about which is the best.

The truths expressed in the second paragraph refer back to the truth expressed in the first paragraph about the inexpressible Tao. For Chuang Tzu, the important thing to remember is to reach the inexpressible Tao by following nature, not arguing about the expressible Tao as other schools of thought have done.

One point, however, should be emphasized. The inexpressible Tao is the starting point of our transcendental inquiry. This is not a temporal starting point, but a logical one. In our temporal experience, for example, we may discover the duality of Yin and Yang prior to the One. We certainly start from the expressible rather than the inexpressible. But we must go back beyond One to the Inexpressible to discover the Origin of all Things. This is the key to understanding transcendental philosophy in the sense of strict logical priority in Taoism. But in a way, it is a paradoxical key because once we have found the Origin, we cannot talk about it. The Taoistic idea has a natural and intuitive affinity with the Wittgensteinian doctrine of silence. The next part is devoted to a discussion of the doctrine of silence.

III. Wittgenstein’s Doctrine of Silence

I shall now discuss the meaning and methodological implications of Wittgenstein’s doctrine of silence for transcendental philosophy. Since I see Wittgenstein’s doctrine of silence as a consequence of his doctrines of showing and saying, I shall first concentrate on Wittgenstein’s doctrine of showing and saying.

Before proceeding with the doctrine of saying and showing, let me begin with a brief statement about "sense." There are two senses of "sense" which Witt-genstein uses in the Tractatus. One is logical sense, and the other actual sense. Logical sense is the primary concern of the Tractatus. In the "Notes on Logic," printed as Appendix I to the Note-books, Wittgenstein explains that "every proposition is essentially true-false. Thus a proposition has two poles (corresponding to [the possibilities] of its truth and falsity). We call this the sense of a proposition."[34] (parenthetical remark slightly amended). The Tractarian "sense" here means that it is possible for a proposition to be true and to be false. Wittgen-stein calls this "true-false" possibility bi-polarity. In Wittgenstein’s view, logic is, and should be, concerned only with the very possibility of truth and falsity of a proposition, but not with the reality of truth or falsity of a proposition. The latter is the actual sense of a proposition as realized in a state of affairs, and the former the logical sense of bi-polarity in logical space.

Wittgenstein describes the relation between logical sense and actual sense by an analogy. He writes the following in the Notebooks:

A yardstick does not say that an object that is to be measured is one yard long.

Not even when we know that it is supposed to serve for the measurement of this particular object.

Could we not ask: What has to be added to that yardstick in order for it to assert something about the length of the object?

(The yardstick without this addition would be the "assumption.") [35]

The yardstick may be likened to the logical sense and an object to the actual sense. The logical sense is used to measure the actual sense while the yardstick, an object. It is presupposed about a yardstick that it is for the measurement of an object. Likewise it is presupposed that logical sense is for the measurement of actual sense. Both yardstick and logical sense must be treated as assumptions of the starting point. They are to measure the measured, but they do not say anything about the measured; rather they show the measuring.

In the Notebooks, Wittgenstein also uses the building metaphor to describe the difference between a nonsensical proposition and a false proposition. He says that "the agreement of two complexes is obviously internal and for that reason cannot be expressed but can only be shown."[36] He continues that a sayable proposition "will not be nonsensical if the complex [a thing] does not exist, but simply false."[37] The chief difference between a nonsensical and a false proposition lies in the fact that the question of truth or falsity does not arise at the nonsensical level and that the question of truth or falsity does arise at the sayable level. The reason for this is that the nonsensical proposition is outside the possibility of truth and falsity, but the false proposition lies within. The nonsensical is beyond the measuring of logical sense and the measured of actual sense. Therefore, nonsense is beyond the boundary of propositional language.

Wittgenstein’s analogy of the yardstick and the building metaphor summarizes the three boundaries with their corresponding relations. His analogy and metaphor serve to demarcate the nonsensical, the logical, and the actual. They help to clarify the two senses that he has articulated, and, furthermore, to demon-strate the boundary for showing and saying.

In my judgment the doctrines of saying and showing are best approached from the perspective of the famous seventh proposition. Until we can get clear on the doctrines of saying and showing, we cannot hope to understand the doctrine of silence. Thus, the discussion in this section, although essential, should be regarded as of transitional importance to understanding the doctrine of silence. In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein seems to have left unexplained and unelaborated proposition 7: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." I first review a few commentators on this proposition. Second, I present some considerations of the issues involved based on Wittgenstein’s work as a whole.

To begin with what other commentators have said Wittgenstein means by "silence," Scott Randall Stripling points out that "form is that about which we cannot speak";[38] therefore, we should be silent about it. He seems to equate "about which we cannot speak" with silence. On the other hand, Rudolf Haller claims that Wittgenstein in stating the last proposition denies "the possibility of knowledge of oneself."[39] Haller explains that, for Wittgenstein, what "can be grasped by knowledge" is "the sayable;" and what "cannot be grasped by knowledge" is "the mystical."[40] He likens "keeping silent" to "nothing can be said."[41] It follows that the mystical demands a "commandment of silence" as Haller puts it.[42] Joachim Schulte argues: "‘To speak’ here means the same as ‘to make meaningful statements.’ Where no meaningful statements can be expressed, one should not, in Wittgenstein’s view, even make the attempt to express them—as if one might just possibly succeed in making sense."[43] On this view, "sense" and "meaning" are equated. To make a meaningful statement may be an indication of success in making sense. From these three commentators, we have a selective, although representative, view of what Wittgenstein means by "silence."

