Wittgenstein’s Annus Mirabilis: 1929
There may be no royal road to geometry, but for a perceptive philosopher there exists a shortcut entry to Wittgenstein’s philosophy, both to its early and to its later version. This freeway is opened to us by Wittgenstein’s notebooks from the year 1929, listed in von Wright’s catalogue as MSS 105–107. What makes this year 1929 crucial is that it was then that Wittgenstein took the decisive step away from the philosophy of the Tractatus towards his later position. The notebooks provide a vivid, sometimes dramatic, account of Wittgenstein’s intensive struggle to fight his way to a point where he was ready to take this step. What this step is will be explained below. It represents a major failure on the part of the philosophical community in general, and of Wittgenstein’s editors in particular, that these notebooks have not been translated, edited, or apparently even transcribed, in spite of the fact that these unique documents offer us a rare glimpse of the ways of thinking of a great philosopher.1Admittedly, Wittgenstein used much of the material from these notebooks for the book which he put together and which has been published under the title Philosophical Remarks. However, this book cannot serve the same purpose as the notebooks, because most of the traces of his earlier position and most of the traces of the painful struggle which was needed for him to overcome his earlier philosophical self have been removed from the more or less finished text of the book.
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- 1.Added in 1996: The first few of Wittgenstein’s middle-period notebooks (including MSS 105–107) have meanwhile been published in the so-called Wiener Ausgabe of Wittgenstein’s writings, ed. by Mr. Michael Nedo, Springer, Vienna.Google Scholar
- 2.Likewise Wittgenstein writes in MS 107, p. 232: Wenn ich von den Wörtern und ihrer Syntax rede so geschieht es “im II. System” und ebenso muß es sein wenn ich von den symbolisierenden Beziehungen von Sätzen und Tatsachen rede. D.h. wir reden hier wieder von etwas in der Zeit ausgebreitetem und nicht momentanem. As a consequenceGoogle Scholar
- 3.In der Zeit ausgedehnt betrachtet ist die Anwendung der Wörter leicht zu verstehen, dagegen finde ich es unendlich schwierig den Sinn im Moment der Anwendung zu verstehen.Wittgenstein diagnoses his own problem accurately in MS 107, p. 231: Meine Schwierigkeit ist wieder eine der Beziehungen des I. und II. Systems. By the first (primary) system Wittgenstein meant the phenomenological one, by the second (secondary) one the physicalistic system of concepts (language).Google Scholar
- 4.From 1927 to 1929 Wittgenstein took part in discussions with several members of the Vienna Circle in which the language assumed in the Tractatus was consistently taken to be a phenomenological one. One literally cannot imagine that Wittgenstein, who was notoriously oversensitive to misrepresentations of his views (cf. Norman Malcom, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, Oxford U.P., 1958, pp. 59–60), could have taken such representations of his views without the slightest protest, unless that had not been his own intended interpretation of the Tractatus. Likewise, it is little short of ridiculous to assume that Wittgenstein would have allowed Waismann, who was writing an exposition of the philosophy of the Tractatus under his auspices, to assert without any qualifications that the atomic propositions “describe the content of our experience” (cf. below) unless this had been his own view.Google Scholar
- 5.Ramsey Archives, University of Pittsburgh, item # 004–21–02.Google Scholar
- 6.Lee, Desmond (ed.), Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge 1930–32 (Basil Blackwell 1980), pp. 119–120.Google Scholar
- 7.See our book Investigating Wittgenstein (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, forthcoming), eh. 3.Google Scholar
- 8.See Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle,pp. 249, 254.Google Scholar
- 9.This requirement is present already in the Tractatus see 2.151–2.1512: Pictorial form is the possibility that things are related to one another in the same way as the elements of the pictures. That is how a picture is attached to reality; it reaches right out to it. It is laid against reality like a measure. That this requirement of direct comparability could have been thought of by Wittgenstein to be satisfied testifies to the phenomenological character of the language postulated in the Tractctus. Google Scholar
- 10.Added in 1996: For a closer look at this problem, see Jaakko Hintikka, “Rules, Games and Experiences” (this volume ). Wittgenstein had in fact further arguments against the possibility of a purely phenomenological rules.Google Scholar
- 11.Added in 1996: These lecture notes have now been properly edited by David Stern and published in Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Occasions, edited by James C. Klagge and A. Nordmann, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1993.Google Scholar