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PITHY QUOTE FROM Wittgenstein: Nachlass

Open quotes
The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know.

Wittgensteins Nachlass. 309 72

Wittgensteins Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition book cover

Wittgensteins Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition

ISBN: 978-1-57085-198-8

Language: German (Some English)

MARC Records

Ludwig Wittgenstein. Photogaph by Ben Richards. By permission, Wittgenstein Archive, Cambridge

List of Contents

Wittgenstein's Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition contains the text-only "normalized transcription" of The Bergen Electronic Edition of Wittgenstein's Nachlass. Item 203 of the Nachlass (Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung (Sog. Wiener Ts. des "Tractatus") (=Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Ser. n. 22.023)) is not included for copyright reasons in this web-only version. However two other versions of the Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung, items 202 (Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung, (sog. "Engelmann Ts." des "Tractatus")) and 204 (Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung (sog. "Gmunden Ts." des "Tractatus")) are included.

The collection includes all of Wittgenstein's unpublished manuscripts, typescripts, dictations, and most of his notebooks. The Nachlass was catalogued by G. H. von Wright in his The Wittgenstein Papers, first published in 1969, and later updated and included as a chapter with the same title in his book Wittgenstein, published by Blackwell (and by the University of Minnesota Press in the U.S.) in 1982.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Wittgenstein's Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, c1998-.


The Wittgenstein Nachlass

On his death in 1951, Ludwig Wittgenstein left behind a philosophical Nachlass of some 20,000 pages. Apart from the Tractatus, these papers were at that point unpublished and largely unknown. The extent of the material came as a surprise even to Wittgenstein’s friends. The Trustees whom he had appointed to manage his estate - G. E. M. Anscombe, Rush Rhees, and G. H. von Wright - were repeatedly obliged to reassess the scale of their task as more and more material came to light. Their amazement was even greater on learning that Wittgenstein had had further papers destroyed.

Wittgenstein’s hope was that his Trustees might at last achieve what he himself had never managed, namely to settle on a form for the publication of his works. In his will of 29 January 1951 he wrote, "I intend and desire that Mr Rhees, Miss Anscombe, and Professor von Wright shall publish as many of my unpublished writings as they think fit (...)"

Publication history

In 1953 G. E. M. Anscombe and Rush Rhees published Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen). Since then many more texts have been released in print. The publication of the Nachlass is ongoing.

The story of the Nachlass and the initial phase of its publication is told in von Wright’s book Wittgenstein (von Wright 1982). Of particular interest is the chapter "The Wittgenstein Papers" (first published 1969), which contains what has meanwhile become the standard classification of the Nachlass.

The text of the book publications has been available in electronic form for several years but differs from the current edition in two ways: it was not prepared especially for this medium; and it includes only the book titles edited and published posthumously, and not the entire Nachlass.

The Nachlass catalogue

In talking of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass one usually means the texts listed in von Wright’s catalogue - in other words, the philosophical papers. Von Wright divides the approximately 20,000 pages into three numbered groups: numbers 101-182 refer to manuscripts (texts in Wittgenstein’s hand, primarily notebooks and bound volumes); numbers 201-245 refer to typescripts (usually dictated by Wittgenstein directly from his manuscripts); numbers 301-311 refer to dictations (to friends and students, e.g. in connection with lectures and seminars).

For each Nachlass item the catalogue gives a date, a brief description, and the number of pages. Some of the items are discussed in greater detail in a supplement to the main catalogue. In the field of Nachlass research, von Wright’s catalogue has established itself as the standard system of reference.

The original manuscripts and typescripts are preserved at various libraries and archives: MSS 105-107, 112-113, and TS 203 are kept at the Austrian National Library, Vienna; MS 104 and TS 202 at the Bodleian Library, Oxford; TSS 201a at the Bertrand Russell Archive, Hamilton, Ontario. Two items now considered lost are: TS 209 (Philosophische Bemerkungen) and TS 234 (typescript of the second part of Philosophische Untersuchungen). There exist copies of the former. All other items in von Wright’s catalogue, meaning by far the greater part of the Nachlass, are held at Trinity College Library, Cambridge.

After the compilation of the catalogue a number of items were found to be missing but have recently been recovered: MSS 126, 127, 139b, 142, and TSS 204, 236 and 238. Of these, MSS 126 and 127 were traced in 1993 and returned to Trinity College Library. TSS 236 and 238 were identified in the Rush Rhees collection at Trinity. Then, in 1993, Johannes Koder published the fact (Koder 1993) that MSS 139b, 142, and TS 204 were among the posthumous estate of Rudolph and Elisabeth Koder, Vienna. Koder’s publication also brought a number of hitherto unknown items to light: a notebook with entries from different periods (1930-32 and 1936-37; now catalogued as MS 183) and two manuscript-sheets from the 1920s (Koder 1993, p.53ff). The latter are single page items: a page torn from a diary and an annotated newspaper cutting.

Readers can, for the first time, observe the philosopher at work, transferring paragraphs from pocket notebooks to handwritten "volumes"; picking acceptable remarks to be included in type-scripts that are, at a later stage, cut up into slips of paper which are again annotated, rearranged and put together in further volumes and type-scripts.

—Herbert Hrachovec
Institut für Philosophie
University of Vienna