WAB: "Fragments" | The following contribution is an excerpt from Simo Säätelä and Alois Pichler: "Introduction", in: Alois Pichler and Simo Säätelä (eds.): Wittgenstein: The philosopher and his works, Working Papers from the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen no. 17, Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen (WAB) 2005, pp. 11-64. Publication on WAB's website with kind permission from the authors and the editors (2005.4.8).

Simo Säätelä and Alois Pichler: Introduction

In December 2001 a conference entitled “Wittgenstein Research Revisited”, with the aim of “reflecting upon 50 years of work on Wittgenstein and investigating future perspectives”,1 was arranged in Bergen. The moment seemed appropriate, since 2001, in addition to marking the 50th anniversary of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s death, was also the first year of the new millennium. Another reason for arranging this conference was the completion of the publication of the Bergen Electronic Edition of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass.2 The bulk of the papers in the present collection derive from that conference, but we have also included additional papers by authors representing some of the most important recent work on Wittgenstein.

This collection is thus not a volume of proceedings, although, as the title Wittgenstein: the Philosopher and his Works indicates, the themes of the conference are still present, and in particular one aspect of Wittgenstein scholarship that does not always get due attention: the editing of Wittgenstein’s writings, with the attendant question of what it means to speak of a “work” by Wittgenstein. This question is simultaneously a question about the relation between the philosopher’s Nachlass and the works published in printed form. Such questions have become increasingly relevant since the completion of the Bergen Electronic Edition, which finally made Wittgenstein’s Nachlass available to all interested scholars, thus dispelling many myths and rumours surrounding his manuscripts, but also giving rise to new questions about the status of this material as a source for his philosophical thought.

The immediate occasion for the Bergen conference was, as mentioned, that 50 years had passed since Wittgenstein’s death in Cambridge in 1951. This also means that Wittgenstein is, at least in one unproblematic sense, now a part of the history of philosophy (although it can be debated whether or not he can be assigned a clear place in the history of the academic discipline called “philosophy”). It was probably the early (and persistent) misconception of Wittgenstein as a kind of analytic philosopher that gave rise to a very ahistorical view of his philosophical work, a view he himself partly encouraged by displaying an “historical abstinence” or even a kind of “historiophobia” (as Hanjo Glock puts it in his paper on Wittgenstein and history in the present collection). However, during the past decades we have developed a far more nuanced and detailed picture of Wittgenstein and his times and life (e.g. through Toulmin and Janik’s study of Wittgenstein’s Vienna, and the biographies by McGuinness and Monk).3 This, combined with increasingly detailed Nachlass-related textual scholarship (e.g. Baker and Hacker’s analytical commentary and Schulte’s critical-genetic edition of the Investigations),4 and the discovery of some previously unknown material (the Koder diaries),5 has made it easier to see Wittgenstein as firmly anchored in an historical and cultural context. This, of course, in no way diminishes his philosophical achievement or his status as perhaps the single most important philosopher of the last century.

The question remains, what does it mean to see Wittgenstein in the context of history? Glock quips in his paper that “many contemporary analytic philosophers feel that Wittgenstein is history, or at least that he should be”. Be that as it may, this warrants a short reflection upon what “being part of history” means as regards Wittgenstein and his work.

In his “Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben”6 (a piece of writing most certainly familiar to Wittgenstein), Friedrich Nietzsche says that history belongs to the living person in three respects: as an active and striving person, as a person who admires and preserves, and as a person who suffers and needs emancipation. Correlating to these relationships is a trinity of forms of history (or rather, attitudes to historicity): the monumental, the antiquarian, and the critical. However, Nietzsche also distinguishes a negative aspect of historicity, to the effect that history overburdens a person and functions as a “life-negating” force.7 Without following Nietzsche further, let us use his typology in order to characterize various attitudes towards Wittgenstein and his work:

1. The monumental attitude sees Wittgenstein as exemplary, and his work as something that can empower the contemporary philosopher. The exegetical understanding of Wittgenstein’s texts, and the discussions of how to properly understand his conception of philosophy and his methods can be seen as examples of this attitude.

