Ludwig Wittgenstein. The Whewell’s Court Lectures, Cambridge 1938-1941

Project director: Dipl.-Volksw. Dr. Volker A. Munz, M.A.

Project assistant: lic. phil. Bernhard Ritter

This project deals with an edition of hitherto unpublished notes of lectures Ludwig Wittgenstein held in Cambridge. The notes were taken by Yorick Smythies, a student and very close friend of Wittgenstein’s.

Most of Smythies’ notes were taken from Easter Term 1938 to Lent Term 1941. No other notes from that period are known to exist except the Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, the Lectures on Freedom of the Will, and the Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics. All these publications draw from notes by Smythies.

Extensive research has brought out the high quality of Smythies’ unpublished notes. The projected publication of this material is certain to open new discussions on Wittgenstein’s treatment of central philosophical questions. The value of Smythies’ notes is reinforced by the fact that Wittgenstein discusses various subjects in his lectures in a more systematic and focused way than in his own written work. This series of lectures display a continuity which is not found in his published writings. Wittgenstein uses numerous examples in his lectures that we find in identical or similar form in his published works, but often in different contexts. Especially the use of examples show connections and interrelations between themes of Wittgenstein’s philosophy that are not obvious at first sight. References to the Nachlass and to Wittgenstein’s published writings will help the reader to see the similarties and the differences. The Whewell’s Court Lectures will be a helpful complement to Wittgenstein’s published works.

The material exists in various stages, beginning with the original notes which Smythies took during the lectures. They are written in a kind of shorthand, often difficult to read, which he had developed in order to get closer to what Wittgenstein was saying in the lectures. On the basis of these notes, Smythies produced handwritten fair copies, which he read out and taped. Finally, a secretary prepared a collection of typescripts using the tapes, 21 in total, which Smythies had dictated. The final aim of this research project is to publish the complete notes Smythies took at Wittgenstein’s lectures and to make Smythies’ tape recordings available in an audio format.

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