Day 59 — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein was born in Vienna in 1889 and studied aeronautics at Manchester University in England — demonstrating that there’s a wide range of thinkers who turn their minds to philosophy.

He developed an interest in mathematics, encouraged by his later study at Cambridge university with another philosopher, Bertrand Russell. For Wittgenstein, the central topic of philosophy was language — and if we could understand meaning, could language really communicate everything we wanted to mean, and whether problems in philosophy were due to not understanding language.

His philosophy also included an extreme form of relativism; that is, that there isn’t a single truth or reality — different cultures and historical periods could influence what was truth to them. For Wittgenstein, to focus on language was to ‘show the fly the way out of the bottle’, and his influence on both language and philosophy continues today. There’s also an interesting intersection between his work and the Alice in Wonderland books, with an analysis link here.

Further Resources:

Introduction to Philosophy of Language — MIT Open Courseware — contains lectures, assessment details, all from 2011.

Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Linguistic Turn

The Partially Examined Life Podcast — Episode 55: Wittgenstein on Language