3rd Wittgenstein Conference Theme

Concept note of the 3rd Wittgenstein Conference, IIT Bombay, Mumbai,

 November 24-26, 2018

Culture and Value

There are various perspectives to the understanding of  culture, the list of which have seen an enviable increase in the last fifty or so years. The phenomenal increase in these perspectives has  not only led to refinement in old ways of looking at culture, bringing it down from abstractions of Toynbee and Spengler to concretizations of Durkheim and Sapir, but also led to distinct disciplines specializing in investigating culture itself. Notable among these are cultural studies, sociology, philosophy of culture and anthropology. These disciplines adopt different methodologies to study culture. Looking closely  one can claim, however, that these are different and opposing disciplines, as on a more comprehensive level, all these supplement and complement each other in various ways. To study culture in its various dimensions, one needs to adopt a holistic approach towards it which encompasses taking into consideration the relevant perspectives from all these approaches. 

Philosophical conception of culture  goes beyond the scientifically held views of the  cultural historians or anthropologists. Culture is the expression of human being conversing with the universe at large. This dialogue is neither one way, nor monotonous. It is a two-way interaction and is dynamic such that world also has an influence over the culture it interacts with. This mutual interaction makes a culture throbbing and a lively entity, a dynamic process, that lives in spite of  all the fluxes and fluctuations that may threaten the foundations of culture. 

            The aim of the Third WittgensteinConference is to study the fundamental relation between culture and value in general with special reference to Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein has studied human culture in depth and has critiqued what is known as the materialist culture based on the achievements of modern science and technology. He has shown that the culture, which leads man in the right direction, is the spiritual culture based on the eternal values. It is the eternal values, which constitute the core of the spiritual culture of mankind. These values consist in spiritual perfection, love for higher life, peace, harmony, universal brotherhood, love for mankind, etc.

Wittgenstein opposed the modern western civilization  towhich he was born. As he remarks “…I have no sympathy for the current of European civilization and do not understand its goals, if it has any”.(Culture and Value, p. 6) The  fact that Wittgenstein has no sympathy for the European civilization shows that he is not expecting that this civilization will have  desirable results. It is assumed that when human beings become civilized, they make  progress. By progress is meant both material and spiritual progress. Magic made way for science, which was a progressive step. Science gave birth to technology which was again a progressive step. But Wittgenstein is unsure about the progress of European civilization. As he remarks “when we think of the world’s future, we always mean the destination it will reach if it keeps going in the direction we can see it going in now; it does not occur to us that its path is not a straight line but a curve, constantly changing direction.”( Culture and Value, p.3.  European civilization is not  moving in a straight line.

Wittgenstein protested against the western civilization. What are the aspects of civilization he opposes? Consider his remarks, “ The sprit of this civilization (European) makes itself manifest in the industry, architecture and music of our time, in its facism and socialism, and it is alien and uncongenial to the author”.( Culture and Value, p. 6). Wittgenstein clearly rejects industrial civilization of the West. It is the industrial revolution that brought an end to the pre-modern Europe. Modern age was the product of industrial revolution. Industrial age has its own impact on the art, and architecture of Europe. Therefore, Wittgenstein rejects the  art, music  and architecture which was the result of industrial revolution. He  felt that Western civilization was drawing man away from God, away from what is eternal. As he remarked “It is very remarkable that we should be inclined to think of civilization – houses, trees and cars, etc. – as something man from his origins, from what is lofty and eternal, etc. Our civilized environment, along with its trees and plants, strikes us then as though it were cheaply wrapped in cellophane and isolated from everything, great from God.” (Culture and Value, p. 50).

Wittgenstein’s perspective on culture and value as  presented  in his  classic work  Culture andValue has  great relevance for our times because it contains his seminal  thoughts on culture, value, history,  art, literature, music, science , technology and many other aspects of culture.  This conference intends to  focus on the  different aspects of the central theme of  culture and value in Wittgenstein’s writings , especially in Culture and Value.

Papers are invited from the participants on any of the following sub-themes is not more than ten pages in double space.

Wittgenstein’s notionof culture and value

Wittgenstein’s critique of modern Western Culture

Eternal vrs. Non-eternal Values

Art, Architecture,Music and Literature

Ethics, Religion and Culture

Society and Culture

Science, Technology and Culture

History and Progress

Gandhi and Wittgenstein on modern Western Culture

Wittgenstein and Tagore on Culture and Value