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Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
Full name Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
Born 26 April 1889
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died 29 April 1951 (aged 62)
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy of language, Philosophy of mathematics, Philosophy of mind, Epistemology
Notable ideas "Meaning is use," private language argument, conceptual therapy, saying/showing distinction, seeing-as.

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who primarily worked on the topics of logic, mathematics, the mind, and language.[1]

Described by Bertrand Russell as "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense, and dominating,"[2] Wittgenstein is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century.[3] Helping to inspire two of the century's principal philosophical movements, the Vienna Circle and Oxford ordinary language philosophy,[4] he is considered one of the most important figures in analytic philosophy. According to an end of the century poll, professional philosophers in Canada and the U.S. rank both his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) and Philosophical Investigations among the top five most important books in twentieth-century philosophy, the latter standing out as "...the one crossover masterpiece in twentieth-century philosophy, appealing across diverse specializations and philosophical orientations."[5] Wittgenstein's influence has been felt in nearly every field of the humanities and social sciences, yet there are widely diverging interpretations of his thought.



By 1890, Karl Wittgenstein had amassed one of the largest fortunes in the world.[6]

Ludwig Wittgenstein was born in Vienna on 26 April 1889, to Karl and Leopoldine Wittgenstein. He was the youngest of eight children, born into one of the most prominent and wealthy families in the Austro-Hungarian empire. His father's parents, Hermann Christian and Fanny Wittgenstein (who was a first cousin of the famous violinist Joseph Joachim[7]), were both born into Jewish families but later converted to Protestantism, and after they moved from Saxony to Vienna in the 1850s, assimilated into the Viennese Protestant professional classes. Ludwig's father, Karl Wittgenstein, became an industrialist and went on to make his fortune in iron and steel. By the late 1880s, Karl controlled an effective monopoly on steel and iron resources within the empire, and was one of the richest men in the world.[8] Eventually, Karl transferred much of his capital into real estate, shares of stocks, precious metals, and foreign currency reserves, which were spread across Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and North America. Consequently, the family's colossal wealth was insulated from the inflation crises that followed in subsequent years.[9] Ludwig's mother, Leopoldine Kalmus, was born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, and was an aunt of the Nobel Prize laureate Friedrich von Hayek on her maternal side. Despite his paternal grandparents' conversion to Protestantism, the Wittgenstein children were baptized as Roman Catholics—the faith of their maternal grandmother—and Ludwig was given a Roman Catholic burial upon his death.[10]


Early life

Ludwig (bottom-right), his brother Paul and their sisters, in the late 1890s
Ludwig's sister "Gretl", painted by Klimt for her wedding portrait in 1905

Ludwig grew up in a household that provided an exceptionally intense environment for artistic and intellectual achievement. His parents were both very musical and all their children were artistically and intellectually educated. Karl Wittgenstein was a hugely successful steel tycoon, but also became a leading patron of the arts. He commissioned works by Rodin and Klimt, and fully financed the Vienna Secession Building.[11] The Wittgenstein house hosted many figures of high culture—but above all, musicians. The family was often visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Brahms had given piano lessons to Ludwig's two eldest sisters, and debut recitals for some of his major works were performed in the family's music rooms.[12] Ludwig's older brother Paul Wittgenstein went on to become a world-famous concert pianist, even after losing his right arm in World War I. Ludwig himself had absolute pitch perception,[13] and his devotion to music remained vitally important to him throughout his life: he made frequent use of musical examples and metaphors in his philosophical writings, and was said to be unusually adept at whistling lengthy and detailed musical passages. He also played the clarinet and is said to have remarked that he approved of this instrument because it took a proper role in the orchestra.

One of the music-rooms at Palais Wittgenstein, the family's main Vienna residence.

His family also had a history of intense self-criticism, to the point of depression and suicidal tendencies. Three of his four brothers committed suicide. The eldest of the brothers, Hans— a child prodigy who started composing at age four—killed himself in April 1902 in Havana, Cuba. The third son, Rudolf, followed in May 1904 in Berlin. Their brother Kurt shot himself at the end of World War I, in October 1918, when the Austrian troops he was commanding deserted en masse.[14]

Until 1903, Ludwig was educated by private tutors at home; after that, he began three years of schooling at the Realschule in Linz, a school emphasizing technical topics. For one school year, Adolf Hitler, who was born a mere six days before Wittgenstein, was a student there, but two grades below Wittgenstein, when both boys were 14 or 15 years old.[15] It is unknown whether Hitler and Wittgenstein even knew of each other, and, if so, whether either had any memory of the other.

At the school, Wittgenstein spoke in an upper-class accent, with a slight stutter, wore very elegant clothes, and was highly sensitive and extremely unsociable. It was one of his idiosyncrasies to use the formal form of address with his classmates and to aggressively demand that they too (with the exception of a single acquaintance) address him formally, with "Sie" and "Herr Ludwig".[16]

In 1905 Ludwig Boltzmann's collection of popular writings, including an inspiring essay about the hero and genius who would solve the problem of heavier-than-air flight ("On Aeronautics") was published [17] and Wittgenstein wanted to study Physics with Boltzmann, however Boltzmann committed suicide in 1906.[18]

In 1906, Wittgenstein began studying mechanical engineering in Berlin, and in 1908 he went to the Victoria University of Manchester to study for his doctorate in engineering, full of plans for aeronautical projects. He registered as a research student in an engineering laboratory, where he conducted research on the behaviour of kites in the upper atmosphere, and worked on the design of a propeller with small jet engines on the end of its blades. During his research in Manchester, he became interested in the foundations of mathematics, particularly after reading Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell's Principia Mathematica[19] and Gottlob Frege's Grundgesetze der Arithmetik, vol. 1 (1893) and vol. 2 (1903).[20] In the summer of 1911 Wittgenstein visited Frege and, after having corresponded with him for some time, was advised by Frege to attend the University of Cambridge to study under Russell.[21]

In October 1911, Wittgenstein arrived unannounced at Russell's rooms in Trinity College and was soon attending his lectures and discussing philosophy with him at great length. He made a great impression on Russell (who soon became convinced of his genius) and G. E. Moore, and started to work on the foundations of logic and mathematical logic.

Russell was by this time increasingly tired of philosophy and envisaged Wittgenstein as his successor who would carry on his work in the foundations of mathematics.[22] He was also frequently overpowered by the latter's forceful personality and criticisms. Faced with criticisms of his work by Wittgenstein, Russell wrote "I saw that he was right, and I saw that I could not hope ever again to do fundamental work in philosophy."[23] During this period, Wittgenstein's other major interests were classical music and traveling (he went to Iceland in September 1912), often in the company of David Pinsent, an undergraduate who became a firm friend. He was also invited to join the Cambridge Apostles, an elite secret society that Russell and Moore had both belonged to as students.

Wittgenstein's father died in 1913. On receiving his inheritance, Wittgenstein became one of the wealthiest men in Europe.[24] He donated some of it, initially anonymously, to Austrian artists and writers, including Rainer Maria Rilke and Georg Trakl. In 1914, he went to visit Trakl, when the latter wanted to meet his benefactor, but Trakl died (an apparent suicide) days before Wittgenstein arrived. This is the second instance of someone committing suicide just when Wittgenstein wanted to meet them (after Boltzmann in 1906-see above).

Although he was invigorated by his study in Cambridge and his conversations with Russell, Wittgenstein came to feel that he could not get to the heart of his most fundamental questions while surrounded by other academics. In 1913, he retreated to the relative solitude of the remote village of Skjolden at the end of the Sognefjord in Norway.[21] Here he rented the second floor of a house and stayed for the winter. The isolation from academia allowed him to devote himself entirely to his work, and he later saw this period as one of the most passionate and productive times of his life. While there he wrote a book entitled Logik, a ground-breaking work in the foundations of logic which was the immediate predecessor and source of much of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

World War I

The 1914 notes, on display at Trinity College, Cambridge

The outbreak of World War I in the next year took him completely by surprise and left him in deep shock when he learned of it, as he was living in seclusion. He volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian army, first serving on a ship and then in an artillery workshop. In 1916, he was sent as a member of a howitzer regiment to the Russian front, where he won several medals for bravery, then in the Italian Southern Tyrol (today Trentino, in Italy), where he was taken as a prisoner of war by the Italian army in November 1918 near Trento.[21]

His notebook entries during the war reflect his contempt for the baseness, as he saw it, of soldiers in wartime. Throughout the war, Wittgenstein kept notebooks in which he frequently wrote philosophical and religious reflections alongside personal remarks. The notebooks reflect a profound change in his religious life: an agnostic during his stint at Cambridge, Wittgenstein discovered Leo Tolstoy's The Gospel in Brief at a bookshop in Galicia. He carried the book everywhere he went and recommended it to anyone in distress (to the point that he became known to his fellow soldiers as "the man with the gospels").[25] Wittgenstein's other religious influences include Saint Augustine, Fyodor Dostoevsky and, most notably, Søren Kierkegaard, whom Wittgenstein referred to as "a saint".[26]

Developing the Tractatus

At the family's country estate, The Hochreit, in 1920. Wittgenstein is seated between his sister Helene Salzer and his Swedish friend, Arvid Sjögren.

Wittgenstein's work on Logic began to take on an ethical and religious significance. With this new concern with the ethical, combined with his earlier interest in logical analysis, and with key insights developed during the war (such as the so-called "picture theory" of propositions), Wittgenstein's work from Cambridge and Norway was transfigured into the material that eventually became the Tractatus. Toward the end of the war in 1918, Wittgenstein was promoted to reserve officer (lieutenant) and sent to northern Italy as part of an artillery regiment. On leave in the summer of 1918, he received a letter from David Pinsent's mother telling Wittgenstein that her son had been killed in an airplane accident. Suicidal, Wittgenstein went to stay with his uncle Paul, and there completed the Tractatus, which he dedicated to Pinsent. The book was then sent to publishers, but without success.

In October 1918, Wittgenstein returned to the Italian front but was captured by the Italians shortly thereafter. While he was a prisoner of war at Cassino (Central Italy), through the intervention of his Cambridge friends, Russell and Keynes, Wittgenstein managed to get access to books, prepare his manuscript, and send it back to England. Russell recognized it as a work of supreme philosophical importance and worked with Wittgenstein to get it published after his release in 1919. An English translation was prepared, first by Frank P. Ramsey and then by C. K. Ogden, with Wittgenstein's involvement. After some discussion of how best to translate the title, G. E. Moore suggested Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, an allusion to Baruch Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Russell wrote an introduction,[27] lending the book his reputation as one of the foremost philosophers in the world.

However, difficulties remained. Wittgenstein had become personally disaffected with Russell and was displeased with Russell's introduction, which he thought evinced a fundamental misunderstanding of the Tractatus. Wittgenstein grew frustrated as interested publishers proved difficult to find. To add insult to injury, those publishers who were interested proved to be so mainly because of Russell's introduction. Finally Wilhelm Ostwald's journal Annalen der Naturphilosophie printed a German edition in 1921, and Routledge and Kegan Paul printed a bilingual edition with Russell's introduction and the Ramsey-Ogden translation in 1922.

