Ludwig Wittgenstein: Return to Cambridge

BackgroundThe Early YearsCambridgeNorwayFirst World WarTractatus and TeachingArchitectReturn to CambridgeIn Russia and Norway etc.Professor of PhilosophyFinal Years



The River Cam, looking from Trinity towards Clare

The River Cam, looking from Trinity towards Clare

1929

At the start of January Wittgenstein was again in Cambridge. He decided, as he wrote to Schlick on 18 February, to remain here in Cambridge for a few terms and work on visual space and other things. With Ramsey’s assistance he concerned himself anew with the completion of his studies. The English translation of the Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus published eight years earlier, was eventually accepted as his doctoral work. The viva voce examination was held at the start of June, with Moore and Russell as examiners. On 18 June Wittgenstein was awarded his doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge.

On 2 February he had begun work on a series of 18 manuscript volumes on which he was to work until 1940. They are large-format, hard-bound account ledgers each of about 300 pages. The first four volumes from the years 1929/30, manuscripts 105 to 108, I. Band Philosophische Bemerkungen, II. Band , III. Band Philosophische Betrachtungen and IV. Philosophische Bemerkungen constitute the contents of the first two volumes of the Wiener Ausgabe of Wittgenstein’s writings.

On 19 June Wittgenstein received a grant from Trinity College, arranged by Moore, Russell and Ramsey. This one-off payment was to allow him to continue his research work in Cambridge. On 13 July he gave a lecture in Nottingham to the Joint Session of the Mind Association and the Aristotelian Society, the annual meeting of British philosophers. He spoke on Generality and Infinity in Mathematics. The original written contribution which he had submitted Some Remarks on Logical Form was published in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society for the year 1929, pages 162-171. In his view, the paper was poor and unusable.


Wittgenstein became friendly with the Italian economist Piero Sraffa, whom Keynes brought to King’s College after Sraffa had attracted Mussolini’s anger by an article in the Manchester Guardian and had had to leave Italy. Sraffa, a friend and comrade-in-arms of Gramsci, later made a Fellow of Trinity College, henceforth figures importantly in Wittgenstein’s conversations. Among other things, Sraffa regularly gave accounts of current affairs to Wittgenstein, who despite his interest refused to read a newspaper or listen to the radio. Wittgenstein later said of his discussions with Sraffa that he felt like a tree robbed of its branches; and it is surely in this sense that Wittgenstein had Sraffa to thank for a spur to his growth. As he wrote in his preface to the Philosophical Investigations: The tree, freed of its old wood, could sprout powerfully from the new.

The summer holidays, like almost all his long holidays, Wittgenstein spent in Austria. In October he started Volume III, in December Volume IV, MS 107, III. Band Philosophische Betrachtungen; MS 108, IV. Philosophische Bemerkungen.

On 17 November Wittgenstein lectured on Ethics to the Heretics, a loose association of free-thinkers, whose president from 1911 to 1924 was C. K. Ogden: TS 207 (MS 139), Lecture on Ethics, in Philosophical Review, 74, (1965) pp. 3-12.

Wittgenstein was in Vienna over Christmas and met Schlick and Waismann for the first time after a long while to report on the progress of his work so far. The records of these and their following discussions prepared by Waismann were published in Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, Oxford 1979.

Piero Sraffa. 1929

Piero Sraffa. 1929


1930

On 18 January Frank Ramsey died at the early age of 29. Wittgenstein’s friends arranged for him to begin teaching. His first teaching engagement was a 2-hour seminar on 20. January, the first of his Monday afternoon classes. There was also a discussion class on Thursdays at 5 on Problems of Language, Logic and Mathematics. Wittgenstein taught on the same theme, announced as Philosophy in Cambridge University Reporter, the official lecture handbook, for the rest of the academic year 1929/30, in the Lent and Easter terms, and in the following academic year 1930/31 in the Michaelmas, Lent and Easter Terms. He again regularly attended sessions of the Moral Science Club, whose chairman was still G. E. Moore. He gave a short paper there on Evidence for the Existence of Other Minds.

Wittgenstein’s Pocket Diary

Wittgenstein’s Pocket Diary

In March and April, Wittgenstein worked in Vienna on a synopsis of his manuscripts to date, typescript 208. In mid-March he discussed the text with Russell, visiting him for the purpose at Beacon Hill School, which Russell and Dora Black had founded at Telegraph House near Harting in West Sussex. After preparing a revision of typescript 208, the Philosophische Bemerkungen, TS 209, he again spent a day and a half with Russell at the end of April, this time in Russell’s house in Penzance in Cornwall, where the Russells were spending their Easter holidays. On the basis of this work, Wittgenstein applied for a Fellowship at Trinity College. Typescript 208 and the revision of it, TS 209, published posthumously as Philosophical Remarks, Oxford 1964, and the synopsis of the first part of volume IV, TS 210, were all produced in the course of the spring and summer holidays.

