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“In times like these”: Wittgenstein, a Symbol of Troubled Times

by Jose Ferrater-Mora, September 1953

Wittgenstein was a genius. This contention will hardly be denied by professional philosophers. Logicians will recognize that he was most successful in profound logical insights. Metaphysicians, on the other hand, will admit that all of Wittgenstein’s sentences quoted as meaningless by Carnap in the latter’s Logical Syntax of Language deserve close attention. It is also well known that the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus had a tremendous influence on the epistemological issues of the Vienna Circle and of the Logico-Positivistic School. But my contention that Wittgenstein was a genius has a wider scope. It means that he was more than a philosophical genius. He was, in fact, a genius of our age, a symbol of troubled times. If this has been acknowledged neither by English-speaking philosophers nor by Continental European philosophers, it is due to a sad circumstance. English-speaking philosophers, who know very well Wittgenstein’s deeds, pay almost no attention to such expressions as “troubled times.” It is not easy to understand its meaning when you devote the best hours of your life to teaching philosophy in beautiful university campuses. You begin to catch a glimpse of it only when you nose into the world. The average Continental European knows more about it than the cleverest of the English-speaking philosophers. Continental European philosophers, on the other hand, hardly have taken any notice of Wittgenstein’s work. Those who studied it were a handful of logicians or positivists, exclusively interested in the fields of Logic and Epistemology. As a consequence: those who know what the words “troubled times” mean, do not know Wittgenstein; those who know Wittgenstein do not know what the words “troubled times” mean. It was improbable that anybody could maintain that Wittgenstein was something more than an acute analyst of philosophical puzzles.

I do not know whether Wittgenstein himself was aware of this or not, although I suspect that he was. I have heard Professor Paul Schrecker say that Wittgenstein was a “mystery man.” It is true. It is also understandable. Wittgenstein did not seek for popularity. One even wonders whether he was afraid of the world and tried to follow the ancient dictumláthe biosas, live hidden! At any event, he abandoned the main doctrines of the Tractatus and became more and more interested in what we are now going to deal with: Therapeutic Philosophy. But he never forgot two of the statements contained in the Tractatus. One is: Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. The other is: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. They both form the cornerstone of his unique Wille zum Geheimnis— of his “Will to remain secret.” His obstinate loyalty to the two-mentioned apothegms is, in my opinion, due to this reason: at the same time as Wittgenstein worked out his “thoughts,” he was compelled to eliminate them. The ultimate tendency of Wittgenstein’s “thought” was the suppression of all “thought.” He seemed to understand quite well that thought is the greatest perturbing factor in human life. It is not a mark of health, but of illness. That is why it cannot be properly expressed. Wittgenstein discovered that “general ideas” cannot be said. Neither can they be thought. It is true that, according to his recommendation, you can say anything you like—provided you are careful. But, in fact, you say nothing whatever. Your talk is a “yes-but-no,” or a “this-you-can-say-if” attitude. What you “say,” is indifferent. In fact, it would be better to stop talking. If you cannot do it right now, it is because you are still sick, haunted by all sorts of verbal ghosts: the ghost of “general ideas,” the ghost of “meaningful thought.” All this is sickness. Of course, you want to be cured. How? There is only one way: Therapeutic Positivism. Instead of the psychiatrist, you should call the philosopher. He will be more amusing and, perhaps, less expensive.

What does it all mean? Let me try to clarify it. Of course, it all depends upon a proper understanding of Wittgenstein’s “latest” method.

The trouble is that such a method cannot be “explained.” It is not a philosophical method, it is a therapeutics. Besides, it is a nonsystematic therapeutics. Logical Positivists, who have worshipped Wittgenstein in due time, have been baffled by the incredible “looseness” of the new method. But Logical Positivists have always been more or less “systematic.” They also have been considerably dogmatic and have shown no understanding for human anxieties. All they have cared for has been to rebuke metaphysicians. How foolish! As a matter of fact, you can rebuke nobody. You can only cure, if you are willing to. In order to do it properly, you do not need to be “systematic.” You do not need rules. All you need is to be an intelligent guesser, a really clever fellow. This shows that Wittgenstein’s method cannot be explained, but only followed. Wittgenstein’s Therapeutic Positivism was not a theory; it was a series of “recommendations.” It scarcely appealed to our intellect; It rather appealed to our still subsisting consciousness, stirred by worries, undermined by anxieties. For many centuries this consciousness was considered as the typical mark of human nature. Socrates tried to convince people that man not only has problems, but is a problem. To a large extent, he succeeded. Many philosophers have since claimed that man’s greatness is a function of his permanent problematicism. This has been all right until recent times, when many people have wondered whether problematic consciousness helps you very much in facing the problems of existence. After all, you are in danger of travelling undefatigably around your own consciousness and of forgetting that there is something outside you—let us call it: reality. There comes, therefore, a moment when you need urgently to restore your connection with reality. Socrates was all right; he was willing to drink the hemlock, and he did. But most people are not willing to. They are afraid that too much emphasis on philosophical irony is the surest way to drive you to tragedy.

Wittgenstein’s “recommendations” had apparently nothing to do with this subject. Neither he nor his disciples wasted time talking about human nature, or about the problems of “unhappy consciousness.” After all, these were philosophers’ talks. For many years Wittgenstein was worried by just one problem: the problem of language. The analysis of language, of its traps, what has it to do with the eradication of human anxieties? It has much to do with it. Man does not always voice his fears through such acts as screaming, howling, or gesticulating. He often reveals them by raising such questions as: “Why the deuce did I come into this world?,” or, less, provocatively but no less dismayingly: “Is ‘7 + 5’ an a priori synthetic judgment?.” These seem to be philosophical questions or, as Wittgenstein and his disciples would put it, philosophical puzzlements. Since they are expressed through language, the best way to prove that they ought not to puzzle anybody is to remove the traps laid by language. It would seem, indeed, that language is the root of all philosophical puzzlements. The worst of it is that such puzzlements are responsible not only for raising memorable and unanswerable questions, but also for causing violent disagreements. People do not realize how many human beings have been delicately scorched only because they happened to disagree with some hard-hearted dogmatist about such burning issues as whether the world is one or plural, finite or infinite, existent or inexistent. It is true that many questions of this kind have been dismissed by Logical Positivists, helped, incidentally, by Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. But Logical Positivists have been unable to keep pace with Wittgenstein. As a matter of fact, they have disagreed with classical philosophers only in ascertaining what you can say. They have assumed that if you want to be a philosopher you can scarcely say anything. But after many claims to rigor, they have relapsed into laxness. Their regime has been liberalized. You can now say a pretty good quantity of things, some of them even not entirely trivial. You will always find some decadent Logical Positivist, softened by tolerance, willing to uphold your claims. In any event, you will always be permitted to become a “systematic” philosopher and, hence, a follower of philosophical tradition. Perhaps you will be forced to deny that man must devote his life to contemplation and you will have to declare that he must give himself to action. Perhaps that which was formerly called “consciousness” will have to be renamed “behavior.” It does not matter. Having accepted restrictions, you will be allowed to do something suspiciously anti-Wittgensteinian: to solve questions.

For every non-Wittgensteinian philosopher, from Thales to Carnap, man has been an entity capable of solving questions. Even when the range of solvable questions has been conspicuously narrowed, nobody has denied that there are questions. Therefore, all non- Wittgensteinian philosophers play their game on a common ground. I will call it: “humanism.” It means that, come what may, you will always have an unalienable right: the right of raising questions. Now, this is precisely what Socrates had declared to be specifically “human.” Provided this right be upheld, man will never cease to be what Leibniz called un petit Dieu.

