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Schopenhauer's Impact on Wittgenstein S. MORRIS ENGEL OF ALL THE RECENT WRITERS who have noted Schopenhauer's influence on Wittgenstein, none have been more explicit than G. E. M. Anscombe. "It is very much a popular notion of Wittgenstein," Miss Anscombe points out, "that he was a latter-day Hume; but any connections between them are indirect, and he never read more than a few pages of Hume." If we look for Wittgenstein's philosophical ancestry, we should rather look to Sehopenhauer ; specifically, his "solipsism," his conception of "the limit" and his ideas on value will be better understood in the light of Schopenhauer than of any other philosopher. It is one of the oddities of the present day that Schopenhauer is often vaguely associated with Nietzsche and even with Nazism, and is thought to be some kind of immoralist, worshipper of power and praiser of suicide; it is not the mythical Sehopeulaauer of popular repute, but the actual Sehopenhauer, that we should remember in connection with Wittgenstein.x Miss Anscombe also explicitly informs us that it was "as a boy of sixteen" that "Wittgenstein had read Schopenhauer and had been greatly impressed by Schopenhauer 's theory of the 'world as idea' (though not of 'the world as will')." "Schopenhauer then struck him," she says, "as fundamentally right, if only a few adjustments and clarifications were made." 2 Miss Anscombe does not state whether Wittgenstein ever again returned to his study of Scbopenhauer. If he did not, the impact of that first and last reading must indeed have been considerable, for not only Miss Anseombe but other Wittgenstein scholars as well have been strnek by the Schopenhauerian tone of many of the passages of the Notebooks and Tractatus--works written some eleven to thirteen years after that first and (presumably) last reading. "We should remember," Miss Anscombe herself reminds us towards the conclusion of her study, "that Wittgenstein had been much impressed by Schopenbauer as a boy; many traces of this sympathy are to be found in the Tractatus." 3 An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus (London: Hutchinson Univ. Library, 1959), p. 12. Pp. 11-12. * P. 168. [285] 286 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY "The notes show," yon Wright remarks in his biographical sketch of Wittgenstein, "how strong were the impressions that Wittgenstein had received from Schopenhauer ." 4 "We can also see," Favrholdt writes, "that he has read attentively Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung." "The passages on solipsism, will, and ethics in the Tractatus,'" he points out, "'are conceived by Wittgenstein with Schopenhauer in mind." 5 And so on. Although these scholars do not say that Wittgenstein did not again consult Schopenhauer, their remarks seem to imply that he did not. Assuming this to be so, it is difficult to see how they reconcile Wittgenstein's single reading of Schopenhauer at the age of sixteen with their explicit remarks regarding the extent of Schopenhau6r's influence upon his work some thirteen years later. In addition, if it is indeed true, as von Wright and the others attest, that Schopenhauer was one of the very few philosophers whose writings Wittgenstein admired, 6 then it seems difficult to believe that Wittgenstein never again returned to him after having read or studied him at this single period in his life. But there are other problems here as well. "If I remember rightly," yon Wright informs us, Wittgenstein told me that he had read Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung in his youth and that his first philosophy was a Schopenhauerian epistemological idealism. Of how this interest was related to his interest in logic and the philosophy of mathematics I know nothing, except that I remember his saying that it was Frege's conceptual realism which made him abandon his earlier idealistic views.7 Here, then, is one problem. For not only is it difficult to reconcile Wittgenstein's early and single reading of Schopenhauer (assuming this to be so) with the extent of its impact some thirteen years later, but it is also difficult to reconcile Wittgenstein's interests in logic, etc. with those he found in Schopenhauer (assuming these to be merely what have so far been acknowledged). The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 285-302
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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