Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Specialty Metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind
Born Apr. 26, 1889
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died Apr. 29, 1951 (at age 62)
Cambridge, England, UK
Nationality Austrian-British

Ludwig Wittgenstein was a popular 20th century philosopher whose work held great importance for a global philosophy, particularly for philosophies of language. His very first work entitled Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1921 was to bring about the entire new school of philosophy. His last work, Philosophical Investigations, which he published in 1953, remains one of the most significant works of the 20thcentury philosophy.

Early Life

Ludwig Wittgenstein was born to Karl and Leopoldine Kalmus in 1889 in Vienna. He was the youngest of eight children. Ludwig’s father, Karl, wanted his sons to run his steel company. While Ludwig and his brothers did not go to school since his father did not want them to develop bad habits from other kids, they were educated at home.

It is said that Ludwig’s father was a harsh person who lacked empathy. There was some kind of strain between the family relationships. Three of his brothers committed suicide, and the only one left was Paul, who became a pianist.

Educational Years

The death of two sons made his father give in and he allowed Wittgenstein and Paul to attend school. Nonetheless, Wittgenstein could not pass the entrance exams conducted by the academic Gymnasium. But after taking up an extra tuition, he managed to qualify for the admission test for K.u.k. Realschule in Linz in 1903. He started three years of schooling at the school, which specialised in math and natural science.

Coming from a cultural background into the school crammed with working class pupils gave Ludwig a hard and unhappy time. He did not comprehend his fellow pupils. However, the school enhanced Ludwig’s love of technology which led to his decision to pursue a career in engineering at the university. In 1906, Ludwig went to Germany where he enrolled at the Technische Hochschule to study mechanical engineering.

Ludwig’s Further Studies

Intending to earn a doctorate in engineering, Wittgenstein went to England in 1908. He registered as a research student in the engineering lab of Manchester University. At Manchester University, he worked on theoretical and practical exercises like building a propeller, testing it, and thus getting a solid understanding of theoretical designs. Ultimately, his interest in pure mathematics grew, which directed him to the University of Cambridge to study with Bertrand Russell. It was there that he decided to switch his focus from math to philosophy.

In 1912, Ludwig presented his very first philosophical paper entitled What is Philosophy?, to the Cambridge Philosophical Society. While at Cambridge, Ludwig continued to work on the foundations of math and mathematical logic. Nonetheless, he found the philosophical debate at the school shallow and sought the new place to work. He went to Skjolden in Norway and lived there for almost a year. The work on logic that he produced there led years later to his very first book entitled The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Participation in WWI

In 1914, Ludwig went to Vienna to help the Austrian army, serving in the ship and then in a weaponry workshop. In 1916, he moved to the Russian front, gaining a number of distinctions for bravery. He was sent to Italy in 1918 with an artillery brigade, and was imprisoned there at the end of WWI.

While in service, Ludwig continued to write Tractatus. He was later imprisoned and he took this opportunity to send his manuscripts to a popular professor of philosophy at Cambridge. As a result, Ludwig’s work was published for the first time in English in 1922, only a year after its initial edition in German.

Teaching Career

wittgensteinLudwig took up his teaching in 1920. He joined a school in Trattenbach as the primary school teacher. It was difficult for him to get along well with his co-workers. His strange conduct made him noticeable in Trattenbach. He loved teaching with enthusiasm and offered evening tuition for his students. Ludwig used to discipline his students, both boys and girls, and this, together with his inaptness with other activities at the school, made him unpopular among villagers.

Greatest Works and Achievements

Ludwig became a pioneer in growth of analytic philosophy, but other philosophers did not understand his ideas. In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig talked about the idea of playing “language games” in which the meaning of phrases are only loosely linked to their use. Ludwig argued that there are a myriad of ways in which language works. His philosophy, thus, as a therapeutic activity, did relieve confusion inflicted by philosophical misuses of the ordinary language.


Ludwig Wittgenstein died on April 29, 1951. He had just started working on another manuscript four days ealier.

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