The doctrine of silence is treated by the commentators as relating either to the nonsayable and the showable, or to sense and meaning. What can be shown, on the one hand, is made a complementary class of what can be said by Stripling. That is, form is contrasted with content.[44] On the other hand, the showable is equated with the class of the nonsayable by G. E. M. Anscombe.[45] The conse-quence of their interpretation entails the position either that "whatever cannot be said, can be shown";[46] or that "it can be shown if it cannot be said; and vice versa."[47] But Wittgenstein obviously says "what can be shown cannot be said." (4.1212), but not, contra Anscombe, what can be said cannot be shown.

Despite these different views expressed by commentators, it seems to me that difficulties will remain in understanding the doctrine of silence unless we are clear on the doctrines of showing and of saying, that is, clear on the boundary of the two doctrines. Erik Stenius makes the important point that there are two kinds of showing: "showing of what can be ‘shown’ and ‘said’" and "showing of what can only be ‘shown’ but not said."[48] Let me call the former showing "showing in a broad sense;" and the latter showing "showing in a narrow sense." The broad sense consists of showing both the logical sense and the actual sense. Showing in a narrow sense consists of only the logical sense. I think Stenius is right in his basic distinction between two kinds of showing. It should be added, however, that the distinction may be applied more radically to the relation of showing and nonsense. Nonsense, also, may be shown.

In the Notebooks, Wittgenstein writes "what can be said can only be said by means of a proposition, and so nothing that is necessary for the understanding of all propositions can be said."[49] What is that which is necessary for the understanding of all propositions, then? The best answer, for Wittgenstein, is that it is the condition of language. In the Tractatus, the idea of the Notebooks is made stronger. Comment 4.12 reads as follows:

Propositions can represent the whole reality, but they cannot represent what they must have in common with reality in order to be able to represent it—the logical form.

To be able to represent the logical form, we should have to be able to put ourselves with the propositions outside logic, that is outside the world.

The logical sense and the actual sense cannot represent what they have in common. That which logical sense and actual sense have in common is logically prior to them. It is transcendental in the sense of a strict logical priority. For Wittgenstein, propositional language is not adequate to express the condition of propositional language. Wittgenstein believes it is sufficient to make one see that there is something that cannot be said.[50]

Comment 4.12 is important. The reason why logical form cannot be represented by propositions is that the Tractarian propositional sense is based on logical form. As Wittgenstein puts it, "the logical forms are anumerical," therefore, "there is no philosophical monism or dualism" (4.128). It is not the case that logical form depends on either logical or actual sense of propositional language. Rather, logical form is that on which both senses depend. Logic is the condition of language. In accordance with Wittgenstein’s own principle, what is beyond propositional language cannot be represented by propositional language. Anything we say about what is beyond, therefore, becomes nonsense.

Wittgenstein writes that "I must have to deal with that which makes it possible for me to invent" forms in logic (5.555). This suggests that, even though Wittgenstein cannot say anything about it, he is aware of its priority and necessity. As Wittgenstein puts it, "the logic of the world is prior to all truth and falsehood." The logic of the world is prepropositional, and thus more fundamental. In the same place, Wittgenstein says: "A statement cannot be concerned with the logical structure of the world, for in order for a statement to be possible at all, in order for a proposition to be CAPABLE of making SENSE, the world must already have just the logical structure that it has" (Wittgenstein 1969, 14e). Therefore, logic must take care of itself (5.473).

It is Wittgenstein’s belief that we cannot step outside the boundary of the world to represent the world within, as he says "one cannot get outside in the representation" (4.041). Wittgenstein is not saying anything that is transcendental in his own sense. As he puts it at 6.13, "logic is not a theory but a reflexion of the world. Logic is transcendental." Therefore, logical form in the transcendental sense cannot be represented by propositions which depend on it. That is to say, propositional language cannot represent what makes it possible. "There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical" (6.522). It seems to me Wittgenstein regards both the mystical and the metaphysical as nonsense. Both can be shown. Therefore, the nonsensical can be shown as much as the logical. It follows that the doctrine of showing is much broader than Stenius has suggested. Showing in the broadest sense consists in the actual sense, the logical sense, and the nonsensical. But we have to remember that for Wittgenstein we have two kinds of nonsayable: the nonsensical and the logical. Showing in the broadest sense shows not only the sayable but also the nonsayable of the logical and the nonsensical. As a point of philosophical method, the logical and the nonsensical are to be demonstrated by delimiting the sayable or speakable. As Wittgenstein points out at 4.115, philosophy "will mean the unspeakable by clearly displaying the speakable."

