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Week 1, Reading Material


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Read the following short passages, slow down and read several times, think and wrestle with them, ask yourself the following questions while you are reading each passage: (1) What is its point/purpose? (2) What could be its assumption, implication, or consequence? (3) How can it relate to other ideas I know? (4) Do I agree with it, why or why not? (5) What does it mean to me, personally?—Can it change my way of seeing and doing things?


Regarding each passage below, you can write down notes of what you think on one or two of these questions listed above, as preparation for Major Project No.1 (the commentary part).



Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)


Do you still ride a horse if you know you might be thrown at any time?


I [Wittgenstein] am very much in love with R. [Marguerite Respinger], have been for a long time of course, but it is especially strong now. And yet I know that the matter is in all probability hopeless. That is, I must be braced that she might get engaged & married any moment. And I know that this will be very painful for me. I therefore know that I should not hang my whole weight on this one rope since I know that eventually it will give. That is, I should remain standing with both feet on firm ground & only hold the rope but not hand on it. But that is difficult. It is difficult to love so unselfishly that one holds on to love & does not want to be held by it.—it is difficult to hold on to love in such a way that, when things go wrong one does not have to consider it a lost game but can say: I was prepared for that & this is also alright. One could say “if you never sit on the horse and thus entrust yourself to it completely, then of course you can never be thrown but also never hope ever to ride. And all one can say to that is: You must wholly dedicate yourself to the horse & yet be braced that you may be thrown at any time. ( Ludwig Wittgenstein, Public and Private Occasions (PPO), ed. James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Movements of Thought: Diaries 1930-1932, 1936-1937, pp.33-34)


Have reasons to suppose now that Marguerite does not particularly care for me. And that is very strange for me. One voice in me says: Then it’s over, & you must lose heart. –And another one says: That must not get you down, you had to anticipate it, & your life cannot be founded upon the occurrence of some, even if greatly desired case.

And the latter voice is right, but then this is the case of a human being who lives & is tormented by pain. He must struggle so that the pain does not spoil life for him. And then one is anxious about times of weakness.


This anxiety is of course only a weakness itself, or cowardice. For one always likes to rest, not having to fight. God be with her! (Wittgenstein, PPO, p.79)


Believe that at any moment God can demand everything from you! Be truly aware of this! Then ask that he grant you the gift of life! For you can fall into madness at any time or become unhappy through & through if you don’t do something that is demanded of you!

It is one thing to talk to God & another to talk of God to others. (PPO, p.183)



Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

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