Ludwig Wittgenstein’s exile in Skjolden

The ‘Anachoretic’ pattern of withdrawal and return as a cultural self-technique

The austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein rowing the boat on the Eidsvatn in Skjolden, going to his cabin and the solitude up in the mountainside

«Throughout his life Wittgenstein showed the characteristics of a religious contemplative of the hermit type. Thus he alternated between periods of great prominence in academic life and periods of extreme abnegation and retirement…..”(Orbituary, Times 1951)

“My hypothesis is that monkhood, i.e., the archetype of which the monk is an expression, corresponds to one dimension of this humanum, so that every human being has potentially the possibility of realizing this dimension. Monkhood is a dimension that has to be integrated with other dimensions of human life in order to fulfil the humanum.”/»By monk, monachos, I understand that person who aspires to reach the ultimate goal of life with all his being by renouncing all that is not necessary to it, i.e., by concentrating on this one single and unique goal. Precisely this single-mindedness (ekagrata), or rather the exclusivity of the goal that shuns all subordinate though legitimate goals, distinguishes the monastic way from other spiritual endeavors toward perfection or salvation. . . . If, in a certain sense, everybody is supposed to strive for the ultimate goal of life, the monk is radical and exclusive in this quest.” (Raimundo Panikkar)

«Geography is simply a visible form of theology.» (Jon Levenson)

«A desert-mountain environment (or any landscape, for that matter) plays a central role in constructing human subjectivity, including the way one envisions the holy. The place where we live tells us who we are — how we relate to other people, to the larger world around us, even to God. Meaningful participation in any environment requires our learning certain «gestures of approach» or disciplines of interpretation that make entry possible. All these are matters essential to the analysis of any spirituality.(-)This intimate connection between spirit and place is hard to grasp for those of us living in a post-Enlightenment technological society. Landscape and spirituality are not, for us, inevitably interwoven.» (Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain SpiritualityNew York: Oxford University Press, 1998, p.9)

«We live in the description of a place and not in the place itself.» (Wallace Stevens)

«No technique, no professional skill can be acquired without exercise; nor can the art of living, the tekhê tou biou, be learned without askesis that should be understood as a training of the self by oneself.» (Michel Foucault)

Winterly conditions following the ‘Wittgenstein track’ to the place of his cabin

Ludwig Wittgenstein in Skjolden: The sociocultural ecology of a way of doing philosophy

«I can’t imagine that I could have worked anywhere as I do here. It’s the quiet and, perhaps, the wonderful scenery; I mean its quiet seriousness.» (LW, 1936)

The immediate context of these famous sentences:  The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein are writing these words in a letter while staying in his mountain cabin in Skjolden the autumn of the year 1936. The enigmatic 47-year-old philosopher, grown up in wealthy family surroundings in the cultural center of Austria’s Vienna, has once more withdrawn geographically to a tiny western norwegian village among steep mountains in the bottom of an almost endless fjord. Janik and Toulmin, in their pioneering work about ‘Wittgenstein’s Vienna’ (1973), are sketching a basic formula for most approaches to this philosopher ;

» Wittgenstein was also a remarkable man who grew up in a remarkable milieu.»

This half empty formula, that doesnt say very much, have been elaborated and expanded in different ways, by different researchers. The philosopher left Vienna behind and fashioned an even more remarkable professional, relational and personal style all through his remarkable life course. A pattern of repeated withdrawal from society and people (to almost ‘hidden away’ places both in Austria, Ireland and Norway) and later return (to Cambridge, Vienna itself) seems to be a kind of basic characteristic for how the philosopher chose to order his life and his way of working as a philosopher. There are admittedly many challenges when it comes to how one can or should understand what is going on in Wittgenstein’s life and thinking. Some commentators are finding a decisive break in the development of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, between an early and a later philosophy, an early and a later Wittgenstein. Others are arguing for only ‘one’ Wittgenstein and an underlying continuity in his work. Others have discovered a ‘new’ or a ‘third’ Wittgenstein. Underlying all the apparent complexity in the development of Wittgensteins thinking and philosophy, in the way he is ordering and living his life a constantly repeated basic pattern of withdrawal and return is following him from the beginning of his career to the end.

Since his death from metastatic prostate cancer in april 1951 the interpretation and understanding of Wittgensteins personal life and philosophical works has become an ongoing challenge for a growing number of biographers and philosophers. The texts, his personality and his way of life have an almost magical attraction and are giving rise to an seemingly endless series of new approaches and perspectives. A veritabel Wittgenstein industry has developed out of the simple question why the unconventional philosopher again and again prefers to withdraw and isolate himself and do his philosophical work in remote places or what also has been compared to a self-chosen exile.

«Wittgenstein interpretation is a fertile project. His work has been the subject of thousands of articles, collections and books. Yet from all the wealth of available evidence there has emerged, not a single clear portrait, but a series of competing and often wildly contradictory Wittgensteins. It is still common for interpreters to claim that all prior readings of Wittgenstein have got things fundamentally wrong. Disputes over numerous points of detail, as well as over the very aim of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, continue. What explains this situation? What does it tell us about the project of Wittgenstein interpretation?» (Kahane, Kanterian, and Kuusela, 2007)

 Or, as Hans Sluga (1996) formulates it;

«Our fascination with Wittgenstein is, so it seems, a function of our bewilderment over who he really is and what his work stands for.»

Or as Paul Horwich is saying (2012):

«Of course, I am uncomfortably aware that there are already too many books on Wittgenstein—most of them composed in the same presumptuous spirit as this one, their authors imagining that they are peculiarly able to discern what is vital in his work and how best to present it. What can I say except that I hope the reader will find here an interpretation that is distinctive and compelling.»

How to approach the bewildering project of Wittgenstein interpretation ?

For anyone who has come close to an overview of the landscape and litterature on Wittgenstein, it is easy to conclude that the project of Wittgenstein interpretation will not and cannot be an easy task.

«The true matter of his thinking, going as it does to the very heart of our culture, is difficult to grasp, yielding only to an effort of thinking that matches the original in courage and power.» (James C. Edwards, Ethics without Philosophy: Wittgenstein and the Moral Life, 1982)

Wittgenstein’s student and friend Maurice Drury (1966) is pointing out another important pitfall for the ‘Wittgenstein hemeneutics’:

«Forty years ago Wittgenstein’s teaching came to me as a warning against certain intellectual and spiritual dangers by which I was strongly tempted. These dangers still surround us. It would be a tragedy if well-meaning commentators should make it appear that his writings were now easily assimilable into the very intellectual milieu they were largely a warning against.»

What is probably most of all needed is interpretive projects that focus on exploring possible ways of integration among diverging and competing approaches, views and interpretations. A growing number of Wittgenstein students and specialist have been formulating widely diverging views on connections between Wittgensteins person, his way of life, his technical thinking and often idiosyncratic comments on cultural and ethical issues,  and how he is practising philosophy. Often these views are giving rise to interesting and even exciting perceptions of the Wittgenstein phenomen; but as often they are hopelessly partial and onesided and are ignoring important elements and aspects.

On one side the focus is exclusively on how or the way Wittgenstein is practising  philosophy. The important french philospher Pierre Hadot was already in 1959 describing Wittgenstein’s literary and philosophical style pointing out:

“It is a therapeutics that is offered to us. Philosophy is an illness of language … The true philosophy will therefore consist in curing itself of philosophy, in making every philosophical problem completely and definitively disappear … Wittgenstein continues (from the Tractatus to the Investigations)... to devote himself to the same mission: to bring a radical and definitive peace to metaphysical worry. Such a purpose imposes a certain literary genre: the work cannot be the exposition of a system, a doctrine, a philosophy in the traditional sense … (Philosophical Investigations) wishes to act  little by little on our spirit, like a cure, like a medical treatment. The work therefore does not have a systematic structure, strictly speaking.”

Most interpretations of Wittgenstein are exclusively occupied with his written texts and are consequently neglecting his way of living. That is the case both for ‘standard views’ and different versions of the ‘new’ Wittgenstein (Crary & Read, 2000). On the other side, there are views that focuses in a systematic way on Wittgenstein’s way of living giving us another code for interpreting his thinking.  James Carl Klagge (2011) argues that-

» Once we see Wittgenstein as an exile, I think this enables us to better understand some things about his life and thought. (-) I think it also helps us to better understand his conception of the philosopher and the role of philosophy.»

Wittgenstein’s life and thinking

In this essay on the challenge of fully understanding the implications of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s way of thinking, I will explore in detail the important relations between

071120126528 Wittgenstein’s philosophy and how he connected to places and situated himself in the human environment. I will try to show that there is something like a deep or basic pattern in the way he is fashioning his life situation, a pattern that also helps us understand ‘the movement of thought’ in his philosophy. As Wittgenstein himself pointed out on two different occasions:

 „Die Denkbewegung in meinem Philosophieren müßte sich in der Geschichte meines Geistes, seiner Moralbegriffe & dem Verständnis meiner Lage wiederfinden lassen.“ (Wittgenstein, november 1931) 

«The way to solve the problem you see in life is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear.»

What is the purpose of such a perspective on Wittgenstein and his philosophy?  To respond adequately to this question is a demanding balancing act; it is all to easy to explain what Wittgenstein is doing in his life and his thinking about human thinking and living in a way that is exactly what he is t

I will point to a first answer to this question by a citation. In his important book on «Describing Ourselves: Wittgenstein and Autobiographical Consciousness» (2008) Garry L. Hagberg argues that Wittgenstein’s texts  –

«contain some of the most profound reflections of our time on the nature of the human subject and self-understanding – the human condition, philosophically speaking. Yet the significance of his writings for the subject (in both senses) can far too easily remain veiled.»

