pronounced VIHT guhn shtyn, Ludwig, pronounced LOOT vihk (1889-1951), was one of the most
important philosophers of the 1900's. His ideas greatly influenced two philosophical
movements, called logical positivism and linguistic analysis.
In his later work, Wittgenstein suggested that most philosophical problems result because
philosophers think most words are names. For example, philosophers have asked, "What
is time?" and they have been puzzled because they could not find any thing named
time. Wittgenstein said this is the wrong way to find out what time is. What is necessary
is to determine how the word time is used in ordinary language. In the sentence, "It
is time to go home," we know what time means, and so its meaning is not a problem. In
general, the meaning of a term is determined by public standards of judgment, so a
necessarily "private language" is impossible. Wittgenstein claimed that this way
of viewing language "dissolves" many traditional problems of philosophy. His
approach to language has greatly influenced scholars in many fields.
Wittgenstein was born in Vienna, Austria. He studied at Cambridge University in England
and later taught there. He gained recognition for his books Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
(1921) and Philosophical Investigations (published in 1953, after his death).
Contributor: Karl Ameriks, Ph.D., Prof. of Philosophy, Univ. of