Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Wittgenstein, Ludwig


Born Apr. 26, 1889, in Vienna; died Apr. 29, 1951, in Cambridge. Austrian philosopher and logician, proponent of analytical philosophy.

In 1929, Wittgenstein took up residence in England; he was a professor at Cambridge University from 1939 to 194.7. During the first period of his philosophical activity, Wittgenstein was a disciple of Bertrand Russell and worked out his logical analysis of philosophy; in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921; Russian translation, 1958), Wittgenstein advanced the program of constructing an artificial “logically perfect,” “ideal” language using the language of classical mathematical logic as, its prototype. According to Wittgenstein, this “ideal” language helps liberate philosophy from its traditional problematics, which he treated as “nonsensical” (lacking scientific-cognitive sense), arising from the absurdities of “logically imperfect” language. From Wittgenstein’s point of view, philosophy makes sense only as a “critic of language.” Under Russell’s influence, Wittgenstein worked out the doctrine of logical atomism, according to which the logical structure of a language, understood as a combination of externally connected elements, is a picture of the structure of the world. Some of Wittgenstein’s logical ideas of this period (theory of tautologies and contradictions, tabular method of determining the true meaning of utterances, probability) influenced the development of contemporary logic.

In his later works (published posthumously)—Philosophical Investigations (1953) and Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (1956)—Wittgenstein kept his idea of the “nonsensicality” of the problems of traditional philosophy but simultaneously rejected the absolute formal-logic approach to language. He now affirmed that language serves not only to describe the world but also to foster varied human communication. Wittgenstein’s new topic of philosophical investigation was natural (“everyday”) language, a combination of “language games” played according to rules selected by the “players.” The meaning of linguistic expression was no longer determined by the ontological structure of the language but was determined empirically, by the role which it played in the “language game,” or context. That is, Wittgenstein moved from logical atomism to logical empiricism. The position of conventionalism in relation to language, according to which language is the product of an arbitrary agreement, deprives the “ideal” language of its original exclusive position. The task of philosophy is reduced to determining and removing errors in the use of language. These views influenced the development of linguistic philosophy.


Gellner, E. Slova i veshchi. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Hill, T. I. Sovremennye teoriipoznaniia. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Cornforth, M. Marksizm i lingvisticheskaia filosofiia. [Moscow, 1968.] (Translated from English.)
Sovremennaia idealisticheskaia gnoseologiia. Moscow, 1968. Chapter 5.
Wittgenstein and the Problem of Other Minds. Edited by Harold Morick. New York [1967].
Morrison, J. C. Meaning and Truth in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. The Hague-Paris, 1968.


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