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Wittgenstein's Biography & Bibliography



Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein was born on April 26, 1889 in Vienna. He studied aeronautical engineering in Berlin and Manchester, and then on the advice of Gottlob Frege he turned to philosophy, with an approach based in mathematics and logic. At that point he left Manchester and went to Cambridge, where he would meet Bertrand Russell. At the beginning of the first world war, he enlisted voluntarily in the Austro-Hungarian forces, was sent to the Russian front in 1916, and was taken prisoner in 1918 in Italy. The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was written during the war years, partly in the trenches.

After the war, Wittgenstein spent about ten years away from philosophy, as an elementary school teacher in a small Austrian village and a gardener in a monastery. His return to philosophy seems to be partly due to his contacts with the logician members of the Circle of Vienna.

At the urging of some of his friends, including Frank Ramsey, Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge in 1929, where he received a triumphal welcome. He made the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus into his doctoral thesis and became a teaching assistant at Trinity College. In 1935, it seems he was considering emigrating to the Soviet Union, but his plan did not work out. In 1936 and 1937, Wittgenstein lived in Norway, where he began working on what would become the Philosophical Investigations. In 1939, he was appointed to the chair of philosophy at Cambridge, which he held until 1947. The bulk of his later philosophy was written during these 18 years. From 1948 to 1951, he divided his time between Dublin and Cambridge, where he died of cancer on April 29, 1951.

Wittgenstein's philosophical work is customarily divided into two periods, known as the early and later Wittgenstein. His early philosophy amounts to a single work: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In it, he addresses the question of the logical relation between language and the world, a central one in his work, with the ambition of settling it once and for all. His later philosophy, the language games, began taking shape in the early 1930s; it produced the Philosophical Investigations in 1944 and On Certainty in 1951.

Although there are themes and requirements common to both versions of his philosophy, he still manages to shift from a conception of language as monolithic, dominated by abstraction and logical atomism, to a conception that embraces cultural diversity and language use. Besides his theses on the philosophy of language, we are also indebted to him for his reflections, developed to varying degrees, on subjects such as logic, the philosophy of mathematics, psychology and ethics.

Selected Bibliography

WITTGENSTEIN, L., Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972.
WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, New York: Macmillan, 1958.
WITTGENSTEIN, L., Blue and Brown Books, New York: Harper and Row, 1958.
WITTGENSTEIN, L., Philosophical Remarks, trans. R. Hargreaves and R. White, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975.
WITTGENSTEIN, L., On Certainty, trans. D. Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe, New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969 [1965].
WITTGENSTEIN, L., Philosophical Grammar, Oxford: Blackwell, 1980.
WITTGENSTEIN, L., Remarks on Color, trans. L.L. McAlister and M. Schättle, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.
WITTGENSTEIN, L., Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. C. Barrett, Oxford: Blackwell, 1966.
WITTGENSTEIN, L., Culture and Value, trans. P. Winch, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Wittgenstein's Theories

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