Anthony Ryle's Account of Wittgenstein

[continuing the series, "Wittgenstein at War, Again"]

John Ryle was the Regius Professor Physics at Cambridge. In 1940, he was helping Guy's Hospital in London prepare for the Blitz. He had helped Wittgenstein get a job at the hospital around September of 1941, so he, too, could assist with the civilian war effort.  In early 1942, John Ryle took Wittgenstein to meet Ryle's family. There, Wittgenstein encountered the Ryle’s 14-year old son, Anthony, who recorded the following in his diary:

     “Daddy and another Austrian (?) professor called Winkenstein (spelling?) arrived at 7:30. Daddy rather tired. Wink is awful strange – not a very good English speaker, keeps on saying ‘I mean’ and ‘its-tolerable’ meaning intolerable.  

     [Continuing at the end of next day: -- sw] In the morning Daddy, Margaret, goats, Tinker & I went for a walk. Frosty but sunny. Witkinstein spent the morning with the evacuees. He thinks we’re terribly cruel to them. We spent the afternoon argueing – he’s an impossible person everytime you say anything he says ‘No No, that’s not the point.’ It probably isn’t his point, but it is ours. A tiring person to listen to.

    After tea I showed him round the grounds and he entreated me to be kind to the miserable little children – he goes far too much to the other extreme – Mommy wants them to be good citizens, he wants them to be happy.”

Source: Ray Monk, The Duty of Genius, 434-435. 

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Wittgenstein Labors at Guy's During WWII

[… continuing a segment that might be called, “Wittgenstein at War, Again.” – sw]

 Wittgenstein thought it intolerable to teach philosophy during World War II when Britain was being blitzed. He wanted to help with the civilian war effort. In September of 1941, he therefore obtained a job at Guy’s Hospital in London, working as a dispensary porter. Monk writes,

     “Wittgenstein’s job as a porter was to deliver medicines from the dispensary to the wards, where, according to John Ryle’s wife, Miriam, he advised the patients not to take them. His boss at the pharmacy was Mr. S F. Izzard. When asked later if he remembered Wittgenstein as a porter, Izzard replied, ‘Yes, very well. He came and worked here and after working here three weeks he came and explained how we should be running the place. You see, he was a man who was used to thinking.’ After a short while, he was switched to the job of pharmacy technician in the manufacturing laboratory, where one of his duties was to prepare Lassar’s ointment for the dermatological department. When Drury visited Wittgenstein at Guy’s, he was told by a member of the staff that no one before had produced Lassar’s ointment of such high quality. “ (433)

 Wittgenstein’s work was physically grueling. He was 52 years old and had said to Rowland Hutt, “When I finish work about 5 … I’m so tired I often can hardly move.” (434).

 Source: Ray Monk, The Duty of Genius, 433-434. 

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John Ryle on Ludwig Wittgenstein

During World War II when the Germans were regularly bombing Britain, Wittgenstein found it intolerable to teach philosophy. He wanted to assist with the civilian war effort. In September of 1941, he was able to arrange a lunch meeting with John Ryle about obtaining work at Guy’s Hospital where he could assist people in need. After meeting Wittgenstein, Ryle wrote a letter to his wife, saying …

    “He is one of the world’s most famous philosophers …He wears an open green shirt and has a rather attractive face. I was so interested that after years as a Trinity don, so far from getting tarred with the same brush as the others, he is overcome by the deadness of the place. He said to me ‘I feel I will die slowly if I stay there. I would rather take a chance of dying quickly. And so he wants to work at some humble manual job in a hospital as his war-work and will resign his chair if necessary, but does not want it talked about at all. And he wants the job to be in a blitzed area. The works department are prepared to take him as an odd job man under the older workmen who do all the running repairs all over the hospital. I think he realizes that his mind works so differently to most people’s that it would be stupid to try for any kind of war-work based on intelligence. I have written to him tonight to tell him about this job but am not trying to persuade him unduly.” 

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Wittgenstein's Thoughts in 1937 About God & The Resurrection of Jesus

After describing a period in Wittgenstein’s life where he experienced inner feelings of anxiety, guilt and fear – he was always a complicated person – Ray Monk offers the following. Wittgenstein was staying in Norway in 1937 and had trouble working. Monk goes on to note:

 “When, during the following few days, he was able to work again, he thanked God for a gift he did not deserve. He always felt, he wrote, what a truly devout person never feels – that God was responsible for what he was: ‘It was the opposite of piety. Again and again I want to say: “God, if you do not help me, what can I do?”' And although this attitude accords with what the Bible teaches, it is not that of a truly devout man, for such a one would assume responsibility for himself. ‘You must STRIVE,’ he urged himself; ‘never mind God.’”

