Ludwig Wittgenstein was an influential philosopher known for his work in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. His life was marked by a series of personal tragedies and a persistent search for philosophical clarity. Here’s a brief overview of his early life and the tragedies involving his family:
Ludwig Wittgenstein was born on April 26, 1889, in Vienna, Austria, into one of the richest families in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, Karl Wittgenstein, was an industrial magnate who made a fortune in the steel industry. The Wittgenstein family was of Jewish descent, although they had converted to Catholicism.
The family lived in a grand house in Vienna and was known for their patronage of the arts. They often hosted musical evenings where prominent musicians like Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler would perform.
Ludwig was the youngest of eight children. The family had five boys and three girls.
Tragically, three of his four brothers committed suicide. These were personal tragedies that affected Wittgenstein deeply and influenced his philosophical contemplations on the meaning and value of life. The surviving brother, Paul, became a concert pianist, even after losing an arm during World War I and subsequently commissioned pieces for the left hand from several prominent composers.
Education and Early Life:
Wittgenstein initially studied mechanical engineering in Berlin and then aeronautics at Manchester University. However, his interest in the foundations of mathematics and logic led him to read the works of Bertrand Russell and eventually to study under him at the University of Cambridge.
His time in Cambridge culminated in the production of his first major work, the “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.” After its completion, believing (temporarily) that he had solved all the problems of philosophy, Wittgenstein left academia and spent several years in various professions, including as a schoolteacher, a gardener’s assistant at a monastery, and an architect.
Father and Family Influence:
Karl Wittgenstein, Ludwig’s father, was a dominating figure and had a significant influence on his children. He valued discipline and had high expectations for his children. The household was culturally rich, intellectually stimulating, but also emotionally intense.
The suicides in the family have sometimes been attributed to the high-pressure environment and possible genetic predispositions. However, it’s important to approach such conclusions with caution, as it’s challenging to determine the exact causes of such personal and tragic decisions.
In his later life, Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge and developed a new line of philosophical thought, which was later captured in his posthumously published work, “Philosophical Investigations.” This later work contrasted with his earlier “Tractatus” in many ways and had a significant influence on the philosophy of language and mind in the 20th century.