The sayable cannot be a complete complementary class of the showable as is suggested by Stripling, because the showable in a broad sense includes the sayable as is suggested by Stenius. This view is in accordance with Wittgenstein’s comment that "the proposition shows what it says" (4.461). The class of non-sayables cannot be identical with that of showables, as is suggested by Anscombe, for the following two reasons. First, there are two kinds of the nonsayable. The first kind is the nonsensical kind, which includes mysticism and metaphysics. The second kind is the possible kind, which refers to truth-functional logic. The former is beyond sense, and so it is nonsense. The latter has sense with true-false bi-polarity. Second, the showable in the broadest sense covers both the sayable and the nonsayable. In this case, Stenius’ interpretation is more plausible than Anscombe’s. At least, he sees the necessity of including the sayable within the showable. Nonetheless I disagree with Stenius in that he excludes the nonsensical from the showable. But Wittgenstein states explicitly that the inexpressible shows itself (6.522).

In conclusion, nonsense, the logical sense, and the actual sense can all be shown. In the Tractatus, the actual sense refers to truth or falsity, but not both, relative to a state of affairs; the logical sense refers to truth and falsity, both possibilities, in logical space; and nonsense refers to metaphysics and mysticism, which are beyond the boundary of both senses. I can now proceed to a discussion of the doctrine of silence.

Now the doctrine of silence can be seen aright. First I shall show the applicability of the doctrine of silence; then I shall discuss its meaning and its methodological implications for transcendental philosophy. Let me proceed with an examination of its applicability. I shall show that the doctrine of silence is applicable in three areas for our present purposes. Since for Wittgenstein "the totality of propositions is the language" (4.001), and the metaphysical subject is beyond the boundary of language, the metaphysical subject is nonsense. Therefore, the doctrine of silence is applicable to the metaphysical subject. Furthermore, not only is the metaphysical subject nonsense but also any questions relating to it. He comments that "most propositions and questions, that have been written about philosophical matters, are not false," but nonsensical, therefore, we cannot "answer questions of this kind at all, but only state their" nonsense (4.003). Since he thinks that philosophy "consists of logic and metaphysics,"[51] I take him to mean metaphysics and logic by the phrase "philosophical matters."

But what about ethical inquiry? According to Wittgenstein, "ethics and aesthetics are one" (6.421). Since "there can be no ethical propositions" (6.42), there can be no aesthetic propositions; therefore, the doctrine of silence is appli-cable to ethics and aesthetics as well. He holds that "propositions cannot express anything higher" (6.42). Anything higher would be considered by him transcendental. The propositions of logical sense are higher than the propositions of actual sense. To use his analogy again, the yardstick can measure an object, but cannot measure what makes it possible. Analogously, the yardstick is higher than an object. What makes the yardstick possible is metaphorically higher in logical priority than the yardstick itself. That is to say, what makes measurement possible is logically prior to the measurement. "Ethics is transcendental" (6.421) and "logic is transcendental" (6.2); therefore, both ethics and logic are at the same transcendental level. Transcendental logic is logically prior to general logic, though it is not necessarily temporally prior to it. This priority suggests that the Tractatus is to be considered as "nonsense" when strictly construed in accordance with his stated principles. One may say that "nonsense" is that which gives the Tractarian senses their sense, but not that the Tractarian senses give "nonsense" its nonsense, paradoxical as that may sound. The condition of the logical and actual senses has to be beyond them, and cannot be otherwise. This is the nature of transcendental philosophy in stating strict logical priority.

The doctrine of silence is also applicable to the actual sense of states of affairs. Wittgenstein in the Tractatus rarely mentions the actual sense of lan-guage. Even when he does mention this in passing, he never says specifically what falls under the category of actual sense. It would constitute ontology to specify what constitutes states of affairs. It is not the business of philosophy to say what things are, rather the business of the natural sciences. As he puts it, "the totality of true propositions is the total natural science (or the totality of the natural sciences)" (4.11). According to Wittgenstein, a question presupposes a solution. A solution presupposes that something can be said (6.51). Thus, the boundary of natural science becomes the embodiment both of the soluble question and of the sayable solution. In other words, both questions and solutions are bounded inside the sayable.

Philosophers should keep silent about the sayable because "philosophy is not one of the natural sciences. (The word ‘philosophy’ must mean something which stands above or below, but not beside the natural sciences)" (4.111). So one may regard logical sense as standing above or below the actual sense; or nonsense as above or below the logical sense. It is the order of thinking, the logical priority of one to the other, that demarcates and determines the boundary of our inquiry. In general, what can be said can be said to be true or false by the natural sciences; and what can be shown can be shown to be true and false by logic, on the one hand, and to be neither true nor false by metaphysics, on the other. The last in the above sequential order is the first in order of logical priority.

The doctrine of silence is applicable to mysticism. Mysticism may be construed as equivalent to metaphysics, or as not too far away from metaphysics. Now we can see why the doctrine of silence is applicable to mysticism as well. Wittgenstein explains that

the urge towards the mystical comes of the non-satisfaction of our wishes by science. We feel that even if all possible scientific questions are answered our problem is still not touched at all. Of course in that case there are no questions any more; and that is the answer.[52]

This passage reaffirms his notion that a question presupposes a solution; and that a solution is in the form of the sayable. But since mysticism is beyond the boundary of propositional language, and thus nonsensical, the notion of the soluble question and that of the sayable solution does not arise for it. This, of course, is one philosophical advantage of mysticism seen in the positive light of the doctrine of silence. Because there can be no question beyond the boundary of the sayable, the point in applying the doctrine of silence to mysticism is to cause a problem not to arise. To paraphrase Wittgenstein’s comment of 4.128, mysticism is anumeri-cal; therefore, there is no monism or dualism in mysticism. In a word, there can be no question in mysticism.