The wonderful landscape, seen from the cabin
As I will argue in the following, even while Klagge’s exile theory contains some interesting new ways of looking at Wittgenstein and his philosophy, his life and his thinking, it also has some decisive shortcomings or even deficits when it comes to comprehending the full complexity of the Wittgenstein phenomenon.
The exile theory so to speak goes only half the way, but certainly in the right direction for a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the Austrian philosopher. One could say that the Klagge view gives us an important part of a greater picture. It therefore needs to be developed further through some other important ideas, some coming from the french philosphers Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault and others –  in our setting more important – some of the  philosophical, ethical and psychological ideas of the tradition and movement  that goes under the general name of ‘monasticism’. In the litterature on Wittgenstein, there are many who have seen the connection between his character, way of doing philosophy and a ‘monastic’ way of life. His friend von Wright writes in a biographical note:
«In this period (that is, 1926 and later) Wittgenstein contemplated entering a monastery.
The same thought occurred to him at other times in his life too. That it never came true was, partly at least, because for him the inner conditions of monastic life were not satisfied.»  
(Georg Henrik von Wright; The Philosophical Review, Vol. 64, No. 4, 1955)

This is my starting point; as far as I can see, no one has tried to explore this connection between Wittgenstein and what can be called ‘monasticism’ in a sufficient way. I am for sure no specialist in monasticism or on Wittgenstein, but because of this neglect I will try to develop this argument further; that there seems to be important commonalities between defining elements of the monastic intellectual tradition and life form and Wittgensteins socalled ‘antiphilosophical’ and intensively personal way of doing philosophy.

18470_1363872733768_7394776_nMy basic view is that Wittgenstein’s philosophical thinking and personal reflections on culture and life while staying in the village of Skjolden (the same goes for his staying in remote places in Ireland or in small villages in Austria) belongs in the ancient monastic ‘life form’ and traditions of asceticism, ‘spiritual exercise’ (Hadot) or ‘self-practice’ (Foucault). This is also part of the secret behind Wittgenstein’s so called ‘mysticism’ and ‘religious point of view’;

As Wittgenstein himself once said to his friend Drury:

«I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view.»

From this it seems reasonable that Wittgenstein’s philosophy should not be conceived of as a type of philosophical ‘theory’ or configuration of interesting academic or intellectual ideas about language and language use, concepts, logic or religion. Wittgensteins practice of philosophy and discussion of concepts and language puzzels is at the same time a kind of continous work on ideas and on himself, it has therefore been regarded as a kind of therapy for our intellectual and even human fallacies. There seems to be an important connection between Wittgensteins ‘therapeutic’ conception of philosophy and the place that the concepts of sin, virtues and confessions has in christian and especially catholic theology and anthropology.

The human being is evidently a social animal. One could even say, in many ways an ‘oversocial’ animal because our relations to other people, groups and society also is a manysided challenge and can be problematic. Our behavior and thinking is too easily disturbed and distorted by what Francis Bacon spoke about as ‘idolas’ or ‘social fallacies’. For Wittgenstein it is more our use of words and language that distorts our perspective and thinking. One could also point to Daniel Boorstin’s (1961/1987) more cultural approach in his concept of illusory ‘images’ and ‘pseudoevents’ as part of something of the same challenge for individuals influenced by living in a modern society. Both Wittgensteins thinking and his way of life seems to be a continous attempt to come to grip with this challenge to decency, correctness and being and living in a honest and truthful way. To be able to experience, think, speak and behave or live in a decent way and correctly, one has so to speak continually to restructure and reeducate one’s thinking and and speaking one’s personal life through a type of ‘desocialization’. This effort is an important part of what Wittgenstein tried to do in his ‘monastic style’ of thinking and living through most of his life course.

One could even say that Wittgenstein is illustrating a ‘deep pattern’ in human existence:

The eminent british historian Arnold Toynbee in his famous book ‘A study of history’ sees a similar patterned movement as a basic principle behind the creative process:

Toynbee citation


«Why the philosopher would build a hut in Norway – of all places»?

Wittgenstein was through his life often preoccupied with his environment and often commented on how he was influenced by where he dwelled;

«When I was in Norway during the year 1913–1914 I had some thoughts of my own, or so at least it seems to me now. I mean I have the impression that at the time I brought to life new movements in thinking (but perhaps I am mistaken). Whereas now I seem just to apply old ones.» (Wittgenstein, 1980, Culture and Value)

For a long time most biographers and Wittgenstein reseachers barely mentioned Wittgensteins relation to distant Skjolden and no one saw it as a possible key to unlock his disturbing unconventional way of doing philosophy.
In the book ‘Wittgenstein and Norway’ (edited by Kjell S. Johannesen, Rolf Larsen, Knut Olav Åmås, 1994) Wiitgenstein’s intention of working in Skjolden is regarded as little more than ‘a whim’. It is seen as having no greater significance for understanding his philosophical efforts  outside being a calm and undisturbed place where the philosopher could consentrate on his work.

On the other hand Wittgenstein complained that in Cambridge he seldom could work as he wanted, he said that he was unable to think ceatively in this academic environment and even that he hated it.

Richard Wall in his book  ‘Wittgenstein in Ireland’ (2000) takes another approch. He argues that the austrian philosopher needed to be in thinly populated, exposed and almost barren landscapes that corresponded to his asceticism or his ascetic attitude to life.

In 1948, Wittgenstein himself wrote in a letter from Kilpatrick house in Ireland:

«I am well. The winter has been very mild so far, even if fairly wet. I would not find the district here very attractive, if the colors were not often so beautiful. I think it must be because of the atmosphere, because not only the grass, but also everything brown, the sky and the sea, are lovely. I feel much better here than in Cambridge.»


Over the last two decades this whole state of affairs has changed; very few Wittgenstein scholars now are neglecting the connections between thinking and place in Wittgenstein’s project. Decades of research into the Wittgenstein important ‘Nachlass’, his diaries and letters have transformed most of our views about the philosophers life and his works. From different perspectives, Wittgenstein scholars wanted to know the reasons for:

“….why the philosopher  (-) would build a hut in Norway – of all places…” (Ivar Oxaal, 2010)

The result of all those efforts is that there is now a new and growing recognition of possible connections between Wittgensteins person and ‘work on himself’, his separating himself from ordinary life and professional philosophers by going to Skjolden, and different aspects of his philosophical thinking. There is a growing consensus among researchers that place and placement in one or another way seems to be relevant for how Wittgenstein was thinking.

Wall (2000) sees it as a simple question about ‘influence’ when he writes like this;

“the landscapes in which Wittgenstein spent time while he was working, had an influence on his thinking.”

From the outset it is important to mention that the ‘influence’ view are just one of many  different ways to look at and interpret the new knowledge and new facts. Klagge’s recent ‘exile theory’ is one among diverging ways of understanding why Wittgenstein often chose to stay and think in Skjolden, and what kind of relations there is between his way of life or life form and his philosophy. The most interesting viewpoints can be listed this way:

  • the influence theory
  • the exile theory
  • the Tolstoy ‘simple religious life’ theory (Kjell Johannesen),
  • the better-place-to-work theory,
  • the out-of-touch-with-his-times theory,
  • the opposition to modern culture and cultural declinne- theory, with variations such as DeAngelis (2007) Spenglerian ‘darkness of this time’ theory
  • Oxaal’s existential-spiritual puzzle theory,
  • the monk or the monasticism theory and finally
  • the ‘loner’ or the psychiatric-pathology theory with speculations around Wittgenstein’s withdrawal from social life as an expression of possible ‘schizoid personality disorder’, ‘Asperger syndrom’ or even what has been called ‘Antropophobic disorder’.

It is possible that there could be other interesting views on the reasons behind Wittgensteins philosophical and lifeform withdrawal to a secluded and simplified life situation in the village of Skjolden. All the different views seem to represent some part of the total picture of what we know about Wittgenstein and the facts of his life and works. The ways of understanding why it came to happen that Wittgenstein could do some of his most important philosophical and personal-related writing in the relative isolation in Skjolden is also reflecting how one understands his contribution to and place in modern thinking and philosophy.

This article is still under development and represents a comprehensive attempt to take a closer look at all the different well elaborated ways to understand Wittgensteins relation to Skjolden.

So; why did Wittgenstein choose the norwegian withdrawal and how was it involved in his way of thinking?

‘But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?’ (Job 28:12)

DeAngelis“One of the most difficult undertakings (-) is to make some sense of Wittgenstein’s claim that his philosophy is opposed to “the darkness” of his time, to cultural decline. After all, Wittgenstein, in the Investigations, never so much as mentions the nature of his civilization or cultural decline. How then is this opposition manifested in the work?” (William J. Deangelis, Ludwig Wittgenstein – a Cultural Point of View: Philosophy in the Darkness of This Time, 2012)


«Where does our investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble.) What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stood.» (Philosophical Investigations [118])

What happened to Wittgenstein and in his thinking when he was staying in his Skjolden house?

From his norwegian exile Wittgenstein is writing both philosophical works, but also the famous notebook the ‘Skjolden Diary’ (later published as ‘Denkbewegungen’ in german and ‘Culture and value‘ in english) from the last part of 1936 and first half of 1937. Wittgenstein composed parts of his two most important philosophical and personal texts while visiting Skjolden and staying in his mountain cabin. Both the solitude and calmness and the landscape in itself was in a fundamental way necessary for his regaining an ability to do philosophical work. In a letter to Russel during his second stay in Skjolden in nov. 1913 he writes:

“’Being alone here does me no end of good, and I do not think I could now bear life among people. Inside me, everything is in a state of ferment.»

