Digital Wittgenstein Scholarship: Past, Present and Future

David G. Stern


The Bergen edition of the Wittgenstein papers was published in 2000. Even by the relatively slow-moving standards of academic publishing, one might well expect that by 2007 we should be able to assess the impact of this “digital turn” on Wittgenstein scholarship. The available evidence suggests that its impact has not, so far, been as large as early reviewers hoped — or feared. While a number of Wittgenstein experts, myself included, regard it an invaluable resource, the vast majority of work on Wittgenstein makes little or no use of the digital turn. With a few notable exceptions – principally editorial work on Wittgenstein’s writing, and the study of the composition of his work – writing on Wittgenstein in a possible world where the Bergen edition was never published would be almost indistinguishable from our own. However, we frequently overestimate the short-term effects of technological changes while underestimating their longer-term impact. The Bergen “edition” is not a book, but a piece of software, and must be evaluated in those terms. As the results of the work of the first generation of users of this software reach a broader audience, and as the software becomes easier to use, we can expect that the digital turn in Wittgenstein studies, like the web browser in the 1990s, will eventually reach a wider audience.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; Bergen Electronic Edition; digital humanities; digital media; history of Wittgenstein scholarship; Nachlass; scholarly editing

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