Philosophy Index

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) was a highly influential philosopher (or, as some may say, an anti-philosopher) in the areas of mathematics, language and mind.

His first major work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, was his only work published during his lifetime. His other lectures and essays all appeared after his death in 1951.

Wittgenstein is also famous for having largely revised his philosophy later in his life. In his later Philosophical Investigations, he reverses many of the opinions that he had in the Tractatus. Thus, when discussing Wittgenstein’s positions, philosophers usually refer to either early Wittgenstein or late Wittgenstein.

Late Wittgenstein believed that philosophical problems did not represent real problems, but problems of language. The major questions that philosophers have pondered over for hundreds of years were caused by confusion in language. By examining the sources of confusion, Wittenstein suggests that the problems themselves disappear, without the need of a solution within the framework of language.

As for the assignment of meaning to words, Wittgenstein points out that the relationship between uses of some words is analogous to the relationship of family resemblance.

Wittgenstein famously says in Philosophical Investigations that his efforts in philosophy are to show “the fly the way out of the fly bottle” — to help philosophy escape the traps of language in which it is currently caught.

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Name: Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
Born: April 26, 1889, Vienna
Died: April 29, 1951, Cambridge
Degrees: Ph.D. (Cambridge, 1929)