Academic Writing, Essay, Philosophy

“I’m sure my memory only works one way,” Alice remarked. “I can’t remember things before they happen.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.” (Alice through the looking glass, chapter 5).

11 min readMay 12, 2018


What would a Wittgensteinian perspective on this be? Is it worthwhile?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A comparison between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Lewis Carroll is not an unlikely occurrence.

This is largely due to both of them giving a similar treatment of nonsense in that it results from confusion and errors. Wittgenstein’s perspective on nonsense is that it causes a lot of confusion. The example of Carroll’s character Alice being exposed to nonsense throughout her ‘adventures’ and becoming bewildered and puzzled by it is a valid one.

For Wittgenstein, the problem is that philosophers are puzzled and confused by the nonsense that they speak, write or say, whilst being unaware that they are uttering such nonsense.

According to Pitcher [K.T.Fann, 1967], in both of these cases, this nonsense takes on the form of something that is akin to ‘madness’.

Carroll’s character Alice’s world is filled with this kind of ‘madness’ and this is true of the world in which Wittgenstein’s philosophers exist. Wittgenstein does mention Lewis Carroll by name in the Philosophical Investigations when discussing words without meaning, he states that such words appear in Carroll’s poems [Philosophical Investigations, p13].

To take the first remark from Through the Looking Glass, from a Wittgensteinian perspective, Alice’s concerns about her memory working one way are not concerns about the nature of memory.

She would be wrong to think this. Alice’s confusion is caused by the ‘mystifying’ way that our language is used. It is this failing that is commonly made and repeated in…




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