He comments in another much later note from 1936:

» – work on philosophy- like work in architecture in many respects- is really more work on oneself. On one’s own conception. On how one sees things. (And what one expects of them») (CV)

Wittgenstein seems to have a strong need to leave the world of others behind, to be able to connect with himself to open up his own unhindered  process of thinking. Most of his life, he sought out solitude or a solitary existence, even if he also suffered from it at the same time. Wittgenstein distrusted ordinary sources of knowledge; he becomes more and more convinced that thinking in his own way is not compatible with living in the middle of a busy social life, being exposed to and strongly influenced by the books, opinions and talk of others. To be able to set free his own thinking process, to be able to be creative, he feels the need to live alone, to face himself and the world totally on his own. McGuiness refers to one of Wittgenstein’s disciples who says:

«My own impression is that at some moment in his life – perhaps a moment of great difficulty and even despair – Wittgenstein may have made a resolution to live the rest of his life in a certain way and with a certain aim, and not to let himself be deflected by anything from this resolution. The aim might be described as that of doing his utmost to help others to think correctly about the important problems of life. To do this required that he should devote every bit of his time and energies with complete seriousness to the task and not allow himself to be distracted by lesser considerations of any nature.» (McGuinness, 2002, p. 6)

The ways Wittgenstein manages his life, his often problematic relations to himself and to the life he lived, his problems with relating to others, and his intensive lifelong efforts in philosophy and ethics and thinking, is almost incomparable as a fascinating human story.  It is reasonable to think that there can and maybe must be some inner or deeper connection between his contributions as a thinker and philosopher, and his choosing of and struggling with his type of isolated existence in Skjolden, both far from the centers of philosophy and from ordinary modern human living. Wittgenstein often says something like that himself. But often academic philosophers are so busy thinking about his paragraphs about language, logic and concepts that they conceive of his diaries and thoughts about himself and human problems as something of interest, but to be treated as lying outside his genuine philosophy.
Today it is becoming clear to us that it is almost impossible to understand the full meaning of Wittgenstein’s philosophy without understanding the background for his writing those diary notes from an exile in a dark and isolated mountain cabin. Some years before, he gave the following remark about his Norwegian exile:

 … it seems to me that I had given birth to new movements of thought within me. (1931, MS 154)


Some words on Wittgenstein’s  locational biography
The austrian thinker Ludwig Wittgenstein was born in Vienna in 1889. He emerged on the international philosophical scene early in last century, between 1910 and 1920. Almost the same time as he developed his original path of thinking he began his lifelong relationship to the distant village of Skjolden in the western fjordland of Norway. From then on, Wittgenstein would be visiting and in periods also living in what is the deepest part of 200 kms. long Sognefjord. The period between 1913 and 1951 he was in shorter or longer periods working out his philosophy in isolation from his familiar surroundings and circle of people. He even moved out of the village, and build himself a secluded place in the mountainside where he lived by himself in a relatively small and completely secluded cabin. The cabin measured 7x8m: this tiny place was called ‘little Austria» by the locals.

How the young philosopher could decide to seek out a place on a steep mountainside not far from the half forgotten fjord village of Skjolden in the innermost part of Sognefjord, is something that has occupied people with an interest in Wittgenstein and his philosophy. Probably for very good reasons.

His friend Moore writes in 1913, he came together with his friend David Pinsent to Skjolden. The following the year he designed and got his cabin built in the mountainside by the Eidsvatn:

«At the beginning of 1914 he came to see me in a state of great agitation and said: “I am leaving Cambridge….”“Why” I asked. “Because my brother-in-law has come to live in London, and I can’t bear to be so near him.” So he spent the rest of the winter in the far north of Norway».

Another friend of W. writes:

«he returned to Norway alone and took up residence on a farm at Skjolden in Sogn north-east of Bergen. Here he lived for most of the time until the outbreak of the war in 1914. He liked the people and the country very much. Eventually he learned to speak Norwegian fairly well. In an isolated place near Skjolden he built himself a hut, where he could live in complete seclusion.»

When Wittgenstein in 1914 told his philosophical mentor and friend Bertrand Russell that he wanted to go far away, to Norway – Russel reacted instinctively:

«I said it would be dark, and he said he hated daylight. I said it would be lonely, and he said he prostituted his mind talking to intelligent people. I said he was mad, and he said God preserve him from sanity. (God certainly will.)»

Despite Russell’s ironies and his almost dialogical and poetic attempts to stop the young philosopher, Wittgenstein of course travelled to Norway to work and hide away in exotic Skjolden; he experienced here an extremely productive process as he lived in isolation and worked on the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. But, he also suffered much from his intensive and changing emotional states – as his sister Hermine tells in a letter –

«(he was) … in a heightened state of intellectual intensity, which verged on the pathological.»

This visit in autumn 1913 became the start of a series of visits to Skjolden, when Wittgenstein’s thinking made some very important steps forward. Later, he visited Skjolden on different occasions; the last time was in the autumn of 1950, then together with his friend Ben Richards.

He had planned to go in the new year of 1950-51. His prostate cancer illness had then worsened somthe trip to Skjolden late in 1950 became his last visit.  Wittgenstein lived his last years, ill from cancer, and emotional impoverished – writing about how he is feeling about himself, his life:

«It is as though I had before me nothing more than a long stretch of living death, (-) I cannot imagine any future for me other than a ghastly one. Friendless and joyless.»

He was staying as the guest of various friends and disciples – but he always continued to discuss philosophy. As he was dying, his last words were:

«Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life.»

And as he had written some time before:

«Death is not an event in life; we do not experience death.»

One could ask like he probably had to do himself most of his life: In what special place on this earth was this man fit to live ?

The dark ages are coming again: Wittgenstein’s monasticism or his monastic approach to life and philosophy

 «Was there a single model exemplified in his life and thought or were there conflicting elements in his views as in his personality?» (Brian McGuinness, 2002, s.17)

In his remote place in Skjolden Wittgenstein had found the most perfect place for doing philosophy. This distant place had early in his philosophical development provided Wittgenstein with the almost hermetic conditions he needed both to work on his work ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.’, but also for broader and deeper reasons that is the argument in this text.

Wittgenstein has left the ordinary academic surroundings behind; he is spending his days mostly alone in his secluded hut. Wittgenstein scholars are still trying to understand the reasons and the background for Wittgenstein’s withdrawal from what most people regard as the normal life. For Wittgenstein this normal life represented a problem, both in a personal way but also in a philosophical way. It took Wittgenstein days and weeks and maybe months to finally decide where to stay when he was working and writing on philosophical matters. Is it pure coincidence that he in the end should decided that the best place for him to work for so many of his years was the distant little village of Skjolden in the deep end of the Sognefjord?
To human beings, with a vast inner memory and imagination, places can never be neutral and objective. We create the places we think we are finding or discovering. The Danish author Karen Blixen wrote these words about finding her place, for her it was Africa:

«Here at long last one was in a position not to give a damn for all conventions, here was a new kind of freedom which until then one had only found in dreams!»

Even the immense empty desert is not an empty place for humans. As it isn’t for the snakes and the scorpions and the spiders who inhabit deserts. In one way or another, sometimes even mysteriously; we seem to connect to and inhabit this world and its landscapes in our own special and deeply personal way. From the vastness of the world we are drawn into the landscape and dig out our own limited set of places and caves; sites that we can and wish to relate to, in different ways like dreaming of, longing for, visiting, living, dwelling, inhabiting, hiding into, escaping to. Our ways of thinking, how we feel about ourselves and the world seems also to be shaped by the way we relate to the places we connect to and inhabit. Both Wittgenstein’s complex personality and his efforts to distance himself from and break away from ordinary academic life has fascinated people from all trades; musicians, artists  poets, novelists.  The understanding of the true reasons for his leaving Cambridge to hide away in the village of Skjolden are often hopelessly superficial and underdeveloped.
They seem part of the approach to Wittgenstein’s life and work that an artist has illustrated in a picture called ‘Wittgenstein light’. Efforts to understand the longterm development of Wittgenstein’s life situation in relation to his philosophy and thinking often seem  ‘light’.

The Tolstoy theory and the simple life

The ‘Tolstoy theory’ about what happened to Wittgenstein in the middle years between 1910-1920 is captured in Bertrand Russels orbituary from ‘Mind’ in july 1951:

«During or perhaps just before, the first war, he changed his outlook and became more or less of a mystic, as may be seen here ind there in the Tractatus. He had been dogmatically anti-Christian, but in this respect he changed completely. The only thing he ever told me about this was that once in a village in Galicia during the war he found a bookshop containing only one book, which was Tolstoy on the Gospels. He bought the book, and, according to him, it in- fluenced him profoundly.»

In the magazine article ‘The Philosopher’s Home from Home‘ on Wittgensteins hut in Skjolden the critic and journalist LESLEY CHAMBERLAIN (October 2011) writes:

«It was as a volunteer officer in the Great War that Wittgenstein happened upon a copy of Tolstoy’s Confession. As Kjell Johannessen of Bergen’s Wittgenstein Archives sees it, the philosopher’s whole Norwegian adventure can be interpreted in Tolstoyan terms as a flight first from Vienna, and later from Cambridge, a university he unflatteringly described as a mutual admiration society. The people of Skjolden were Wittgenstein’s Russian peasants, who left him to live in his own silence.» (Lesley Chamberlain)

The norwegian philosopher Kjell Johannessen of Wittgenstein Archives in Bergen thinks Wittgenstein’s Norwegian escape primarily is related to his being strongly influenced by reading Tolstoy’s ‘The Gospel in brief’.