Wittgenstein was for some time a staunch defender of this “not-much-but-still-something” attitude. He was, besides, the father of many valuable restrictions. But he soon went farther than his descendants. These men were full of prejudices. They considered themselves capable of possessing “general ideas.” They called themselves, accordingly, “logical” or systematical.” They spent much time in discussions trying to forge logical rules, modes of speech, language-forms of all kinds and shapes. They became enraged over distinctions between meaningless and meaningful questions and fought memorable battles to establish dividing lines between the former and the latter. Suddenly some of them reached the conclusion that all philosophical questions are verbal questions. It seems that they approached Wittgenstein’s Therapeutic Positivism. They did not. To begin with, a real Therapeutic Positivist would not be so fussy about the distinction between meaningless and meaningful questions, between verbal and nonverbal questions. He would feel entirely freed from the worries caused by all questions as such. To be sure, he would still follow the rules of the game and would occasionally use the term “question”— meaning, of course, “puzzlement.” But he would deny that questions must by solved. Questions must not be solved; they must be dissolved. Therefore, you must stop arguing about languages and metalanguages. You must clear off the illusion that you can discover an “ideal language.” All this is, according to Wittgenstein, a mirage.[1] It is a remnant of “humanism.” If you accept being drawn by it, you being drawn by it, you will never get rid of interminable unfruitful discussions. It is even possible that you might become tolerant —too early. One of these days you will discover that there are some real philosophical questions embodied in the language of Aristotelians or even Thomists. Instead of accepting their tenets for what they are—expressions of philosophical puzzlement—you will assume that they express philosophical problems and that, therefore, they can to some extent be solved.

Now, philosophical problems need not be solved, but unmasked. I said before that if you do not pay attention to your verbal behavior, you run the risk of becoming tolerant “too early.” I meant what I said. It would be unjust to consider that a Therapeutic Positivist is intolerant. As a matter of fact, he is more tolerant than anybody else. But he is tolerant only in due time, when questions have been shown to be puzzlements, and puzzlements have been unmasked as intellectually inconsistent worries. Before it, you will be terrorized; after it, you will be freed. Once questions are dissolved, you will be allowed to do what you wish; you will be permitted to talk any language: the language of the Aristotelians, of the Heracliteans, of the Milesians. It will not matter. Philosophical questions become puzzlements and cause worries only when you believe that they are rooted in man, when you ignore that they are floating around us and that we can take or leave them. They cause anxiety only when we are enslaved by them. They will cease to worry us as soon as we realize that the best weapon against them is “freedom,” that is to say, detachment.

That weapon is precisely Wittgenstein’s method. It is not so much a “method” as a “bistoury”—a “mental bistoury.” The trouble is that it cannot be described. It is not “universally valid”; it cannot by used in the same way by everybody. If it could, it would raise again questions of method. Sterile nonliberating questions would be renewed and traditional philosophy reestablished. It is, therefore, preferable to decide once and for all that instead of facing questions you have to cope with worries, puzzlements, perplexities. Therefore, if you are by chance a philosopher, you will have to abstain from such things as giving classes, writing books, attending meetings. You will be unable to utter any “general proposition.” General propositions, being verbal functions, do not propose anything. The usual escape—the submission of questions to logical analysis—will also soon prove untenable. Such an analysis is based upon the unconvincing and “dangerous” predominance of general statements over particular cases, examples, instances. Thus, it will soon be discovered that “theories” or logical devices are uncapable of freeing us from any “question-worry.” No “theory,” no “generalized method,” will be capable of competing with a simple therapeutic activity whose end will no longer be to solve questions but to cure souls.

For a Therapeutic Positivist, trained in Wittgenstein’s supersubtle school of analysis, “method” is, then, a personal activity, intended radically to clarify the reasons of philosophical puzzlements and to pull out the roots of disagreement. This changes completely not only the nature of philosophical analysis, but also the nature of the philosophical profession. The Professor of Philosophy will have to become a sui generis “psychiatrist.” The student will have to become a “patient.” Burdened sometimes with the sense of intellectual sin, he will knock at the door of the Professor’s office. He will not ask: “Do you believe that ‘Hanibal and Plato’ is a good topic for a term-paper?” This is not an intellectual puzzlement. It is a purely practical question. He will rather ask such questions as: “Do you really believe that Being and Value are interchangeable?” I presume, however, that the best way to introduce one’s self to a Therapeutic Positivist is to state bluntly the whole of your worries. The “patient” would do better if he decided to say, for instance, “I am a Hegelian; I firmly believe that Being-in-itself will never become Being-in-and-for-itself, unless it spends some time out-of-itself.” The Therapeutic Positivist likes difficult cases. Of course, the “patient” might very well not be worried in the least by believing in the truth or in the meaningfulness of such a philosophical statement. He might even assert that since he became a Hegelian he felt freed from all worries. This seems to pose a big problem for Therapeutic Positivists. If their activity is justified only in so far as they can disentangle philosophical puzzlements, it seems that they should discreetly retire when the so called “patient” is not puzzled at all. But let us not be deceived by what the Therapeutic Positivist says he purports to do. After all, he never intended to say that the task of Therapeutic Positivism is to “cure” patients. As a matter of fact, the Therapeutic Positivist never intends to say anything at all: he merely purposes to act in certain ways which vellis nollis require the use of words. Therefore, even if the patient himself is not puzzled, he will present philosophical puzzles. Of course, the most frequent cases are those in which patients have puzzles and are puzzled by them. These cases justify the comparison of the Therapeutic Positivist with a sui generis psychiatrist. The words “sui generis” express the fact that the Therapeutic Positivist has only to do with intellectual puzzlements. Hence he cannot invite the patient to lie down on a sofa and suggest that he mumble something about the dreams he had forty-five years ago. Neither can he administer him a drug. The drug will perhaps clear up an abscess, but not a question. The Therapeutic Positivist, however, wants to clear up, to solve—or, again, dissolve—the problem itself held by the patient. He is not an empiricist worry-catcher, but a pure analyst. He does not need sofas, drugs and, of course, books; he just needs brains.

There are many ways of removing philosophical puzzlements, but only one method can be really trusted: skill. It is difficult to demonstrate to a philosopher that analogies between different kinds of expressions do not hold. If we believe some of his followers, this is, however, what Wittgenstein tried to do. He showed masterfully that if such an analogy existed, It would have been useless. It would have ceased to be an analogy and would have become a unique expression. He showed many other things, all of them wrapped in a peculiar mixture of clarity and mystery. Some of these things may by doubtful. But one at least is certain: that only with the help of a great mental skill can you demonstrate to a philosopher—not a “handy patient,” indeed—that he has expressed philosophical questions—that are inexpressible. In order to perform this deed, it is probably not enough to remove language traps; you need, besides, to pick up subtly all kinds of intellectual myths and hold them smilingly up in the face of the patient. Together with a great logical skill, you will assuredly need psychological finesse. Concealed in the various layers of languages and sublanguages, there lie about an incredible number of obscure motivations. They must be sifted out by purely intellectual means, analyzed and, last but not least, pulverized. Only at this final stage will the patient recognize willingly that his puzzlements lacked foundation, that his questioning was meaningless. He will acknowledge, in addition, that all questioning is meaningless. Relieved from this burden, he will no longer talk—or if he does, he will talk as if he did not—and will devote himself to “activity” and to “life.” His “mental complex” will vanish altogether. I do not know what Wittgenstein called this “complex”—or even if he really named it at all. Let me forge a name for it: the “Socratic complex.” Socrates, in fact, had taught men to behave in a manner strictly opposed to the one recommended by Wittgenstein. To be sure, the great Greek philosopher wanted also to relieve us from “complexes.” But, contrary to Wittgenstein, his “method” consisted in creating, in suggesting, in stirring up problems. In a certain way, Wittgenstein could be called the “Anti-Socrates.” Now, if Socrates and Wittgenstein are extreme opposites, they are extreme opposites of the same historical line. As all extremes, they touch each other: extrema se tangunt. No wonder they resemble each other in so many respects. They both used an individual method. They both hated writing. Socrates did not write books. Wittgenstein repented of having written one. They both were geniuses: the genius of construction, Socrates; the genius of destruction, Wittgenstein.

