MS 111

VII. Bemerkungen zur Philosophie


General note on MSS 105-122 (Bände I to XVIII)

Between 1929 and 1940 Wittgenstein produced 18 large manuscript volumes. He himself numbered them as Bände I to XVIII and gave most of them general titles like “Philosophical Remarks” or “Philosophical Grammar”. This indicates that he himself perceived these volumes as belonging to a series. Some of them evidently contain new material spontaneously written down and not drafted in other notebooks. Parts of several of these volumes, however, are based on earlier remarks recorded in pocket notebooks, for example, while other parts contain revisions of earlier manuscript volumes or typescripts. The best-known case of this last kind are MSS 114ii and 115i (Bände X and XI), which contain a revision (erste Umarbeitung) of parts of TS 213 (The Big Typescript). The same typescript forms the basis of the first section of volume XII (MS 116), but the process of selecting remarks from the TS and transferring them into Band XII is such that most people would not feel inclined to speak of a process of revision. At any rate, there are clear breaks between the earlier portion of MS 114 and the subsequent revision of TS 213 contained in the same ledger as well as between the first half (winter 1933-34) of volume XI and its second half, which was written in the late summer and the autumn of 1936 (containing the German revision of the Brown Book, entitled “Philosophische Untersuchungen”).


General note on MSS 105-114 (Bände I to X)

There are good reasons for treating the series of volumes from I to X (or, more exactly, up to MS 114i) as forming a separate, or separable, part of Wittgenstein’s oeuvre. However, as has been pointed out above, even these volumes were not produced according to one uniform pattern. Some of the remarks were written spontaneously, as it were, that is to say without a basis in earlier drafts. Other remarks contained in these volumes were copied, or transferred in revised form, from earlier writings. Most of these volumes are punctuated by personal remarks of a private or confessional nature as well as by reflections on music, literature, religion and a few other kinds of topic. Sometimes, but by no means always, these reflections are separated from the more straightforwardly philosophical material by certain marks (e.g. “||…||”) or by being written in Wittgenstein’s usual code. But in spite of these and other qualifications that might come to mind it is helpful and surely not misleading to view volumes I to X as the central record of Wittgenstein’s strikingly  original and continuous production between his return to Cambridge in January 1929 and a new stage in the process of articulating and arranging his ideas. But even if we are agreed that these ten manuscript volumes are to be regarded as the core record of his thought during the early middle period of his philosophical development, it will be useful to divide this material into three parts, corresponding to interruptions of the writing process motivated by an urge to have his handwritten remarks typed up. Once in possession of a typed version, Wittgenstein was prepared to think about the order of his individual remarks, about possible arrangements and re-arrangements. Moreover, he could now proceed to actually carrying out such arrangements and re-arrangements by way of cutting typescript or carbon copy into fragments that were subsequently put together in a new order and, in some cases, supplemented by handwritten changes or explanations or exemplifications giving the older material a new twist. — There are three interruptions of the kind alluded to in the previous paragraph:

(1)     24 March 1930: Easter vacation, in Vienna Wittgenstein dictates selected remarks from vol.s I to IV. The result is TS 208, which is soon cut into fragments that are subsequently re-arranged so as to form TS 209 (Philosophical Remarks).

(2)     The material written down in the remainder of volume IV (MS 108) between 25 April and 9 August 1930 is dictated and typed sometime in the summer of this year (TS 210).

(3)     The contents of MSS 109-114i are sifted and dictated to a typist while on vacation in Austria. The resulting typescript (TS 211) comprises ca. 800 pages and may have been dictated in the course of two or more series of sessions. But most of the work of producing this typescript was surely done after 5 June 1932 (the last date to be found in MS 114i).