Tolstoy’s writings were without any doubt very important to Wittgenstein. His co-soldiers talked about his as ‘the man with the gospel’ because he always carried Tolstoy’s ‘The Gospel in Brief’ with him during his participation in the war, he even told that it ‘virtually kept [him] alive’.

In the piece ‘Wittgenstein, Tolstoy and the Meaning of Life’ (2002) Caleb Thompson is going further and extends Tolstoy’s influence also to Wittgenstein’s philosophy. He argues that there are important parallels in structure and content between Tolstoy’s ‘Confession’ and Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus’ which help us to understand the ‘Tractatus’. Thompson finds by comparing these two works that the idea that the solution to philosophical problems lies in their disappearance are a result of Tolstoy’s influence.

Kjell Johannesen on his side points out to the more direct similarities between Tolstoy’s conversion to a simple and ethical based life style and Wittgenstein’s withdrawal to Skjolden. The people living in the village by the fjord are Wittgenstein’s parallel to Tolstoy’s idealized simple and honest peasants. To live surrounded by such authentic people represented for Wittgenstein a chance to live the solitary and more honest life the was looking for. There is of course no good reasons to deny the Tolstoyan influence both on Wittgenstein’s philosophical thinking and his life choices. At the same time it seems that this could be a unecessary superficial understanding of the complex of reason behind Wittgenstein’s escape to Skjolden.

But the main problem with Johannesens Tolstoy-theory is simple as this: Wittgenstein went to Skjolden already in 1913, and the construction of his hut started in 1914. Later that the same year Wittgenstein volunteered to join the Austrian army on the eastern front, where he happened to find Tolstoy’s version of the Gospel. Maybe reading Tolstoy worked to confirm ideas that Wittgenstein was developing long before he went to the war front.

This is confirmed by the following fact. On their trip to Norway in september 1913, David Pinsent, Wittgenstein’s close friend from Cambridge, wrote on the 24. in his diary:

“Ludwig was very cheerful this morning, but suddenly announced a scheme of the most alarming nature. To wit: that he should exile himself and live for some yearsright away from everybody he knows –say in Norway.That he should live entirely by himself- a hemits life – and do nothing but work in logic.”


From this it’s as easy as that to see that we need something better than Johannesens Tolstoy theory to understand what motivated or drove Wittgenstein away from people. Why he should decide to stay in distant Skjolden and other similar places like some small villages in Austria in the twenties and also in Ireland from 1934 and throughout the rest of his life.

Out of touch with his time or ‘I have to swim so strongly against the tide’

It has been said that Wittgenstein felt like a stranger, all his life. He was never fully comfortable with anyone and never felt fully at home anywhere in this world. What from the outside looks like geographical rootlessness and personal restlessness in Wittgenstein, could in reality be more about his personal attitudes and values and feeling incompatible and out of touch with his times. Wittgenstein often complained that he was living with people to whom he could not make himself understood, most of his life he seems to have felt alien in company with normal people and especially academic philosophers.

In a warning letter to his friend Drury before he left for Skjolden he had written that:

«the dark ages are coming again….(-) I wouldn’t be surprised if you and I were to live to see such horrors as people being burnt alive as witches.»

The austrian thinker did not go on well with most people; his attitudes and values was not easily assimilable into the social milieu he normally lived in.
Human life and the living human mind is embedded in a complicated structure of contexts; some of them directly experiential, others not – not only the close immediate and visible situation. Often, the mind is recursively constructing and making up imaginary contexts for itself to relate to and live in. So, there is also a broader context for Wittgenstein’s scenery message; the context of the philosopher’s life in Austria and England and Europe between the wars; a context that gives even more meaning to these few words about himself and a wonderful scenery.
Wittgenstein was all his life extremely conscious about the distance between himself and the time he was living in:

‘My type of thinking is not wanted in this present age; I have to swim so strongly against the tide.’ 

In 1945 his is repeating this theme:

«….I have no sympathy for the current of European civilization and do not understand its goals, if it has any. So I am really writing for friends who are scattered throughout the corners of the globe.» (CV, 6)

Wittgenstein’s critical attitude towards his own times and western civilization which he regarded as an optimistic fraud is seldom regarded as an inportant part of his thinking. It is not therefore surprising when it is said by E. Toynton:

«since his death Wittgenstein seems to have become the victim of everything he hated most.»

So; what did he hate in modern culture and social life – «in the darkness of this time», and why is this dark views on modern human living connected closely to his philosophical thinking ? How does his relationship to the world, to others and to himself influence his articulation of views in philosophy?

In the book ‘On the trail to Wittgenstein’s hut (2010) the norwegian author Ivar Oxaal has a different and more positive view of some of the reasons behind Wittgenstein’s decision about going to Norway. Oxaal tells that Wittgenstein’s interest in going to Norway arose during the period following Scott’s and Amundsen’s explorations. It was hen further stimulated by the Titanic disaster in 1912.

Wittgenstein as exile-theory
Klagge (2011) has formulated the exile theory about Wittgenstein; he writes about this idea –
«But his sense of exile is as much temporal as it is geographical: Wittgenstein thought of himself as at home in an earlier era.» (p.2)

Both Peters (2008: Wittgenstein as Exile: A philosophical topography) and Klagge (2011: Wittgenstein in exile) are trying to discuss Wittgenstein’s philosophy from a topographic or geographic perspective.

Peters argues that Wittgenstein’s was a self-imposed exile from Vienna and from Cambridge and that this condition of exile is decisive for our understanding of both the man and his philosophy. In Peters view Wittgenstein in his insisting on not being understood is practicing a sort of  ‘exhilic thought’;  he argues that we have to more fully see the significance of location and place for Wittgenstein’s life and thought. It is easy to find support for Peters view in Wittgensteins work and notes: Peters are giving us two examples –

«The philosopher is not a member of any community of ideas.» Wittgenstein (Z § 455)/»I felt strange/a stranger/in the world. When you are bound neither to men nor to God, then you are a stranger.»( Wittgenstein (cited in Nedo et al, 2005, p. 11)

Peters version of the ‘exhilic view’ contains two elements, an outlining of –  

“the notion of exhilic thought as a central trope for understanding writing in philosophy and for understanding Wittgenstein’s thinking and the intimate connection between the geography of Wittgenstein’s movements and his experience of other cultures, and his philosophy, his style of doing philosophy.”

The other element is more general and is discussing:

“the notion of the philosopher as exile and how we might begin to understand the basis of exile and of being removed from one’s own culture as a basis for thought.”

Klagge in his version also points out that “exile” is a term that Wittgenstein also used to describe himself. On his first visit to Norway in 1913 his companion David Pinsent writes about Wittgensteins philosopical plans that –

“he swears he can never do his best except in exile.” 

In his nootbook Wittgenstein wrote during the war:

“This kind, friendly letter [from Pinsent] opens my eyes to the fact that I am living in exile [Verbannung] here. It may be a healing exile, but I now feel it as an exile all the same.” (Geheime Tagebücher: 1914-1916, ed. W. Baum, Vienna: Turia & Kant, 1991).

Wittgenstein’s rootlessness lasted all his life and even worsened during his last years. At the same tine he also seems to have experienced a tormenting inner rootlessness and unstability. Constantly he worries about himself and his own low feelings, weaknesses, his vanity and his sinful nature. The philosopher who doesn’t sympathize much with the academic discipline of philosophy is almost obsessively reflecting about himself, his life and values and ideals; despairing and suffering about not being understood and about what he sees as his own deep failures.

But at the same time he is trying to grab some insights from this process; ‘Working on himself‘, that is how he understands what he is doing.

The inner and the outer landscape

For Wittgenstein, thinking and doing philosophy was intimately personal and connected to thinking about himself, what kind of person he was and how he was related to the world.

In a notebook from 1938 Wwittgenstein wrote:

‘Whoever is unwilling to descend into himself, because it is too painful, will of course remain superficial in his writing.’

The following year he wrote another note:

‘The truth can be spoken only by one who rests in it; not by one who still rests in falsehood, and who reaches out from falsehood to truth just once.’

Wittgenstein in his mountain shelter
This calm and gray autumn day in 1936, from his exile in the mountain slope, Wittgenstein is looking into the greenish lake through the window in the front of his small hut. So, he has once more chosen to distance himself from the people he knows, to live all alone for some months. In his exilic existence he will be struggling with thoughts about language and logic, and often even more about the times he is living in, himself and his own soul. Solitary and colorless days are passing in the steep hillside among the mountains. To catch how Wittgenstein is experiencing his exilic life, one is tempted to borrow some telling words written by the american author Cormac McCarthy: «the days more gray each one than what had gone before». Wittgenstein is thinking, writing, working and struggling – as he saw it himself he is in different ways struggling against dangers and temptations of the dominant culture and society of his times.
As he is writing the words about the serious landscape Wittgenstein has started writing down what later will be known as «Philosophical investigations», his most important late work published two years after his death in 1951.  As we are observing him and his personal and solitary struggle we have to ask: What is going on a deeper level; can we know why Wittgenstein is choosing for himself such a form of life?

The facts are there for all of us to read about and even to see: Wittgenstein is living for weeks and months most of the time completely alone in the middle of a landscape of towering mountains, turbulent waterfalls, a little lake almost green from glacier waters, further away behind the small white houses in the village he can see the vast Sognefjord. It is a landscape that feels quiet and serious, it owns a calm and quiet seriousness. And first, the deep silence he feels as he is working days and weeks in his solitary cabin and looking out into the scenery.