Yes; Wittgenstein was a genius. Knowingly or not, he mirrored our times more faithfully than most of the professional pessimists. Heidegger has tried to stress nothingness; Sartre, nauseousness; Kafka or Camus, absurdity. All these writers have described a world where reality itself has become questionable. They have, however, left unshaken the right of asking questions. In Wittgenstein’s Therapeutic Positivism, on the other hand, that which becomes questionable is the question itself. Nothing has been left, not even the ruins. No wonder we can consider Wittgenstein as a genial reflection of the gloomiest aspects of our age. He did “describe” this “age of anxiety,” this “age of longing,” better than anybody else; better than poets, better than novelists. Is it surprising, then, that an obscure Professor at Cambridge symbolizes more exactly our troubled times than a famous playwright in Paris?


  1. The present article refers mainly to Wittgenstein’s later “Therapeutic Positivism” and occasionally to Wittgensteinians. It does not pretend, however, to explain their “tenets”—which of course, do not exist—or describe their method—which is indescribable. It is a sociohistorical interpretationof a human attitude and nothing else. As such, it will probably be unacceptable to any faithful Wittgensteinian. For further information, the reader may refer to: B. A. Farrell, “An Appraisal of Therapeutic Positivism,” Mind, LV, 217-218 (1946). It will be extremely helpful to him if he reads the excellent articles by John Wisdom, Norman Malcolm, and G. A. Paul, written from a Wittgensteinian point of view. Most of these articles have been published in Mind and some of them in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.

After the present article had been written, a posthumous book by Wittgenstein was announced for publication. I do not think, however that my article will suffer very much from the new information that the book will provide. On the one hand, I am talking only about a phase of Wittgenstein’s activity. This phase seems, after all, to have existed. On the other hand, although it has been said by the Editors of the book that Wittgenstein had been working much on it in his latest years, he did not seem to be very hasty in publishing it. This confirms the view that Wittgenstein acted as if he were afraid of attracting too much attention. I find a recent confirmation of that view in G. Ryle’s article, “Ludwig Wittgenstein,” Analysis, 12.1 (1951). Ryle says that “Wittgenstein attended no philosophical conferences; gave no lectures outside Cambridge; corresponded on philosophical subjects with nobody and discouraged the circulation even of notes of his Cambridge lectures and discussions.” Let me add that I pretend to offer in the present article approximately the same thing that Ryle pretends to offer in his: “a set of impressions, interpretations, of mere echoes of echoes.”

Ferrater Mora, José. “Wittgenstein, a Symbol of Troubled Times.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14 (September 1953): 89-96.

Allan Janik receives highest Austrian distinction for science

Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst 1. Klasse an Wittgensteins-Wien Hon.-Prof. Dr. Allan Janik, überreicht vom Rektor der Universität Innsbruck Tilmann Märk, laudiert von Botschafter Dr. Emil Brix, Direktor der Diplomatischen Akademie Wien – herzlichen Glückwunsch!

1st Class Cross of Honour for Science and Art to Wittgenstein’s-Vienna Hon. Prof. Dr. Allan Janik, presented by the Rector of the University of Innsbruck Tilmann Märk, lauded by Ambassador Dr. Emil Brix, Director of the Diplomatic Academy Vienna – congratulations!

Innsbruck, 19 February 2020

Survey: Digital Tools in Wittgenstein Studies

Dear Wittgenstein researchers and fans!

If you are willing and able, and have three minutes or so to spare, please consider completing the brief survey form following the link below. The survey aims to gather information about how scholars, students, and also non-philosophers are using digital tools to conduct research related to Ludwig Wittgenstein. There are no required fields; all parts of the survey are optional.

If you have any questions, please contact Maximilian Hadersbeck at the Ludwig Maximilians University München.

Bernard Francis (Brian) McGuinness (1927-2019)

Obituary and a Short Memoir

by Allan Janik

Brian McGuinness (Queen’s College, Oxford University, History of Scientific Thought, Università degli studi di Siena) was for several decades the world’s leading authority on the life and writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the 20th century’s most influential philosopher.

Professor McGuinness’ pre-eminence among Wittgenstein scholars was the result of nearly sixty years of acribic research into every aspect of Wittgenstein’s life and work as well as the social and philosophical context in which he developed his highly distinctive mode of philosophizing. In that period he translated Wittgenstein’s most famous work, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus with David Pears, edited the so-called Prototractatus and a number of publications from the Nachlass of the (then) young Viennese philosopher Friedrich Waismann, Wittgenstein’s most important interlocutor during the gestation of his mature philosophy in the Philosophical Investigations, and an important philosopher in his own right despite undeserved neglect in the philosophical community at large.

In addition Professor McGuinness edited several sets of correspondence that are crucial for understanding Wittgenstein’s philosophical and personal development. These include his correspondence with Paul Engelmann, Bertrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, G.E. Moore and his other Cambridge acquaintances in particular Frank Ramsey and Piero Sraffa, who exerted a particularly strong influence on Wittgenstein, as well as his extensive correspondence with his family. McGuinness has commented extensively and with great refinement and subtlety upon the most central philosophical themes in Wittgenstein’s oeuvre such as mysticism, solipsism, nonsense and the status of science as well as delicate matters in his personal background such as his (and his family’s) relation to Judaism. His crowning achievements are his (still) unsurpassed account of Wittgenstein’s life up to the publication of the Tractatus in 1922, Young Ludwig, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the year’s best biography in 1988 and his collected papers, Approaches to Wittgenstein, in 2002. The intention behind the biography was nothing less than to give an account of Wittgenstein’s life as he saw it himself. That is a challenge of the first order and Brian McGuinness rose admirably to meet its demands. The book was, and remains, an absolute delight to read and, having read, to dip into for information about this or that episode in Wittgenstein’s life, pausing to admire the elegance of expression.

Brian McGuinness also deeply enriched international understanding of the philosophical atmosphere in Austria from the late 19th century to World War II that stands in the background to Wittgenstein’s philosophizing, which has frequently been treated superficially or misunderstood outright, in his capacity as general editor of the Boston University Center for the Philosophy and History of Science’s Vienna Circle Collection. He has insured that the two most prominent Viennese philosophers of science in Wittgenstein’s youth – Ernst Mach and Ludwig Boltzmann – have reached the English speaking philosophical community in reliable, well edited scholarly editions. He himself edited volumes in that series dedicated to Josef Schächter, Otto Neurath, Hans Hahn and Karl Menger. He has also edited English editions of philosophical papers and correspondence by Gottlob Frege, the most important influence upon Wittgenstein’s philosophizing.

In short, Brian McGuinness left no stone unturned in supplying the international community of scholars with materials of all sorts that have profoundly deepened our understanding and appreciation of this difficult philosopher and the tasks that he set himself. No one has more fully and profoundly documented Wittgenstein’s Denkbewegung than Brian McGuinness.