2. The antiquarian attitude (note that Nietzsche does not use the word in a pejorative sense) seeks to emphasize the conservation of the past; examples in this respect might include the interest in the preservation and correct presentation of Wittgenstein’s writings, and the placing of his work in a biographical/historical context.

3. The critical attitude strives to “break a past and dissolve it”, and this attitude is, in our case, represented by “Wittgensteinian” philosophy that is not so much interested in exegesis and proper representation of Wittgenstein’s own views as in the use of his method in dissolving philosophical problems and destroying the Luftgebäude of metaphysics, thus freeing us from pictures, illusions and misleading analogies that hold us captive.

However, we should be aware, pace Nietzsche, of the negative modes of such attitudes also in the case of Wittgenstein:

1. The negative monumental attitude sees Wittgenstein as an unsurpassable, unassailable monument that we can only venerate and not really emulate. Such an attitude, Nietzsche warns, tends to result in fanaticism.

2. The negative antiquarian attitude takes everything Wittgenstein ever said, did, touched or wrote as something equally worthy of meticulous preservation, thus turning scholarship into fetishism. A person possessed of this attitude “envelops himself in a mouldy smell”, as Nietzsche puts it, and finally sinks so deep, “dass er zuletzt mit jeder Kost zufrieden ist und mit Lust selbst den Staub bibliographischer Quisquilien frisst” (p. 268).

3. The negative critical attitude runs the risk of completely denying the past by judging and destroying it, which amounts to a nihilistic attitude and contempt towards history of philosophy and even philosophy as such, seeing it as nothing more than a parade of worthless nonsense and confusions (an attitude, to be sure, not completely unfamiliar to Wittgenstein himself).

It is up to the reader to decide which (if any) of the different modes of historicity are represented by the papers in this collection, but we venture to claim that they do demonstrate “life-enhancing” ways of approaching Wittgenstein.

1See http://wab.uib.no/w-konferanse/ (accessed February 1st, 2005).
2Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition, begun in 1998 and completed in 2000, is a joint publication by the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen and Oxford University Press. It consists of six CD-ROMs. See further http://wab.uib.no/wab_BEE.page (accessed February 1st, 2005).
3Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin: Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1973); Allan Janik: Wittgenstein’s Vienna Revisited (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2001); Brian McGuinness: Wittgenstein: A Life. Young Ludwig 1889–1921 (London: Duckworth, 1988, re-issue OUP, 2005); Ray Monk: Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (London: Jonathan Cape, 1990).
4G.P. Baker and P.M.S. Hacker: An Analytical Commentary on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Vol. 1–2 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980–1988), P.M.S. Hacker. An Analytical Commentary on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Vol. 3–4 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990–1996); Ludwig Wittgenstein: Philosophische Untersuchungen. Kritisch-genetische Edition. Hrsg. von J. Schulte in Zusammenarbeit mit H. Nyman, E. von Savigny und G.H. von Wright (Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp, 2001).
5MS 183. Published as Ludwig Wittgenstein: Denkbewegungen. Tagebücher 1930–1932, 1936–1937, hrsg. von I. Somavilla (Innsbruck: Haymon-Verlag, 1997). Parallel German/English text (“Movements of Thought”) in J.C. Klagge and A. Nordmann (eds.): Ludwig Wittgenstein: Public and Private Occasions (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003) pp. 3–255.
6 F. Nietzsche, Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen II, in Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Bänden, hrsg. von G. Colli and M. Montinari (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980), Vol. 1, pp. 243–334.
7This use of Nietzsche’s typology to classify attitudes towards a philosopher’s work was inspired by a lecture on “Nietzsche’s Suprahistorical Gaze” by Hans Ruin, Uppsala 12.03.2004.