The doctrine of silence is also applicable to logical sense. Wittgenstein notes that "logic takes care of itself; all we have to do is to look and see how it does it" (Wittgenstein 1969, 11e). This comment raises some interesting questions about the doctrine of silence. Is showing considered silence when the logical sense is shown on a truth-table? Does it have to be vocal to constitute saying? Surely silence cannot mean the behavioral expression of a physical organism. If silence does mean that, it would make Wittgenstein a physicalist. But the comments of the Tractatus suggest otherwise. For instance, comment 5.641 reads that "the philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit—not a part of the world." At 5.641 Wittgenstein is not silent on the metaphysical subject, but rather he comments on that which he considers to be nonsensical. Wittgenstein con-cludes with comment 5.641 right before the sixth proposition starts. He has just expressed that about which his doctrine indicates one should be silent. Does Wittgenstein know what he is doing by expressing the thought of 5.641? The question is not merely rhetorical, but is a significant clue to the understanding of the seventh proposition. It suggests to us how we should read and interpret the last proposition.

In this we can see the meaning of the doctrine of silence as simply a method of inquiry. In contrast, the doctrines of saying and of showing are attempts to demarcate the boundary for subject matters of inquiry. Subject matters are decided by the order of thinking. Each order has a boundary. The doctrine of silence is analogous to Wittgenstein’s method of isolating the subject. Therefore, it should be treated as a method. His method of isolating the subject will be examined in the next section.

Silence as a philosophical method can be applied both to saying and to showing. Wittgenstein comments at 6.113 that "it is the characteristic mark of logical propositions that one can perceive in the symbol alone that they are true; and this fact contains in itself the whole philosophy of logic." This citation answers my earlier question as to whether showing is considered silence when the logical sense is shown. For example, the truth-table can show a tautology and a contradiction. The truth-table is based on the propositional form which shows its logical sense. All this can be done in silence, i.e., physical silence. But let us not confuse physical silence with the method of silence. A physical silence is merely a state of affairs, but the method of silence is not a state of affairs. One may conduct the same showing with sounds and noises as effectively as with silence. How one does the showing has nothing to do with the doctrine of silence. To take a Chinese image, a lotus is situated in mud but not polluted by it. One may say, to extend the image, that one may be situated in noise, but through purity of concentration still not be affected by it. The Chinese would call this the "quieting heart." The method of silence is to stay focused on one thing at a time as we shall explore further in the next section. Therefore, the doctrine of silence is not, and cannot be, equated with that of showing, as suggested by Stripling; or associated with only the mystical as by Haller. Silence as a method has applications within all the boundaries. In brief, the doctrine of showing is part of the boundary setting for subject matters, while the doctrine of silence is an attempt to answer the question of how we should make a philosophical inquiry once the boundary is set.

To answer the second question as to whether or not saying has to be vocal, let me continue with Wittgenstein’s discussion. As a contrast to logical proposi-tions, he comments at 6.113, "it is one of the most important facts that the truth or falsehood of non-logical propositions can not be recognized from the propositions alone." The truth or falsity of a nonlogical proposition is subject to verification or falsification relative to states of affairs. Verification and falsification can be done as quietly as showing on the truth-table. A nonlogical proposition does not have to be uttered to be a sayable. It is its agreement or disagreement with reality in states of affairs that counts, but not its physical utterance. Nonlogical propositions belong to the natural sciences. Those are not the logician’s concern, and therefore he should treat them with silence.

In a letter to Russell, Wittgenstein emphasizes this point. Wittgenstein remarks that "a proposition like ‘($ x)x = x’ is for example really a proposition of physics. The proposition ‘(x): x = x.e .( $ y).y = y’ is a proposition of logic: it is for physics to say whether any thing exists."[53] "But it is also clear" to Wittgenstein "that it is not for logic to decide whether the world we live in is actually like this or not."[54] This letter indicates Wittgenstein not only knows the boundary between showing and saying, but also conforms to the boundary. He is concerned only with logical propositions, but not with nonlogical ones. Therefore, he is silent about the nonlogical propositions.

The discussion of the doctrine of silence can now be brought to a conclusion. Showing should not be equated with silence, and saying does not have to be vocal. The doctrines of showing and of saying are attempts to demarcate what the boundary is for propositional language. A critical examination of the nature of propositions is what Wittgenstein calls a critique of language. The doctrine of silence, on the other hand, is the attempt to answer the question of how we should proceed once knowing the boundary. Knowing the boundary of one’s inquiry is to know whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Wittgenstein has said little about the metaphysical subject and state of affairs, only mentioning them in passing. He knows the boundary. That is in keeping with the spirit of proposition 7. Whereof we as logicians cannot speak, we should be silent. That is exactly what he did.