In all of this Brian McGuinness had a long-standing relationship to Innsbruck and an increasingly close relationship with its university. He first made the acquaintance of Walter Methlagl, the founder of the Brenner Archives, in Vienna in the mid-sixties when he was doing his early research at the National Library where Methlagl was learning the archivist’s métier. The meeting led to a visit to Innsbruck to interview Ludwig von Ficker. I myself made the acquaintance of Brian McGuinness in Vienna in 1969 when I was doing research on my doctoral dissertation. Contact with the Brenner Archives continued regularly up to 1997 when Professor McGuinness became an active partner with the Brenner Archives in matters of historical and biographical background to Wittgenstein’s thought. He contributed copies of numerous rare documents in his possession and his own unparalleled knowledge about Wittgenstein correspondents to a number of editorial projects culminating in the Institute’s electronic publication of Wittgenstein’s complete correspondence in 2004 of which he was editor. In 2016 the Brenner Archives acquired the McGuinness Nachlass, which is arguably the most extensive, best organized collection of materials relating to Wittgenstein in private hands anywhere. These materials will provide a cornerstone for further state-of-the-art historical research into the genesis and reception of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. We have much to remember Prof. McGuinness today and our reasons for remembering him will not diminish in the future.

His eloquence and mastery of languages (perfect French and Italian as well as German as well as in classical Latin, Greek and Arabic and high degree of competence in a number of other modern languages) have made him a welcome guest at universities and seminars throughout Europe and the United States. Moreover, his willingness to assist and to co-operate other scholars have also contributed to the deep impact that his work has internationally during more than half a century.

My next meeting with Brian McGuinness was at the 2nd International Wittgenstein symposium in Kirchberg am Wechsel in Lower Austria in 1977, adjacent to the villages where Wittgenstein was active as a primary school teacher in the early and mid-twenties. This was the first large-scale meeting devoted exclusively to Wittgenstein with world-wide participation. I remember Brian McGuinness posing a question about the appropriate greeting in Italian upon meeting a man working in a field. I remembered it because it struck me as so unusual. I subsequently came to realize that awareness of the mot juste on a given occasion was central to his way of looking at the world. I came to realize also that as he corrected my English over the years (something that miffed me a bit in the early days), it was more matter of deep concern, and deeply genuine, concern for linguistic nicety than it was a mere assertion of superiority and something I came to appreciate as a sign of friendship. One of the first things I was told about Brian McGuinness by an old Oxonian was that he was one of a kind, “the sort of tutor, who might take off his shoes and cut his toenails during the tutorial.” My esteemed colleague was something of a character, an Origineller, as we say in German. But he can be complemented also with other stories, if we want an accurate picture of this extraordinary scholar. For example, a former student of his who told me that Brian McGuinness’s tutorial on Wittgenstein’s Notebooks 1914-1916 was the most extraordinary intellectual experience in the course of his Oxford education. Brian McGuinness was not the sort of person that you easily forget.

We also met on a number of occasions as the wave of interest in Vienna 1900 swelled into Austria’s capital itself and interest in Wittgenstein’s philosophy mounted in the mid 1980s and 1990s.

From 1977 up to 1982, we would encounter one another in Boston at the Boston University Center for the Philosophy and History of Science. Brian McGuinness was a respected editor of the Vienna Circle Collection, which made important texts from that group available in reliable translations to the English-speaking public; whereas I was but a lowly research associate of that very exciting institution. By this time, it was clear that Wittgenstein and matters Austrian would bring us together regularly.

Other encounters between us over the years have taken place in Paris, where we both were frequently invited by Antonia Soulez and other French Wittgenstein scholars as well as researchers into Vienna 1900, who arranged meeting in collaboration with Dr. Rudolf Altmüller, the legendary director of the Austrian Cultural Institute there. In the course of one such Parisian encounter in the spring of 1979 we arranged to continue our private discussion of Wittgenstein in Oxford that summer. In the event that meeting turned out to be absolutely unforgettable. I arrived in Oxford in the later morning and proceeded to Queen’s College, where Professor McGuinness invited me for lunch. Being outside of term time, the meal was served in a small refectory where there were only a few people and a modest meal was served. Brian McGuinness began by apologizing profusely for the mediocre quality of the food before springing into a discussion of some topic or other with his colleagues a good part of which took place in classical Greek. That made to me completely clear, if I had to be reminded, that I was no longer in Kansas, as Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz. Then our conversation turned to the Boston University Center for the Philosophy and History of Science and its two directors, Robert Cohen and Marx Wartofsky. “Imagine being named after Karl Marx,” Professor McGuinness remarked loudly and with certain incredulity. “If he had been born five years later, they would have called him Stalin!” he exclaimed. Upon my relating the anecdote to him a couple of months later, Marx, who counted among the most respected and admired philosophers in America those days, simply shrugged his shoulders and sighed, “absolutely right!” Towards the end of the meal, after many more apologies for the quality of the food, McGuinness said, “Well at least we have an excellent desert,” as he showed me a large bowl of berries. “These strawberries are the best strawberries that you can get in these parts. They were picked just this morning very close to here. They are really superior strawberries and continued to praise the fruit. Do have some of these wonderful strawberries…actually they are raspberries!” So I experienced a little touch of Monty Python in the early afternoon air at Queen’s College that day!

Cordial as our relationship was in those early days, it was only with our encounter at the new quarters of the Brenner Archives in the context of a small symposium on Wittgenstein’s friend, the architect Paul Engelmann in 1997, when Brian McGuinness got to see our digitalized version of Wittgenstein’s correspondence, which was then a work-in-progress, that it became clear that close collaboration between us would provide many mutual advantages. So we entered into a sort of partnership, which entailed increasingly close contacts. Those meetings transformed collegial co-operation into a friendship that I have grown to cherish deeply over time. As we got to work more closely I began to learn how to learn from this extraordinary scholar, something that had a deep effect upon my scholarship.

For example, in commenting upon the huge literature that had developed searching for key figures in Wittgenstein’s background, who might help to explain the idiosyncratic character of his thought, the “Wittgenstein and…” literature, if you will, he once simply remarked that most of it was beside the point simply because Wittgenstein himself made clear who the figures were who had the played the most important role in forming his mind. The problem was that readers did not take his verba ipsissima seriously enough. That meant taking seriously not simply the bare facts of what he’d said but the precise nature of his mode of expression. These hints opened my eyes to a number of things that were of crucial importance to my basic project of chronicling the development of Wittgenstein’s concept of philosophy, which I’d been working on for over thirty years at that point.

Having learned how to learn from McGuinness made the subsequent contacts between us increasingly profitable and pleasurable occasions that I always looked forward to with delight. In recent years as we both have battled with various sicknesses and old-age in general we have had only sparse contacts with one another, which has certainly been a source of great regret to me. Like the members of the Wittgenstein family that were closest to him, I am deeply saddened to be deprived to his wit and wisdom. The international scholarly community too has suffered an irreplaceable loss with his passing.


Panel discussion and Workshop in English
10 December 2019, 14:00 – 17:00
Diplomatic Academy Vienna, Kreisky Saal
Favoritenstraße 15a, 1040 Wien /

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New ways to an adequate contemporary understanding, presentation and dissemination of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, thinking and personality. Based on new digitalization and structuring of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Nachlass and related sources

“The Wittgenstein Corpus – the overall significance”

Prof. Arthur Gibson (University of Cambridge, Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics)
Prof. Alois Pichler (Wittgenstein Archives, University of Bergen)
Dr. Jonathan Smith (Trinity College, Wren Library, University of Cambridge)
Prof. Nuno Venturinha (Department of Philosophy, IFILNOVA Lisbon)
Chair: Dr. Alfred Schmidt (Austrian National Library)

The Wittgenstein Nachlass, as it is commonly conceived, is a group of items put together and numbered in the 1960s by Georg Henrik von Wright, one of Wittgenstein’s literary heirs. Von Wright’s catalogue The Wittgenstein Papers bears the mark of certain historical and geographical limitations. Since von Wright’s death in 2003 a lot of highly important and relevant new material has come to light which is not included among the Wittgenstein Papers as catalogued by von Wright (e.g. the Francis Skinner and the Yorrick Smythies papers). A new perspective has developed, about how we can truly understand Wittgenstein and his thinking process through simultaneous analysis of his various activities.

