Haus Wittgenstein Speisezimmer Wittgenstein Wittgenstein Arnold Schoenberg Schönberg Reihentafel

Loos - Wittgenstein - Schönberg

Talks and Chamber Music at the Looshaus on Michaelerplatz

Ludwig Wittgenstein occupies the unique position of being the 20th century’s most influential philosopher. Yet, while his name is known far beyond the confines of his academic subject, his achievements remain paradoxically obscure to a broader public and even to many philosophers.

That obscurity is related to his adamant rejection of the idea that philosophy can be expressed in the traditional manner, i.e., in terms of a theory of reality, knowledge or ethics. Wittgenstein’s rejection of theory – indeed, of argument itself at least as traditionally conceived by philosophers - in turn, is essentially linked to an amazingly expressive style which is at once lapidary, fragmentary and puzzling.

Why, for example, do we find 784 questions in his main work, the Philosophical Investigations, only 110 of which are answered and 70 of which are deliberately answered falsely? In fact the fascination that he has come to exert upon his readers is linked to the craftsmanship with which he developed a refreshingly new and powerful set of instruments for reflection on the extraordinary character of what we as a rule complacently dismiss as mere everyday experience. Moreover, he took precisely that inability to appreciate how familiarity blinds us to the truly amazing foundations of everyday life to be the major failing of our culture.

Although Wittgenstein developed his ideas first and foremost in reaction to those of his Cambridge colleagues such as Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, a crucial element in developing his view of philosophy as a craft, a discipline whose value – and beauty – consists in it being well-done rather than preached about (as his biographer Brian McGuinness has put it). It was inspired by and reflected similar strains of Viennese critical modernism such as the architecture of Adolf Loos or the composition of Arnold Schönberg which proceed from the notion that craftsmanship is the key to understanding what is truly valuable in culture at all.

Allan Janik, January 2013

Kurier, Raiffeisen Bank, bulgarisches Kulturinstitut