As we go back to read and try to decode the message in these famous words about the Skjolden landscape written by Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1936, we often unknowingly do the same mistake all of us. It is not easy to avoid it, ‘non-Wittgesteinian’ as we all instinctively are. I am pretty sure that you, the reader of this article, automatically did this small mistake.
What is it ? We are immediately thinking about the outer landscape that Wittgenstein seems to describe, how it looks or feels like. If we stop and think it over for a moment, we can understand that Wittgenstein is not only talking about the landscape and the surroundings in this faraway place by a fjord in Western Norway. He is actually as much and maybe more expressing himself and sharing this thoughts with us about his inner landscape, he is communicating and talking about himself, how he feels about his relations to these surroundings. He is recreating the world in his own picture and showing us this picture.
As a philosopher Wittgenstein always understood that thinking basically is rooted in personal life; as he says –

«‘Wisdom is grey’. However life and religion are full of colour».

For Wittgenstein life is never far away from suffering. That is one of the lessons he learned in the Galician trenches of the first world war. One could even say that Wittgenstein had a special talent for suffering and for confronting the suffering that often is hidden to modern man and in modern life. It is maybe this strange talent that brings him close to religion. To be human is to have the greatest potential for suffering. To suffer oneself, to make oneself suffer, to make others suffer. Suffering is a basic fact; but one need to wake up to see and experience this suffering. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer – who had a strong impact on Wittgenstein –  said that; and since then psychology and psychiatry and literature has confirmed that we are always carrying our own soul sickness and maladies. To be able to live in a society, every one of us has to learn how to handle and moderate his or her inner potential for suffering and darkness. Living successfully in society is the same as to learn to forget and suppress the inner potential for sickness by using outer supports and ways of escape that allows one to feel safe and secure, that is as long as everything goes well. In this civilized life form people become victims to something akin to what Wittgenstein pointed out as a ‘loss of problems’ in philosophers:

«Some philosophers(or whatever you like to call them), suffer from what may be called ‘loss of problems’. Then everything seems quite simple to them, no deep problems seem to exist any more, the world becomes broad and flat and loses all depth, and what they write becomes immeasurably shallow and trivial».

For Wittgenstein the right way for a human being is never to allow oneself to go on being blind about ‘problems’ and to forget about ones inner life; the right way to live and think as a human being is in one way or another always to face and ‘work on oneself ‘.
How can we live our lives like that? What is the best way to do that? To answer this question, I think one need more than a short article of space. As we all know, there are different ways; modern ways and older traditional ways.

Wittgenstein wrote of himself to a friend; «I am not a religious man», but still we know that he at the same time he had strong sympathy for and some sort of attraction to religious thinking. How can that be?

Wittgenstein and ‘Monasticism’ as lived philosophical exercise

In the first centuries after the crucifixion of Christ, the desert fathers went to live for up to 40-50 years in isolation in the harsh desert, hidden from other people in deep solitude and deeper caves; all the time to ‘work on themselves’. What William Harness writes in his book ‘The desert christians. An introduction to the literature of early monasticism’ (2004) could also with good reason be written about Wittgenstein:

«It’s that way for someone who lives among human beings. The agitations, the shake-ups, block one from seeing one’s faults: but once one becomes quiet, still, especially in the desert, then one sees one’s failings.»

To get away from this type of existence or life form, where did Wittgenstein go? He went to Skjolden; what is then Skjolden to Wittgenstein? In the essay ‘Mit sich allein. Einsamkeit als Kulturtechnik (In: Aleida und Jan Assmann (Hrsg): Einsamkeit. Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation VI, München 2000, 27-44.), Thomas Macho is talking about what he calls ‘lonelinessplaces’: he writes –

«Die Einsamkeitsorte zeichnen sich gewöhnlich nicht nur durch die Abwesenheit von Menschen aus, sondern auch durch ihre Einförmigkeit und Homogenität: Wüsten, Meere, Wälder, Steppen oder Schneefelder bilden (zumindest auf den ersten Blick) monotone Umgebungen, in denen man sich leicht verirren kann. Aber just diese Gleichförmigkeit begünstigt die Erscheinung der Dämonen, der Gestalten des «großen Anderen», der Engel und Genien.»

In the silence and isolation of such lobelinessplaces, in the desert or the mountains, one can exist with almost no external influences and no frictions with others. The desert fathers went there ‘to know thyself’. What they discovered was not like our modern illusions about ourselves. They confronted their own dark demons an temptations and all sorts of human weaknesses. From their constant struggles with themselves they developed an advanced spiritual and psychological teaching about how to live fully as human beings.

“He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: but there is one thing against which he must continually fight: that is, his own heart.” (St.Anthony)

Thomas Macho (2000) again points out that one can actively look for loneliness, as Wittgenstein himself did, as a special context or cultural technique that gives access to the practice of special forms of selvreflection.
Macho designates these special cultural techniques with the word ‘loneliness-techniques’:

«‘Einsamkeit’ soll als Titel für Prozesse figurieren, die aktiv initiiert und nicht erlitten werden; sie soll als eine zwar ambivalente, doch nicht nur schmerzliche, sondern auch lustvolle Erfahrung thematisiert werden; und sie soll als Kontext wie Anlaß der Praktizierung kultureller Techniken wahrgenommen werden, – gerade nicht als Pathosformel für kontingente Ereignisse oder fatale Umstände. (-) Worin bestehen die Techniken der Einsamkeit? Sie lassen sich ganz allgemein als «Verdoppelungstechniken», als Strategien der Selbstwahrnehmung, charakterisieren. Wer nicht einfach bloß von allen Menschen verlassen wird (was gewöhnlich zum Tod führt), sondern seine «Verlassenheit» überlebt, bewältigt und gestaltet, inszeniert irgendeine Art von Beziehung zu sich selbst. Indem er seine Einsamkeit perzipiert, ohne verrückt zu werden, spaltet er sich zumindest in zwei Gestalten auf: als ein Wesen, das mit sich allein, – und daher eigentlich «zu zweit» – ist.»

Macho develops his thinking about the active use of loneliness further along these lines:

«Einsamkeit «spricht», sie beschwatzt und überredet, darin besteht ihre potentielle Schädlichkeit. Der Einsame läuft Gefahr, buchstäblich «zu Tode geredet» zu werden, – und zwar von sich selbst. (-) Denn wer allein ist, setzt sich zu vielen Stimmen aus: gleichgültig, ob er sie nun als eigene oder fremde Stimmen vernimmt.(-) Einsamkeitstechniken sind Strategien zur Initiierung und Kultivierung von Selbstwahrnehmungen (einschließlich der Imagination von Vorbildern und «Leitstimmen»); sie bezwecken eine Anregung und Disziplinierung – nicht aber die wahllose Entfesselung – innerer Dialoge.»

To me, it seems reasonable to assume that Wittgenstein followed basically similar impulses as what Macho is describing. A deeply critical and one could almots say ‘self-moralistic attitude’ to himself followed him all the way until the end of his life;

«Any man who is half-way decent will think himself extremely imperfect, but a religious man thinks himself wretched.» (CV , 1944)

All his life he was continually involved in ‘the war of hearing, speaking, and seeing’, and the most difficult war of his own heart.

That is similar to what Abreu and Neto is saying in their interesting paper ‘Facing up to Wittgenstein’s Diaries of Cambridge and Skjolden. Notes on Self-knowledge and Belief’.  Wittgenstein’s diaries are in reality reports from the human war front, and they are as important or even more improtant for understanding his work as his more technical books and papers. Every human being is in his or her own way out there in the front line of living, fighting some visible or invisible human war. In this way there is always some war going on in every individual human mind. Some of us chooses to forget this fact; Wittgenstein did the opposite.
In the Skjolden notes from 15.3.1937 Wittgenstein is writing:

«Knowing one’s own self is dreadful because one knows at the same time the living demands, &, and one knows he is not satisfying it. However, there is no better way of
knowing oneself than to look for the Perfect. Therefore, the Perfect should awaken in men a tempest of resentment; if they do not want to feel completely humiliated. I believe the words Blessed, the one that is not angry with me means: Blessed the one who withstands the vision of the Perfect.»

In his deeper self he turned his back on the superficial academic life to work as a philosopher and live a self chosen life by himself in the village of Skjolden. Like his early teacher Arthur Schopenhauer Wittgenstein did not feel much sympathy for most ordinary people: as he was working as a teacher in the villages of Trattenbach and later Puchberg in lower Austria in the early twenties he wrote to a friend:

«I know that human beings on the average are not worth much anywhere.» /»Living with human beings is hard! Only they are not really human, but rather 1/4 animal and 3/4 human.»

His friend the philosopher Bertrand Russel could early see that something important was happening to Wittgenstein, that he was changing. On meeting him after Wittgenstein’s war experiences, Russel told in a letter in 1919:

«I had felt in his book (Tractatus) a flavour of mysticism, but was astonished when I found that he has become a complete mystic. He reads people like Kierkegaard and Angelus Silesius, and he seriously contemplates becoming a monk.»

In a letter to Ottoline, Russel continues the line of thought:

«He has penetrated deep into mystical ways of thought and feeling, but I think (though he wouldn’t agree) that what he likes best in mysticism is its power to make him stop thinking.»

Wittgenstein commented on his side about his former friend Russell:

«What would one not give for a little depth».

