Picture of WittgensteinLudwig Wittgenstein

Ordinary Language Philosopher



Born into a hugely wealthy Austrian family, Ludwig Wittgenstein set off at an early age to revolutionize modern philosophy by examining its most core component: our language. His life is considered in three distinct periods, each of which correspond to his philosophical standing at the time.

His early work, part of what is called his Tractarian period, is summed up in his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus(1921). This was an attempt to reconcile the positions of Frege's apriorism and Russell's atomism in one work. An accomplished logician, Wittgenstein sought to find the true logic behind our misunderstood language, hence his development of Ordinary Language Philosophy. Utilizing such tools as the piicture theory of meaning, he ended up concluding with the thought that Tractatus was just a tool to aid in achieving an understanding of the idea that only statements of natural sciences are meaningful. He concluded that "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

His next period was one of inactivity. He met with the influential Vienna Circle during the early 30s, and he was soon convinced of a flaw in Tractatus, which influenced him to begin a plan to fix it. The mid 1930s brought a renewed interest in the philosophy of mathmatics. By 1936 he had begun work on hi Philosophical Investigations, which was finally printed in 1953, after he completed work on it in 1948. PI was an attempt to 'disolve away' any inconsitancies and philosophical puzzles found in our language. He attempted to adjust his views as set out in Tractatus, and introduced a number of new ideas, including the private language argument. This states that the inner workings of man do not allow for a good description of our inner experience. Words, for Wittgenstein only have meaning in the context of a shared relation, a public criteria for their correct application.

Wittgenstein's last writings are now published in a volume called On Certainty. This contains his writings from 1948 through the time of his death in 1951.

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