Two paragraphs later, Monk continues: 

“On the ship to Bergen Wittgenstein wrote of Christ’s Resurrection and of what inclined even him to believe in it. If Christ did not rise from the dead, he reasoned, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. ‘HE IS DEAD AND DECOMPOSED.’ He had to repeat an underline the thought to appreciate its awfulness. For if that were the case, then Christ was a teacher like any other, ‘and can no longer HELP; and once more we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation.’  And if that is all we have, then: ‘We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven.’ If he wanted to be saved, to be redeemed, then wisdom was not enough; he needed faith:

     “And faith is faith in what is needed by my HEART, my SOUL, not my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can only say: Only LOVE can believe in the Resurrection. Or: it is LOVE that believes the Resurrection. We might say: Redeeming love believes even in the Resurrection; holds fast even to Resurrection … 

    What combats doubt is, as it were, REDEMPTION. Holding fast to THIS must be holding fast to that belief. …”

[Note: allcaps substitued for italics -- sw]

 Source: Ray Monk, The Duty of Genius, at page 382-383. Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.

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Hermine on Her Brother Becoming Wittgenstein

Hermine observes the following changes in her brother ...

"Already at that time, a profound transformation was taking place in Ludwig, the results of which were not to be apparent until after the war, and which finally culminated in his decision not to possess any more wealth. ...

His second decision, to choose a completely unpretentious vocation and perhaps to become a country schoolteacher, was at first incomprehensible even to me. Since we, his brothers and sisters, very often communicated with each other in comparisons, I told him … that imagining him with his philosophically-trained mind as an elementary school teacher it was to me as if someone were to use a precision instrument to open crates. Thereupon Ludwig answered with a comparison which silenced me[,] for he said, "You remind me of someone who is looking through a closed window and cannot explain to himself the strange movements of a passer-by. He doesn’t know what kind of a storm is raging outside and that this person is perhaps only with great effort keeping himself on his feet." It was then that I understood his state of mind."

      ----- Hermine Wittgenstein

 Sources: Rush Rhees, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Personal Recollections, Blackwell 1981 p. 4-5; Michael Nedo, Guy Moreton and Alec Finlay, “Ludwig Wittgenstein, There Where You are Not,” 2005, at p. 39.

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On Why a New Translation of Philosophic Investigations Was Published

... regarding G. E. M. Anscombe's translation and the need for a new edition, Hacker and Schulte offer the following in the 4th edition of Philosophical Investigations:

"Anscombe's translation was an impressive achievement. She invented an English Equivalent for Wittgenstein's distinctive, often colloquial, style. This was no mean feat. For she had to find not only English analogues of Wittgenstein's stylistic idiosyncracies, but also an English rhythm that would convey the character of Wittgenstein's carefully crafted prose. Her success is indisputable.

Nevertheless, there are errors of different kinds in ... [Philosophic Investigations]. It was because of these that the Wittgenstein editorial advisory committee agreed to the production of a new edition. But, given the excellence of the Anscombe translation, it was resolved that rather than making a completely new one, we should build on Anscombe's achievement and produce a modified translation, rectifying any errors or misjudgements we discerned in hers. It should be emphasized that many of the errors in the ... [older editions of PI] could not have been identified in the 1950s, prior to the availability and extensive study of the Wittgenstein Nachlass, some crucial items of which did not come to light until decades later."   (4th Edition PI, page viii). 

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On Why Part II of the Investigations is Re-Named in the Fourth Edition

According to Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein made the following remark (to Malcolm) in the late summer of 1949 regarding what has become known as Philosophical Investigations:

"... if he had the money, he thought he would have his book (TS 227, the typescript of the Investigations) mimeographed and distributed among his friends. He said that it was not in a completely finished state, but that he did not think that he could give the final polish to it in his lifetime. The plan would have the merit that he could put in parenthesis after a remark, expressions of dissatisfaction, like 'This is not quite right' or 'This is fishy'. He would like to put his book into the hands of his friends, but to take it to a publisher right now was out of the question."