The Tractatus literally ends with the word "silence." That has made such commentators as Max Black suggest that "the conclusion is profoundly unsatis-factory."[55] Wittgenstein not only shows us, but also practices, the principle of silence: not a single word occurs after that "silence." He shows how to do it. All we have to do is to look and see how he does it. The Tractatus ends elegantly and beautifully. No better style than that can be imagined to fit his intention and his doctrine of silence.

Wittgenstein ends the Tractatus the way he has designed. The Tractatus is not only a philosophical work, but also a piece of architecture. The two are equally important to Wittgenstein. As a piece of philosophical work, it serves as elucidation, flawed as it may appear in places. The philosophical elucidation is analogous to a ladder: one must throw away the ladder after he has climbed up on it.[56] As a piece of architecture, it has to have a long lasting value as it stands on its own. It serves as a piece of art work. A good writer leaves the reader pondering and in a state of wonder when the book is closed. Wittgenstein considered himself a writer. [57] That says something about his writing.

M. O. C. Drury mentions that, in his conversations with Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein often uses the words "deep" and "shallow" to describe thinkers. For instance, Wittgenstein thinks that Kant and Berkeley are deep thinkers. On that note, Drury also observes about the distinction: "that a shallow thinker may be able to say something clearly but that a deep thinker makes us see that there is something that cannot be said."[58] That about which something cannot be said "is shown by the rigour of the thinking."[59] The rigour in Wittgenstein’s thinking is displayed in his designing the end of the Tractatus and in the structure of the book as well.

The doctrine of silence is arguably the most striking feature of Wittgenstein’s philosophy in his Tractarian period, and the one yielding the most obvious comparison with Taoism. However, the methodological implications of the doctrine of silence for transcendental philosophy are to be found in Wittgenstein’s remarks on the metaphysical subject. It is there that, under the present investigation, the fundamental comparisons with Taoism shall be found. I turn to these in the next section.

IV. Comparison of Wittgenstein and Taoism

Since I have just demonstrated the meaning of Wittgenstein’s doctrine of silence, let me turn to its methodological implications for transcendental philosophy and to a comparison of Wittgenstein’s doctrine with Taoism. I shall begin with the metaphysical subject. Wittgenstein mentions the method of isola-ting the subject in comments 5.621, 5.63, and 5.631. I shall ignore his decimal numbers in the next quotation since he writes the following in a consecutive order:

The world and life are one.

I am my world. (The microcosm.)

The thinking, presenting subject; there is no such thing.

If I wrote a book called "The world as I found it", I should also have therein to report on my body, and to say which members obey my will, and which do not, etc. This then would be a method of isolating the subject, or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject: that is to say, of it alone in this book mention could not be made.

It appears that, in the Wittgensteinian "found" world, if I may make use of this phrase, there are two and only two components. One is the bodily report. The other "says" the relation between the body and the will. This is what I call the world of "sayables." This world, however, does not include the willing subject. "The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world" (5.632).

The method of isolating the subject is a very important method in that it plays the role of philosophy as Wittgenstein sees it: "The object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. Philosophy should make clear and delimit sharply the thoughts which otherwise are, as it were, opaque and blurred" (4.112). Comment 4.112 suggests that there is an order of thinking. It is the philosopher’s task to discover and clarify which order is logically prior and which order is logically posterior. The real goal for philosophy is to finally discover the condition of thinking. This goal is achieved by means of logic, that is, by attending to the strict logical priority in the order of our thinking. Wittgenstein sees the metaphysical subject as logically prior to logical sense and actual sense; therefore, the subject has a unique logical status of its own, as I shall explain presently.

He remarks in the Notebooks that "I am placed in" the world "like my eye in its visual field."[60] Everybody’s eye is never inside, but outside, one’s visual field. By parallel, the metaphysical subject is outside the world of sayables. Therefore, the metaphysical self cannot be mentioned in the world, i.e., it is the inexpressible. It is as inexpressible as the Taoistic notion of Tao. To adapt the Wittgensteinian metaphor of one’s eye, we may liken his conception of the metaphysical subject to the mind’s eye. To further extend Wittgenstein’s metaphor of a visual field, I call his "method of isolating the subject" a method of creating a mental field, for "we should have to be able to think both sides of this limit."[61] The mental field of the mind’s eye and the Wittgensteinian visual field of the eye (5.633 and 5.6331) are perfect parallels. The mind’s eye is the source of thinking. The eye is the source of seeing. For Wittgenstein the meta-physical self is the source of thinking, as the eye is the source of seeing. That means that both sources are logical priorities. My interpretation of Wittgenstein’s method of isolating the subject presents a positive view of the method rather than a negative one. I take the view that his method of isolating the subject does not mean a method of eliminating the subject.

In the case of the eye and its visual field, the eye has to be presupposed in their relations, i.e., the eye is logically prior to the field. The eye as logically prior cannot be included inside the visual field as logically posterior, but remains outside the visual field. In the case of the subject and the mental field, to draw the parallel, the subject is logically prior. Therefore, the subject as logically prior cannot be included inside the mental field as logically posterior, but remains outside the mental field. This view suggests that what is logically prior is metaphorically "outside." There is no eye that sees itself; and accordingly, there is no such subject that thinks itself. This may explain why Wittgenstein in the Note-books comments that there is no thinking subject.[62] The same comment appears at 5.631 in the Tractatus.