Today we know that an adequate understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, mental process and personality can only be achieved when studying the Nachlass both from its philosophical and its biographical side. This is done in combination with the lectures’ notes taken by his students (Wittgenstein considered his lectures equal to his philosophical publications), with his correspondence, his Cambridge pocket diaries (currently in possession of Michael Nedo), marginalia in books read, as well as with the “Nonsense Collection”.

Thus, we indeed need what Wittgenstein himself claimed for his Philosophical Investigations (1953): “A criss-cross approach”. As a consequence, a truly modern approach to Wittgenstein will permit us to break up the historical and geographical limitations which even currently ongoing Nachlass research still seems to be confined by. We will be able to see his life and work synoptically: all the records which we have for a year / a month / a week / a day in Wittgenstein’s life. So we can achieve what Wittgenstein himself would have called Übersicht: Which book was he reading today? What newspaper fragment did he read or reflect upon? Who was he meeting? Whom did he write to? From whom did he get a letter? What was he writing? What was he lecturing? Where was he on this specific day? etc.

The TRACTATUS ODYSSEY exhibition in Warsaw & a visit to the historical original places in Kraków and Tarnów

4 – 7 November 2019

Under the auspices of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, the exhibition The Tractatus Odyssey travels to its first station abroad.

4 November 2019, 18:00
Exhibition opening at the Warsaw University Library

4-5 November 2019
Conference Ludwig Wittgenstein and his Tractatus: Text, Biographical Setting, and Contemporary Perspectives
Austrian Cultural Forum, Próżna Street 7/9, Warsaw

6-7 November 2019
Visit to Kraków and Tarnów
Session on Wittgenstein and Religion during World War 1
Jagiellonian University

Ambassador Dr. Emil Brix, Dr. Jacek Purchla, Prof. Ray Monk, Prof. Alois Pichler, Prof. Volker Munz, Dr.Martin Pilch, Dr. Krzysztof Meissner, Dr. Marcin Poręba, Dr. Jozef Bremer, Dr. Urszula Idziak-Smoczyńska, Prof. Adam Lipszyc

Wittgenstein's wartime diary 1914-1915, in a notebook he bought in Kraków copyright Copyright The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge; The University of Bergen

Georg Trakl, around 1912   Tolstoy's Gospel in Brief, 1st German edition 1894

In August 1914 Wittgenstein was assigned to one of the Vistula ships, the Goplana, in Kraków “for the operation of a spotlight”. On 28 October 1914 he  received a letter from the poet Georg Trakl – the connection was established through Wittgenstein‘s donation to poor artists in July 1914. Trakl was in the garrison hospital in Kraków and asked Wittgenstein to visit him. But when he reached Kraków on 5.11., he noted:

“In the morning in the city to the garrison hospital. There I learned that Trakl died a few days ago! This hit me very hard. How sad, how sad!!! I wrote immediately to Ficker about it. Made errands & then returned to the ship about 6 o‘clock. Didn’t do any work. Poor Trakl! ––– ! Thy will be done. ––––.”

“I always carry Tolstoy‘s “Gospel in Brief” around with me like a talisman.”
Wartime Diaries, 11 October 1914

Wittgenstein must have reached the town of Tarnów while the ship was being loaded or unloaded. In any case, he acquired the only German-language book available there in a bookshop: Tolstoy‘s “Gospel in Brief”. It had a great influence on Wittgenstein‘s moral self-image during the war and until the end of his life.


The Quiet Seriousness of the Sognefjord

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s house 30 steep meters aboven Lake Eidsvatnet Lake in Skjolden in Sogn is finally rebuilt after 60 years

Knut Olav Åmås
Columnist, director of the Fritt Ord Foundation

June 19, 2019

Exactly 200 years ago, Norway was truly discovered by the artists who traveled to Sogn. A hundred years later, the same landscape was rediscovered by the 20th century’s foremost philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

These were two essentially different discoveries – carried out by the Norwegian forerunners of national romance and a philosopher in exile from the intellectual metropolises of Vienna and Cambridge.

The pictures of Norway

One of the greatest exhibitions of national romantic art opened in June 2019 in the splendor of the Munthe House in Ytre Kroken in Luster. Three miles farther, inwards the Sognefjord’s inner arm Lustrafjord, Wittgenstein’s small log house was reopened after being dismantled for 60 years. Two different houses in the same strong landscape.

What happened in Sogn 200 years ago was the start of a new phase in Norwegian identity history. What happened at the same place a hundred years ago was a new direction for philosophy – not just one historic philosophical turn, but two.

The artists Johannes Flintoe and William Maximilian Carpelan left the mountain from Christiania separately in the summer of 1819. They exhibited their pictures the following year at Tegneskolen and aroused attention: this art, these images of Norwegian nature and people came to play a key role in art history and culminated in the national romanticism flowering around 1850.

View of Johannes Flintoe’s painting Skjolden with Eidsvatnet, against Fortundalen in Sogn, 1834. Owner: Norsk Kultursenter, Pål Sagen.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s house is today on the mountainside to the left.

The mountains, the fjords, the people

The military and artistic family Munthe created contacts between the parish and the artists in Christiania in the years after 1814, and both Norwegian and foreign painters continued to travel there in the decades beyond the 1800s.The Munthe house became thus an intense and rich artist environment, located where they found their main motives: the mountains, the waterfalls, the fjords, the folk culture and the people’s life.

Among the works of art EXHIBITED in the Munthe house from 1763 are also Tidemand, Gude, JC Dahl – and Carl Johan Fahlcrantz’s lithographs for Esais Tegnérs Frithiofs saga from 1825, based on the Icelanders’ story about Fridtjov the maiden, who grew up in Sogn.

And there is another cultural-historical connection between the two markings in Luster: in the wake of many Germans’ and Austrians’ “Drang nach Norden” and Emperor Wilhelm II’s annual travel to Sogn for 25 years, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein also sailed into the Sognefjord in the fall of 1913 and saw the Emperor’s gift to the Norwegian people at Vangsnes, the 22 meter high Fridtjov statue.

Philosopher in exile

The 24-year-old Wittgenstein was a philosopher in exile, on a voluntary “escape” both from one of Austria-Hungary’s greatest family fortunes, which he wanted to be independent from, as well as from England’s sharpest philosophers at Cambridge – a place which the genius apparently found distracting.

Wittgenstein exiled himself several times in his life – went to Wales, Ireland and Norway. In Skjolden in Sogn, he spent altogether two years between 1913 and 1950. The foundation of his early thinking was laid there (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) and important parts of the late philosophy were written (Philosophical Investigations).

Wittgenstein’s travels astonished many in Vienna and Cambridge, not least his teacher and friend Bertrand Russell: “I said it would be dark, and he said he hated daylight. I said it would be lonely, and he said he prostituted his mind talking to intelligent people. I said he was mad, and he said God preserve him from sanity. (God certainly will.)”

Wittgenstein’s house can be seen in the mountainside on the left. © Jon Bolstad

Calm and concentration

But Wittgenstein traveled back, again and again, and achieved his most productive periods in Skjolden: “I can’t imagine that I could have worked anywhere as I do here. It’s the quiet and, perhaps, the wonderful landscapes; I mean, its quiet seriousness.”

For 60 years, there was only the empty foundation of Wittgenstein’s house on a steep mountain side, called “Austria” (Østerrike) by the locals. In 1919 Wittgenstein gave the house as a gift to a friend in Skjolden, but continued to live there himself when visiting Norway.

