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Ludwig Wittgenstein

Who was Ludwig Wittgenstein?

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) had two distinct philosophical periods. First, was his ambitious development of logical atomism that was influenced by his teacher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), resulting in his writing Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921). Second was Wittgenstein's original, "ordinary language" theory of philosophy. This was an original insight about ordinary language. Wittgenstein was unquestionably a genius.

What are some facts about Ludwig Wittgenstein's life?

Quite a lot is known about Wittgenstein's life, although not everything is completely understood. Some stories seem to be in the realm of legends. Wittgenstein was born in 1889 in Vienna, Austria, to a famous and wealthy family of Jewish ancestry. His paternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Protestantism, and his mother was Catholic, although her father was of Jewish descent. Ludwig was the youngest of eight children, who were all exposed to high culture (composer Johannes Brahms was a friend of the family).

Although Ludwig was baptized as a Catholic, when he "confessed his sins" to friends later in life, among his admitted transgressions was the fact that he allowed others to assume he was not Jewish. Ludwig had four brothers, three of whom committed suicide. When his father died in 1913, Ludwig inherited a vast fortune, which he gave away. In 1938, after Germany annexed Austria, he was able to protect his sisters from being sent to concentration camps by giving the German government millions of dollars in gold.

Wittgenstein's education included studying mechanical engineering in Berlin; in 1908 he moved to England to study aeronautics, which included experimenting with kites. This led to mathematics and then to philosophy, insofar as it was a current pursuit to seek the foundations of mathematics in logic. A visit with the mathematician Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) led Wittgenstein to meet Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) at Cambridge University, where he studied logic with both G.E. Moore (1873-1958) and Russell. But his studies were interrupted by World War I, during which he volunteered for the Austrian army and distinguished himself for bravery.

Russell assisted Wittgenstein in publishing Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922). Wittgenstein then taught elementary school in a rural area of Austria and also designed and built a modernist house in Vienna for his sister Gretl.

Returning to Cambridge in 1929, he taught philosophy, becoming a professor at Trinity College 10 years later. He was a hospital porter during World War II and resigned his professorship in 1947, moving to Ireland to write. Just before dying, he said, "Tell them I've had a wonderful life." Ray Monk's biography Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (1991) is considered definitive as both an intellectual and personal account of Wittgenstein's life.

What did Ludwig Wittgenstein accomplish in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus?

Although the work is considered one of the greatest achievements in philosophy, it's really not clear. Wittgenstein's stated intention was to address the problems of philosophy that had preoccupied Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) and Bertrand Russell (1872-

What are some examples of Wittgenstein's propositions in his Tractatus?

• The world is all that is the case.

• A proposition is a picture of reality.

• Propositions show the logical form of reality. They display it.

• What can be shown, cannot be said.

• The general form of a proposition is: This is how things stand.

• All the propositions of logic say the same thing, to wit nothing.

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

1970)—Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was another influence on the work— although he said at the end of this work: "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical." At the beginning of the book, Wittgenstein claims that his main purpose is ethical.

The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus consists of seven sets of numbered propositions or statements, which are believed to be about the connection between language and the world. It seems to present an account of the essence of language as expressive of thought. Thought, according to Wittgenstein, is limited to what is factual so that the propositions of language are representations of the world. The propositions of logic, on the other hand, convey no factual information—logic consists of tautologies. Logic is very useful, but all of its conclusions are true by definition.

Wittgenstein believed that a meaningful sentence must have a precise structure that is made up of simple (in Russell's language, "atomic") sentences or simple names. Atomic sentences are pictures of states of affairs. Working backwards from this "picture theory of meaning" it would follow that, given the ideal logical language, the world itself has a logical structure.

Wittgenstein was to later abandon this view in favor of philosophical activity that consisted of descriptive analysis of ordinary language. But before he did that, the Tractatus had enormous influence on the new twentieth century school of thought known as logical positivism.

Other Logicians

Who was Kurt Godel?

Kurt Godel (1906-1978) is famous for his theorem about mathematical systems, which appeared in a 1931 article titled "On Formally Undecidable Propositions in

Principia Mathematica and Related Systems," originally published in German in the 1931 volume of the journal Monatshefte für Mathematik (Monthly Journal of Mathematics). According to Godel's Theorem, every formal (mathematical or logical) system is incomplete because there can always be a sentence expressing a truth that can't be proved in the system. To prove his theorem, Godel invented a method for correlating formulas in logic with positive integers.

Who was Alfred Tarski?

Alfred Tarski (1902-1983) was a logician. Born in Poland, he taught at the University of California at Berkeley from 1942 to 1958. He is famous for his theory of truth that appeared in "The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages" (1933), which appeared in the Polish journal Prace Towarzystwa Naukowego Warszawskiego, Wydzial III Nauk Matematyczno-Fizycznych, and was translated into English in Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics, Papers from 1923 to 1938 (1983). According to Tarski, any theory of truth should imply the truth of "T-sentences" in natural languages. For example, "'Snow is white' in English is true if and only if snow is white" is a T- sentence. It is important to notice that Tarski's theory of truth does not specify what constitutes truth but is rather about how true sentences can be defined.

 
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