Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann (1889–1951)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD072-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved March 01, 2021, from

1. Life

Wittgenstein was the eighth and last child of a wealthy Austrian industrialist. From 1903–8 he was educated on the assumption that he would be an engineer and in 1908 he came to Manchester to study aeronautics. He continued with this for three years, but at the same time developed his interest in philosophy. He was particularly engaged with logic and the foundations of mathematics, in connection with which he read Frege (§§6–10) and Russell (§§4–11). In October 1911 he gave up engineering and, on Frege’s advice, came to Cambridge to study with Russell. In the 1914–18 war he served in the Austro-Hungarian army and during this time completed the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922).

For a time Wittgenstein thought that the Tractatus said everything which could be said in philosophy, and so he turned to other things. From 1920 to 1926 he was a schoolteacher in Austria, though this was not a success, since he was severe and demanded too much of his pupils. In 1926–8 he helped to design a house for his sister. In 1927 he resumed philosophical discussion with some members of the Vienna Circle, and in 1929 he returned to Cambridge, lecturing there from 1930 to 1936. From 1936 to 1938 he visited Norway and Ireland, returning to Cambridge in 1938 and being appointed professor there in 1939. He held the chair until 1947, although from 1941 to 1944 he was given leave of absence to work first at Guy’s Hospital, London, then at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. After resigning his chair in 1947 he lived in various places, Ireland chief among them, and also visited America.

Wittgenstein impressed those who met him with the power of both his intellect and personality. He had an intense concern for truth and integrity which exerted great attraction, but which also made him difficult to deal with, since he was liable to accuse others of superficiality or dishonesty. He greatly disliked what he perceived as the artificiality and pretentiousness of academic life. His later ideas became known in the 1930s and 1940s through the circulation of copies of The Blue and Brown Books (1958) and reports of his lectures. They acquired considerable influence with some who found them inspiring, but others thought them irritatingly obscure.

Citing this article:
Heal, Jane. Life. Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann (1889–1951), 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD072-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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