In accordance with this view, only what is inside the mental field can be said by means of language. What is outside the mental field cannot be said by means of language. Therefore, the Tractarian nonsense should be taken to imply that propositional language of actual sense and of logical sense is insufficient and inadequate to express that which is beyond these senses, that is, insufficient for the metaphysical subject. What is beyond requires no propositional language. Tractarian nonsense, seen in this light, transcends propositional language. Wittgenstein is concerned with a critique of language in the Tractatus, and thus he sets a limit to what can be said and what cannot be said. To say that the eye sees itself, or that the metaphysical subject thinks itself, would be nonsense on his account.

This view of nonsense is a consequence of the negative aspect of the method of isolating the subject. Yet Wittgenstein comments in the Notebooks that "the world is given me, i.e. my will enters into the world completely from outside as into something that is already there."[63] Since he is unable to eliminate the subject outside the world, one may see that the Wittgensteinian notion of the metaphysical self is comparable to the Taoistic notion of the inexpressible Tao as the predecessor and mother of all named things. Lao Tzu holds the view that the source itself of all things cannot be expressed, as translated in the opening line of the Lao-tzu that the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. Wittgenstein shows that the condition of language cannot be expressed, as he remarks that "that which expresses itself in language, we cannot express by language" (4.121). It is in the Wittgensteinian concept of nonsense that I find Wittgenstein and the Taoist to be similar. Let me compare and contrast Wittgenstein and Lao-Chuang.

(1) Both Lao-Chuang and Wittgenstein hold the view that language is not possible to express that which makes language possible. In Lao-Chuang the condition of language is described as the inexpressible Tao; and in Wittgenstein as nonsense. One way, perhaps the only way, to dissolve this problem of language is to transcend language. In his article "Chuang Tzu and Wittgenstein on World-Making," Laurence C. Wu argues for this position. Wu comments that

the right course of action is not to enrich our language, or improve it, or purify it; but to transcend our language and discard it. This is so because beyond a certain stage of understanding, language no longer serves its purpose, but stands in the way of comprehending the world as a unifying whole in which all separations and distinctions (including the opposition between the self and the world) are overcome.[64]

I share this view and expand on it. Language must be transcended in both Chuang Tzu and Wittgenstein. I might also add an observation of my own that the Chuang-tzu is written in a style very similar to the Philosophical Investigations. In both, we find short passages of prose with many rhetorical questions; and, both encompass a wide range of issues. Chuang Tzu, being a follower of Lao Tzu, holds that the inexpres-sible Tao is the source of everything. Unity would not suffice to reach the profoundest of profundities. For Taoists, to go beyond unity is the only way to reach the inexpressible Tao. For Wittgenstein, we have to trans-cend logical sense and actual sense in order to see the world as a whole. To transcend both senses is to reach the boundary of nonsense. Despite the different terminologies employed by Wittgenstein and Lao-Chuang, the conceptions of nonsense and of the inexpressible Tao are fundamentally equivalent.

(2) As a logical consequence of the above view, both Lao-Chuang and Wittgenstein resort to a method of silence. Since "silence" may be confused with "nothing," we must make "silence" clear. In his article "Ch’an [Zen], Taoism, and Wittgenstein," Thomas T. Tominaga argues that "Taoist use of silence is intended to transcend the dichotomy between communication by words and communication by silence," while Wittgenstein’s use of silence is "to prevent us from transgressing the limits of logical description, beyond which propositional sense is inexpressible but at which the meaning and value of the mystical can be shown though it cannot be said." [65] Tominaga’s observation treats the Taoistic "silence" more positively than the Wittgensteinian, because the Taoist regards silence as a form of communication while Wittgenstein treats it as the limits of propositional language.

This difference may explain, according to Paul C. L. Tang and Robert David Schwartz, "why Wittgenstein then abandoned philosophy, only to return to it later."[66] In their article "The Limits of Language: Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching," Tang and Schwartz remark that "for Wittgenstein, the limits of language spell the end of philosophy. However, for Lao Tzu, "this limit of language does not signify a point of retreat, for the Taoist is willing to take a further step and express (not verbally describe) the Tao in art." [67] This proposal is a radical claim. But it is radical "only to the Western mind and to standard interpretations of the early Wittgenstein by Western philosophers."[68] They offer further the explanation that "the Taoist is willing to take the extra step and blur the distinction between philosophy and art in a way that Western philosophers either cannot do or simply have never done." [69] Their view, although interesting and intriguing, tends to isolate Wittgenstein’s doctrine of silence from his doctrine of showing. I take a somewhat different view on this question in the following.

