Thursday, 2 October 2008

Newman and Wittgenstein (and Lonergan)

It does not seem to be very well known that, in the very first paragraph of his On Certainty, Wittgenstein mentions Newman: Dazu eine komische Bemerkung H. Newmans – On this a curious remark by H. Newman.

P.J. FitzPatrick has a small comment on this remark with the same title: “Dazu eine komische Bemerkung H. Newmans.” Wittgenstein and His Impact on Contemporary Thought: Proceedings of the Second International Wittgenstein Symposium, 29 August - 4 September 1977, Kirchberg / Wechsel, Austria, 2nd ed., Elizabeth Leinfellner and others, eds. (Holder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1989) 42-45.

The remark is curious. If, as FitzPatrick says, Wittgenstein’s position on certainty is similar to that of Newman, there arises the antecedent probability that it is also similar to that of Lonergan, who is supposed to have read the Grammar of Assent five or six times during his early philosophical studies, and who claimed to have transposed Newman from the commonsense to a more ‘systematic’ mode of writing and style of thought….

Curious indeed. Komisch, in fact. Matter for a little dissertation.

H. Danny Monsour of the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto, passed on to me the following reference: Wolfgang Kienzler, "Wittgenstein and John Henry Newman on Certainty," Grazer Philosophische Studien 71 (2006) 117-38. The abstract reads:

Wittgenstein read and admired the work of John Henry Newman. Evidence suggests that from 1946 until 1951 Newman's Grammar of Assent was probably the single most important external stimulus for Wittgenstein's thought. In important respects Wittgenstein's reactions to G. E. Moore follow hints already given by Newman.
More and more komisch.

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