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The Upper Paleolithic cave murals in Lascaux depict humans, animals, and also human hands, patterned lines, grids, and dots (see images below). The rows of dots, usually red or black, often appear in groups of seven, and are placed at various locations throughout the cave complex. They are not intergrated into the paintings as a design element, and so appear to differ in function from dots in prehistoric Australian aboriginal paintings.




It has been suggested that the painting-dots are the result of dots or spots before the eyes of the original artists. If we assume that the artist painted what he saw, it also seems natural to assume that he would have painted the dots that appeared before his eyes (whatever the cause). We may envisage Cro-magnon man, 15,000 years ago, taking a special interest in opacities floating in his visual field. They may have been thread-like strands, squiggly lines, halos, spots or dots. He must have been quite curious about them! So curious, in fact, that he painted them.

The philosophical issue, therefore, is not merely the assumption that Cro-magnon man painted what he saw; but that what he painted held importance to him and his kind. He wasn’t doodling. The dots are not random markings, not grafitti. They mean something. The meaning is the object the dots correspond to – in this case, the various visual opacities or ‘floaters’ in the visual field. But, it can be asked even of so-called primitive art whether every depicted object must correspond to a thing, and whether primitive man must paint because he perceives an object of experience.

In other words, we assume that Cro-magnon man painted because he was compelled to depict experiential objects. Here is the object. There, the depiction of the object. We feel that the world is portrayed all over the Lascaux caves. But is it? For, not every thing refers to some other thing. This is what we are required to explain, not assume.

This Wednesday I wrote:

To murder many is already contained in germ when one person punishes another person. It is an easy step to transform a multitude into one.

This is related to Wittgenstein’s observation: “No cry of torment is greater than the cry of one man. Or again, no torment can be greater than what a single human being may suffer.”

To punish a person for a reason is the germ taken up and predicated of groups in cases of mass-murder. The desire to punish is a root of the willful extermination of human races. It happens partly due to the human tendency to universalise and distort racial characteristics.

Nonetheless, it is a disposition we all share in primitive form given our common desire to punish others from time to time, and also that we succeed in (delight in?) doing so. To punish another person is, in a sense, no different from punishing a jew based on a distorted perception of his racial attributes. At least, it seems to me that this is one way we can make the question of mass-murder accessible to the general public.

To murder many is already contained in germ-form whenever one person suceeds in punishing another person. It is an easy step to transform a multitude into one.

Over the coming weeks, I will document Alan Griswold’s examination of Wittgenstein and autism in his recent book Autistic Symphony (iUniverse, Inc., 2007). It is also available online here


The book divides into five parts, or “five movements”, as Griswold puts it:

I. On the Presence of Autism Within the Human Population
II. The World as Wittgenstein Found It
III. The Score is Still Q to 12
IV. Did Jesus Christ Have Autism?
V. Worldblindness 

According to Griswold, autism is much more than a neurological condition. Many of the most innovative autistics have made profound contributions to society. Autistic traits evident in individuals such as Michelangelo, Einstein, Yeats, Turing and Wittgenstein play an essential part in the immense impact of their innovations. Those of us who are non-autistic owe in large measure a great debt to autistics for helping mankind take the “dramatic leap from savannah-bound primate to questing knight to a massive universe.”

Autistics develop a cognition based on patterns and symmetries to be found in the larger environment. This stands in stark contrast to the identification of the human surroundings in non-autistic thought processes.  In “The World as Wittgenstein Found It”, Griswold treats Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as a model to bring the essential features of autistic cognition to light. The TLP serves as the autistic cognitive model par exellence because it combines the fundamental elements of autistic autobiography and the world as a form of cognition, or a living, unfolding thought process.  

Next: Griswold on the TLP as a model of autistic cognition

Wittgenstein settled in Britain in the 1920s. He applied for British naturalization in 1938, and was granted it a year later. His Oath of Allegiance, shown below, completed the formal process.


For more details, including Wittgenstein’s application for Certificate of Naturalization, information on the time he spent working in Cambridge, vacation destinations, and the testimony of character referees including John Maynard Keynes, go here. For an overview of Jewish settlement in Britain, go here.

Update here.

Dennis Duncan weighs in on this topic here.

Dan Dixon and I share thoughts on this topic here.

Destructive criticism has definite spectator value. Just as in a seated crowd, someone draws attention to himself by standing and waving his arms.

Academics often bemoan the fact that the number of scholars working in their chosen field is less than the population density per square kilometer of Antarctica. But they forget that to be considered interesting is achievement enough in this life, much less to earn it from the half-dozen other people that populate one’s academic field.

August 2007
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