Wittgenstein's place in the history of philosophy

Allan Janik


Perhaps the most astonishing claim that Ludwig Wittgenstein ever made was that he was basically an unoriginal thinker who merely reproduced the ideas of others with a vengeance in his philosophical "work of clarification". Foes as well as friends of his way of philosophizing for the most part find this statement simply absurd. Whatever Wittgenstein was, he was certainly a highly original thinker; however perverse one might consider his novel way of doing philosophy. Why, then, should he have so considered himself? Why do we have so much difficulty seeing what was more than obvious to him? The answer lies in the fact that friends and foes alike have not taken his own remarks about himself seriously enough to investigate meticulously the ways in which his ten precursors, Boltzmann, Hertz, Schopenhauer, Frege, Russell, Kraus, Loos, Weininger, Spengler, Sraffa, might have led him to develop his "work of clarification" as he did. Above all, Wittgenstein scholars have neglected the very beginning of his list.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; precursor; history of philosophy; Aristotle; originality; clarification

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