Wittgenstein and the Human Form of Life

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Even the greatest Jewish thinker is no more than talented. Myself for instance. He began his studies in mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule Berlin in Charlottenburg , Berlin, on 23 October , lodging with the family of professor Dr. He attended for three semesters, and was awarded a diploma Abgangzeugnis on 5 May During his time at the Institute, Wittgenstein developed an interest in aeronautics. He conducted research into the behavior of kites in the upper atmosphere, experimenting at a meteorological observation site near Glossop.

He also worked on the design of a propeller with small jet engines on the end of its blades, something he patented in , and which earned him a research studentship from the university in the autumn of Propellers of the time were typically wood, whereas modern blades are made from pressed steel laminates as separate halves, which are then welded together. This gives the blade a hollow interior, and therefore creates an ideal pathway for the air and gas. Work on the jet-powered propeller proved frustrating for Wittgenstein, who had very little experience working with machinery.

It was at this time that he became interested in the foundations of mathematics , particularly after reading Bertrand Russell 's The Principles of Mathematics , and Gottlob Frege 's The Foundations of Arithmetic , vol. Frege was a small, neat man with a pointed beard who bounced around the room as he talked. He absolutely wiped the floor with me, and I felt very depressed; but at the end he said 'You must come again', so I cheered up.

I had several discussions with him after that. Frege would never talk about anything but logic and mathematics, if I started on some other subject, he would say something polite and then plunge back into logic and mathematics. Wittgenstein wanted to study with Frege, but Frege suggested he attend the University of Cambridge to study under Russell, so on 18 October Wittgenstein arrived unannounced at Russell's rooms in Trinity College.

Ogden , when, according to Russell, "an unknown German appeared, speaking very little English but refusing to speak German. The lectures were poorly attended and Russell often found himself lecturing only to C. Broad , E.

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Neville , and H. Russell grew irritated; he wrote to his lover Lady Ottoline Morrell : "My German friend threatens to be an infliction. He wrote in November that he had at first thought Wittgenstein might be a crank, but soon decided he was a genius: "Some of his early views made the decision difficult. He maintained, for example, at one time that all existential propositions are meaningless.

This was in a lecture room, and I invited him to consider the proposition: 'There is no hippopotamus in this room at present. He is the young man one hopes for. I saw that he was right, and I saw that I could not hope ever again to do fundamental work in philosophy. In Wittgenstein joined the Cambridge Moral Sciences Club , an influential discussion group for philosophy dons and students, delivering his first paper there on 29 November that year, a four-minute talk defining philosophy as "all those primitive propositions which are assumed as true without proof by the various sciences.

The club became infamous within popular philosophy because of a meeting on 25 October at Richard Braithwaite 's rooms in King's College, Cambridge , where Karl Popper , another Viennese philosopher, had been invited as the guest speaker. Popper's paper was "Are there philosophical problems? Accounts vary as to what happened next, but Wittgenstein apparently started waving a hot poker, demanding that Popper give him an example of a moral rule.

Popper offered one—"Not to threaten visiting speakers with pokers"—at which point Russell told Wittgenstein he had misunderstood and Wittgenstein left. Popper maintained that Wittgenstein 'stormed out', but it had become accepted practice for him to leave early because of his aforementioned ability to dominate discussion. It was the only time the philosophers, three of the most eminent in the world, were ever in the same room together.

Wittgenstein and the Human Form of Life

The famous economist John Maynard Keynes also invited him to join the Cambridge Apostles , an elite secret society formed in , which both Bertrand Russell and G. Moore had joined as students, but Wittgenstein did not greatly enjoy it and attended only infrequently.

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  5. Russell had been worried that Wittgenstein would not appreciate the group's raucous style of intellectual debate, its precocious sense of humour, and the fact that the members were often in love with one another. Nevertheless, the Cambridge Apostles allowed Wittgenstein to participate in meetings again in the s when he had returned to Cambridge. Reportedly, Wittgenstein also had trouble tolerating the discussions in the Cambridge Moral Sciences Club.

    Wittgenstein was quite vocal about his depression in his years at Cambridge, and before he went to war; on many an occasion, he told Russell of his woes. His mental anguish seemed to stem from two sources: his work, and his personal life. Wittgenstein made numerous remarks to Russell about logic driving him mad. However, he also tells Russell another story. Around Christmas, in , he writes: "how can I be a logician before I'm a human being?

    Ludwig Wittgenstein (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    For the most important thing is coming to terms with myself! Pinsent writes "I have to be frightfully careful and tolerant when he gets these sulky fits", and "I am afraid he is in an even more sensitive neurotic state just now than usual", when talking about Wittgenstein's emotional fluctuations.

    Wittgenstein had romantic relations with both men and women. He is generally believed to have fallen in love with at least three men, and had a relationship with the latter two: David Hume Pinsent in , Francis Skinner in , and Ben Richards in the late s. Wittgenstein's relationship with David Pinsent — occurred during an intellectually formative period, and is well documented. Bertrand Russell introduced Wittgenstein to Pinsent in the summer of A mathematics undergraduate and descendant of David Hume , Pinsent soon became Wittgenstein's closest friend.

