Wittgenstein in Exile

December 9, 2020
Wittgenstein in Exile

A new way of looking at Wittgenstein: as an exile froman earlier cultural era.Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus(1922) and Philosophical Investigations (1953) are amongthe most influential philosophical books of the twentieth century,and also among the most perplexing. Wittgenstein warned again andagain that he was not and would not be understood. Moreover,Wittgenstein's work seems to have little relevance to the wayphilosophy is done today. In Wittgenstein in Exile, JamesKlagge proposes a new way of looking at Wittgenstein—as anexile—that helps make sense of this. Wittgenstein's exile was not,despite his wanderings from Vienna to Cambridge to Norway toIreland, strictly geographical; rather, Klagge argues, Wittgensteinwas never at home in the twentieth century. He was in exile from anearlier era—Oswald Spengler's culture of the early nineteenthcentury.Klagge draws on the full range of evidence, includingWittgenstein's published work, the complete Nachlaß,correspondence, lectures, and conversations. He placesWittgenstein's work in a broad context, along a trajectory ofthought that includes Job, Goethe, and Dostoyevsky. Yet Klagge alsowrites from an analytic philosophical perspective, discussing suchtopics as essentialism, private experience, relativism, causation,and eliminativism. Once we see Wittgenstein's exile, Klagge argues,we will gain a better appreciation of the difficulty ofunderstanding Wittgenstein and his work.