Ludwig Wittgenstein: In Russia and Norway etc.

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


With the expiry of his five-year Research Fellowship at Trinity College Wittgenstein was faced once more with the problem of loss of career. Accordingly he planned a journey to the Soviet Union, to find out whether he could find a suitable post there. Wittgenstein’s constant quest for the right career was not, as it is often misunderstood, a flight from himself. Rather, it was a search for the right place, a being at one with himself: Return him [Man] to his rightful element and everything will unfold and appear as healthy. (MS 125)

Since 1933/34 he had been taking lessons in Russian from the philosopher Fanja Pascal, initially with Francis Skinner. In June he asked Keynes for an introduction to the Soviet ambassador in London, Ivan M. Maiski. He sought contacts in two places above all, at the Northern Institute in Leningrad and the Institute for National Minorities in Moscow, writing to Keynes on 6 July: These Institutes, as I am told, deal with people who want to go to the ‘colonies’ the newly colonized parts at the periphery of the U. S. S. R. (Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore)

Fanja Pascal in Trinity College. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Fanja Pascal in Trinity College. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

On 12 September Wittgenstein arrived in Leningrad. There he met the author and educator Guryevich at the Northern Institute, then an autonomous faculty of Leningrad University. On the evening of the following day he travelled on to Moscow, arriving there on the morning of the 14th. Here he had contacts with various western Europeans and Americans, including the correspondent of the Daily Worker, Pat Sloane. Most of his discussions, however, were with scientists, for example the young mathematician Yanovskaya and the philosopher Yushevich from Moscow University, who were both close to so-called Mach Marxism and the Vienna Circle. He was invited by the philosopher Tatiana Nikolayeva Gornstein, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, to teach philosophy at Leningrad University. He traveled to Kazakhstan, where he was offered a chair at the famous university where Tolstoy once studied. On 1 October he was back in Cambridge. The trip was shorter than planned, and it appears that he had given up the idea of settling in Russia.

His friend Gilbert Pattison, who picked him up from the ship on his return, recalled that Wittgenstein’s view was that he could not live there himself: One could live there, but only if one kept in mind the whole time that one could never speak one’s mind. ... It is as though one were to spend the rest of one’s life in an army, any army, and that is a rather difficult thing for people who are educated. (Interview with Pattison)

Postcard from Moscow to Gilbert Pattison

Postcard from Moscow to Gilbert Pattison

The last academic year of Wittgenstein’s fellowship started on 8 October. He held the first of his series of seminars on the Philosophy of Psychology, as preliminary to the Philosophy of Mathematics and the Foundations of Mathematics, on 11th October in his rooms at Whewells Court. Among his students were Rush Rhees, G. H. von Wright, Norman Malcolm, A. M. Turing, John Wisdom, D. A. T. Gasking, G. A. Paul, R. G. Bosanquet, Casimir Lewy, Alistair Watson, Max Black, Richard Braithwaite, M. Cornforth, A. C. Ewing, D. H. Guest, T. W. Hutchinson, A. D. Jones, H. P. D. Lee, Denis Lloyd, Margaret McDonald, A. R. M. Murray, Theodore Redpath, A. Shillinglaw and J. O. Wisdom.

Members of the Cambridge University Moral Science Club.

Members of the Cambridge University Moral Science Club. G. E. Moore. is in the front row holding the umbrella

In the same year he began MSS 149, 150 and 181, Privacy of Sense Data, on which he is to work until 1936. The lecture preparation notes contained in the manuscripts were mostly written in English. The Notes for the Lectures on Private Experience and Sense Data, edited by Rush Rhees and published in Philosophical Review, are a selection from MSS 148, 149, 151 and 181.

Wittgenstein again spent Christmas with his family in Vienna.


Wittgenstein’s research fellowship expired at the end of the Easter term, after which he was without any regular income. He visited his friend Drury in Dublin for a few days, entertaining the idea of studying medicine and sharing a psychiatric practice with Drury. In Dublin he learnt of Schlick’s murder.

In July Wittgenstein toured Brittany by car with Gilbert Pattison before going off for a lengthy stay in Norway. He leaves Cambridge on 13 August, travelling via London, Stavanger, Bergen and Laerdal to Skjolden, where he arrives on 18 August. The next day he traveled for a few days to Bergen and on 27 August moved into his house.

His Friend Gilbert Pattison. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

His Friend Gilbert Pattison. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Photo by Gilbert Pattison during the trip to France, July 1936

Photo by Gilbert Pattison during the trip to France, July 1936

Whilst still in Cambridge he had written the exercise books C 7 and C 8, MSS 151 and 152. Also in Cambridge he wrote MS 166, Notes for the Philosophical Lecture.

In Norway Wittgenstein began a revision of the Brown Book in part 2 of Volume XI, MS 115 (II) Philosophische Untersuchungen. Versuch einer Umarbeitung, which he abandoned with the remark: This whole ‘Attempt at a Reworking’ is worthless from page 118 up to here. There follows a further reworking on loose leaf, MS 141, and on 5 November he notes in his pocket diary: New reworking begun, possibly referring here to the manuscript volume Philosophische Untersuchungen, MS 142, which cannot now be found, and which he had given as a present to his sister Margarethe Stonborough, remarking that it was a poor gift. On the 8 December he left Skjolden and traveled to Vienna for a lengthy stay. Wittgenstein presumably wrote MS 143, which was published in the Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough, in the same year.


Wittgenstein was in Cambridge for several weeks from the beginning of January, returning to Skjolden at the end of the month. On 9 February he made his last entry in notebook MS 157a, starting notebook MS 157b on the 27th.

At the beginning of May he was again with the family in Vienna, whence he left for Cambridge, planning a stay of two weeks but extending it to 9 August. There he dictated a revision of the Philosophische Untersuchungen, TS 220, which also bears the title Philosophische Untersuchungen.

On 10 August he travelled via London, Bergen and Mjömna back to Skjolden, arriving there on 16 August. He had a fear of being alone and at first moved into the house of his friend Anna Rebni. From the 25th he was living once more in his own house. On 13 August, while still aboard ship on his way to Norway, he began Volume XIV; on 11 September he started on Volume XIII, on 24 September Volume XV, and on 19 November Volume XVI, which he continued writing in until 26 April 1938: MS 118, Philosophische Bemerkungen XIV; MS 117, Philosophische Bemerkungen XIII.; MS 119, XV.; MS 120, XVI.

Volume XIII was published in part, along with comments from MS 121, as Part II of Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956. The texts on Ursache und Wirkung: Intuitives Erfassen, (Cause and Effect: Intuitive Understanding), which appeared in Philosophia, 6 (1976), 391-408, were taken from volume XV by the editor Rush Rhees.

His friends Francis Skinner, Marguerite Respinger and Ludwig Hänsel visited Wittgenstein at this time, which is extremely productive and yet a difficult one for him in personal terms.

Marguerite Respinger in Skjolden

Marguerite Respinger in Skjolden. Photographed by Ludwig Wittgenstein

In the middle of December Wittgenstein left Skjolden and returned to his family in Vienna.

Wittgenstein’s House in Norway

Wittgenstein’s House in Norway