The "lost years" after the Tractatus

The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.

Thus people today stop at the laws of nature, treating them as something inviolable, just as God and Fate were treated in past ages. And in fact both were right and both wrong; though the view of the ancients is clearer insofar as they have an acknowledged terminus, while the modern system tries to make it look as if everything were explained

— Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 6.371-2

By then, Wittgenstein was a profoundly changed man. He faced harrowing combat in World War I, and crystallized his intellectual and emotional upheavals with the exhausting composition of the Tractatus. It was a work that transfigured all of his past work on logic into a radically new framework that he believed offered a definitive solution to all the problems of philosophy. These changes in Wittgenstein's inner and outer life left him both haunted and yet invigorated to follow a new, ascetic life. One of the most dramatic expressions of this change was his decision in 1919 to give away the portion of the family fortune he had inherited when his father died. The money was divided between his sisters Helene and Hermine and his brother Paul, and Wittgenstein insisted that they promise never to give it back. He felt that giving money to the poor could only corrupt them further, whereas the rich would not be harmed by it.[citation needed]

Wittgenstein, without suffering the weight of humility, thought that his book Tractatus had solved all the problems there were and could ever be regarding philosophy and he left for Austria to train as a primary school teacher, indicating that that was the natural and rational next step after writing a book on philosophy.[28] He was educated in the methods of the Austrian School Reform Movement which advocated the stimulation of the natural curiosity of children and their development as independent thinkers, instead of just letting them memorize facts. Wittgenstein was enthusiastic about these ideas but ran into problems when he was appointed as an elementary teacher in the rural Austrian villages of Trattenbach, Puchberg-am-Schneeberg, and Otterthal. He achieved good results with children attuned to his interests and style of teaching, but he had unrealistically high expectations of the rural primary school children he taught, and his teaching methods were extremely intense and highly exacting—he had little patience with those children who had no aptitude for what was taught. His severe disciplinary methods (often involving striking the children harshly and other forms of corporal punishment) — as well as a general suspicion amongst the villagers that he was somewhat mad (which his strange antics did not help in alleviating) — led to a long series of bitter disagreements with some of his students' parents. This eventually culminated in April 1926 with the collapse of an eleven-year-old boy whom Wittgenstein had struck on the head.[28] The boy's father attempted to have Wittgenstein arrested, and despite being cleared of misconduct, he resigned his position and returned to Vienna, feeling that he had failed as a primary school teacher.

During his time as a school teacher, Wittgenstein wrote a pronunciation and spelling dictionary for his own use in teaching students. The publishers insisted upon the removal of Wittgenstein's introduction (on the grounds that the dictionary ironically had grammatical errors) and some additions to the list of words, and it was moderately well-received by his colleagues (although not reprinted in his lifetime).[29] This would be the only book besides the Tractatus that Wittgenstein published in his lifetime.

After abandoning his work as a school teacher, Wittgenstein worked as a gardener's assistant in a monastery near Vienna, after being convinced that it would be more fulfilling to be a gardener's assistant rather than a gardener. He considered becoming a monk,[28] but despite his reputed determination and stability, went only so far as to enquire about the requirements for joining an order. Two major developments helped to save Wittgenstein from this despairing state. The first was an invitation from his sister Margaret ("Gretl") Stonborough, (whose portrait was painted by Gustav Klimt in 1905), to work on the design and construction of her new house. He worked with the architect, Paul Engelmann, who had become his lover during the war, when they spent a lot of time in each other's company in the trenches, and the two designed a spare modernist house after the style of Adolf Loos (whom they both greatly admired). Wittgenstein found the work extremely intellectually absorbing and exhausting; he poured himself into the design in painstaking detail, including even small aspects such as doorknobs, kitchen faucets, bath shower-heads, latrine commodes and radiators, spending a year on each as they had to be exactly positioned to maintain the symmetry of the rooms.[28] As a work of modernist architecture the house evoked some high praise from his immediate family; G. H. von Wright said that it was as good as his book Tractatus. The effort of totally involving himself in intellectual work once again did much to restore Wittgenstein's spirits. Of the house, Ludwig's eldest sister, Hermine, wrote: "Even though I admired the house very much, I always knew that I neither wanted to, nor could, live in it myself. It seemed indeed to be much more a dwelling for the gods".[30]

"I am not interested in erecting a building, but in [...] presenting to myself the foundations of all possible buildings."
— Wittgenstein[31]
Stonborough House was designed and built by Wittgenstein between 1926-8

Secondly, toward the end of his work on the house, Wittgenstein was contacted by Moritz Schlick, one of the leading figures of the newly formed Vienna Circle. The Tractatus had been tremendously influential in the development of Viennese positivism and, although Schlick never succeeded in drawing Wittgenstein into the discussions of the Vienna Circle itself, he and some of his fellow circle members, especially Friedrich Waismann, met occasionally with Wittgenstein to discuss philosophical topics.[32] Wittgenstein was frequently frustrated by these meetings — he believed that Schlick and his colleagues had fundamentally misunderstood the Tractatus. Many of the disagreements concerned the importance of religious life and the mystical; Wittgenstein considered these matters as a sort of wordless faith, whereas the positivists disdained them as useless. In one meeting, Wittgenstein went so far as to refuse to discuss the book at all, and sat with his back to his guests sulking, while he read aloud from the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, much to the vexation of his guests. Nevertheless, the contact with the Vienna Circle stimulated Wittgenstein intellectually and revived his interest in philosophy. He also met with Frank P. Ramsey, a young philosopher of mathematics who traveled several times from Cambridge to Austria to meet with Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle. In the course of his conversations with the Vienna Circle and with Ramsey, Wittgenstein began to think that there might be some "grave mistakes" in his work as presented in the Tractatus — marking the beginning of a second career of ground-breaking philosophical work, which would occupy him for the rest of his life.

Return to Cambridge

At the urging of Ramsey and others, in 1929 Wittgenstein decided to return to Cambridge. He was met at the railway station by a crowd of England's greatest intellectuals, discovering rather to his horror that he was one of the most famed philosophers in the world. In a letter to his wife, Lydia Lopokova, Wittgenstein's old friend John Maynard Keynes wrote: "Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5.15 train."

Despite this fame, he could not initially work at Cambridge as he did not have a degree, so he applied as an advanced undergraduate. Russell noted that his previous residency was in fact sufficient for a doctoral degree, and urged him to offer the Tractatus as a doctoral thesis, which he did in 1929. It was examined by Russell and Moore; at the end of the thesis defence, Wittgenstein clapped the two examiners on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry, I know you'll never understand it."[33] Moore commented in the examiner's report: "I myself consider that this is a work of genius; but, even if I am completely mistaken and it is nothing of the sort, it is well above the standard required for the Ph.D. degree."[34] Wittgenstein was appointed as a lecturer and was made a fellow of Trinity College.

Although Wittgenstein was involved in a relationship with Marguerite Respinger (a young Swiss woman he had met as a friend of the family), his plans to marry her were broken off in 1931 and he never married. Most of his romantic attachments were to young men. There is considerable debate over how active Wittgenstein's homosexual life was, inspired by W. W. Bartley's claim to have found evidence of not only active homosexuality but in particular several casual liaisons with young men in the Wiener Prater park during his time in Vienna. Bartley published his claims in a biography of Wittgenstein in 1973, claiming to have his information from "confidential reports from... friends" of Wittgenstein,[35] whom he declined to name, and to have discovered two coded notebooks unknown to Wittgenstein's executors that detailed the visits to the Prater. Wittgenstein's estate and other biographers disputed Bartley's claims and asked him to produce the sources that he claims. What has become clear, at least, is that Wittgenstein had several long-term homoerotic attachments, including relationships with his friends David Pinsent, Francis Skinner, and Ben Richards.[36]

"It's impossible for me to say one word about all that music has meant to me in my life. How, then, can I hope to be understood?"
— Wittgenstein, 1949[37]

Although some commentators have assumed that Wittgenstein's political sympathies lay on the left, and while, despite being entirely contemptuous of Marx's philosophical work, he once described himself as a "communist at heart" and romanticized the life of laborers[38], in many ways he was a reactionary. He abhorred the idea of scientific progress (for the reason that it was meaningless without moral progress), was conservative in his musical tastes, and was ambivalent about the invention of nuclear weapons, stating that "the people making speeches against producing the bomb are undoubtedly the scum of the intellectuals, although even this does not prove beyond question that what they abominate is to be welcomed".[39] He particularly admired the philosophy of the Austrian Otto Weininger. Wittgenstein distributed copies of Weininger's theories to bemused colleagues at Cambridge.[40] Like Weininger, Wittgenstein had a troubled relationship towards his ethnicity and sexuality.[41] In his notebooks of the early 1930s, in particular (MS 154), he critically berated himself for being a "reproductive" as opposed to "productive" thinker, and attributed this to his own Jewish and diasporadic sense of identity, writing: "The saint is the only Jewish genius. Even the greatest Jewish thinker is no more than talented. (Myself for instance)".[42] While Wittgenstein would later claim that "[m]y thoughts are 100% Hebraic",[43] as Hans Sluga has argued, if so, "his was a self-doubting Judaism, which had always the possibility of collapsing into a destructive self-hatred (as it did in Weininger's case) but which also held an immense promise of innovation and genius."[44]

In 1934, attracted by his friend Keynes' description of Soviet life in Short View of Russia, he conceived the idea of emigrating to the Soviet Union with Skinner. They took lessons in Russian and in 1935 Wittgenstein traveled to Leningrad and Moscow in an attempt to secure employment. He was offered teaching positions but preferred manual work and returned three weeks later. From 1936 to 1937, Wittgenstein lived again in Norway,[45] leaving Skinner behind. He worked on the Philosophical Investigations. In the winter of 1936/37, he delivered a series of "confessions" to close friends, most of them about minor infractions like white lies, in an effort to cleanse himself. In 1938, he traveled to Ireland to visit Maurice Drury, a friend who was training as a doctor, and considered such training himself, with the intention of abandoning philosophy for psychiatry. The visit to Ireland was at the same time a response to the invitation of the then Irish Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, himself a mathematics teacher. De Valera hoped that Wittgenstein's presence would contribute to an academy for advanced mathematics.

While he was in Ireland, Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss; the Viennese Wittgenstein was now a citizen of the enlarged Germany and a Jew under its racial laws. He found this intolerable and started to investigate the possibilities of acquiring British or Irish citizenship with the help of Keynes, but this put his siblings Hermine, Helene and Paul, all still living in Austria, in considerable danger. Wittgenstein's first thought was to travel to Vienna, but he was dissuaded by friends. Had the Wittgensteins been classified as Jews, their fate would have been the same as other Austrian Jews, only a minority of whom survived the war.[46] Their only hope was to be classified as Mischlinge: Aryan/Jewish crossbreeds, whose treatment, while harsh, was less brutal than that reserved for Jews. This reclassification was known as a "Befreiung". The successful conclusion of these negotiations required the personal approval of Adolf Hitler. "The figures show how difficult it was to gain a Befreiung. In 1939 there were 2,100 applications for a different racial classification: the Führer allowed only twelve."[47]

Gretl, an American citizen by marriage, started negotiations with the Nazi authorities over the racial status of their grandfather Hermann, claiming that he was the illegitimate son of an "Aryan". The Reichsbank was keen to get its hands on the large amounts of foreign currency owned by the Wittgenstein family, and this was used as a bargaining tool. Paul, who had escaped to Switzerland and then the United States in July 1938, disagreed with the family's stance.

