Monday, June 04, 2018

Wittgenstein 2: Student at Cambridge

Hard to believe that I am still on schedule to finish Ray Monk's biography on Wittgenstein by the end of the month. My first post is here.

Chapters 2-5 cover the days when Wittgenstein was in England and Norway.
  • In chapter 2 he is in Manchester, still studying aeronautics. He attends some mathematics lectures in 1908.
  • Here is a decisive point. A fellow student introduces him to Bertrand Russell's The Principles of Mathematics (1903). Russell's ten year project's goal was to reduce mathematics to a few fundamental principles.
  • Ten years earlier Gottlob Frege had published something similar: Grundgestze der Arithmetik. Just before his second volume, Russell indicated to Frege a fundamental contradiction in his work.
  • These problems piqued Wittgenstein's interest--a first.
  • Chapter 3 is called "Russell's Protege." In 1911 Wittgenstein visited Frege with some of his thoughts. Frege "wiped the floor" with him. But Frege thought enough of him to introduce him to Russell. 
  • Russell needed a protege. He was going popular in his writing (which Wittgenstein would soon eschew). Wittgenstein was supposed to go back to Manchester but went to Cambridge instead 1911. This shift saved Wittgenstein's life for he felt like if he couldn't do something spectacular, he shouldn't live.
  • At first (and intermittently later), Wittgenstein was very annoying. They once had an argument late at night over whether there was a rhinoceros in the room. This anticipated Wittgenstein's first principle in the Tractatus: "The world is the totality of facts, not things."
  • Wittgenstein came to believe you should be completely blunt. He hated English politeness, saw it as dishonest. 
  • Russell came to see Wittgenstein as his successor in logic. For a short time he also had conversation with G. E. Moore. Perhaps his best friend was Pinsent.
  • Chapter 4 is called "Russell's Master." From the fall of 1912 on, Russell soon began to get paralyzed if Wittgenstein criticized his ideas. They would eventually not talk about their work to each other by 1913.
  • Wittgenstein became part of an elite group at Cambridge called "The Apostles." Apparently there was a lot of homosexual intrigue as part of this group. Wittgenstein of course did not really believe in sexual expression.
  • Wittgenstein was looking for atomic propositions in logic.
  • In January 1913, Wittgenstein's father finally died of cancer. 
  • Wittgenstein became convinced that he was going to die. Russell promised to publish his work if he should die.
  • Chapter 5 is called Norway. Wittgenstein determines that people are distracting him. He spends a year in Norway thinking and writing. 
  • Notes on Logic are noted taken by Russell on W's thoughts, first philosophical work, just before he left.
  • Wittgenstein wanted Moore to come to write down his thoughts (he had broken with Russell). Moore finally comes in spring of 1914 for two weeks, writes down Logik. A key distinction is between showing and telling.
  • Wittgenstein wants it to count as his BA thesis. But it is not in the right form and lacks a preface. W writes a vicious letter to Moore, who never again corresponds with him.

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