While the published works of Ludwig Wittgenstein reveal the final, coalesced thoughts of this philosophical giant, Wittgenstein’s diary reveals his process of doing philosophy. Only in his private writing does Wittgenstein's philosophical practice fully come to light.
Wittgenstein’s diary entries from the 1930s reveal themselves as a first-person spiritual epic. Wittgenstein agonizes over his relationship with Marguerite Respinger and tries to come to terms with its failure. He relates and interprets several of his dreams. He comments on his philosophical colleagues Frank Ramsey and G.E. Moore; on musicians such as Beethoven, Bruckner and Brahms; and on authors such as Kraus, Mann, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Kierkegaard. He struggles to make confessions to friends and family. He relates in painful detail his spiritual crisis in Norway in the late winter of 1937.
From a man who once recommended silence about spiritual matters, we find here an honest and searing articulation of his attempts to believe and live what he finds in the Bible. Here are the raw materials for what could have been one of the great spiritual autobiographies of the twentieth century. It is available here for the first time in an affordable edition, with updated and expanded editorial notes to help the reader understand Wittgenstein’s many allusions, and with a new Introduction by Ray Monk, which places the diary in the larger arc of Wittgenstein's life.
James C. Klagge is professor of philosophy at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Alfred Nordmann professor of philosophy at Darmstadt Technical University and Visiting Centenary Professor at the University of South Carolina.
Wittgenstein, the man and the philosopher, is a Promethean, puzzling mind. Both his personality and his philosophizing, as Ray Monk superbly recounts in his introduction, emerged from a highly peculiar way of systematizing self-examination. This diary exemplifies that splendidly in a crucial phase of his later development.
These diaries—brilliant and tortured—offer profound insight into the private world of the anti-philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, the deepest and most self-critical philosophical thinker of the twentieth century. Utterly fascinating—as well as indispensable for anyone interested in the man, his thought, or the intimate connections between the two.
What would it look like to truly face yourself? To give a ruthless self-accounting, to set to dismantling what’s unworthy, and to work doggedly towards remolding whatever remains? In this profound and intimate diary Wittgenstein gives us a glimpse—and it’s both inspiring and terrifying. It embodies a demand that we change our lives.