The college gave the task of evaluating Wittgenstein’s work to Bertrand Russell and the mathematicians J. E. Littlewood and G. H. Hardy. Russell’s opinion, presented to the responsible College committee, was reproduced in Russell’s autobiography: The theories contained in the work of Wittgenstein are novel, very original and indubitably important. Whether they are true, I do not know. As a logician who likes simplicity, I should wish to think that they are not, but from what I have read of them I am quite sure that he should have an opportunity to work them out, since when completed they may easily prove to constitute a whole new philosophy. (The Autobiograpy of Bertrand Russell, Volume II, London 1968, p. 200) Following this, on 5 December, Wittgenstein was elected Research Fellow for five years by the Council of Trinity College and moved into his old rooms in Whewells Court which he had occupied as a student before the war.

G. H. Hardy and J. E. Littlewood in Trinity College

G. H. Hardy and J. E. Littlewood in Trinity College

On 19 June, during his summer holidays in Vienna, Wittgenstein dictated his views on a series of mathematical topics, on which Waismann then gave a lecture entitled The Nature of Mathematics: Wittgenstein’s View in Königsberg at the 2nd Conference on the Epistemology of the Exact Sciences. However, the presentation of Gödel’s now-famous theorem turned out to be the salient event at the conference, and Wittgenstein’s ideas made no impact. On 11 August he began the fifth volume: MS 109, Bemerkungen V. and on 10 December the sixth: MS 110, VI. Philosophische Bemerkungen.

He spent the Christmas holidays as always with the family in the Alleegasse in Vienna.

1931

As in previous years, Wittgenstein taught in Clare College, now as a Research Fellow, in rooms placed at his disposal by the Explorer Raymond E. Priestley. On Mondays he had the 2-hour seminar, on Fridays the discussion class.

On 7 June he began Volume VII, on 5 October Volume VIII, and on 28 November Volume IX: MS 111, VII. Bemerkungen zur Philosophie, MS 112, VIII. Bemerkungen zur Philosophischen Grammatik, MS 113, IX. Philosophische Grammatik.

Wittgenstein’s preliminary work for these and the following volumes have also been preserved in small pocket notebooks (MSS 153a, 153b, 154 and 155). Wittgenstein constantly destroyed most of his sketches and preliminary work, including for example the notebooks belonging to the manuscript volumes I to V.

During the summer holidays in Austria, mostly at the Hochreith, he worked on revising his manuscripts and began on a summary of volumes V to X, a typescript of 771 pages (TS 211) which he completed in the summer of 1932. Pages 1 to 12 in Remarks on Frazers Golden Bough, edited by Rush Rhees and published by Brynmill Press, Retford in 1979, came from this typescript and were Wittgenstein’s re-workings of corresponding passages from manuscript volume VIII.

In the autumn he took a holiday in Norway with his friends Gilbert Pattison and Marguerite Respinger. It is at this time that he presumably began working on the volume Philosophische Bemerkungen XII, MS 116, on which he continued writing until well after May 1945. He had bought the large writing book, with 576 pages, in Bergen in Norway. The only date it contains, May 1945, is around the middle of the volume, on page 316.

Wittgenstein rowing from Skjolden to his house

Wittgenstein rowing from Skjolden to his house

Wittgenstein asked Moore for leave from his official teaching engagements for the coming academic year (1931/32), in order to be able to concentrate completely on his own work. He was prepared, however, to hold private unpaid discussion classes for interested students in his rooms in Whewells Court, always on Fridays from 5 to 7 pm.

Tensions arose in the Moral Science Club. Wittgenstein was accused of monopolizing discussions, and he withdrew from active participation for the next four years.

1932

From 27 May until 5 June Wittgenstein was writing Part I of Volume X: MS 114 (I), X. Philosophische Grammatik. In the summer holidays he finished work on typescript 211 and immediately began to revise it, along with typescripts 208 and 210. He cut the typescripts up and arranged selected extracts with additions and alterations into a collection of paper cuttings: TS 212.

In the same year he began the notebooks MSS 156a and 156b, which he wrote in until 1934. In October, at the start of the Michaelmas term of the academic year 1932/33, he resumed regular teaching, with lectures on Language, Logic and Mathematics, announced as always as Philosophy in the Cambridge University Reporter.