Fortunately, after the demolition, care was taken of all the timber, roof tiles and windows, and now the solid, small house has finally been restored and opened. Perhaps it can be a place of work for thinkers and artists for part of the year.

1819 and 1919. Two houses. Two centuries. Quite different people created the basis for national romance and for new philosophy. But they saw the same landscape: the quiet seriousness of the Sognefjord.

Knut Olav Åmås is Executive Director of the Fritt Ord Foundation. He is also a columnist in Aftenposten. Dr. Åmås is member of the Board of Directors of the Wittgenstein Initiative.

This article was first published in Aftenposten on 20 June 2019.
Translation by Knut Olav Åmås and Radmila Schweitzer

Wittgenstein’s Dictionary for Elementary Schools

“Only a dictionary makes it possible to hold the student completely responsible”

by Désirée Weber

From the fall of 1920 until spring 1926, Ludwig Wittgenstein was as an elementary school teacher in the small, isolated villages of Trattenbach, Puchberg am Schneeberg, and Otterthal in Lower Austria. He was responsible for teaching his students in grades 4 through 6 all subjects, ranging from writing to mathematics, from science to music. He had renounced his significant inheritance a few years earlier and so Wittgenstein lived an ascetic life – an “entirely rural affair” as he described it.

The (renamed) Wittgenstein Schule in Trattenbach, Lower Austria. © Désirée Weber
The school in Otterthal in which Wittgenstein taught from 1925-1926, © Désirée Weber

During this time, he produced the second of only two works that were published in his lifetime. Throughout 1925, he worked on producing a small dictionary of German words for his students, which would turn out to be the Wörterbuch für Volksschulen [Dictionary for Elementary Schools]. This volume of 42 pages and nearly 6,000 word entries was meant to fill a pedagogic need for his students, but the Preface that Wittgenstein wrote also indicates his keen interest in how his students were learning the use of words and their spelling. In the spring of 1926, after a particularly harrowing corporal punishment incident in which Wittgenstein struck a student which led the student to collapse, he abruptly abandoned his teaching career and moved back to Vienna.

The Wörterbuch remains not just as an artifact of Wittgenstein’s time teaching, but an artifact that gives insight into his thinking about language during the years that he had all but given up doing philosophy as he had done it at Cambridge. His goal was to give his students a resource of word usage that they would be familiar with and which would put the responsibility for their use on their shoulders: “Only a dictionary makes it possible to hold the student completely responsible … because it furnishes him with reliable measures for finding and correcting his mistakes…. It is, however, absolutely necessary that the student corrects his compositions on his own. He should feel that he is the only author of his work and he alone should be responsible for it” (Preface, p. 15). Wittgenstein’s Wörterbuch thus served a clear purpose in his teaching method, but also points to his careful contemplation of how one becomes a member of a language-using community and the responsibility that this carries.

Wittgenstein also stressed the importance of his decision to include words used in Austria and in the local dialect over and above foreign words. Many words that relate to the alpine terrain, common occupations in the region at that time and colloquial descriptions of people (even including insults) appear in the book. One such example is “Sennerin” (alpine shepherdess) which not only refers to a common, geographically-specific occupation, but is also a word used specifically in Austria that is much less often in other German-speaking regions (where “Almenhirtin” would be used). There are several other examples where he included the Austrian word instead of the word more commonly used in High German: these include “Ribisel” (red currant) instead of “Johannisbeere” “Paradeisapfel” (tomato) instead of “Tomate” and “bähen” (baking or toasting) instead of “backen”. Sometimes Wittgenstein also included the regional or dialect variation in addition to the proper German. One example here is the entry for the word squirrel which reads: “das Eichhörnchen, Eichkätzchen.”After the widely used proper German word, this entry includes the regional variation “Eichkätzchen” (which translates to oak kitten).

The landscape in lower Austria in which Wittgenstein taught, © Désirée Weber

Some words are evidence of Wittgenstein’s attention and sensitivity to the regional context of a word’s usage in another way: a few words refer to specific social practices that were common in rural Austria (but few other places) during his time there. One of those entries is “Schnaderhüpfel”: an improvised spoken word performance that consists of at least two singers or speakers who take turns addressing 4-line stanzas to each other. The content is often celebratory, comical, or insulting. Well-known musical refrains accompany the speakers and they are performed at gatherings or celebrations; they have been analogized to the Alpine version of modern rap battles – and are today making a return in Austria. In entries like these, Wittgenstein captured not only the specificity of the rural Austrian dialect that his students were familiar with, but also words that pertained to cultural practices that were part of their community and with which they would have been well-acquainted.

Evidence for Wittgenstein’s care in constructing the Wörterbuch can also be found in a series of proof pages which contain copy-editing notes and other hints about the publication process. These little-known documents reveal not just the choices that were made about word entries, but also the Wörterbuch manuscript’s connection to the K.u.K. Hof & Universitätsdruckerei and how it made its way through the editorial offices of Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky under the editorial direction of Adolf Holzhausen. One further manuscript – a student-made word book from 1923/1924 – indicates that Wittgenstein setting out to produce a dictionary came at the heels of him leading his students in a similar exercise in class.

First page of a corrected proof page of the Wörterbuch. © Martin J. Gross Family Foundation, produced here by their kind permission.

The Wörterbuch and the virtually unknown manuscripts related to it will shortly be made available on the Wittgenstein Source online archive. Additionally, the Wörterbuch will be published by Badlands Unlimited  in June 2020 and will for the first time include an English translation.


Désirée Weber is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the College of Wooster. She researches and writes about political theory and the impact of language on politics with a special focus on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later works. She is working on a forthcoming book about the role of teaching and learning in Wittgenstein’s biography and later work – and the implications for understanding our capacity to make meaning and judgments about meaning. She has also extensively researched Wittgenstein’s Wörterbuch für Volksschulen and related manuscripts and documents.


Dienstag, 20. November 2018, 19:00 Uhr
Grillparzerhaus (Staatsarchiv), Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Wien

Um Anmeldung unten wird gebeten.
Eintritt: freiwilliger Unkostenbeitrag.

Dr. Joachim Schulte (Zürich)
Prof. Dr. Allan Janik (Innsbruck)
Moderation: Radmila Schweitzer (Wittgenstein Initiative)

Mit ihrer ganz eigenen Qualität offenbaren Wittgensteins Familienbriefe eine Seite Ludwig Wittgensteins, die kaum bekannt ist. Die Vertrautheit und Intimität der Briefe bieten neue Einblicke in die Entwicklung seiner Beziehungen und Ideen während vierzig Jahren.

In seiner gewohnt offenen und manchmal brutal ehrlichen Art erklärt er seine Entscheidung, ein Leben in absoluter Übereinstimmung mit dem zu führen, was er für richtig hält. In der Korrespondenz mit seinen Geschwistern erfahren wir über Ludwigs Weigerung, in seiner Zeit als Schullehrer als “Wittgenstein” bekannt zu sein, und seine Beharrlichkeit, Weihnachten nicht mit der Familie, sondern mit Freunden zu feiern. Für jeden seiner Geschwister hat er einen eigenen Ton und so entstehen spezifische Portraits der Geschwister. Der offene und einfache Ton zu Hermine, eine Mutterfigur zu Ludwig; der praktische und manchmal scherzhafte Ton zu Paul; und, am auffallendsten, den zärtlichen und witzigen Ton zu Helene Salzer, die Schwester, mit der Ludwig am engsten verbunden war und mit der er in Kontakt bis zu seinem Tod blieb. Die intellektuellste und originellste seiner Schwestern, Margaret, wird vor allem durch ihre Briefe an Ludwig gesehen, da fast keine Briefe von ihm an sie überlebt haben.

