WHISTLING AND PHILOSOPHY. Frank Ramsey had more in mind about Wittgenstein when he said that “What we can’t say we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either.” This review by Anthony Gottlieb of Alexander Waugh’s new joint biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s family describes how brilliant and troubled–and how musical–the Wittgenstein family was. Gottlieb writes: “Music was also, Waugh writes, the only effective way in which the Wittgenstein children could communicate with their shy, nervous, and intensely musical mother. And music provided consolation and distraction from the tragedies of the family, about which they were mostly required to remain silent.” Ramsey, who was a close friend of Wittgenstein, would have known, as Gottlieb reports, that Wittgenstein was a virtuoso whistler who was known to whistle the entire solo part of a concerto with a pianist playing the orchestra part. Whistling was Wittgenstein’s way of making music and a way of communication in his family. Nick, in the comment I linked to yesterday, suggested that the visual, nonverbal aspects of a play could communicate. I take Ramsey as rejecting the thought that what cannot be communicated in words can be communicated through either art or music.

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