In the summer of 1937, Wittgenstein had been introduced to Alan Turing by Alister Watson.[48] After G. E. Moore's resignation in 1939, Wittgenstein, who was by then considered a philosophical genius, was appointed to the chair in Philosophy at Cambridge. He acquired British citizenship soon afterwards, and in July 1939 he traveled to Vienna to assist Gretl and his other sisters, visiting Berlin for one day to meet with an official of the Reichsbank. After this, he traveled to New York to persuade Paul, whose agreement was required, to back the scheme. The required Befreiung was granted in August 1939. The unknown amount signed over to the Nazis by the Wittgenstein family, a week or so before the outbreak of war, included amongst many other assets 1.7 tonnes of gold.[49] At 2009 prices, this amount of gold alone would be worth in excess of US$60 million. Had the transfer occurred only weeks later, it would have counted as aiding an enemy state in time of war, for which the maximum penalty was death by hanging.[50] There is also a report that Wittgenstein went on in 1939 from Berlin to visit Moscow a second time and met again the philosopher/academician Sophia Janowskaya.[51]

After exhausting philosophical work, Wittgenstein would often relax by watching a Western movie, where he preferred to sit at the very front of the cinema, or reading detective stories.[52][53] These tastes are in stark contrast to his preferences in music, where he rejected anything after Brahms as a symptom of the decay of society. In the music of Brahms, he once remarked, he could already hear the noise of machinery.

By this time, Wittgenstein's view on the foundations of mathematics had changed considerably. Earlier he had thought that logic could provide a solid foundation, and he had even considered updating Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica. Now he denied that there were any mathematical facts to be discovered and he denied that mathematical statements were "true" in any real sense. He gave a series of lectures on the foundations of mathematics, discussing this and other topics, documented in a book.[54] The book contains lectures by Wittgenstein as well as discussions between Wittgenstein and several attending students including the young Alan Turing.

During World War II, he left Cambridge and volunteered as a hospital porter in Guy's Hospital in London and as a laboratory assistant in Newcastle upon Tyne's Royal Victoria Infirmary. This was arranged by his friend John Ryle, a brother of the philosopher Gilbert Ryle, who was then working at the hospital. After the war, Wittgenstein returned to teach at Cambridge, but he found teaching an increasing burden: he had never liked the intellectual atmosphere at Cambridge, and in fact encouraged several of his students, including Skinner, to find work outside of academic philosophy. There are stories, perhaps apocryphal, that if any of his philosophy students expressed an interest in pursuing the subject, he would ban them from attending any more of his classes.

Final years and death

"Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits."
— Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 6.431[55]

Wittgenstein resigned his position at Cambridge in 1947 to concentrate on his writing. He was succeeded as professor by his friend Georg Henrik von Wright. He stayed at Kilpatrick House guesthouse in East Wicklow in 1947 and 1948. Much of his later work was done on the west coast of Ireland in the rural isolation he preferred with Patrick Lynch. By 1949, when he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer, he had written most of the material that would be published after his death as Philosophische Untersuchungen (Philosophical Investigations).

Wittgenstein spent the last two years of his life in Vienna, the United States, Oxford, and Cambridge, where he worked continuously on new material, inspired by the conversations that he had had with his friend and former student Norman Malcolm during a summer spent at the Malcolms' house in the United States. Malcolm had been wrestling with G.E. Moore's commonsense response to external world skepticism ("Here is one hand, and here is another; therefore I know at least two external things exist").

Wittgenstein spent the last eighteen months of his life writing his 'Remarks on Colour' -- inspired by Goethe's Theory of Colours. In it, he "examines the features of different colours (metallic colour, the colours of flames, etc.) and of luminosity - a theme which Wittgenstein treats in such a way as to destroy the traditional idea that colour is a simple and logically uniform kind of thing"[56].

In the last days before his death, Wittgenstein began to work on another series of remarks inspired by his conversations, which he continued to work on until two days before his death, and which were published posthumously as On Certainty. Wittgenstein wrote the final entry, in manuscript MS 177,[57] less than a day before he completely lost consciousness. His last words, reported by the wife of his doctor, in whose home he spent his last days, were: "Tell them I've had a wonderful life".[58] He was given a Roman Catholic burial and interred at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.


Although many of Wittgenstein's notebooks, papers, and lectures have been published since his death, he published only one philosophical book in his lifetime, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1921. Wittgenstein's early work was deeply influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, and by the new systems of logic put forward by Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege. He was also influenced by the ideas of Immanuel Kant, especially in relation to transcendentality. When the Tractatus was published, it was taken up as a major influence by the Vienna Circle positivists. However, Wittgenstein did not consider himself part of that school and alleged that logical positivism involved grave misunderstandings of the Tractatus.

With the completion of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein believed he had solved all the problems of philosophy and he abandoned his studies, working as a schoolteacher, a gardener at a monastery, and as an architect, along with Paul Engelmann, on his sister's new house in Vienna. However, in 1929 he returned to Cambridge and began the meditations which ultimately led him to renounce or revise much of his earlier work, rejecting the analytical fantasy that philosophical language could be derived mathematically from first principles, in favor of a more descriptive linguistic philosophy. This change of mind culminated in his second magnum opus, the Philosophical Investigations, which was published posthumously.[59]

The Tractatus

In a letter to Bertrand Russell from 1919, Wittgenstein says of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP):

Now I'm afraid you haven't really got hold of my main contention to which the whole business of logical propositions is only corollary. The main point is the theory of what can be expressed by propositions, i.e., by language (and, which comes to the same thing, what can be thought) and what cannot be expressed by propositions, but only shown; which I believe is the cardinal problem of philosophy.[60]

This corresponds to the Preface where he writes:

The whole sense of the book might be summed up in the following words: what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.

Those things that cannot be expressed in words make themselves manifest; Wittgenstein calls them the mystical (6.522). They include everything that is the traditional subject matter of philosophy, because what can be said is exhausted by the natural sciences.

4.1 Propositions represent the existence and non-existence of states of affairs.
4.11 The totality of true propositions is the whole of natural science (or the whole corpus of the natural sciences)
4.111 Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences. (The word 'philosophy' must mean something whose place is above or below the natural sciences, not beside them.)

So with respect to Frege's and Russell's efforts in logic (which is part of philosophy) Wittgenstein responds:

4.121 Propositions cannot represent logical form: it is mirrored in them. What finds its reflection in language, language cannot represent. What expresses itself in language, we cannot express by means of language. Propositions show the logical form of reality. They display it.
5.132 If p follows from q, I can make an inference from q to p, deduce p from q. The nature of the inference can be gathered only from the two propositions. They themselves are the only possible justification of the inference. 'Laws of inference', which are supposed to justify inferences, as in the works of Frege and Russell, have no sense, and would be superfluous.

The Vienna Circle, broadly speaking, took this to mean that only empirically verifiable sentences were meaningful, and on these grounds flatly dismissed traditional metaphysical and ethical discourse. This is how Rudolf Carnap reacted to the Tractatus. He thought the lesson was to conceive of philosophy as a strictly meta-logical task in the service of a scientific epistemology. His project of logical syntax was meant to provide philosophers with formalized rational reconstructions of scientific reasoning such that the difference between pseudo-questions (which are about languages) and genuine scientific questions (which are about the world in a theory-laden sense) would be clearly displayed. Once disputes about a choice of language were recognized as such they could simply be settled pragmatically. This work, in Carnap's view, was all that was left for philosophers to do after traditional philosophy had been relegated to the realm of nonsense.

Although we may be able to see in the Tractatus what led Carnap to his ideas, it is pretty clear that this account of philosophy was never quite what Wittgenstein had in mind. This is not very surprising, seeing that the two men had decidedly different temperaments and approaches to philosophical problems in general. Carnap was harshly critical of Heidegger, for instance, while Wittgenstein stated that he could "readily think what Heidegger means", and was sincerely respectful of "the impulse to run up against the limits of language". In Carnap’s autobiography he notes: "...there was a striking difference between Wittgenstein's attitude toward philosophical problems and that of Schlick and myself. Our attitude toward philosophical problems was not very different from that which scientists have toward their problems."

As for Wittgenstein:

His point of view and his attitude toward people and problems, even theoretical problems, were much more similar to those of a creative artist than to those of a scientist; one might almost say, similar to those of a religious prophet or a seer... When finally, sometimes after a prolonged arduous effort, his answers came forth, his statement stood before us like a newly created piece of art or a divine revelation...the impression he made on us was as if insight came to him as through divine inspiration, so that we could not help feeling that any sober rational comment of analysis of it would be a profanation.

Wittgenstein, according to Carnap, "tolerated no critical examination by others" either–an attitude very different from that of analytic philosophers and scientists who assume that facing the doubts and objections of others is an important way of testing their hypotheses.

Knowing this, we should perhaps expect that Carnap's interpretation of the Tractatus is incorrect. Carnap is close to Wittgenstein, however, insofar as he detects the importance of paying attention to language in resolving philosophical disputes. He maintains that some disputes are fruitless because we fail to see that they are linguistically superficial; that there are many possible ways of talking about, say, numbers, each of which may have its legitimate use in a different context. The young Wittgenstein would probably have replied to Carnap, however, (as did the elder W.V.O. Quine), that the logical analysis of scientific language is better left to the scientists themselves. His idea in the Tractatus, after all, was not to turn philosophy into meta-logic, but rather to secure as philosophical everything that lies outside the scope of science and therefore beyond the reach of language. A letter written to Ficker makes Wittgenstein’s own understanding of the scope and goal of the Tractatus clear:

[T]he point of the book is ethical. I once wanted to give a few words in the foreword which now actually are not in it, which, however, I’ll write to you now because they might be a key for you: I wanted to write that my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one. For the Ethical is delimited from within, as it were, by my book; and I’m convinced that, strictly speaking, it can ONLY be delimited in this way. In brief, I think: All of that which many are babbling today, I have defined in my book by remaining silent about it.[61]

The Tractatus is probably most well-known for the logical atomism that Russell himself stressed in it: the picture theory of meaning.

  • The world consists of independent atomic facts—existing states of affairs—out of which larger facts are built.
  • Language consists of atomic, and then larger-scale, propositions that correspond to these facts by sharing the same "logical form".
  • Thought, expressed in language, "pictures" these facts.

On this theory, any piece of language that is not representative of some fact (i.e. is not a proposition) is to be classified as nonsense. The Tractatus itself is constructed of such pseudo-propositions, however, as Wittgenstein readily admits:

6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them - as steps - to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

This leads him to reassert the main point of the book:

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

Some have chosen to interpret this as deliberate irony, others as outright performative contradiction.