It is likely that TS 211 was completed in the summer or autumn 1932. So we may assume that in the course of less than four years (1929-32) Wittgenstein managed to fill ca. 3000 pages of manuscript volumes and dictated almost 1100 pages of this material to a typist. The story of this material is continued in other parts of this account (see especially MSS 114-15, 140, TSS 208-13), but at this point readers should allow the message to sink in: if we remember that much of this material was absolutely new and the result of reflections that stood in contrast, or were diametrically opposed, to the author’s earlier convictions, we find that we are dealing with a unique document witnessing to Wittgenstein’s stunning creative powers.


Notes on MS 111 (Band VII)

The last entry of Band VI is dated 6 July 1931, and the first entry of Band VII bears the date 7 July. As regards the remainder of this manuscript volume, dating is not as regular as in some other notebooks (the last date — 13 September 1931 — can be found on p. 167 of 200 pages in all). This fact is no doubt connected with Wittgenstein’s working technique: just as in the last part of MS 110 and in subsequent MSS 112-114i, he chiefly relies on previously written material — either on pocket-notebook entries probably pencilled only a short time before being transferred to Bände or on remarks collected in TS 208. As regards MS 111, the pocket notebooks concerned and used alternatingly are MSS 153a and 155.

            In MS 111 (pp. 28-31) we find the first of several passages in Wittgenstein’s MSS 111-114i where he draws on earlier material selected and collected in TS 208. Here, he goes back to these records of earlier reflections and resumes his discussion of questions arising in that context: this is why Wolfgang Kienzler in his account of Wittgenstein’s “turnaround” speaks of various stages of a Wiederaufnahme (resumption) of this TS 208 material (see Kienzler, Wittgensteins Wende zu seiner Spätphilosophie [Frankfurt/M. 1997], ch. 2; cf. early suggestions in: Alois Pichler, Untersuchungen zu Wittgensteins Nachlaß [Bergen 1994], ch. 2.4 [pp. 77-80]).

            The impression that in reading this volume and other ones from this period we are dealing with records of ideas in transition is borne out by the fact that we find remarks like “To understand the meaning of a word amounts to knowing, understanding, its use” (p. 12) almost immediately followed by an observation like “Thus an elementary proposition is such that in the calculus I am employing now it does not figure as a truth-function of other propositions” (p. 13). That is to say, remarks foreshadowing characteristic features of Wittgenstein’s later thought rub shoulders with much earlier ideas or backward-looking material.

            Practically all the topics discussed in this volume are familiar to readers of Philosophical Grammar or Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle. There are many remarks on grammar and rules, and Wittgenstein expounds his simile of celluloid vs. screen pictures (cf. Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, p. 50 & passim, and my description of MS 107). He emphasizes his anti-dogmatism and deals with various questions in the philosophy of mathematics such as recursion, proof, intuitionism, and the idea of a calculus (concerning which he wonders whether one could claim that it is not a mathematical notion at all, p. 74).

            Two among several striking features of this manuscript volume are, first, a number of allusions to Augustine’s account of a child’s learning his first language (which is of course well-known from §1 of PI). The second one is the frequency of observations on Plato and Socratic dialogues in general. These observations can give us an idea of Wittgenstein’s interest in Plato’s thought and of what aspects of this thought he found worth discussing (see Wolfgang Kienzler’s contribution to Perissinotto & Cámara [eds.], Wittgenstein and Plato [Houndmills, 2013, pp. 25-47]).

            Again, there is a fair number of remarks known from the collection Culture and Value. Authors mentioned (besides Augustine, Plato, and Socrates) include C.D. Broad, Frege, Goethe, W.E. Johnson, Kleist, Mendelssohn, Ramsey, Skolem, Spengler, and Weininger. The last five pages of this manuscript volume are devoted to a discussion of a play on Orpheus drafted by Paul Engelmann (for the text of this work see Wittgenstein-Jahrbuch 2001/2002, pp. 297-341, and the account given by Josef Rothhaupt, ibid., pp. 343-367).

            A great number of remarks were transferred to TS 211, quite independently of whether or not they were marked by a slash (“/”).