(3) Distinct as the two doctrines are, Wittgenstein’s doctrine of silence should not be treated separately from his doctrine of showing. In my view, his doctrine of showing has a more sophisticated logical reasoning than Lao-Chuang’s. For Wittgenstein, showing always implies two sides of the boundary, i.e., to show both the positive and the negative. Each side is one logical order, either a priori or a posteriori. Therefore, we should not consider Wittgenstein’s doctrine of silence only in the negative light to produce the negative result. Rather, it should be seen as a logical consequence of the logical order of logical thinking. As Tang and Schwartz put it, "it is not that linguistic description of the Tao (or Wittgenstein’s mystical) is not necessary but, in fact, it is not possible."[70] That is to say, it is logically impossible to express that which makes language possible, i.e., to express the condition of language conceived as strict logical priority. Lao-Chuang, as pointed out before, do not have such a sophisticated articulation of logical views. They follow nature; but Wittgenstein follows logic.

(4) The above contrast between Lao-Chuang and Wittgenstein brings out an important point for comparison. Wittgenstein has a more sophisticated and elabo-rate logical system than do Lao-Chuang [Laotzu & Chuangtzu], but they have a broader view of nature than Wittgenstein. Once Taoism is seen in this light, it is no accident that Need-ham names it nature-mysticism.[71] For Taoists, natural course is the logical order of things, as Chapter 42 of the Lao-tzu eloquently indicates: duality "naturally" follows from unity, unity "naturally" from the inexpressible Tao. To follow nature in a simple and unartificial manner is to follow logic in the Western sense. Let us not forget that simplicity is the essence of Taoism. On the other hand, Wittgenstein’s concept of nature is influenced by the Western tradition. The Western conception of nature has been truncated by being reduced to the subject matter of science. In Wittgenstein’s terms, the totality of the natural sciences is the totality of nature. For Taoists, the totality of nature is the totality of the expressible and the inexpressible Tao. The Taoist totality of nature is more total than Wittgenstein’s.

(5) To bring out one more point of comparison, let us consider that Wittgenstein says that "the I in solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point" (5.64). If we take him literally, there is no such thing as "an extensionless point," since every point has an extension. If we take him nonliterally, then "the I" is extensionless, therefore, nonspatial-nontem-poral. All nonspatial-nontemporal means is that the metaphysical subject is beyond space-time, and furthermore, beyond propositional language. Therefore, it is transcendental. Lao Tzu finds the inexpressible Tao to be indispensable. Wittgenstein finds the metaphysical subject to be ineliminable. The combination of Wittgenstein and Taoism, therefore, may be more appropriately called "transcendental mysticism," to modify Need-ham’s phraseology. Transcendental mysticism offers both the West and Taoism what is missing in its respective philosophy. Taoism lacks a system, and a method, of the logical analysis in its inquiry into the fundamental principles of things. The West, on the other hand, is insufficiently equipped with the method of silence in its relation to the idea of transcendence. The method of silence allows and facilitates us to move at the multidimensional levels. As Tang and Schwartz point out, "the two-dimensional picture is able to depict a reality that has more than two dimensions."[72] This method as a philosophical method may be a novelty in the West. However, silence as a method is practised widely by Eastern mystics. Capra notes that

the basic aim of these techniques seems to be to silence the thinking mind and to shift the awareness from the rational to the intuitive mode of consciousness. In many forms of meditation, this silencing of the rational mind is achieved by concentrating one’s attention on a single item, like one’s breathing, the sound of a mantra, or the visual image of a mandala. [73]

In accordance with this view, our cognitive capacity allows us to travel at different levels of consciousness. It therefore requires greater attention to stay focused on one level than to wander about at all levels. When focus is not attained, levels of consciousness tend to become blurred. Hence the method of silence is a means to achieve the central focus necessary for one order of thinking at a time. Without the help of the method of silence, in Wittgenstein’s terminology, the order of thinking may be upset; logical priority and logical posteriority may be reversed; and the measuring and the measured may be mistaken for each other. For Wittgenstein, this method of silence is not a theoretical speculation. He demonstrates it through his work and writings. In order to produce a truth-functional logic, Wittgenstein has concentrated on logical sense, keeping as silent as possible about actual sense and nonsense. Tang and Schwartz note that it is "Wittgenstein’s realization of the importance of the mystical dimension."[74]

Wittgenstein’s deep understanding of the mystical dimension makes him a Taoist indeed. Wittgenstein is a simple Taoist and a sophisticated logician. And, both these qualities are spontaneously exhibited in Wittgenstein. No other Wes-tern philosopher is better than Wittgenstein for the representation of the Taoistic synthesis with the sophisticated logical analysis. As Wittgenstein said to Drury in conversation, a deep thinker makes us see that there is something that cannot be said. In his transcendental philosophy, Wittgenstein shows that there is something that cannot be said. In contrast, Lao Tzu says that there is something that cannot be said.

Eastern mystics, such as Taoists, can learn something from the West and especially Wittgenstein. Taoists can learn from the West the systematic inquiry through a logical analysis to make its mystical elements clear and comprehensible to Western audiences. Wittgenstein offers both the system and the method that the Taoist lacks. In the words of Tang and Schwartz, "for Wittgenstein, the logical structure of the picture is identical to the logical structure of the situation."[75] This may be restated for Lao-Chuang in a simpler way: the inexpressible Tao is in everything, or alternatively, everything is a manifestation of the inexpressible Tao. When one understands both statements to express the same thought, one can see Wittgenstein’s transcendental elements coupled with Lao-Chuang’s mystical elements. Transcendental mysticism seen in this light is the attempt to tell the same story: the inexpressible Tao and nonsense are the same story, a story that, technically and literally speaking, cannot be told. That same story begins with the Lao-tzu’s inexpressibility and ends with the Tractatus’s silence.