Wittgenstein may be fairly compared in some respects to Immanuel Kant who similarly seeks to delimit the sphere of the ethical and save it from the encroachment of science and theoretical reason. Kant is concerned, like Wittgenstein, with antinomies, which point out the limits of language and human thought. Moreover, Wittgenstein's project is transcendental: he is investigating the conditions of possibility of representation.

In the preface to the Tractatus, Wittgenstein says: "the truth of the thoughts that are here communicated seems to me unassailable and definitive". TheTractatus Logico-Philosophicus was submitted by Wittgenstein for the degree of PhD upon his return to Cambridge University in 1929. At his oral defense, Russell, who was one of his examiners, expressed doubts about Wittgenstein's ability to express unassailable truths with meaningless sentences.[62] Wittgenstein might have countered with another line from the preface: "Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it—or at least similar thoughts." What he did reply was harsher still: "Don't worry, I know you'll never understand it."[62]

In his examiner's report, G.E. Moore stated "It is my personal opinion that Mr. Wittgenstein's thesis is a work of genius".[62] Wittgenstein was awarded his PhD.

Intermediate works

Wittgenstein wrote copiously after his return to Cambridge, and arranged much of his writing into an array of incomplete manuscripts. Some thirty thousand pages existed at the time of his death. Much, but by no means all, of this has been sorted and released in several volumes.[63] During his "middle work" in the 1920s and 1930s, much of his work involved attacks from various angles on the sort of philosophical perfectionism embodied in the Tractatus. Of this work, Wittgenstein published only a single paper, "Remarks on Logical Form," which was submitted to be read to the Aristotelian Society and published in their proceedings. By the time of the conference, however, Wittgenstein had repudiated the essay as worthless, and gave a talk on the concept of infinity instead. Wittgenstein was increasingly frustrated to find that, although he was not yet ready to publish his work, some other philosophers were beginning to publish essays containing inaccurate representations of his own views, based on their conversations with him. As a result, he published a very brief letter to the journal Mind, taking a recent article by R. B. Braithwaite as a case in point, and asked philosophers to hold off writing about his views until he was himself ready to publish them. Although unpublished during his lifetime, the Blue Book, a set of notes dictated to his class at Cambridge in 1933–1934, contains seeds of Wittgenstein's later thoughts on language (later developed in the Investigations), and is widely read today as a turning-point in his philosophy of language.

Philosophical Investigations

Illustration of a "duckrabbit", discussed in Section XI Part II, Philosophical Investigations

Alongside the Tractatus, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen) is his other major work. In 1953, two years after Wittgenstein's death, the long-awaited book was published in two parts. Most of the 693 numbered paragraphs in Part I were ready for printing in 1946, but Wittgenstein withdrew the manuscript from the publisher. The shorter Part II was added by the editors, G.E.M. Anscombe and Rush Rhees.

It is difficult to find consensus among interpreters of Wittgenstein's work, and this is particularly true in the case of the Investigations. Wittgenstein asks the reader to think of language and its uses as a multiplicity[64] of language-games within which the parts of language function and have meaning. From this perspective, many conventional philosophical problems (e.g. what is truth?) become meaningless wordplay.

The conventional view of the task of the philosopher is to solve seemingly intractable problems of philosophy using logical analysis (for example, the problem of free will, the relationship between mind and matter, what the good or the beautiful or the true consist of, the nature of meaning, and so on). However, Wittgenstein argues that these problems are, in fact, "bewitchments" that arise from philosophers' misguided attempts to consider the words' absolute meanings, outside of context, usage, and grammar, as if there were some ultimate abstract foundation for the meaning of a word all by itself. Rather than indulge in this fantasy, one should understand the meanings of words, even abstract, philosophical words, by looking at how the words are used by fluent speakers. The beginning of THE BLUE BOOK puts flesh on the Late-Wittgenstinian project by applying it to the word "meaning" itself:

What is the meaning of a word? Let us attack this question by asking, first,...what does the explanation of a word look like? The way this question helps us is analogous to the way the question 'how do we measure a length?' helps us to understand the problem 'what is length?'

In Wittgenstein's view, language is inextricably woven into the fabric of life, and as part of that fabric it works relatively unproblematically. We do not, when speaking ordinarily, worry about how our words mean what they do. Philosophical problems arise when language is forced from its proper home and into a metaphysical environment, where all the familiar and necessary landmarks and contextual clues are removed, specifically for the purpose of "pure" philosophical examination. Wittgenstein describes this metaphysical environment as like being on frictionless ice:[65] where the conditions are apparently perfect for a philosophically and logically perfect language (the language of the Tractatus), where all philosophical problems can be solved without the confusing and muddying effects of everyday contexts; but where, just because of the lack of friction, language can in fact do no actual work at all. There is much talk in the Investigations, then, of "idle wheels" and language being "on holiday" or a mere "ornament", all of which is used to express the idea of what is lacking in philosophical contexts. To resolve the problems encountered there, Wittgenstein argues that philosophers must leave the frictionless ice and return to the "rough ground" of ordinary language in use; that is, philosophers must "bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use."

In this regard, one can see affinities between Wittgenstein and Kant.[66] In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant argues that when concepts grounded in experience are applied outside of the range of possible experience, the result is contradictions and confusion. Thus, the second part of the Critique consists of refutations, typically by reductio ad absurdum, of logical proofs of the existence of God and the existence of souls, and attacks on strong notions of infinity and necessity. In this way, Wittgenstein's objections to applying words outside the contexts in which they have an established meaning mirror Kant's objections to the non-empirical use of empirical reason.

Three fly-bottles, Central Europe, beginning of the 20th century

Returning to the rough ground of ordinary uses of words is, however, easier said than done. Philosophical problems have the character of depth and run as deep as the forms of language and thought that set philosophers on the road to confusion. Wittgenstein therefore speaks of "illusions", "bewitchment", and "conjuring tricks" performed on our thinking by our forms of language, and tries to break their spell by attending to differences between superficially similar aspects of language which he feels lead to this type of confusion. For much of the Investigations, then, Wittgenstein tries to show how philosophers are led away from the ordinary world of language in use by misleading aspects of language itself. He does this by looking at the role language plays in the development of various philosophical problems, to some general problems involving language itself, then at the notions of rules and rule following, and then on to some more specific problems in the philosophy of mind. Throughout these investigations, the style of writing is conversational, with Wittgenstein in turn taking the role of the puzzled philosopher (on either or both sides of traditional philosophical debates), and that of the guide attempting to show the puzzled philosopher the "way out of the fly bottle."[67]

Much of the Investigations, then, consists of examples of how philosophical confusion is generated and how, by a close examination of the actual workings of everyday language, the first false steps towards philosophical puzzlement can be avoided. By avoiding these first false steps, philosophical problems themselves simply no longer arise and are therefore dissolved rather than solved. As Wittgenstein puts it, "the clarity we are aiming at is indeed complete clarity. But this simply means that the philosophical problems should completely disappear."


Some have criticized Wittgenstein for his position on the limits of language,[68] and his abandonment of rigorous stepwise analysis in favor of empirical linguistic description in his later works. His friend Friedrich Waismann, who had spent much of the 1930s unsuccessfully attempting to co-author a book with Wittgenstein, eventually accused him of "complete obscurantism" because of his apparent betrayal of logical positivism and empirical inquiry.[69] This criticism has been further developed by Ernest Gellner.[70] Frank Cioffi discusses the various senses of obscurantism in Wittgenstein, which he designates as "limits obscurantism", "method obscurantism", and "sensibility obscurantism".[71]

Wittgenstein's views on religion, insofar as they are known, put him at odds with what we now call religious fundamentalists.[72] The Philosophical Investigations include a severe deconstruction of Saint Augustine's explanation of language as expressed in the Confessions, and generally oppose the idea that meaning might be determined by external, abstract, or divine structures or forces.

Wittgenstein in his journals wrote positively of the Gospels, but stated that if the events described in them did not in fact happen then the value of the Gospels would be unaffected.


Both his early and later work have been major influences in the development of analytic philosophy. Former colleagues and students include Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, Gilbert Ryle, Friedrich Waismann, Norman Malcolm, G. E. M. Anscombe, Rush Rhees, Georg Henrik von Wright, Peter Geach and the Buddhist scholar K.N. Jayatilleke.

Contemporary philosophers heavily influenced by him include Richard Rorty, Michael Dummett,[73] Donald Davidson,[74] P.M.S. Hacker,[75] John R. Searle, Saul Kripke, John McDowell, David Pears, Hilary Putnam, Anthony Quinton, Peter Strawson, Paul Horwich, Joseph Owens, Colin McGinn, Daniel Dennett, D. Z. Phillips, Stanley Cavell, Cora Diamond, James F. Conant, Isaiah Berlin, Iris Murdoch, Anthony Kenny, Jürgen Habermas and Jean-François Lyotard.

With others, Conant, Diamond and Cavell have been associated with an interpretation of Wittgenstein sometimes known as the New Wittgenstein.

However, it cannot really be said that Wittgenstein founded a "school" in any normal sense. The views of most of the above are generally contradictory. Indeed, there are strong strains in his writings from the Tractatus onwards suggesting any such enterprise would probably have been regarded as fundamentally misguided.

Wittgenstein has also had a significant influence in the social sciences. Patrick Lynch's thinking as an economist was deeply influenced by Wittgenstein's visits to Ireland and the holidays they spent with friends in the west of the country on the wind swept shores of the Atlantic. As Ireland emerged from hundreds of years in the intellectual wilderness, the then Irish Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera had entrusted Patrick Lynch with developing the relationship between Wittgenstein and an emerging Irish intellectual set of academics. Psychologists and psychotherapists inspired by Wittgenstein's work include Fred Newman, Lois Holzman, Brian J. Mistler, and John Morss. American anthropologist Clifford Geertz heavily grounded his development of linguistic symbolism in Wittgenstein's work ; while the influential French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, stated that "Wittgenstein is probably the philosopher who has helped me most at moments of difficulty. He's a kind of saviour for times of great intellectual distress".[76]

Wittgenstein's influence has extended beyond what is normally considered philosophy and may be found in various areas of the arts. For example, the writings and art work of conceptual artist, Joseph Kosuth, is heavily influenced by Wittgensteinian thought. American composer Steve Reich has twice set quotes from Wittgenstein to music. "How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life!" is the basis for Proverb (1995), while the third movement of You Are (Variations) (2004), uses a sentence from Philosophical Investigations: "Explanations come to an end somewhere."[77][78] Reich received a B.A. in philosophy from Cornell University in 1957, having written his thesis on Wittgenstein.[79] Wittgenstein was considered in the final program of the six-part BBC documentary, "Sea of Faith". The only known fragment of music composed by Wittgenstein was premiered in November 2003.[80] The piece of music comprises four bars and lasts less than half a minute.



  • Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung, Annalen der Naturphilosophie, 14 (1921)
  • Philosophische Untersuchungen (1953)
  • Bemerkungen über die Grundlagen der Mathematik, ed. by G.H. von Wright, R. Rhees, and G.E.M. Anscombe (1956) (a selection from his writings on the philosophy of logic and mathematics between 1937 and 1944)
    • Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, translated by G.E.M. Anscombe, rev. ed. (1978)
  • Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie, ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright (1980)
    • Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vols. 1 and 2, translated by G.E.M. Anscombe, ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright (1980) (a selection of which makes up 'Zettel')
  • The Blue and Brown Books (1958) (Notes dictated in English to Cambridge students in 1933–35)
  • Philosophische Bemerkungen, ed. by Rush Rhees (1964)
    • Philosophical Remarks (1975)
    • Philosophical Grammar (1978)
  • Bemerkungen über die Farben, ed. by G.E.M. Anscombe (1977)
  • On Certainty — A collection of aphorisms discussing the relation between knowledge and certainty, extremely influential in the philosophy of action.
  • Culture and Value — A collection of personal remarks about various cultural issues, such as religion and music, as well as critique of Søren Kierkegaard's philosophy.
  • Zettel, another collection of Wittgenstein's thoughts in fragmentary/"diary entry" format as with On Certainty and Culture and Value.

A collection of Ludwig Wittgenstein's manuscripts is held by Trinity College, Cambridge.

Works online

Further reading

  • Bartley, William Warren (1985). Wittgenstein. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court. ISBN 9780875484419. 
  • Brockhaus, Richard R. (1990). Pulling Up the Ladder: The Metaphysical Roots of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court. ISBN 9780812691252.  Explores the continental influences on Wittgenstein, often overlooked by traditional analytic works.
  • Drury, Maurice O'Connor; David Berman (ed), Michael Fitzgerald (ed), John Hayes (ed) (1973). The Danger of Words and Writings on Wittgenstein. Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp. 225. ISBN 1-85506-490-1.  A collection of Drury's writings concerning Wittgenstein, edited and introduced by David Berman, Michael Fitzgerald and John Hayes.
  • Edmonds, David; John Eidinow (2001). Wittgenstein's Poker. New York: Ecco. pp. 288. ISBN 978-0571227358.  A review of the origin of the conflict between Karl Popper and Wittgenstein, focused on events leading up to their volatile first encounter at 1946 Cambridge meeting.
  • Fonteneau, Françoise : L’éthique du silence. Wittgenstein et Lacan. Paris: Seuil. 1999
  • Glock, Hans-Johann (1996). A Wittgenstein Dictionary. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference. ISBN 0-631-18112-1. 
  • Grayling, A. C. (2001). Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-285411-9.  An introduction aimed at the non-specialist reader.
  • Guetti, James (1993). Wittgenstein and the Grammar of Literary Experience. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-1496-X. 
  • Hacker, P. M. S. (1986). Insight and Illusion: Themes in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-824783-4. 
  • Hacker, P. M. S. (1996). Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference. ISBN 0-631-20098-3.  An analysis of the relationship between Wittgenstein's thought and that of Frege, Russell, and the Vienna Circle.
  • Harré, Rom; Tissaw, Michael A. (2005). Wittgenstein and Psychology: A Practical Guide. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate.  Looks at practical uses of Wittgenstein's later theories in a hands-on psychological context.
  • Kitching, Gavin (2003). Wittgenstein and Society: Essays in Conceptual Puzzlement. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-3342-X. http://www.gavinkitching.com/marx_4.htm. 
  • Klagge, James C. (2001). Wittgenstein: Biography and Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00868-9.  Reviewed here.
  • Saul Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: an Elementary Exposition, 1982, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
  • Malcolm, Norman (1958). Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. London, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199247595.  A portrait by someone who knew Wittgenstein well.
  • McGuiness, Brian (1988). Young Ludwig: Wittgenstein's Life, 1889–1921. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-927994-2. 
  • McGuiness, Brian (2008). Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911-1951. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405147019.  Collects the most substantial correspondence and documents relating to Wittgenstein’s long association with Cambridge.
  • Monk, Ray (2005). How To Read Wittgenstein. New York: Norton. ISBN 1-86207-724-X.  Using key texts from Wittgenstein's writings the author gives insight into how his philosophy can be interpreted.
  • Monk, Ray (1990). Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. New York: Free Press, Maxwell Macmillan International. ISBN 0-14-015995-9.  A biography that also attempts to explain his philosophy.
  • Pears, David; The False Prison, A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy, Volumes 1 and 2, (Oxford 1987 and 1988). An in-depth study of Wittgenstein's philosophical development.
  • Schulte, Joachim; trans. William H. Brenner and John F. Holley (1992). Wittgenstein: An Introduction. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-1082-X.  A concise introduction to Wittgenstein's philosophy illuminated with passages from his work.
  • Sterrett, Susan G. (2005). Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: A Story of Models of Wings and Models of the World. New York: Pi Press. ISBN 0-13-149997-1.  Accessible study of early years up to writing of Tractatus, interweaving history of flight, science and technology with logic and philosophy.

For an in-depth exegesis of Wittgenstein's later work, see the 4-volume analytical commentary by P.M.S. Hacker, volumes 1 and 2 co-authored with G. P. Baker:

  1. G.P. Baker & P.M.S. Hacker. (1980). Wittgenstein: Understanding and Meaning. Oxford: B. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-12111-0. 
  2. G.P. Baker & P.M.S. Hacker. (1985). Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar, and Necessity. Oxford, OX, UK: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-13024-1. 
  3. P. M. S. Hacker (1990). Wittgenstein: Meaning and Mind. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-18739-1. 
  4. P. M. S. Hacker (1996). Wittgenstein: Mind and Will. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-18739-1. 

Works referencing Wittgenstein

  • The Jew of Linz, by Kimberley Cornish, puts forward the controversial thesis that Hitler's antisemitism arose from his dislike of Wittgenstein, and that Wittgenstein was a Soviet agent who recruited the "Cambridge Five". Century Books (1998). ISBN 0712679359
  • City of God depicts an imaginary rivalry between Wittgenstein and Einstein, with Wittgenstein assuming the role of the narrator. Authored by E. L. Doctorow. Plume (2001). ISBN 0452282098
  • The World as I Found It by Bruce Duffy, a recreation of the life of Wittgenstein. Ticknor & Fields (1987). ASIN B001PGGD54
  • Wittgenstein, a film by avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman (1993). The script and the original treatment by Terry Eagleton have been published as a book by the British Film Institute. BFI Publishing (1993). ISBN 0851703968
  • The Fifth Wittgenstein, a discussion of the connection between Wittgenstein's architecture and his philosophy by Kari Jormakka, Datutop 24, 2004. University of Technology Tampere, 2004. ISBN 9521511613
  • A Philosophical Investigation, a dystopian thriller by Philip Kerr set in 2012. London: Chatto & Windus, 1992. ISBN 0-7011-4553-6
  • The Architecture of Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Documentation by Bernhard Leitner, Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1973). ISBN 0919616003
  • Feminist Interpretations of Ludwig Wittgenstein, edited by Naomi Scheman and Peg O'Connor, offers a look at Wittgenstein's philosophies through a feminist perspective. ISBN 0-271-02198-5.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein, Architect, an extensive account of Wittgenstein's design of the house for his sister in Vienna. Written by Paul Wijdeveld, MIT Press, 1994. ISBN 0262231751.
  • Wittgenstein's Mistress, an experimental novel by David Markson, is a first-person account of what it would be like to live in the world as described in Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Dalkey Archive Press (1988). ISBN 1564782115
  • The Broom of the System, a novel by David Foster Wallace. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. ISBN 978-0-14-200242-1

