Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Mean, moody and magnificent.
Thinking hard
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad
and the brain fart
Come to think of it

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was a beery swine an Austrian philosopher who made major contributions to the philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, logic, and the philosophy of mind. He published only one work (along with a book review, article and children's dictionary), the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, where he tried to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science. There is also his posthumously published work, Philosophical Investigations, where he throws away and disregards most of what he wrote in his original book, having seen his original work in error. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.


In the controversial The Jew of Linz, Kimberley Cornish suggested that Hitler's animosity against the Jews developed when he met Wittgenstein in his class at school, who was smarter than everyone else and generally irritating. If this is true it could be taken to imply that, through no fault of his own, Wittgenstein was indirectly responsible for the Holocaust. This, of course, is rather shallow reasoning.

Norman Malcolm has said that Wittgenstein himself did not know about his Jewish heritage until adulthood, and when he did, stressed to the few friends he told about it that it must be kept secret. Ray Monk has pointed out that the boys would have been more than two years apart, and unlikely to have come into direct contact.[please explain] Additionally, the time at school was miserable for Wittgenstein – his father having home schooled him up to college entry level – since he only attended it because of college administrators rejecting his entry without a high school diploma equivalent. This resulted in a deep introversion that caused him to shy away from socializing for years.

Foundations of Mathematics[edit]

Wittgenstein saw the most potential for valuable contribution to philosophy in the field of mathematics. He argued that attempts to formalize mathematics, such as those of Von Neumann, Turing, Frege, or Russell, were unnecessary as mathematics clearly doesn't need any such foundation for it to work properly. This is a continuation of the project that was begun in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. His main contention was that supposed philosophical problems do not stem from actual real-world problems, but from faulty starting positions. Here, Wittgenstein draws upon the concept of antinomies from Kant's speculative philosophy. A good example of this method in action is Wittgenstein's solution to Russell's Paradox:

Form now the assemblage of all classes which are not members of themselves. This is a class: is it a member of itself or not? If it is, it is one of those classes that are not members of themselves, i.e., it is not a member of itself. If it is not, it is not one of those classes that are not members of themselves, i.e. it is a member of itself. Thus of the two hypotheses – that it is, and that it is not, a member of itself – each implies its contradictory. This is a contradiction.

Wittgenstein's solution was to claim that the concept of class is an unwarranted assumption. Problem solved. In his lectures on the foundation of mathematics, Wittgenstein gets into a drawn-out flame war with Turing, the founding father of modern computer science. It is possible that these arguments on the foundations of logic helped spur the foundation of computer code.


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