Wittgenstein: A Wonderful Life

Tim Madigan on logic, language and mysticism in the life of one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

One of the foremost philosophers of the Twentieth Century and the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Austria, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) went to Cambridge in 1911 specifically to study with Bertrand Russell, the best-known logician of the time. At first a protégé of Russell’s, he later broke with him over the claim that mathematics can be firmly grounded in logic. The two for a time shared an interest in mysticism, but Russell seemed to ignore the underlying mystical nature of Wittgenstein’s first book, and the only one published in Wittgenstein’s lifetime, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), for which Russell wrote an introduction. Russell was not the only one so blinkered. The Vienna Circle movement likewise interpreted Wittgenstein’s work to be saying that all of nature could be reduced to propositions.

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