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Time 100: Scientists and Thinkers". Time Magazine Online. http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/. Retrieved 29 April 2006. 
  2. ^ The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, pg. 329.
  3. ^ Edmonds, Eidinow, "Wittgenstein's Poker"
  4. ^ The Time 100, Ludwig Wittgenstein Daniel Dennett, Time Magazine, March 29, 1999
  5. ^ Lackey, Douglas. 1999. "What Are the Modern Classics? The Baruch Poll of Great Philosophy in the Twentieth Century". Philosophical Forum. 30 (4): 329-46
  6. ^ "Karl Wittgenstein, Business Tycoon and Art Patron". http://faculty.frostburg.edu/phil/forum/KarlWittgenstein.htm. Retrieved 12 December 2008. 
  7. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius: p.5
  8. ^ "Karl Wittgenstein, Business Tycoon and Art Patron". http://faculty.frostburg.edu/phil/forum/KarlWittgenstein.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  9. ^ "The Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Background". http://www.wittgen-cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/text/biogre1.html. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  10. ^ Ludwig Wittgenstein at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  11. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius: p.8
  12. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius: p.6
  13. ^ Edmonds, Eidinow, "Wittgenstein's Poker"
  14. ^ Bartley, Wittgenstein, 34–35.
  15. ^ Hamann, p.15
  16. ^ Hamann, pp.15-16.
  17. ^ p 75 Sterrett
  18. ^ Ludwig Boltzmann, biography from Corrosion Doctors
  19. ^ Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell Principia Mathematica to *56, Cambridge University Press, 1997 ISBN 0521626064; 3 vol. (1950) ASIN: BOOOWWCRCA; 1st ed. 1910
  20. ^ Michael Beaney, editor The Frege Reader, pp. 194-223 and pp. 258-289, Blackwell Publishers, 1997 ISBN 0-631--19444-4
  21. ^ a b c Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein, biography by J. J. O'Connor and E. F. Robertson
  22. ^ Russell and Wittgenstein: A Study in Civility and Arrogance, article by Justin Leiber
  23. ^ The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, pg. 282.
  24. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius: p.71
  25. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, pp. 44, 116, 382–84
  26. ^ Creegan, Charles. "Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard". Routledge. http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/ccreegan/wk/chapter1.html. Retrieved 23 April 2006. 
  27. ^ Introduction by Bertrand Russell
  28. ^ a b c d "A dwelling for the gods". Guardian Unlimited. 2002-01-05. http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/story/0,,627752,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  29. ^ "Philosopher's rare 'other book' goes on sale". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/feb/19/books.booksnews2. Retrieved 29 April 2006. 
  30. ^ Stuart Jeffries, A dwelling for the gods, The Guardian, January 5, 2002.
  31. ^ Lewis Hyde, Making It, New York Times, April 6, 2008.
  32. ^ Vienna Circle, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  33. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, p. 271
  34. ^ R.B.Braithwaite George Edward Moore, 1873 - 1958, in Ambrose, Alice. G.E. Moore: Essays in Retrospect (Muirhead Library of Philosophy). Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-29537-6. 
  35. ^ p.160 Bartley
  36. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, Pinset: p. 361, 428; Skinner: p. 331-334, 376, 401-402; Richards: p. 503-506
  37. ^ Drury, Recollections p. 160; cf. The Danger of Words (1973) p. ix, xiv)
  38. ^ Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, p. 343
  39. ^ Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p 48-9, 1946
  40. ^ p216, Philosophical Tales, Cohen, M., Blackwell 2008
  41. ^ Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, pages 23-5
  42. ^ Culture and Value, Ludwig Wittgenstein, (Oxford 1998), page 16e (see also, pages 15e-19e)
  43. ^ M.O’C. Drury, “Conversations with Wittgenstein,” in Recollections of Wittgenstein, ed. R. Rhees, New York: Oxford University Press, revised edition, 1984,p. 161.
  44. ^ Hans D. Sluga, The Cambridge companion to Wittgenstein, (Cambridge, 1996) page 2
  45. ^ Ludwig Wittgenstein: Return to Cambridge from the Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive
  46. ^ "Jews in Linz". http://www.linz.at/archiv/nationalsoz/ekapitel7.html. Retrieved 29 April 2006. 
  47. ^ Edmonds and Eidinow, pp. 98, 105
  48. ^ Hodges, A. Alan Turing: The Enigma of Intelligence. London: Unwin, 1985.
  49. ^ Edmonds, David and Eidinow, John. "Wittgenstein’s Poker", Faber and Faber, London 2001, p.98.
  50. ^ "Treason Act 1708 (c.21)". HMSO. http://www.england-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/apgb/1708/capgb_17080021_en_1. 
  51. ^ Moran, John. "Wittgenstein and Russia" New Left Review 73 (May-June, 1972), pp. 83-96.
  52. ^ Hard-boiled Wit: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Norbert Davis, by Josef Hoffmann
  53. ^ Malcolm, Norman (1958). "A Memoir". Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. G. H. von Wright. U.S.: Oxford University Press. pp. 26. ISBN 0199247595. "Often [He] would rush off to a cinema immediately after the class ended. As the members of the class began to move their chairs out of the room he might look imploringly at a friend and say in a low tone, ‘Could you go to a flick?’ On the way to the cinema Wittgenstein would buy a bun or cold pork pie and munch it while he watched the film." 
  54. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1989-10-15). Diamond, Cora. ed. Wittgenstein's Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics. University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226904261. 
  55. ^ Tracking the Meaning of Life, Yuval Lurie, University of Missouri Press, 2006, page 111
  56. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=bu1_J7mpiqsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Ludwig+Wittgenstein,+Remarks+on+Colour&source=bl&ots=iFH6XiOlO8&sig=OEC-9VKh13t_Ki9vYzfpYnxIwJo&hl=en&ei=_TOMS_SjBJG0tgfoosXyBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=&f=false | Remarks on Colour
  57. ^ The Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive
  58. ^ John, Peter C. (July - Sep., 1988). "Wittgenstein's "Wonderful Life"". Journal of the History of Ideas 49 (3): 510. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-5037(198807%2F09)49%3A3%3C495%3AW%22L%3E2.0.CO%3B2-X. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  59. ^ Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition, by Saul A. Kripke. Introduction.
  60. ^ Letter from Wittgenstein to Russell, cited in Edwards, James C. 1982. Ethics Without Philosophy: Wittgenstein and the Moral Life, University Presses of Florida
  61. ^ Letter from Wittgenstein to Ludwig von Ficker, Bad Modernisms, book by Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz. October or November 1919, translated by Ray Monk.
  62. ^ a b c Monk, 1990
  63. ^ The Manuscripts, from the Wittgenstein Archive in Cambridge
  64. ^ Philosophical Investigations, §23.
  65. ^ Philosophical Investigations, §107.
  66. ^ Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations: Critical Essays by Meredith Williams
  67. ^ Cf. Philosophical Investigations, §309.
  68. ^ see Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  69. ^ Shanker, S., & Shanker, V. A. (1986), Ludwig Wittgenstein: critical assessments. London: Croom Helm, 50-51.
  70. ^ Words and things: An examination of, and an attack on, linguistic philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979, originally published in 1959.
  71. ^ Cioffi, F. (1998), Wittgenstein on Freud and Frazer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 183ff, chapter 7, "Wittgenstein and obscurantism".
  72. ^ [http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/wittgenstein.html Wittgenstein's Lectures on Religious Belief (2001) by Michael Martin]
  73. ^ Michael Dummett, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  74. ^ Actions, Reasons, and Causes, by Donald Davidson, a response to the Wittgensteinian views on rationalization
  75. ^ Wittgenstein meets Neuroscience, book review by Axel Kohler
  76. ^ "Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary". Wittgenstein's Ladder Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary. http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/perloff/witt_intro.html. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  77. ^ "New York Times interview with Reich". http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DEED8173BF93BA15752C0A9639C8B63. 
  78. ^ "First Aphorism from Philosophical Investigations". http://users.rcn.com/rathbone/lw1-10c.htm. 
  79. ^ "Cornell Chronicle article". http://www.news.cornell.edu/Chronicle/00/10.26.00/music.html. 
  80. ^ "Wittgenstein's Symphonic Premiere". http://www.utne.com/2003-11-01/Wittgensteins-Symphonic-Premiere.aspx. 

External links


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From Wikiquote

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (26 April 188929 April 1951) was an Austrian-born philosopher who spent much of his life in England.

My work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one.
A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.



I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.
Tell them I've had a wonderful life.
Don't get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem...
My difficulty is only an — enormous — difficulty of expression.
It is one of the chief skills of the philosopher not to occupy himself with questions which do not concern him.
What do I know about God and the purpose of life?
I know that this world exists.
To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter.
To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.
The World and Life are one. ... Ethics and Aesthetics are one.
  • It seems to me as good as certain that we cannot get the upper hand against England. The English — the best race in the world — cannot lose! We, however, can lose and shall lose, if not this year then next year. The thought that our race is going to be beaten depresses me terribly, because I am completely German.
    • Writing about the eventual outcome of World War I, in which he was a volunteer in the Austro-Hungarian army (25 October 1914), as quoted in The First World War (2004) by Martin Gilbert, p. 104
  • You won't — I really believe — get too much out of reading it. Because you won't understand it; the content will seem strange to you. In reality, it isn't strange to you, for the point is ethical. I once wanted to give a few words in the foreword which now actually are not in it, which, however, I'll write to you now because they might be a key for you: I wanted to write that my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one.
    • On his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, in a letter to Ludwig von Ficker (1919), published in Wittgenstein : Sources and Perspectives (1979) by C. Grant Luckhard
  • "It is necessary to be given the prop that all elementary props are given." This is not necessary because it is even impossible. There is no such prop! That all elementary props are given is SHOWN by there being none having an elementary sense which is not given.
    • Notes of 1919, as quoted in Ludwig Wittgenstein : The Duty of Genius (1990) by Ray Monk
  • A proposition is completely logically analyzed if its grammar is made completely clear: no matter what idiom it may be written or expressed in...
    • Philosophical Remarks (1930), Part I (1)
  • What I give is the morphology of the use of an expression. I show that it has kinds of uses of which you had not dreamed. In philosophy one feels forced to look at a concept in a certain way. What I do is suggest, or even invent, other ways of looking at it. I suggest possibilities of which you had not previously thought. You thought that there was one possibility, or only two at most. But I made you think of others. Furthermore, I made you see that it was absurd to expect the concept to conform to those narrow possibilities. Thus your mental cramp is relieved, and you are free to look around the field of use of the expression and to descrive the different kinds of uses of it.
    • Lectures of 1946 - 1947, as quoted in Ludwig Wittgenstein : A Memoir (1966) by Norman Malcolm, p. 43
  • Tell them I've had a wonderful life.
    • Last words, to his doctor's wife. (28 April 1951), as quoted in Ludwig Wittgenstein : A Memoir (1966) by Norman Malcolm, p. 100
  • What is troubling us is the tendency to believe that the mind is like a little man within.
    • Remarks to John Wisdom, quoted in Zen and the Work of WIttgenstein by Paul Weinpaul in The Chicago Review Vol. 12, (1958), p. 70
  • Make sure that your religion is a matter between you and God only.
    • Comment to Maurice O'Connor Drury, as quoted in Wittgenstein Reads Freud : The Myth of the Unconscious (1996) by Jacques Bouveresse, as translated by Carol Cosman, p. 14
  • Why in the world shouldn't they have regarded with awe and reverence that act by which the human race is perpetuated. Not every religion has to have St. Augustine's attitude to sex. Why even in our culture marriages are celebrated in a church, everyone present knows what is going to happen that night, but that doesn't prevent it being a religious ceremony.
    • In reaction to statements by Maurice O'Connor Drury who expressed disapproval of depictions of an ancient Egyption god with an erect phallus, in "Conversations with Wittgenstein" as quoted in Leading a Human Life: Wittgenstein, Intentionality, and Romanticism (1997) by Richard Thomas Eldridge, p. 130
  • A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.
    • As quoted in "A View from the Asylum" in Philosophical Investigations from the Sanctity of the Press (2004), by Henry Dribble, p. 87
  • I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.
    • As quoted in The Beginning of the End (2004) by Peter Hershey, p. 109
  • A good guide will take you through the more important streets more often than he takes you down side streets; a bad guide will do the opposite. In philosophy I'm a rather bad guide.
    • As quoted in Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Information (2008) edited by Alois Pichler and Herbert Hrachovec, p. 140

Notebooks 1914-1916

As translated by Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, first edition (1961), Second edition (1984)
  • One often makes a remark and only later sees how true it is.
    • Journal entry (11 October 1914), p. 10e
  • Logic takes care of itself; all we have to do is to look and see how it does it.
  • Don't get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.
    • Journal entry (1 November 1914)
  • My difficulty is only an — enormous — difficulty of expression.
    • Journal entry (8 March 1915) p. 40
  • I cannot get from the nature of the proposition to the individual logical operations!!!
    That is, I cannot bring out how far the proposition is the picture of the situation. I am almost inclined to give up all my efforts. ——
    • Journal entries (12 March 1915 and 15 March 1915) p. 41e
  • It is one of the chief skills of the philosopher not to occupy himself with questions which do not concern him.
    • Journal entry (1 May 1915)
  • Language is a part of our organism and no less complicated than it.
    • Journal entry (14 May 1915), p. 48
  • One of the most difficult of the philosopher's tasks is to find out where the shoe pinches.
    • p. 61
  • Certainly it is correct to say: Conscience is the voice of God.
    • p. 75
  • What do I know about God and the purpose of life?
    I know that this world exists.