After quoting that passage, Hacker and Schulte in the new (4th) edition go on to say:

"Whatever Wittgenstein's final intentions were, the fact is that the closest he ever came to completing the Philosophical Investigations is the current text consisting of ss 1-693. It is, we believe, this text that should be known as Witgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. What has hitherto been called 'Philosophical Investigations, Part II' was a re-arranged set of remarks written between 1946 and 1949 dealing chiefly with questions in what Wittgenstein called 'philosophy of psychology'. We have named it 'Philosophy of Psychology -- A Fragment.' This is, in effect, a reconstruction of ... typescript 234, based on MS 144 and the printed version in the previous editions of the Investigations."

Sources. Hacker and Schulte, p. xxii-xxiii (revised 4th edition of PI), and Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein -- A Memoir, 2nd Ed., p. 75.   Regards. 

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Vetting the New Translations of Philosophical Investigations

With regard to the process used to "vet" the new translations of PI, Hacker and Schulte note the following:

1. The idea for a new translation was brought up "at what turned out to be one of the last meetings of the Wittgenstein trustees." (v)

2. "The trustees, with the exception of Anthony Kenny, became members of what is now the Wittgenstein editorial advisory committee" (v)

3. They originally thought the translation would take "a few months," but took much longer (v)

4. When they had a finished draft, they solicited comments from Wittgenstein scholars, including Kenny and Brian McGuinnes, among others. (vi). [Ray Monk is not listed as being included].

5. The discussions were "intense and lengthy" and led to "a great number of changes." (vi)

6. And certain other comments were obtained from other scholars. (vi)

All of this appears in the "Editors' and Translators' Acknowledgements for the Fourth Edition." The point is to give thanks to colleagues and to show the process for vetting the new judgments. (Note: British spelling of acknowledgments).

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On The Famous von Wright Photos

Here is a statement from the photographer of the famous photos of Wittgenstein and Georg Henrik von Wright in Cambridge in 1950. The photos were some of the last ever taken of Ludwig. (von Wright was Wittgenstein's successor at Cambridge and also one of his executors).

"In the late spring of 1950 we had tea with the von Wrights in the garden. It was a sunny day and I asked Wittgenstein if I could take a photograph of him. He said, yes, I could do that, if I would let him sit with his back to the lens. I had no objections and went to get my camera. In the meantime Wittgenstein had changed his mind. he now decided I was to take the picture in the style of a passport photograph, and von Wright was to sit next to him. Again I agreed, and Wittgenstein now walked off to get the sheet off his bed; he would not accept Elisabeth von Wright's offer of a fresh sheet from her closets. Wittgenstein draped the sheet, hanging it in front of the veranda and pulled up two chairs."

-- K.E. Tranoj [the "o" requires a special character I am unable duplicate here -- sw]

Sources: Michael Nedo, Michele Ranchetti, “Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sein Leben in Bildern und Texten, Suhrkamp,” 1983 at p. 471-473;  and Michael Nedo, Guy Moreton and Alec Finlay, “Ludwig Wittgenstein, There Where You are Not,” 2005, at p. 84.

Here are the pictures, albeit a little cropped:

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Joan Bevan's Account of Wittgenstein

 John Bevan was Dr. Edward Bevan's wife. Wittgenstein had taken residence with Dr. Bevan after his cancer had reached a severe stage. Following his death, Mrs. Bevan had the following to say: 

 “My husband Edward met Maurice Drury in the war and they became very friendly, and in the course of their conversations he told Edward about Professor Wittgenstein …  Shortly after his [Wittgenstein’s] return from America in the autumn of 1949 where he had been staying with the Norman Malcolms and had been taken ill – he sent for my husband – and from this encounter our friendship and close contact originated … . It was remarkable that he never discussed or tried to discuss with me, subjects which I did not understand, so that in our relationship I never felt inferior or ignorant. He was completely unconscious of his own appearance, he was very fussy about his personal cleanliness – but it was utterly without vanity. He seemed to know what was going on in the world though he never ever read the papers or listened to the news on the wireless. He was very demanding and exacting although his tastes were very simple. It was UNDERSTOOD that his bath would be ready, his meals on time and that the events of the day would run to a regular pattern."

 -- Joan Bevan [allcaps substituted for italics in original; Paragrpahs condensed into one -sw]

Sources: Michael Nedo, Michele Ranchetti, “Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sein Leben in Bildern und Texten, Suhrkamp,” 1983 at p. 475;  and Michael Nedo, Guy Moreton and Alec Finlay, “Ludwig Wittgenstein, There Where You are Not,” 2005, at p. 85.

Regards and thanks,

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