Why study Wittgenstein's diagrams?

Michael Biggs


This was the title of a seminar that I gave at the Wittgenstein Archives at the
University of Bergen in November 1992. The present conference, at which we are
undertaking a review of Wittgenstein's works 50 years after his death, would seem to
present an opportunity to revisit this title and consider how one might respond in
2001. In 1992 I felt that I did not have a strong argument on which to base my case
for a defence of such a study. However, the lack of previous studies seemed
surprising, "…based on the observation that more than half of the diagrams in the
published works occur as "word substitutes"; that is, they appear within a sentence
as though words, and if the diagrams were to be removed and nothing put in their
place the grammatical structure of the sentence would be disrupted." (Biggs 1994 200)
Several things have happened since 1992 that either problematize or facilitate the
study of the diagrams. Amongst the benefits is, firstly, the Bergen electronic
edition published by Oxford University Press (Wittgenstein 2000). This contains both
a text transcription, including bitmapped graphics in the running text, and a full
set of colour facsimiles of the Nachlass. As part of the development team I have
contributed to the graphical encoding that facilitates combined textual and graphical


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; graphic; perspicuous presentation; Nachlass; felicity; edition; analogy; machine; aspect blindness; meaning

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