    That I am placed in it like my eye in its visual field.
    That something about it is problematic, which we call its meaning.
    This meaning does not lie in it but outside of it.
    That life is the world.
    That my will penetrates the world.
    That my will is good or evil.
    Therefore that good and evil are somehow connected with the meaning of the world.
    The meaning of life, i.e. the meaning of the world, we can call God.
    And connect with this the comparison of God to a father.
    To pray is to think about the meaning of life.
    • Journal entry (11 June 1916), p. 72e and 73e
  • To believe in a God means to understand the question about the meaning of life.
    To believe in a God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter.
    To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.
    • Journal entry (8 July 1916), p. 74e
  • There are two godheads: the world and my independent I.
    I am either happy or unhappy, that is all. It can be said: good or evil do not exist.
    A man who is happy must have no fear. Not even in the face of death.
    Only a man who lives not in time but in the present is happy.
    • Journal entry (8 July 1916), p. 74e
  • The World and Life are one. Physiological life is of course not "Life". And neither is psychological life. Life is the world.
    Ethics does not treat of the world. Ethics must be a condition of the world, like logic.
    Ethics and Aesthetics are one.
    • Journal entry (24 July 1916), p. 77e
  • It is true: Man is the microcosm:
    I am my world.
    • Journal entry (12 October 1916), p. 84e
  • What cannot be imagined cannot even be talked about.
    • Journal entry (12 October 1916), p. 84e
  • It is clear that the causal nexus is not a nexus at all.
    • Journal entry (12 October 1916), p. 84e

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922)

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus online at Wikisource
What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.
Certain, possible, impossible: here we have the first indication of the scale that we need in the theory of probability.
Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them... He must so to speak throw away the ladder...
  • The aim of the book is to set a limit to thought, or rather — not to thought, but to the expression of thoughts: for in order to be able to set a limit to thought, we should have to find both sides of the limit thinkable (i.e. we should have to be able to think what cannot be thought).
    It will therefore only be in language that the limit can be set, and what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense.
    • Preface
  • The whole sense of the book might be summed up the following words: what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.
    • Introduction
  • The world is all that is the case. (1)
  • The world is the totality of facts, not things. (1.1)
  • What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts. (2)
  • The logical picture of the facts is the thought. (3)
  • Though a state of affairs that would contravene the laws of physics can be represented by us spatially, one that would contravene the laws of geometry cannot. (3.0321)
  • The thought is the significant proposition. (4)
  • Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. Philosophy does not result in 'philosophical propositions', but rather in the clarification of propositions. Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries. (4.112)
    • Variant translation: Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. The result of philosophy is not a number of "philosophical propositions." but to make propositions clear.
  • It is quite impossible for a proposition to state that it itself is true. (4.442)
  • A tautology's truth is certain, a proposition's possible, a contradiction's impossible. (Certain, possible, impossible: here we have the first indication of the scale that we need in the theory of probability.) (4.464)
  • Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself.) (5)
  • If I cannot say a priori what elementary propositions there are, then the attempt to do so must lead to obvious nonsense. (5.5571)
  • The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. (5.6)
    • Variant translations:
    • The limits of my language stand for the limits of my world.
    • The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.
  • Logic pervades the world: the limits of the world are also its limits. So we cannot say in logic, "The world has this in it, and this, but not that." For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well. We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say either. (5.61)
  • This remark provides the key to the problem, how much truth there is in solipsism. For what the solipsist means is quite correct; only it cannot be said, but makes itself manifest. The world is my world: this is manifest in the fact that the limits of language (of that language which alone I understand) mean the limits of my world. (5.62)
  • The world and life are one. (5.621)
  • I am my world. (The microcosm.) (5.63)
  • The subject does not belong to the world, but it is a limit of the world. (5.632)
  • The world of the happy is quite different from the world of the unhappy. (6.43)
  • Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits. (6.4311)
  • It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists. (6.44)
    • Variant translation: The mystical is not how the world is, but that it is.
  • Scepticism is not irrefutable, but obviously nonsensical, when it tries to raise doubts where no questions can be asked.
    For doubt can exist only where a question exists, a question only where an answer exists, and an answer only where something can be said. (6.51)
  • There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical. (6.522)
  • My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) (6.54)
  • Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
    • Translated: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (7)
    • Also: About what one can not speak, one must remain silent. (7)

The Blue Book (1965)

The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know.
  • The idea that in order to get clear about the meaning of a general term one had to find the common element in all its applications has shackled philosophical investigation; for it has not only led to no result, but also made the philosopher dismiss as irrelevant the concrete cases, which alone could have helped him understand the usage of the general term.
    • p. 19
  • For remember that in general we don't use language according to strict rules — it hasn't been taught us by means of strict rules, either.
    • p. 25
  • What should we gain by a definition, as it can only lead us to other undefined terms?
    • p. 26
  • But ordinary language is all right.
    • p. 28
  • The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know.

Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 (1993)

Edited by James Carl Klagge and Alfred Nordmann
Frazer's account of the magical and religious views of mankind is unsatisfactory; it makes these views look like errors.
Every explanation is after all an hypothesis.
What has to be overcome is not difficulty of the intellect but of the will.
Philosophical problems can be compared to locks on safes, which can be opened by dialing a certain word or number, so that no force can open the door until just this word has been hit upon, and once it is hit upon any child can open it.
  • To convince someone of the truth, it is not enough to state it, but rather one must find the path from error to truth.
  • I must plunge into the water of doubt again and again.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 119
  • Frazer's account of the magical and religious views of mankind is unsatisfactory; it makes these views look like errors.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 119
  • Every explanation is after all an hypothesis.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 123
  • A religious symbol does not rest on any opinion. And error belongs only with opinion. One would like to say: This is what took place here; laugh, if you can.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 123
  • Burning in effigy. Kissing the picture of one's beloved... it aims at nothing at all; we just behave this way and then we feel satisfied.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 123
  • The ceremonial (hot or cold) as opposed to the haphazard (lukewarm) characterizes piety.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough,p. 127
  • We must plow through the whole of language.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 131
  • Frazer is much more savage than most of his savages, for they are not as far removed from the understanding of spiritual matter as a twentieth-century Englishman. His explanations of primitive practices are much cruder than the meaning of these practices themselves.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 131
  • When I am furious about something, I sometimes beat the ground or a tree with my walking stick. But I certainly do not believe that the ground is to blame or that my beating can help anything... And all rites are of this kind.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 131
  • An entire mythology is stored within our language.
    • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 133
  • What makes a subject difficult to understand — if it is significant, important — is not that some special instruction about abstruse things is necessary to understand it. Rather it is the contrast between the understanding of the subject and what most people want to see. Because of this the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not difficulty of the intellect but of the will.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, (Sections 86 - 93 of the so called "Big Typescript"), p. 161
  • Philosophizing is: rejecting false arguments.
    The philosopher strives to find the liberating word, that is, the word that finally permits us to grasp what up to now has intangibly weighed down upon our consciousness.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 165
  • The problems are dissolved in the actual sense of the word — like a lump of sugar in water.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p.183
  • Philosophical problems can be compared to locks on safes, which can be opened by dialing a certain word or number, so that no force can open the door until just this word has been hit upon, and once it is hit upon any child can open it.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 175
    • Variant: Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.
      • Conversation of 1930, in Personal Recollections (1981) by Rush Rhees, Ch. 6
  • Philosophy unravels the knots in our thinking; hence its results must be simple, but its activity is as complicated as the knots that it unravels.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 183
  • People are deeply imbedded in philosophical, i.e., grammatical confusions. And to free them presupposes pulling them out of the immensely manifold connections they are caught up in.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 185
  • The aim of philosophy is to erect a wall at the point where language stops anyway.
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 187
  • Philosophers are often like little children, who first scribble random lines on a piece of paper with their pencils, and now ask an adult "What is that?"
    • Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 193

Philosophical Investigations (1953)

Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.
If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.
  • Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.
    • § 6
  • For a large class of cases — though not for all — in which we employ the word meaning it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.
    • § 43, this has often been quoted as simply: The meaning of a word is its use in the language.
  • Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.
    • § 109
  • Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.
    • § 112
  • What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.
    • § 116
  • What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stood.
    • § 118
  • Your questions refer to words; so I have to talk about words.
    You say : The point isn't the work, but its meaning, and you think of the meaning as a thing of the same kind as the word, though also different from the word. Here the word, there the meaning.
    • § 120
  • Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it.
    • § 124
  • The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something — because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. — And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.
    • § 129
  • The real discovery is the one which enables me to stop doing philosophy when I want to. The one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself into question.
    • § 133
  • To obey a rule, to make a report, to give an order, to play a game of chess, are customs (uses, institutions)
    • § 199
  • If I have exhausted the justifications, I have reached bedrock and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say: "This is simply what I do."
    • § 217
  • When I obey a rule, I do not choose.
    I obey the rule blindly.
    • § 219
  • "Everything is already there in...." How does it come about that [an] arrow points? Doesn't it seem to carry in it something besides itself? — "No, not the dead line on paper; only the psychical thing, the meaning, can do that." — That is both true and false. The arrow points only in the application that a living being makes of it.
    • § 454
  • My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.
    • § 464
  • But if you say: "How am I to know what he means, when I see nothing but the signs he gives?" then I say: "How is he to know what he means, when he has nothing but the signs either?"
    • § 504
  • Does man think because he has found that thinking pays?
    Does he bring his children up because he has found it pays?
    • § 467
  • So we do sometimes think because it has been found to pay.
    • § 470
  • One can mistrust one's own senses, but not one's own belief.
    If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely," it would not have any significant first person, present indicative.
    • Pt II, p. 162
  • The human body is the best picture of the human soul.
    • Pt II, p. 178
  • A man's thinking goes on within his consciousness in a seclusion in comparison with which any physical seclusion is an exhibition to public view.
    • Pt II, p. 189
  • If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.
    • Pt II, p. 223 of the 1968 English edition
  • What has to be accepted, the given, is — so one could say — forms of life.
    • Pt II, p. 226 of the 1968 English edition

On Certainty (1969)

On Certainty (Über Gewissheit), J. & J. Harper Editions, New York, 1969
If you do know that here is one hand, we'll grant you all the rest.
What I hold fast to is not one proposition but a nest of propositions.
Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement.
  • 1. If you do know that here is one hand, we'll grant you all the rest.
  • 94. I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false.
  • 105. All testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system. And this system is not a more or less arbitrary and doubtful point of departure for all our arguments; no it belongs to the essence of what we call an argument. The system is not so much the point of departure, as the element in which our arguments have their life.
  • 144. The child learns to believe a host of things. I.e. it learns to act according to these beliefs. Bit by bit there forms a system of what is believed, and in that system some things stand unshakeably fast and some are more or less liable to shift. What stands fast does so, not because it is intrinsically obvious or convincing; it is rather held fast by what lies around it.
  • 205. If the true is what is grounded, then the ground is not true, nor yet false.
  • 206. If someone asked us 'but is that true?' we might say "yes" to him; and if he demanded grounds we might say "I can't give you any grounds, but if you learn more you too will think the same."
  • 225. What I hold fast to is not one proposition but a nest of propositions.
  • 253. At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.
  • 310. A pupil and a teacher. The pupil will not let anything be explained to him, for he continually interrupts with doubts, for instance as to the existence of things, the meaning for words, etc. The teacher says "Stop interrupting me and do as I tell you. So far your doubts don't make sense at all."
  • 370. But more correctly: The fact that I use the word "hand" and all the other words in my sentence without a second thought, indeed that I should stand before the abyss if I wanted so much as to try doubting their meanings — shows that absence of doubt belongs to the essence of the language-game, that the question "How do I know..." drags out the language-game, or else does away with it.
  • 378. Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement.
  • 467. I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again "I know that that's a tree", pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell them: "This fellow isn't insane. We are only doing philosophy."
  • 612. At the end of reasons comes persuasion.

