Wittgenstein's Blue Book, meaning, and Music

Garry Hagberg


Wittgenstein’s Blue Book is a work that houses a number of philosophical dialogues that Wittgenstein undertook with himself; in those imaginary dialogues, he unearths a number of deeply entrenched intellectual impulses that motivate simplified pictures, or unitary conceptual templates, of word-meaning. This philosophical labor works through the impulses that lead to positivistic conceptions of sentence-meaning, to the notion of propositions as pictures and the attendant notion of logical form, to context-independent conceptions of the content of thought, and to a rigid distinction between a sign and its life. Against all these, Wittgenstein works toward a full comprehension of the indissoluble connections between a linguistic action and its background; the result is a non-reductive way of seeing the very problem of word-meaning that brings intellectual liberation from misleading conceptual pictures. All of this work holds immediate significance for our understanding of meaning in music: Wittgenstein’s thinking about meaning in language was never remote from, and was often intimately involved with, his thinking about aesthetic problems -- and about the experience of meaning in music in particular. Indeed he stated the connection directly in Philosophical Investigations 527: “Understanding a sentence in language is much more akin to understanding a theme in music than one may think.” This paper will explore this matter as it runs from language to music, but also – as it so often did for Wittgenstein in his writings – from music to language.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; music as language; Blue Book; musical meaning; philosophy of music

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.