In his letter about Wittgenstein’s development towards a mystical and monk-like attitude towards himself and life; Russell is telling:

«Then during the war a curious thing happened. He went on duty to the town of Tarnov in Galicia, and happened to come upon a bookshop, which, however, seemed to contain nothing but picture postcards. However, he went inside and found that it contained just one book: Tolstoy on the Gospels. He brought it merely because there was no other. He read it and re-read it, and thenceforth had it always with him, under fire and at all times. But on the whole he likes Tolstoy less than Dostoyevsky (especially Karamazov). He has penetrated deep into mystical ways of thought and feeling, but I think (though he wouldn’t agree) that what he likes best in mysticism is its power to make him stop thinking. I don’t much think he will really become a monk — it is an idea, not an intention. His intention is to be a teacher. He gave all his money to his brothers and sisters, because he found earthly possessions a burden. I wish you had seen him.»

Wittgenstein seems somehow to have discovered that our ordinary ways of living and thinking often contains serious and destructive errors, deep errors that are making our lives more complicated and difficult to handle. To correct such serious errors, we need simplicity, clarity, honesty. He writes in a note from nov. 1930:

“Our civilization is characterized by the world progress. Progress is its form, it is not one of its properties that it makes progress. (…) Its activity is to construct a more and more complicated structure. And even clarity is only a means to this end & not an end in itself. For me on the contrary clarity, transparency,is an end in itself. I am not interested in erecting a building but in having the foundations of possible buildings transparently before me. So I am aiming at something different than are the scientists”.

Wittgenstein also wrote about the religion of the future:

«Of one thing I am certain. The religion of the future will have to be extremely ascetic, and by that I don’t mean just going without food and drink.»

Some have wondered if there are dimensions in Wittgenstein’s thinking that is still being ignored, even by specialists. All the time people are popping up talking about Wittgenstein’s method, his relational paradigm in cultural and social studies, and so on. But he didn’t say things like that himself. Instead he said about what he was doing in his ‘Philosophical investigations:

«I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view».

To get a deeper understanding of what Wittgenstein is aiming at, we have to see his views in relation some sort of religious context. In our times it is no longer easy to see the right sort of context for Wittgenstein’s thinking; but from what I have already said I think we can get a clue if we take a look at the life form of a monk and a monastery. In his book ‘Finding happiness (2008) the abbot Christopher Jamison is pointing to an important difference between how monks and modern people relate to themselves and their inner life: he writes that

“we have suffered a catastrophic loss of understanding of the need for self-awareness leading to widespread acedia. (-) Pre-modern European societies were often ignorant, poor and sometimes cruel, but they had a strong sense of the vital importance of the interior world of each human being. That interior world was the resource that enabled them to survive the horrors of their age. The interior world of human beings is a mixture of irrational and rational forces. The spiritual exercise of reason was the ancient and monastic response to this world, with daily reflection on the workings of my innermost soul; from such exercises flowed the solutions to life’s challenges and temptations. By contrast, in our culture, we are brought up without explicit and systematic spiritual formation, (-) we have a created a culture of spiritual carelessness that neglects the disciplined life of the soul. Spiritual carelessness seems (-) to underlie much contemporary unhappiness in Western culture. The word is no longer used not because the reality is obsolete but because we have stopped noticing it. We are too busy to be spiritually self-aware and our children grow up in a culture that suffers from collective acedia. Acedia has so established itself that it is now part of modernity.”

‘Acedia’ or spiritual laziness and carelessness; that seems to be the opposite of Wittgenstein’s attitude to himself, his work and his life. This seems to show an essential part of the context for and where Wittgenstein’s ‘work on himself’ is situated. In a place and a related life form that like a monastery is disconnected from the superficiality and spiritual carelessness in modern society and academic life. As he was developing his philosophical thinking and writing, Wittgenstein was at the same time developing both his thinkning about himself and at the same time his own inner person and life form. In his basic attitude he was becoming more and more like ‘a mystic’ and ‘a monk’. He says –

«There is part of me that wants to write my biography and indeed I would like to have it all laid out clearly both for myself and for others; not so much as to hold judgment over it, but merely to be honest and open about it.»


To be human is for Wittgenstein never to be satisfied with who you are. As humans we always are seeking self betterment, to rise above what we are given….Wittgenstein always had a close relation to the american philosopher William James, and especially his book on the ‘Varieties of religious experience’, a book that Wittgenstein read first time in 1912. James had a type of personality showing many of the traits that we can find in Wittgenstein as well:

«Well, we are all such helpless failures in the last resort. The sanest and best of us are of one clay with lunatics and prison inmates, and death finally runs the robustest of us down”(VRE).

In a letter to Russel, Wittgenstein writes that:

«whenever I have time now I read James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. This book does me a lot of good. I don’t mean to say that I will be a saint soon, but I am not sure that it does not improve me a little in a way in which I would like to improve very much; namely I think that it helps me to get rid of the Sorge».

For Wittgenstein, the constant selfobserving, confession and asceticicism was part of his search for self-betterment, for the Perfect both as a thinker and as a person. All his life he longed and searched for clarity, for honesty, for the right way of expressing himself. For the right attitudes to himself and others and the right way of living. He also searched for the right place to stay when he wanted to think and work. But to be able to use philosophy as a method and way of human betterment, you can’t just go on, busy and shortsighted – you have to learn to stop dead, to look into things…to question things…and yourself…your own way of living……as he would have said, in a poetic form;and you need a form of life that is the right setting for such problems. And that occupied him very much, how to solve the problem of becoming a better human being; his was not an easy existence.
Malcolm wrote about him:

«In general, there is a striking contrast between the restlessness, the continual searching and changing, in Wittgenstein’s life and personality, and the perfection and elegance of his finished work.»

This is well formulated, but probably not the right way to see it. Somavilla (1997) in contrary thinks that:

«his circles with language reveal themselves ethically grounded, his search for philosophical clarity as a search for clarity about himself.»

So, the continual searching and changing are part of Wittgenstein’s work on himself. Abreu and Neto says:

«Wittgenstein’s Diaries (-) are basically made out of these two self technologies (of self observation and confession). He begins the Diary of Cambridge by declaring that one need a bit of courage in order to write a reasonable observation about himself (-). And later on, in the Diary of Skjolden he writes: How hard is to know oneself, to confess honestly what one is.»

We are after this able to conclude that Ludwig Wittgenstein early in his  development as a philosopher showed a personality dynamics with a strong and lifelong orientation toward self-betterment, self transformation, traits often found in religious and spiritual saints. The american psychologist Robert Emmons calls this work on oneself ‘sanctification:

 «sanctification is an inner process that reflects a spiritual transformation of the entire person….» 

A most uncommon man: Personality or pathology?

«Wittgenstein was a very singular man, and I doubt whether his disciples knew what manner of man he was.» (B. Russel)

«Every art, every philosophy may be viewed as a remedy and an aid in the service of growing and struggling life; they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers: […] I now avail myself of this main distinction: I ask in every instance, “is it hunger or superabundance that has here become creative?” (Nietzsche)


What implications does Wittgenstein’s personality and his personal situation have for how we should understand Wittgenstein’s philosophical development ? There are many views about Wittgenstein’s personal life, his personality. His mental state, possible pathological traits and his sexual orientation has been analyzed from all possible viewpoints. Without doubt there has been an enormous and incomparable interest and fascination about Wittgenstein’s personality. This is an area that has occupied many Wittgenstein students; both philosophers and people with other primary interests than philosophy  –  with little consensus when it comes to views on what he was like, what was his most important characteristics and how he came to develop them.

He is both admired, and looked upon as a half-mad and tragic outsider, who occasionally had something interesting to say. Most people experienced him almost as an alien of some kind:

 «I remember him as an enigmatic, noncommunicating, perhaps rather depressed person who preferred the deck chair in his room to any social encounters.» (Dr E.G. Bywaters)

So alluring is Wittgenstein’s enigmatic figure that it stirred the american writer Bruce Duffy to create ‘The world as I found it’ (1987) ; a historical novel centered on Wittgenstein and his  philosophical companions Russel and Moore.

Wittgenstein as a person; why bother? When considering this question, one has to look at two things at the same time: what kind of personality did Wittgenstein have, what kind of person was he ? And how did he think about and relate to himself and his own person and personality? It seems to me that he both accepted that he had a characteristic personality and way of being as a person and at the same time he always criticized and tried to make himself a better human being. He was himself and he worked against himself at the same time, and he thought that this constant movement in oneself was and should be part of being human. Personality in his view is as much and ideal and a work as it is a fact and something given. This made even close friends look upon him as an enigmatic figure.
For me as for many other ‘Wittgensteinoide’ persons, this double question plays a central role when it comes to understanding the rest of his philosophical thinking. This is a complex of questions that also is connected to his philosophy and his thinking. For Wittgenstein his thinking in philosophy all along and all the time was and must be part of how he tried to live as a human being…. so he tells in a personal note:

«How can I be a logician when I am not yet a man?»

And, in the letter to Malcolm, he writes:

«What is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is to enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., & if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life, if it does not make you more conscientious than any . . . journalist in the use of the DANGEROUS phrases such people use for their own ends».

