(2005) Family Resemblance, Composite Photography, and Unity of Concept: Goethe, Galton, Wittgenstein

James Conant


Lecture in Bergen 2005, Sep. 15. The picture was in an album of photographs that the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein carried around with him everywhere he went. It was originally assumed to be a photograph of a woman, possibly a relative of his. In fact, it is not exactly “a photograph” nor “of” “a woman”, on any conventional understanding of any of these words. What exactly it is - and how we should understand what it is that such pictures represent - is one of the central topics of this talk. The picture was made by Wittgenstein himself; and his interest in such representations was tied to his interest in certain ideas of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s and Francis Galton’s. Why Goethe would have been interested in the possibility of such a picture, why Galton was, and why Wittgenstein wanted to be, while refusing their understanding of its significance, will be the topic of this talk.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; family resemblance; composite photography; unity of concept; Goethe Johann Wolfgang von; Galton Francis

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