Die neue Edition inkludiert mehrere noch nie veröffentlichte Briefe zwischen Ludwig und Paul Wittgenstein, die Licht auch auf den intellektuellen Diskurs zwischen den Brüdern werfen.

Diese persönlichen Briefe beleuchten nicht nur den Philosophen Wittgenstein, sie bringen uns dem Menschen Ludwig Wittgenstein näher.

Für unsere Mitglieder und Förderer bieten wir das Buchzum ermäßigten Preis mit 20% Rabatt:
Wittgenstein. Eine Familie in Briefen: € 23,92 (zuzgl. Versand)

Am 29. November 2018 erscheint die englischsprachige Edition der Familienbriefe

Wittgenstein’s Family Letters Corresponding with Ludwig

Editor: Brian McGuinness; Translator: Peter Winslow
ISBN 9781474298131
256 pages, hardcover




Donnerstag, 15. November 2018, 19:00 Uhr
Grillparzerhaus (Staatsarchiv), Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Wien

Podiumsdiskussion in englischer Sprache

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Eintritt: freiwilliger Unkostenbeitrag.

Prof. Ray Monk (Southampton)
Dr. Steven Beller (Washington DC)
Dr. Eran Guter (Max Stern Yezreel Valley College)
Prof. Dr. Carla Carmona Escalera (Universidad de Sevilla)
Moderation: Prof. Dr. Allan Janik (Innsbruck)

Following Bertrand Russell’s lead, the Vienna Circle pronounced Wittgenstein, along with Albert Einstein and Russell himself, to the paradigmatic representatives of their “scientific conception of the world,” i.e. modern scientific rationality par excellence. Wittgenstein’s emphatic objection at being included in this group fuelled the fires of those contemporaries who were inclined to perceive him as a kind of idiot savant, a prodigy with profound insights that he could not really articulate, the Douannier Rousseau of philosophy as it were. Nevertheless, for some forty-odd years the picture of him as the epitome of modernity in philosophy was scarcely question among analytical philosophers. More than a decade after his death, as it became abundantly clear on the basis of his biography that the idiosyncratic character of his thinking was linked to his dramatic life, the first questions about the appropriateness of including him in the modernist Pantheon began to be called into question. With the growth of the so-called Post-Modernism, a passionate but superficial response to the end of Communism and the Socialist Dream, which sought assiduously to demonstrate that more or less everything in the bourgeois world was in reality in fact exactly the opposite of how it was normally represented, a picture of Wittgenstein as a virulently post-modernist irrationalist came into being. So we are left with a plethora of views about Wittgenstein’s relationship to modernity that tend to confuse our thinking about him right down to this day.

Our distinguished panel, consisting of Ray Monk, author of comprehensive biographies of both Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, Steven Beller, whose chef d’oeuvre, Vienna and the Jews spotlights Wittgenstein as an extraordinary representative of Jewish Enlightenment as it vivified Viennese culture, Eran Guter, who has devoted his energies to working out the many and varied profound points of comparison with Arnold Schoenberg and, last but not least, Carla Carmona Escalera, who has convincingly described how Wittgenstein’s notion of silent showing facilitates elucidating Egon Schiele’s moral dimension of challenging pictures will explore the puzzles and conundrums surrounding the ways that Wittgenstein’s attitudes and intentions as well as his explicit arguments and positions exemplify and illuminate the complexity of the Modern.


Was ist modern an der Wiener Moderne?

Mittwoch, 14. November 2018, 19:00 Uhr
Grillparzerhaus (Staatsarchiv), Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Wien


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Eintritt: freiwilliger Unkostenbeitrag.

Christian Witt-DörringPatrick WerknerAnselm Wagner und Sebastian Smallshaw stellen sich unter der Moderation von Gregor Schmoll der Frage, wie weit es legitim ist, den Begriff “Moderne” auf die Wiener Kunstproduktion zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts anzuwenden. Hatte die “Wiener Moderne” tatsächlich einen proklamatorischen Anspruch auf Erneuerung oder verhalf sie nicht vielmehr den tradierten gesellschaftlichen Machtverhältnissen zu einem neuen “Anstrich”? Wie weit lebt der Begriff der “Moderne” von seiner Mythologisierung und welche Folgen bzw. welche Parallelen lassen sich in der Situation der Kunstproduktion heute ableiten?


16. Oktober – 30. November 2018
Grillparzerhaus, Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Wien

100 Jahre Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

In Kooperation mit
Trinity College Cambridge
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Universität Bergen
Forschungsinstitut Brenner Archiv
University of Iowa
Österreichisches Staatsarchiv
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Wittgenstein Stiftung Skjolden
Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Wien 3

Im August 1918, während seines letzten Fronturlaubs, diktierte Ludwig Wittgenstein die endgültige Fassung seiner Logisch-Philosophischen Abhandlung, ein Werk, das später unter dem Titel Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Weltruhm erlangte. Wittgenstein arbeitete an diesem epochalen Werk seit seinem selbst auferlegten Exil in Norwegen 1913 während seiner gesamte Zeit als Soldat im Ersten Weltkrieg.

„Alles das, was viele heute schwefeln, habe ich in meinem Buch festgelegt, indem ich darüber schweige.“


Die Begleitpublikation zur Ausstellung: 

Brian McGuinness
Marjorie Perloff
Allan Janik
Ray Monk
Knut Olav Åmås

Urzula Idziak-Smoczyn’ska
Alfred Schmidt
Alois Pichler
David Stern
Martin Pilch

Max Hadersbeck
Schüler des Kundmanngasse-Bundesgymnasiums

Preis: € 39,90 zzgl. Versand weltweit
20% Rabatt für Studierende und für Mitglieder der Wittgenstein Initiative

Der Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus zählt zu den bahnbrechenden Werken der Philosophiegeschichte und ist in seine Einzigartigkeit noch heute eine Herausforderung für uns. Wittgensteins Intention war zugleich eine streng philosophische und literarische. Wie in der Dichtung, lässt sich das, was der Philosoph eigentlich sagen will, nicht sagen – es muss gezeigt werden.

Die von Wittgenstein entwickelte komplexe Theorie der Sprache hatte einen enormen Einfluss nicht nur auf die Philosophie, sondern auch auf Literatur, Musik, Film, Malerei, Architektur, Anthropologie und Ökonomie.

„Wie kann ich Logiker sein, wenn ich noch nicht Mensch bin! Vor allem muß ich mit mir selbst in‘s Reine kommen!“

Ludwig Wittgensteins persönliche und philosophische Reise von 1912-1924 wird durch Multimedia, Fotos und Briefe beleuchtet, vor der Kulisse einer der dramatischsten Epochen der europäischen Geschichte.

Wittgenstein Source: exklusive Präsentation des Wittgenstein Nachlasses in Faksimile. Ein Open Access Projekt der Universität Bergen.
OdysseeReader: eine speziell entwickelte Suchmaschine zum Wittgenstein Nachlass. Ein Open Access Projekt der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität-München.
Tractatus Map: Karten in U-Bahn Stil des Hypertext-Nummerierungssystems, das Wittgenstein im Tractatus verwendet. Ein Online Tool der University of Iowa.