Many thinkers have pointed out that there seem to be some sort of ‘deep’ connection between Wittgenstein’s work on philosophical issues, his individual personality and his constant ‘work on himself. He actively tried to avoid being influenced by other people. He did as little reading as possible of what other people had been thinking about this or that. What he did read was from spiritual necessity. He actually seemed to be disturbed by other people’s arguments and thoughts; usually he found them superficial and incorrect. He seems to have  had a need to separate himself from most people. As his lifetime friend and one who claims to know him well, Normal Malcolm writes:

«Ludwig Wittgenstein was undoubtedly a most uncommon man. Though he was free from that form of vanity which shows itself in a desire to seem different, it was inevitable that he should stand out sharply from his surroundings. It is probably true that he lived on the border of mental illness. A fear of being driven across it followed him throughout his life. But it would be wrong to say of his work that it had a morbid character. It is deeply original but not at all eccentric. It has the same naturalness, frankness, and freedom from all artificiality that was characteristic of him.» (From Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), p3)

What Malcolm i saying here, is full of ambiguity and almost self- contradictory. Why is it so? Anthony Quinton in a book from 1982 has a different view:

«Wittgenstein was a tormented and paradoxical figure. A central European of nouveau riche background and aristocratic outlook, of mixed religion, with a well-founded fear of madness, a leaning toward suicide, sexually uncomfortable, a high stylist with a taste and gift for aphorism, widely cultured but uninterested in and unimpressed by learning, almost a human embodiment of the fascinatingly disintegrating city and empire of his birth, he becomes a professor, an academic in the most complacent city in generally complacent England, the most philistine of major European nations. Hoping to change men’s lives, he writes about the highest logical and semantic abstractions, and leaves behind not saved souls but decent academic functionaries who occupy a crucial position in the industry of explaining his works so that they are suitable for purposes of teaching and examination. It was an ironic situation, the attempt of an eagle to make a career in a cuckoo clock.» (Anthony Quinton, Essays. Manchester, England: Carcanet, 1998, p.356)


But one should never misunderstand this, and take Wittgenstein for an asocial or nonsocial person. We also hear about his friends and that he makes a very strong impression on many people. Wittgenstein also had another side where he actively looked for and approached things. As B. Russell expresses it:

“Getting to know Wittgenstein was one of the most exciting intellectual adventures of my life”.


Wittensteins hemeneutical anthropology of modernity or «What is it like to be Ludwig W., the philosophizing human being?»

“Every great philosophy so far has been . . . the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir” (Nietzsche)

Most people and especially philosophers have a lifecourse that can be divided into periodes or episodes. So also with Wittgenstein. The conventional view is that Wittgensteins thinking can or should be divided into the ‘Tractatus’ part and the ‘Investigation’ part. Superficially this division goes together with the wellknown talk of the early and the late Wittgenstein.

This is only an illusion. The first division is better to be seen as a basic and dynamic conceptual and methodical pattern that is shaping Wittgensteins thinking through all his life. The ‘Tractatus’/’Investigation’ structure tells us something very important about philosophy in itself and about the human relationship to the world and to oneself. Wittgenstein probably develops this structure in his thinking after borrowing it out of his early study of Arthur Schopenhauers works. The complex ‘Tractatus’/’Investigation’ structure is always in the background when Wittgenstein is struggling to write out his thoughts. In Schopenhauers thinking this problematic is formulated as the two approaches to understanding and relating to the world; the outer and empirical way and the inner and living way. Or as Schopenhauer said it himself; the world as ‘Vorstellung’ (‘Tractatus’) and ‘Wille’ (‘Investigation’).

Today, there is a growing consensus that to look upon Wittgenstein as a logician or language philosopher is both a too restricted conception of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, and of what he is trying to do in his philosophy. The leading voice of Logical Positivism, Rudolp Carnap, admitted early on that Wittgenstein’s thinking was moving in broader spheres than more conventional philosophers:

‘All of us in the Circle had a lively interest in science and mathematics. In contrast to this, Wittgenstein seemed to look upon these fields with an attitude of indifference and sometimes even with contempt.’

Many of Wittgenstein recent interpreters now find it impossible just to bypass the important broader ‘first-person’ anthropological dimension in his research, even if there is different views on how to understand them. Norman Malcolm, as one of the few persons who had a lifelong relatively close and personal relationship to Wittgenstein – has written some interesting things about Wittgenstein’s thinking; he –

“is trying to get his reader to think of how the words are tied up with human life, with patterns of response, in thought and action. His conceptual studies are a kind of anthropology. His descriptions of the human forms of life on which our concepts are based make us aware of the kind of creature we are.»

‘What kind of creature we are’: Malcolm points out that Wittgenstein is not only analyzing concepts and words, and their uses, but he is trying to make us more aware of the kind of creäture we are as we are using words and concepts in different ways. The keys to what kind of ceature we are are to be found in how we behave in relation to other persons, towards one self, and in using language and other cultural instruments.
It seems at the same time that Wittgenstein is trying to tell and show us something very important also through his immediate way of living and his reflections on his own personal life – something that most of us today have problems with getting in contact with and often cannot grasp.

booksmpøpIn the book ‘Fat wednesday. Wittgenstein on aspects’ (2010), the author John Verdi says this on Wittgensteins way of doing philosophy:

“Wittgenstein also believed that a serious philosophical work could be written that consisted of nothing but questions. His Philosophical Investigations contains 784 questions, of which only 110 are answered—and 70 of those answers are meant to be wrong! The questions, including those with wrong answers, challenge readers to think for themselves, which Wittgenstein believed was the only way we can come to see how language misleads us when it is not left alone to do its ordinary work. Wittgenstein’s style is dialectical, in the Socratic sense”.

Wittgenstein’s philosophy of human language: Language and its role in living a human life

«Sometimes the voice of a philosophical thought is so soft that the noise of spoken words is enough to drown it and prevent it from being heard.» ( Wittgenstein, Z, §453)

A central problem in Wittgensteins thinking was this:  – ‘what is it for a proposition to say something?’

The answer Wittgenstein gave in the Tractatus made him draw the following conclusion for philosophy:

‘the correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said’ –

The answer was one he later summarised as follows:

 ‘The individual words of language name objects—sentences are combinations of such names’ (PI§1).

‘One name stands for one thing, another for another thing, and they are combined with one another. In this way the whole group—like a tableau vivant—presents a state of affairs’ (TLP, 4.0311)

This is his picture theory of mening; that tells that if a proposition says anything at all, it says that such-and-such objects are arranged in such-and-such a way. And, only thing we can do with words is to describe the facts…..or, misdescribe them if we are wrong.

There is no doubt that through the 1930s, Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language was dramatically developed and transformed – he now tells that the meaning of a word is its use in the language; and that words can be used in many different ways, for an indefinitely broad and heterogeneous range of purposes. The picture of language in Tractatus is now seen, not as wrong, but as overly narrow, as Wittgenstein himself writes – it is

‘“appropriate, but only for this narrowly cirmcumscribed region, not for the whole of what you were claiming to describe”…/»Philosophical activity is hermeneutical, it does not consist in logical analysis, but in description of human ‘language-games’.»

In this periode, Wittgensteins thinking represents

‘a radical break with the idea that language always functions in one way, always serves the same purpose: to convey thoughts—which may be about houses, pains, good and evil, or anything else you please’ (PI).
«In philosophy matters are not simple enough for us to say ..Let’s get a rough idea,’ for we do not know the country except by knowing the connections between the roads. So I suggest repetition as a means of surveying the connections.»
«Language sets everyone the same traps; it is an immense network of easily accessible wrong turnings. And so we watch one man after another walking down the same paths and we know in advance where he will branch off, where walk straight on without noticing the side turning, etc. etc. What I have to do then is erect signposts at all the junctions where there are wrong turnings so as to help people past the danger points.»...

How little is achived by philosophical thoughts
But serious philosophical reflection is not easily made part of the ordinary affairs of everyday living;

«I sit with a philosopher in a garden; he says again and again ‘I know that that is a tree,’ pointing to a tree that is near us. A second man comes by and hears this, and I tell him: ‘This man isn’t insane: we’re just doing philosophy.»

Wittgenstein once asked a student, –

«What is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is to enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., and if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life?»

«Most propositions and questions which have been written about philosophical matters are not false, but senseless. We cannot, therefore, answer questions of this kind at all, but only state their senselessness. Most questions and propositions of the philosophers
result from the fact that we do not understand the logic of our language. (They are of the same kind as the question whether the Good is more or less identical than the Beautiful.) And so it is not to be wondered at that the deepest problems are really not problems.»(4.003)
«I might say: if the place I want to get to could only be reached by a ladder, I would give up trying to get there. For the place I really have to get to is a place I must already be at now. Anything that I might reach by climbing a ladder does not interest me.»…..

Tidlig i sin filosofiske løpebane skrev han at han en gang for alle har løst alle logikkens problemer. Men jeg har ikke dermed løst livets problemer; innrømmet han. Bare det logiske er logisk, den som møter livet og verden med logikk, møter bare logikken. Ikke livet og verden. Logikken er en bro, men ikke alle veiene fører over denne broen.
He tells about his Tractatus:……

«On the other hand the truth of the thoughts that are here communicated seems to me unassailable and definitive. I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems. And if I am not mistaken in this belief, then the second thing in which this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these problem are solved.» (L.W. Vienna, 1918).

When all problems are solved, the problem of life, of living, goes on as if nothing have happened.


The importance of solitude, to be alone 

«Seventeen people are mentioned in the Investigations, among them Beethoven, Schubert, and Goethe; the Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Küohler; and the physicist Michael Faraday. Five others are mentioned twice — Lewis Carroll, Moses, and three philosophers: Wittgenstein’s Cambridge colleagues Frank Ramsey and Bertrand Russell, and Socrates. The three remaining people named in the Investigations are also philosophers: Gottlob Frege and William James, each mentioned four times, with only St. Augustine exceeding them with five citations» (Goodman 2002)

Suffering is a central theme in Wittgensteins thinking,as in his life. In a late letter Wittgenstein is writing:

.»eg har opplevd mye liding, men eg er åpenbart ikkje i stand til å læra av livet mitt. Eg lid framdleis på akkurat same måten som eg leid for mange år sidan. Eg har ikkje blitt korkje sterkare eller klokare’.

