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Only Connect… Perspicuous Representation and the Logic of Nachträglichkeit

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In what follows, I will concentrate on the type of temporality which structures Wittgenstein's method of a perspicuous representation, or of a synoptic overview (übersichtliche Darstellung). I will argue that the temporal order which applies to (giving) a perspicuous representation is best to be described as retroactivity, deferred action or afterwardness (Nachträglichkeit), a concept which calls into question the ordinary conception of time as a linear and irreversible process as well as of a clear break between present and past. First, I will turn to Sigmund Freud and the way he developed the concept of Nachträglichkeit or retroactivity in some of his case-studies. The basic idea here is that the meaning or content of a past experience is constituted by repeating it in a different or disguised way. I will then argue that the relation between a perspicuous representation and what is made perspicuous is best interpreted as a relation of Nachträglichkeit. This interpretation also accounts for the involvement of the subject in the object made perspicuous—as it is stressed by Wittgenstein and illustrated by his discursive method.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 24, 2006


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