Skip to main content

The Deep Nonsense of Madame Psychosis: Rereading Wallace Reading Wittgenstein


Speaker: Kylie Musolf, UNM, Department of Philosophy

When: Apr 02, 2018 - 03:00pm - 05:00pm

Where: Mitchell Hall, room 102



Abstract:The aim of this paper is to read Wallace’s reading of Wittgenstein’s Tractatusback onto itself. In his essay, “The Empty Plenum: David Markson’s ‘Wittgenstein’s Mistress,’” Wallace articulates his orthodox ineffability interpretation of the Tractatus. One needn’t look further than his poetic description of “Deep Nonsense” to see his fraternity with the Fregean notion of illuminating nonsense. Wittgenstein scholars continue to debate whether Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus as an enhancement or critique of Frege’s theory of logical ineffability (Wallace sees it as an enhancement). I intend to show, however, that a close reading of Madame Psychosis, as an extended metaphor for the conception of Deep Nonsense surfaced in “The Empty Plenum,” contradicts Wallace’s ineffability interpretation. Moreover, I show how his description of Madame Psychosis illustrates the failures of an ineffability interpretation and is in fact better suited as evidence in favor of a resolute interpretation of the Tractatus. Ultimately, I’ll show how the resolute interpretation that can be extracted from Wallace’s fiction is uniquely successful in bringing together the “early” and “late” Wittgenstein under a single philosophical program in a way that even the best of contemporary philosophers have not been able to.