Silence, the mystical and religious belief..

Wittgenstein was most of his life occupied both with his own lived religious beliefs, and with philosophical discussions of religion. In his thoughts on religion it is easy to find traces of his basic anthropological ideas, that both humans and the world are ‘strange’; and his views on the secondary role of reason, rationality and science in human affairs and life.
1. sept. 1914 he started to read a book on religion by Leo Tolstoj. He tells that this book saved his life during the demanding years in the war. He  had this book always with him through those years of hardship and in company with death. Many philosophers do not see Wittgensteins relation to religion as a central aspect of his philosophy.It is often regarded more as part of his personality difficulties than a philosophical matter. For Wittgenstein himself religion, belief, sins and virtues and his continous working on himself is central aspects of his thinking. As his said about Tractatus:

«the point of the book is ethical. I once wanted to give a few words in the foreword which now actually are not in it, which, however, I’ll write to you now because they might be a key for you: I wanted to write that my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one. For the Ethical is delimited from within, as it were by my book; and I’m convinced that, strictly speaking, it can ONLY be delimited in this way. In brief, I think: All of that which many are babbling I have defined in my book by remaining silent about it. ” (Letter to Ludwig von Ficker,1919 (translated by Ray Monk)
«My work consists of two parts: the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that is the important one. My book draws limits to the sphere of the ethical from the inside as it were, and I am convinced that this is the ONLY rigorous way of drawing those limits. In short, I believe that where many others today are just gassing, I have managed in my book to put everything firmly into place by being silent about it»

«Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen» / «Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent»
“What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence”
“There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical” (Tractatus 6.522)

«I can say: «Thank these bees for their honey as though they were kind people who have prepared it for you»; that is intelligible and describes how I should like you to conduct yourself. But I cannot say: «Thank them because, look, how kind they are!»–since the next moment they may sting you».»


The dark view: Depression and pessimism

Wittgenstein read Gottfried Kellers book ‘The Last Laugh’ where could find a formulation that he adapted to himself:

«I have no religion, except perhaps this: that when things go well for me, I tell myself they don’t have to.»

What we are looking for in Wittgenstein: ‘Wittgensteinianism’ and Wittgenstein today


The philosophical landscape can never be an open lanscape where every important thing lies clearly visible, to be seen and understood by everyone. It is more like a strange and magical place we know from the story of  ‘Alice in wonderland’ where nothing is like it seems.

Besides, the philosophical world can be a dangerous place with dangerous thinking monsters and predators luring in the shadows.  David Pole argues in his book ‘The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein’ that:

«[Despite the fact that] he . . . has been popularly portrayed as a kind of fanatic of subtlety if not, worse, an addict of mystification . . . I shall maintain that Wittgenstein’s central ideas . . . are essentially simple….»

And there are good reasons for Oswald Hanfling’s warning like this:

«In recent years we have seen a widespread regression to pre-Wittgensteinian attitudes and ways of doing philosophy, in which the tendencies he regarded as unwholesome are given full rein.» (Oswald Hanfling, Wittgenstein and the Human Form of Life)

Abbreviations used to refer to Wittgenstein’s works 

TLP Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by Ogden, C. K. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951.

BB Preliminary Studies for the “Philosophical Investigations,”/The Blue and Brown Books. Edited by Rhees, R. Oxford: Blackwell, 1958.

NB Notebooks 1914–1916. Edited by Anscombe, G. E. M. and von Wright, G. H., translated by Anscombe, G. E. M. Oxford: Blackwell, 1961.

TLP Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by Pears, D. F. and McGuinness, B. F. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961.

RFM Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Edited by Anscombe, G. E. M., Rhees, R., and von Wright, G. H., translated by Anscombe, G. E. M. Oxford: Blackwell, 1956. 2nd edition 1967, 3rd revised edition 1978.

Z Zettel. Edited by Anscombe, G. E. M. and von Wright, G. H., translated by Anscombe, G. E. M. Oxford: Blackwell, 1967.

PT Prototractatus, An early version of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971. PG Philosophical Grammar. Edited by Rhees, R., translated by Kenny, A. Oxford: Blackwell, 1974.

PR Philosophical Remarks. Edited by Rhees, R., translated by Hargreaves, R. and White, R. Oxford: Blackwell, 1975.

RPP Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol 1. Edited by Anscombe, G. E. M. and von Wright, G. H., translated by Anscombe, G. E. M. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980.

OC On Certainty. Edited by Anscombe, G. E. M. and von Wright G. H., translated by Anscombe, E. and Paul, D. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

PI Philosophical Investigations, 2nd edition. Edited by Anscombe, G. E. M. and Rhees, R., translated by Anscombe, G. E. M. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

CV Culture and Value, revised edition. Edited by von Wright, G. H. in collaboration with Nyman, H., revd. edn. by Pichler, A., translated by Winch, P. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. First edition 1980.

BT Big Typescript: TS 213. Edited by Luckhardt, C. G. and Aue, M. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.


Allen, Richard and Malcolm Turvey (eds.), Allen, Richard and Malcolm Turvey (eds.), Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts, Routledge, 2001, Routledge, 2001

Apel, Karl-Otto. “Wittgenstein and Heidegger: Language Games and Life Forms. A Critical Comparison.” In Martin Heidegger: Critical Assessments , Vol. 3, ed. C. Macann, pp. 341–374. London: Routledge, 1992.

Biletzki, Anat, (Over)Interpreting Wittgenstein, Kluwer, 2003
James R. Atkinson, The Mystical in Wittgenstein’s Early Writings, Routledge, 2009
Flowers, F.(ed.) ; Portraits of Wittgenstein, vol. 2, Bristol:
Thoemmes Press, 1999
Bouwsma, O. K. 1986 Wittgenstein: Conversations, 1949-1951, Indianapolis, Indiana: Hacket.
John W. Cook; The Undiscovered Wittgenstein: The Twentieth Century’s Most  misunderstood Philosopher. New York: Prometheus Books
Crary, Alice and Rupert Read (eds.). 2000. The New Wittgenstein. London & New York: Routledge.
Alice Crary (ed.), Wittgenstein and the Moral Life: Essays in Honor of Cora Diamond, MIT Press, 2007
Drury, M. O’C. 1973 The Danger of Words, London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul.
Jesús Padilla Gálvez (ed.), Philosophical Anthropology: Wittgenstein’s Perspective, Ontos, 2010
GRASSL, W; and SMITH, B; A Theory of Austria. I
Garry L. Hagberg, Describing Ourselves: Wittgenstein and Autobiographical Consciousness, Oxford UP, 2008
Hacker, P. M. S. 2003. «Wittgenstein, Carnap and the New American Wittgensteinians», Philosophical Quarterly53: 1-23.
Oswald Hanfling, Wittgenstein and the Human Form of Life
David Kishik, Wittgenstein’s Form of Life, Continuum, 2008
Klagge, James C., ed., Wittgenstein: Biography and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2001
James C. Klagge; «Wittgenstein in Exile“, in: D.Z. Phillips, Macmillan, ed., Religion and Wittgenstein’s Legacy.
James C. Klagge, Wittgenstein in Exile, MIT Press, 2011
Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, Oxford University Press, London, 1977
McGuinness, Brian;  Approaches to Wittgenstein: Collected Papers. London: Routledge, 2002
McGuinness, Brian; Wittgenstein: A Life, Young Ludwig (1889-1921), Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988
Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, The Free Press, New York, 1990
Russell Nieli, Wittgenstein: From Mysticism to Ordinary Language, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 1987
Russell Nieli;  «Mysticism, Morality, and the Wittgenstein Problem,» Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, 9(2007):83-141.
Nyíri, J.C. (ed.): From Bolzano to Wittgenstein. The Tradition of Austrian Philosophy. Vienna: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1986
OXAAL, Ivar. On the Trail to Wittgenstein’s Hut: The Historical Background to the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers
Pinsent, David H., A portrait of Wittgenstein as a young man: from the diary of David Hume Pinsent, 1912-1914, G.H. von Wright (ed.), Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1990.
Anthony Quinton, Essays. Manchester, England: Carcanet, 1998
Rush Rhees, editor, Recollections of Wittgenstein, Oxford University Press, New York, 1984
Somavilla, I. 1997 “Vorwort”, in L. Wittgenstein, Denkbewegungen:
Tagebücher 1930-1932, 1936-1937, Innsbruck: Haymon-Verlag.
Ginia Schönbaumsfeld, A Confusion of the Spheres: Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein on Philosophy and Religion, Oxford University Press, 2007
Wittgenstein, L. 1997 Denkbewegungen: Tagebücher 1930-1932,1936-1937, Innsbruck: Haymon-Verlag.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1980. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol I. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, «Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics,» Philosophical Review, 74(1965):3-12.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1914-1916, edited by G.H. von Wright and G.E.M. Anscombe, with English translation by G.E.M. Anscombe, Harper and Row, New York, 1961.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, translated by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness, Humanities Press, New York, 1961.

Other internet based sources

Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive German and English, includes pictures, biography, searchable database of manuscripts.
Wittgenstein Portal The Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Background Retrieved March 22, 2007. An excellent on-line biography, including a running account of his manuscripts.
The Wittgenstein Archives, University of Bergen.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) This is a comprehensive resource of Wittgensteinian material.

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