Kurt Gödel

Kurt Gödel

1933

On 27 May Wittgenstein defended himself in an open letter in the journal Mind, edited at that time by G. E. Moore, against the inaccurate and ill-informed dissemination of his ideas. In the following academic year, 1933/34, he dictated his lectures to his friend and pupil Francis Skinner and to other close friends among his students. The typescript was duplicated, and Wittgenstein distributed the few copies, known today by the title Blue Book, among friends and students (TS 307, The Blue Book, Oxford 1958)

Ludwig Wittgenstein with Francis Skinner in Cambridge.

Ludwig Wittgenstein with Francis Skinner in Cambridge.

During the summer holidays Wittgenstein traveled with Moritz Schlick to Italy. At the Hochreith he dictated the so-called Big Typescript TS 213, based on the collection of cuttings TS 212, as well as on TSS 214-218.

Wittgenstein was occupied with a complicated reworking and revision of the first part of this big typescript (TS 213) until 1934: this involved work on the typescript itself, notebooks 156a and 156b, exercise books C 1, C 2 and C 3: MSS 145, 146 and 147, Part II of Volume X and Part I of Volume XI: MS 114 (II), Umarbeitung./ Zweite Umarbeitung im großem Format, and MS 115 (I), Philosophische Bemerkungen XI. Fortsetzung von Band X., and MS 140, the so-called Große Format.

This complex revision, which does not exist as a separate manuscript in its own right but only as a sort of virtual manuscript in the form of references linking the manuscripts named above, was published as Part 1 of Die Philosophische Grammatik, Oxford 1969. The Appendix and the second part of the Philosophische Grammatik, Oxford 1969, derive from the second part of the so-called “Big Typescript", which Wittgenstein did not revise.

1934

During the Easter holidays in Vienna Wittgenstein decided to undertake collaborative work with Waismann. A division of labour was agreed, and during their conversation Wittgenstein sketched the opening of the book. As early as the next meeting difficulties become apparent, which Waismann described thus: (Wittgenstein) has the marvellous gift of always seeing everything as if for the first time. But I think it’s obvious how difficult any collaboration is, since he always follows the inspiration of the moment and demolishes what he has previously planned. (Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle)

The project was soon abandoned by Wittgenstein, and the Master-apprentice relationship with Waismann was also to end two years later with the death of Schlick.

On 4 June Wittgenstein started notebook MS 157a. In September he visited his friend and pupil, the psychiatrist Maurice Drury, in Ireland.

During the academic year 1934/35 he gave only one course and instead dictated the so-called Brown Book in English for two hours four days a week to his student Alice Ambrose and his friend and student Francis Skinner (TS 308, The Brown Book, Oxford 1958).

By contrast with the Blue Book, there were originally only three typed copies of the Brown Book, and their illegal dissemination occurred totally against Wittgenstein’s wishes. His intention was rather to revise this material for separate publication. In the first drafts for the Brown Book, in the manuscript volume C 4 , MS 148, written like almost all Wittgenstein’s manuscripts in German, is to be found the beginnings of the corpus of the Philosophische Untersuchungen. About a year after dictating the Brown Book, Wittgenstein started to set down in Part 2 of Volume XI, MS 115 (II) Philosophische Untersuchungen. Versuch einer Umarbeitung, a German version of the Brown Book, published as Eine Philosophische Betrachtung, in Schriften 5, 117-237, Frankfurt 1970.

During the summer holidays Wittgenstein dictated to Friedrich Waismann for Moritz Schlick the summary of his re-working of the first part of the so-called Big Typescript. These re-workings exist in a series of manuscripts connected by various cross-references as a kind of latent manuscript (see the stemma in IV.2).

Except for the academic year 1934/35, G. E. Moore regularly attended Wittgenstein’s teaching sessions, later publishing his lecture notes in Mind as Wittgenstein’s lectures in 1930-33 (Parts 1 and 2 in Mind 63, pp. 1-15 and 289-315; Part 3 in Mind 64, pp. 1-27 and 264). Wittgenstein had dictated the Blue Book to his students Alice Ambrose, H. M. S. Coxeter, R. Goodstein, Helen Knight, Margaret Masterman and Francis Skinner. Besides Moore’s, there are lecture notes by Maurice O’Connor Drury and Francis Skinner from this period.

Friedrich Waismann, Moritz Schlick’s Assistant

Friedrich Waismann, Moritz Schlick’s Assistant

Alice Ambrose

Alice Ambrose

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