Today David Bowie died. It is a sad day—but in his passing I have been placed in a reflective mood—thinking about his life and creations. There is not much I can add to the volumes of recollections, memories and stories being posted all over the news sites and the internet.
What I can write about is how it affects me:
I have come to understand that I am not very interested in the empirical. Perhaps this explains why I am drawn to Wittgenstein. He spent a lifetime trying to explain his interest in the transcendental–which makes the world possible yet is not part of it. The subject of our search vanishes the instant it is correctly understood. The moment we figure something out it rearranges into another enigma leaving us wondering about the foundations of our existence.
The fear of the unknown is, generally, a powerful fear. It causes people to reject new ideas since the unknown is scary. It forces people to reject the new. It creates paranoia. It is destructive to the forces of creation. Mr Bowie knew that all new things eventually will become common. He knew that beginning at the beginning of change allows one to be always at the beginning of learning. Operating out of fear was not his modus operandi. He knew that fear was a tourniquet to creativity.
In David Stern’s brilliant book Wittgenstein on Mind and Language, he states:
The train of thought I have just set out is closely connected with the Tractarian dictum that the subject does not belong to the world but is it limit. The limit of the world cannot be a boundary or border of the normal kind, separating two different regions, for the world is all there can be, and so there can be nothing beyond it. Instead, Wittgenstein identifies the metaphysical subject with the logical structure of my world when it is seen in a certain way. Any experiences must satisfy whatever constraints that structure imposes, and these limits are also expressed by the grammar of the language we use to talk about the phenomena. (page 77 Oxford University Press 1995 edition)
In Tractatus 5.641 Wittgenstein states: “The philosophical self is not the human being, not the human body, or the human soul, with which psychology deals, but rather the metaphysical subject, the limit of the world—not a part of it.”
On this sad day, I find comfort in knowing that searching is its own reward. Not finding is the way of finding what leads to knowing the limits of my world. Knowing my limits frees me to expand the limits—fearlessly. Thank you Mr Bowie for clarifying the mysteries and importance of searching and acknowledging that certainty is only an expression of fear.