Culture and Value (1980)

Vermischte Bemerkungen (1977), as translated by Peter Winch
You get tragedy where the tree, instead of bending, breaks.
Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.
Man has to awaken to wonder — and so perhaps do peoples. Science is a way of sending him to sleep again.
If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.
A miracle must be, as it were, a sacred gesture.
The way you use the word "God" does not show whom you mean — but, rather, what you mean.
Don't for heaven's sake, be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.
  • You get tragedy where the tree, instead of bending, breaks.
    • 1929, p. 1
  • A new word is like a fresh seed sown on the ground of the discussion.
    • p. 2e
  • Man has to awaken to wonder — and so perhaps do peoples. Science is a way of sending him to sleep again.
    • p. 5e
  • If someone is merely ahead of his time, it will catch up to him one day.
    • p. 8e
  • Reading the Socratic dialogues one has the feeling: what a frightful waste of time! What's the point of these arguments that prove nothing and clarify nothing?
    • p. 14e
  • I read: "philosophers are no nearer to the meaning of 'Reality' than Plato got,...". What a strange situation. How extraordinary that Plato could have got even as far as he did! Or that we could not get any further! Was it because Plato was so extremely clever?
    • p. 15e
  • Philosophers often behave like little children who scribble some marks on a piece of paper at random and then ask the grown-up "What's that?" — It happened like this: the grown-up had drawn pictures for the child several times and said "this is a man," "this is a house," etc. And then the child makes some marks too and asks: what's this then?
    • p. 17e
  • A confession has to be part of your new life.
    • p. 18e
  • If you use a trick in logic, whom can you be tricking other than yourself?
    • p. 24e
  • Kierkegaard writes: If Christianity were so easy and cozy, why should God in his Scriptures have set Heaven and Earth in motion and threatened eternal punishments? — Question: But then in that case why is this Scriptures so unclear?
    • p. 31e
  • Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.
    • p. 34e
  • Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.
    • p. 35e
  • I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse's good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment.
    • p. 36e
  • People nowadays think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc. to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them — that does not occur to them.
    • p. 36e
  • One might say: Genius is talent exercised with courage.
    • p. 38e
  • Aim at being loved without being admired.
    • p. 38e
  • Our greatest stupidities may be very wise.
    • p. 39e
  • A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push it.
    • p. 42e


  • If you want to go down deep you do not need to travel far; indeed, you don't have to leave your most immediate and familiar surroundings.
    • p. 50e
  • If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.
    • Variant: If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.
    • p. 50e
  • The purely corporeal can be uncanny. Compare the way angels and devils are portrayed. So-called "miracles" must be connected with this. A miracle must be, as it were, a sacred gesture.
    • p. 50e
  • The way you use the word "God" does not show whom you mean — but, rather, what you mean.
    • p. 50e
  • A hero looks death in the face, real death, not just the image of death. Behaving honourably in a crisis doesn't mean being able to act the part of a hero well, as in the theatre, it means being able to look death itself in the eye.
    For an actor may play lots of different roles, but at the end of it all he himself, the human being, is the one who has to die.
    • p. 50e
  • "Fare well!"
    " A whole world of pain is contained in these words." How can it be contained in them? — It is bound up in them. The words are like an acorn from which an oak tree can grow.
    • p. 52e
  • You could attach prices to thoughts. Some cost a lot, some a little. And how does one pay for thoughts? The answer, I think, is: with courage.
    • p. 52e
  • If life becomes hard to bear we think of a change in our circumstances. But the most important and effective change, a change in our own attitude, hardly even occurs to us, and the resolution to take such a step is very difficult for us.
    • p. 53e
  • I believe that one of the things Christianity says is that sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life. (Or the direction of your life.)
    • p. 53e
  • Wisdom is passionless. But faith by contrast is what Kierkegaard calls a passion.
    • p. 53e
  • Religion is, as it were, the calm bottom of the sea at its deepest point, which remains calm however high the waves on the surface may be.
    • p. 53e
  • "I never believed in God before." — that I understand. But not: "I never really believed in Him before."
    • p. 53e
  • Freud's fanciful pseudo-explanations (precisely because they are brilliant) perform a disservice.
    (Now any ass has these pictures available to use in "explaining" symptoms of an illness.
    • p. 55e
  • I am showing my pupils details of an immense landscape which they cannot possibly know their way around.
    • p. 56e


  • Don't for heaven's sake, be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.
    • p. 56e
  • One might say: art shows us the miracles of nature. It is based on the concept of the miracles of nature.
  • Someone who knows too much finds it hard not to lie.
    • p. 64e
  • Animals come when their names are called. Just like human beings.
    • p. 67e
  • It's only by thinking even more crazily than philosophers do that you can solve their problems.
    • p. 75e
  • Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.
    • p. 76e
  • Ambition is the death of thought.
    • p. 77e

Personal Recollections (1981)

Quotes of Wittgenstein found in Personal Recollections (1981) by Rush Rhees, Ch. 6
It is so characteristic, that just when the mechanics of reproduction are so vastly improved, there are fewer and fewer people who know how the music should be played.
  • Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.
    • Conversation of 1930
    • Similar to Wittgenstein's written notes of the "Big Typescript" published in Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 (1993) edited by James Carl Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, p. 175:
Philosophical problems can be compared to locks on safes, which can be opened by dialing a certain word or number, so that no force can open the door until just this word has been hit upon, and once it is hit upon any child can open it.
  • A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring.
    • Conversation of 1930
  • If a person tells me he has been to the worst places I have no reason to judge him; but if he tells me it was his superior wisdom that enabled him to go there, then I know he is a fraud.
    • Conversation of 1930
  • For a truly religious man nothing is tragic.
    • Conversation of 1930
  • It seems to me that, in every culture, I come across a chapter headed Wisdom. And then I know exactly what is going to follow: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
    • Conversation of 1934
  • You must always be puzzled by mental illness. The thing I would dread most, if I became mentally ill, would be your adopting a common sense attitude; that you could take it for granted that I was deluded.
    • Conversation of 1947 or 1948
  • It is so characteristic, that just when the mechanics of reproduction are so vastly improved, there are fewer and fewer people who know how the music should be played.


  • The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.
    • Though this has been quoted extensively as if it were a statement of Wittgenstein, it was apparently first published in A Brief History of Time (1988) by Stephen Hawking, p. 175, where it is presented in quotation marks and thus easily interpreted to be a quotation, but could conceivably be Hawking paraphrasing or giving his own particular summation of Wittgenstein's ideas, as there seem to be no published sources of such a statement prior to this one. The full remark by Hawking reads:
Philosophers reduced the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said, “The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.” What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophy from Aristotle to Kant!


  • If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.
    • This actually first appears in Recent Experiments in Psychology (1950) by Leland Whitney Crafts, Théodore Christian Schneirla, and Elsa Elizabeth Robinson, where it is expressed:
If we used a different vocabulary or if we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.
  • Randy Allen Harris, in Rhetoric and Incommensurability (2005), p. 35, and an endnote on p. 138 indicates the misattribution seems to have originated in a misreading of quotes in ''Patterns Of Discovery : An Inquiry Into The Conceptual Foundations Of Science (1958) by Norwood Russell Hanson, where an actual quotation of WIttgenstein on p. 184 is followed by one from the book on psychology.

Quotes about Wittgenstein

He was the kind of man who would never have noticed such small matters as bursting shells when he was thinking about logic. ~ Bertrand Russell
  • When I met Wittgenstein, I saw that Schlick's warnings were fully justified. But his behavior was not caused by any arrogance. In general, he was of a sympathetic temperament and very kind; but he was hypersensitive and easily irritated. Whatever he said was always interesting and stimulating and the way in which he expressed it was often fascinating. His point of view and his attitude toward people and problems, even theoretical problems, were much more similar to those of a creative artist than to those of a scientist; one might almost say, similar to those of a religious prophet or a seer. When he started to formulate his view on some specific problem, we often felt the internal struggle that occurred in him at that very moment, a struggle by which he tried to penetrate from darkness to light under an intense and painful strain, which was even visible on his most expressive face. When finally, sometimes after a prolonged arduous effort, his answers came forth, his statement stood before us like a newly created piece of art or a divine revelation. Not that he asserted his views dogmatically ... But the impression he made on us was as if insight came to him as through divine inspiration, so that we could not help feeling that any sober rational comment of analysis of it would be a profanation.
    • Rudolf Carnap, as quoted in The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap (1963) by Paul Arthur Schilpp, p. 25, and in Ludwig Wittgenstein : The Duty of Genius (1991) by Ray Monk, p. 244
  • He was like an atomic bomb, a tornado — people don't appreciate that.
    • W. A. Hijab, a student of Wittgenstein, as quoted in Autism and Creativity : Is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability? (2004) by Michael Fitzgerald, p. 93
  • Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train. He has a plan to stay in Cambridge permanently.
  • My wife gave him some Swiss cheese and rye bread for lunch, which he greatly liked. Thereafter he more or less insisted on eating bread and cheese at all meals, largely ignoring the various dishes that my wife prepared. Wittgenstein declared that it did not much matter to him what he ate, so long as it always remained the same. When a dish that looked especially appetizing was brought to the table, I sometimes exclaimed "Hot Ziggety!" — a slang phrase that I learned as a boy in Kansas. Wittgenstein picked up this expression from me. It was inconceivably droll to hear him exclaim "Hot Ziggety!" when my wife put the bread and cheese before him.
  • I got a letter from him written from Monte Cassino, saying that a few days after the Armistace, he had been taken prisoner by the Italians, but fortunately with his manuscript. It appears he had written a book in the trenches, and wished me to read it. He was the kind of man who would never have noticed such small matters as bursting shells when he was thinking about logic. ... It was the book which was subsequently published under the title Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
    • Bertrand Russell in The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1968) Ch. 9 : Russia, p. 330
  • Just about at the time of the Armistice his father had died, and Wittgenstein inherited the bulk of his fortune. He came to the conclusion, however, that money is a nuisance to a philosopher, so he gave every penny of it to is brother and sisters. Consequently he was unable to pay the fare from Vienna to the Hague, and was far too proud to accept it from me. ... He must have suffered during this time hunger and considerable privation, though it was very seldom that he could be induced to say anything about it, as he had the pride of Lucifer. At last his sister decided to build a house, and employed him as an architect. This gave him enough to eat for several years, at the end of which he returned to Cambridge as a don...
    • Bertrand Russell in The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1968) Ch. 9 : Russia, p. 331
  • W. is very excitable: he has more passion about philosophy than I have; his avalanches make mine seem mere snowballs. He has the pure intellectual passion in the highest degree; it makes me love him. His disposition is that of an artist, intuitive and moody. He says every morning he begins his work with hope, and every evening he ends in despair — he has just the sort of rage when he can't understand things as I have.
    • Bertrand Russell, as quoted in Young Ludwig: Wittgenstein's life, 1889-1921 (1988) by Brian McGuinness, p. 100
  • [He was] a magician and had qualities of magic in his relations with people.
    • Sir Colin St John Wilson, as quoted in Autism and Creativity : Is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability? (2004) by Michael Fitzgerald, p. 93

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