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    They also travelled together, including to Iceland in September —the expenses paid by Wittgenstein, including first class travel , the hiring of a private train, and new clothes and spending money for Pinsent. In addition to Iceland, Wittgenstein and Pinsent traveled to Norway in Upon determining their destination, Wittgenstein and Pinsent visited a tourist office in search for a location that would fulfill the following criteria — small village located on a Fjord, a location away from tourists, and a peaceful destination to allow them to study logic and law.

    With their vacation lasting almost three weeks, Wittgenstein was able to work vigorously on his studies. The immense progress on logic during their stay led Wittgenstein to express to Pinsent his idea to leave Cambridge and return to Norway to continue his work on logic. It was rather amusing: he is terribly fastidious and we led the shopman a frightful dance, Vittgenstein [sic] ejaculating "No—Beastly!

    He wrote in May that Wittgenstein had just begun to study the history of philosophy: "He expresses the most naive surprise that all the philosophers he once worshipped in ignorance are after all stupid and dishonest and make disgusting mistakes! He had to go very early — back to Cambridge — as he has lots to do there. I saw him off from the house in a taxi at — to catch a am train from New St Station. It was sad parting from him. Karl Wittgenstein died on 20 January , and after receiving his inheritance Wittgenstein became one of the wealthiest men in Europe.

    Trakl requested to meet his benefactor but in when Wittgenstein went to visit, Trakl had killed himself.

    Wittgenstein came to feel that he could not get to the heart of his most fundamental questions while surrounded by other academics, and so in he retreated to the village of Skjolden in Norway, where he rented the second floor of a house for the winter. He later saw this as one of the most productive periods of his life, writing Logik Notes on Logic , the predecessor of much of the Tractatus. It was during this time that Wittgenstein began addressing what he considered to be a central issue in Notes on Logic , a general decision procedure for determining the truth value of logical propositions which would stem from a single primitive proposition.

    There are no other logical propositions. Rather, one simply need identify the statement as a tautology true , a contradiction false , or neither.

    The Limits of Language

    The problem lay in forming a primitive proposition which encompassed this and would act as the basis for all of logic. This is the fundamental problem of logic! At Wittgenstein's insistence, Moore, who was now a Cambridge don, visited him in Norway in , reluctantly because Wittgenstein exhausted him. David Edmonds and John Eidinow write that Wittgenstein regarded Moore, an internationally known philosopher, as an example of how far someone could get in life with "absolutely no intelligence whatever.

    Wittgenstein explains why we always misunderstand one another on the Internet.

    On the outbreak of World War I, Wittgenstein immediately volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian Army , despite being eligible for a medical exemption. Throughout the war, he kept notebooks in which he frequently wrote philosophical reflections alongside personal remarks, including his contempt for the character of the other soldiers.


    The extent to which The Gospel in Brief influenced Wittgenstein can be seen in the Tractatus , in the unique way both books number their sentences. In the summer of Wittgenstein took military leave and went to stay in one of his family's Vienna summer houses, Neuwaldegg. It was there in August that he completed the Tractatus , which he submitted with the title Der Satz German: proposition, sentence, phrase, set, but also "leap" to the publishers Jahoda and Siegel.

    A series of events around this time left him deeply upset. On 13 August, his uncle Paul died. On 25 October, he learned that Jahoda and Siegel had decided not to publish the Tractatus , and on 27 October, his brother Kurt killed himself, the third of his brothers to commit suicide. It was around this time he received a letter from David Pinsent's mother to say that Pinsent had been killed in a plane crash on 8 May.

    He was sent back to the Italian front after his leave and, as a result of the defeat of the Austrian army, he was captured by Allied forces on 3 November in Trentino. He subsequently spent nine months in an Italian prisoner of war camp. He returned to his family in Vienna on 25 August , by all accounts physically and mentally spent. He apparently talked incessantly about suicide, terrifying his sisters and brother Paul. He decided to do two things: to enroll in teacher training college as an elementary school teacher, and to get rid of his fortune.

    In , it had been providing him with an income of , Kronen a year, but by was worth a great deal more, with a sizable portfolio of investments in the United States and the Netherlands. He divided it among his siblings, except for Margarete, insisting that it not be held in trust for him. His family saw him as ill, and acquiesced. In September he enrolled in the Lehrerbildungsanstalt teacher training college in the Kundmanngasse in Vienna. His sister Hermine said that Wittgenstein working as an elementary teacher was like using a precision instrument to open crates, but the family decided not to interfere.

    In the summer of , Wittgenstein worked as a gardener for a monastery. At first he applied, under a false name, for a teaching post at Reichenau, was awarded the job, but he declined it when his identity was discovered. As a teacher, he wished to no longer be recognized as a member of the famous Wittgenstein family. In response, his brother Paul wrote:. That one can neither simulate nor dissimulate anything including a refined education I need hardly tell you.

    In , Wittgenstein was given his first job as a primary school teacher in Trattenbach , under his real name, in a remote village of a few hundred people. His first letters describe it as beautiful, but in October , he wrote to Russell: "I am still at Trattenbach, surrounded, as ever, by odiousness and baseness.