This is the story, a philosophical account, about the inexpressible Tao and Tractarian nonsense on which the storytelling, a transcendental philosophy, is founded. The story is an untellable tale in linguistic form. It exists within the sphere of philosophical reflection alone. The untellable story, the story that cannot be told, has a beginning, a middle, and an end as has any story. The beginning is the philosophical question from which we start that makes the telling of the story worth telling at all; the middle is the substance of the account itself; and the end is the point, the limit reached. The farthest possible limit, in this storytelling, is beyond sense and expressibility; further accounting is impossible.



[1] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), p. 322.

[2] Ibid., pp.322-3.

[3] Wing-Tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton Univer-sity Press, 1963). p. 139.

[4] Ibid., pp. 152-3.

[5] Zhengkun Gu, Lao Tzu: The Book of Tao and Teh ( Beijing: Beijing University Press, 1995), p.131; 133.

[6] Gi-ming Shien, "Nothingness in the Philosophy of Lao-tzu," Philosophy East and West, 1951, 1 (October): 58-63.

[7] Ibid., p.58.

[8] Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956), p. 48.

[9] Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, 3rd ed. (Boston: Shambhala, 1991), p. 212.

[10] Ibid., p. 211.

[11] Burton Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), p. 81.

[12] Gregory Richter, Gate of All Marvelous Things: A Guide to Reading the Tao Te Ching (San Francisco, CA: Red Mansions Publishing, 1998), pp. 23-5.

[13] Needham, op. cit., p. 38.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Gi-ming Shien, "Being and Nothingness in Greek and Ancient Chinese Philosophy," Philosophy East and West, 1951, 1 (July) : 17.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., p.18.

[18] Ibid., p.18.

[19] Ibid., p.21.

[20] Needham, op. cit., pp. 77-8.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., p. 78.

[23] Ibid., pp. 77-8.

[24] Ibid., pp. 77-8.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Burton Watson, op. cit., p. 41.

[27] Lin Yutang, trans. and ed., The Wisdom of Laotse (New York: The Modern Library, 1976), pp. 43-4.

[28] Needham, op. cit., p.50.

[29] Ibid., p.52.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Siao-Fang Sun, "Chuang-tzu’s Theory of Truth," Philosophy East and West, 1953, 3 (July): 142.

[32] Ibid., pp.141-2.

[33] Burton Watson, op. cit., p. 38.

[34] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914-1916, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 94.

[35] Ibid., pp. 37-8e.

[36] Ibid., p. 9e.

[37] Ibid., p. 48e.

[38] Scott Randall Stripling, The Picture Theory of Meaning: An Interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Washington, D. C.: University Press of America, 1987), p. 13.

[39] Rudolf Haller, Questions on Wittgenstein (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), p. 111.

[40] Ibid., p. 96.

[41] Ibid., p. 91.

[42] Ibid., p. 96.

[43] Joachim Schulte, Wittgenstein: An Introduction, trans. William H. Brenner & John F. Holley (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), p. 66.

[44] Stripling, op. cit., p. 13.

[45] G. E. M. Anscombe, An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1959), p. 163.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Stripling, op.cit.

[48] Erik Stenius, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus:A Critical Exposition of Its Main Lines of Thought (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1960), p. 181.

[49] Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914-1916, op.cit., p. 25e.

[50] Rush Rhees, ed., Recollections of Wittgenstein (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 80.

[51] Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914-1916, op. cit., p. 93.

[52] Ibid., p. 51e.

[53] Ibid., p.127.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Max Black, A Companion to Wittgenstein’s "Tractatus" (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964), p. 376.

[56] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C. K. Ogden (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1st edition, 1922), p. 189.

[57] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 79e.

[58] Rhees, op. cit., p. 80.

[59] Ibid., p. 81.

[60] Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914-1918, op. cit., p. 73e.

[61] Wittgenstein, Tractatus, op. cit., p. 27.

[62] Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914-1918, op. cit., p. 86e; 87e.

[63] Ibid., p. 74e.

[64] Laurence C. Wu, "Chuang Tzu and Wittgenstein on World-Making," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 1986, 13: 390.

[65] Thomas T. Tominaga, "Ch’an, Taoism, and Wittgenstein," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 1983, 10:139.

[66] Paul C. L. Tang and Robert David Schwartz, "The Limits of Language: Wittgen-stein’sTractatus-Logico-Philosophicus and Laotzu’s Tao Te Ching," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 1988, 15:14.

[67] Ibid., p.23.

[68] Ibid., p.23.

[69] Ibid., pp.23-4.

[70] Ibid., p.12.

[71] Needham, op. cit., p. 95.

[72] Tang and Schwartz, op. cit., p.15.

[73] Capra, op. cit., pp.37-8.

[74] Tang and Schwartz, op. cit., p.22.

[75] Ibid.