HE Kjersti E. Andersen, Botschafter des Königreichs Norwegen
HE Bente Angell-Hansen, Präsident von EFTA
Allan Janik, Universität Innsbruck
Monica Nagler-Wittgenstein, PEN Club Sweden
Eva Nowotny, Botschafterin i.R., Vorsitzende des Universitätsrats der Universität Wien
Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Friedrich Stadler, Institut Wiener Kreis, Österreichische Ludwig Wittgenstein Gesellschaft
HE Peter Stoyanov, ehemaliger Präsident der Republik Bulgarien
Christian Witt-Dörring, Neue Galerie New York

Rune Falch, Wittgenstein Stiftung Skjolden
Urzula Idziak, Jagiellonien-Universität Krakau
Christoph Limbeck-Lilienau, Universität Wien
Ray Monk, Universität Southampton
Alois Pichler, Universität Bergen
Martin Pilch, Bundesministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort
Alfred Schmidt, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Jonathan Smith, Trinity College Cambridge
David Stern, University of Iowa
Ulrike Tanzer, Forschungsinstitut Brenner Archiv

SPECIAL CONSULTANCY: Valentina Kraleva-Vassileva


Images from Wittgenstein’s Nachlass are reproduced here by permission of The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Oxford, and the University of Bergen, Bergen. The sale, further reproduction or use of this image for commercial purposes without prior permission from the copyright holder is prohibited. © 2018 The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge; The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford; The University of Bergen, Bergen; Wittgenstein Initiative, Vienna.



Call for Papers – Wittgenstein: Beyond the Inner–Outer Picture, Seville 12-14 December 2018

In spite of Wittgenstein’s well known critique of its application to the problems of other minds and self-knowledge, the philosophical picture of the relation between the inner and the outer continues to exercise philosophers from the analytic and non-analytic European traditions.The conference Wittgenstein: Beyond the Inner–Outer Picture, to be held at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Seville, on 12-14 December 2018, will bring together prestigious academics and early career researchers working on the impact of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy of psychology on areas including epistemology, aesthetics, ethics and cultural studies. The conference aims to find ways of overcoming the picture of the inner and the outer in contemporary philosophical debates, such as those on intercultural understanding, the meaning of a work of art, the legitimacy of testimony as a source of knowledge, and feminism.

Invited speakers:
Josep Corbí (Universitat de València)
Alfonso García Suárez (Universidad de Oviedo)
Modesto Gómez Alonso (University of Edinburgh)
Michel ter Hark (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

António Marques (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Elise Marrou (Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV)
Sofia Miguens (Universidade do Porto)
David Pérez Chico (Universidad de Zaragoza)
Manuel de Pinedo (Universidad de Granada)
Neftalí Villanueva (Universidad de Granada)

Organizing committee: Carla Carmona (University of Seville), Jesús Navarro (University of Seville), Chon Tejedor (University of Valencia).

Scientific committee: Ángeles Jiménez Perona (Complutense University of Madrid), Óscar González Castán (Complutense University of Madrid), Nicolás Sánchez Durá (University of Valencia), Manuel Heras (University of the Basque Country).

Financed by:
VI Plan Propio de Investigación y Transferencia de la Universidad de Sevilla; Department of Metaphysics, Contemporary Philosophy, Ethics and Political Philosophy of the University of Seville; the researchs projects “Self-Knowledge, Moral Responsibility, and Authenticity” (FFI2016-75323-P)and “The Constitution of the Subject in Social Interaction” (FFI2015-67569-C2-1-P) funded by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad. In cooperation with the Wittgenstein Initiative.


Please send your final text (max 4000 words) or a comprehensive summary (2000 words) plus a 100-word abstract by 15 September 2018 to: Papers will be accepted in English, Spanish or Portuguese. If you submit in Spanish or Portuguese, please include a 300-word abstract in English. All submissions to be formatted for blind review, including contact details on a separate page. Communication of acceptance: October 1st, 2018.

Ludwig Wittgenstein und Friedrich A. von Hayek: das halb vergessene intellektuelle Leben der Zwischenkriegszeit

in deutscher und englischer Sprache

in Kooperation mit dem Friedrich A. von Hayek Institut

Dienstag, 19. Juni 2018, 19:00 Uhr
Capital Bank-GRAWE Gruppe AG
Palais Esterházy, Wallnerstraße 4, 1010 Wien

"Wittgenstein und Hayek haben mich im positiven Sinne meine ganze bisherige diplomatische Karriere hindurch begleitet. Oft ging es nur um die Neugier anderer, die wissen wollten, warum die wirklich großen Ideen des 20. Jahrhunderts gerade von Österreichern erfunden wurden. Anders war dies am Ende der realsozialistischen Welt in Europa, als politisch ganz direkt nach Wegen zur Freiheit gesucht wurde. Ich lebte damals nach 1989 in Krakau und die jungen Philosophen fragten nach Wittgenstein und die jungen Politiker riefen nach Hayek." 
Botschafter Dr. Emil Brix, Direktor der Diplomatischen Akademie

Einleitung: Prof. Raoul Kneucker und Prof. Allan Janik

Moderation: Dr. Barbara Kolm (Friedrich A. von Hayek Institut)
Prof. Marjorie Perloff (Stanford University, University of Southern California, American Academy of Arts and Sciences)
Prof. Lothar Höbelt (Universität Wien)
Prof. Allan Janik (Universität Innsbruck, Brenner Archiv)
Dr. Richard Zundritsch (Friedrich A. von Hayek Institut)


Österreicher, die in der Welt Anerkennung fanden, sind zu Hause oft unterschätzt oder falsch interpretiert worden. Das trifft auch auf Friedrich von Hayek und Ludwig Wittgenstein zu. Hayek war auch der erste, der eine Biographie Wittgensteins verfassen wollte, gleich nach seinem Tod.

Um dem entgegenzuwirken und um einem breiteren Publikum Zugang zum Denken dieser beiden großen Österreicher zu ermöglichen, findet diese Veranstaltung in Kooperation von Hayek Institut und der Wittgenstein Initiative statt.

Ludwig Wittgensteins Briefe an seine Geschwister


Die 2. Ausgabe der schon längst vergriffenen Briefe zwischen Ludwig Wittgenstein und seinen Geschwistern mit:

teils nie zuvor veröffentlichte Briefe und Fotografien

exklusive Auszüge aus der “Nonsens-Sammlung” Ludwig Wittgensteins

mit einem neuen Vorwort von Brian McGuinness

erscheint im September 2018

Mit ihrer ganz eigenen Qualität offenbaren Wittgensteins Familienbriefe eine Seite Ludwig Wittgensteins, die kaum bekannt ist. Die Vertrautheit und Intimität der Briefe bieten neue Einblicke in die Entwicklung seiner Beziehungen und Ideen während vierzig Jahren.

In seiner gewohnt offenen und manchmal brutal ehrlichen Art erklärt er seine Entscheidung, ein Leben in absoluter Übereinstimmung mit dem zu führen, was er für richtig hält. In der Korrespondenz mit seinen Geschwistern erfahren wir über Ludwigs Weigerung, in seiner Zeit als Schullehrer als “Wittgenstein” bekannt zu sein, und seine Beharrlichkeit, Weihnachten nicht mit der Familie, sondern mit Freunden zu feiern. Für jeden seiner Geschwister hat er einen eigenen Ton und so entstehen spezifische Portraits der Geschwister. Der offene und einfache Ton zu Hermine, eine Mutterfigur zu Ludwig; der praktische und manchmal scherzhafte Ton zu Paul; und, am auffallendsten, den zärtlichen und witzigen Ton zu Helene Salzer, die Schwester, mit der Ludwig am engsten verbunden war und mit der er in Kontakt bis zu seinem Tod blieb. Die intellektuellste und originellste seiner Schwestern, Margaret, wird vor allem durch ihre Briefe an Ludwig gesehen, da fast keine Briefe von ihm an sie überlebt haben.

Die zweite, erweiterte, Edition inkludiert mehrere noch nie veröffentlichte Briefe zwischen Ludwig und Paul Wittgenstein, die Licht auch auf den intellektuellen Diskurs zwischen den Brüdern werfen.

Diese persönlichen Briefe beleuchten nicht nur den Philosophen Wittgenstein, sie bringen uns dem Menschen Ludwig Wittgenstein näher.

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