Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) was born in Austria and into wealth. He lived a life of eccentricity and professional nomadism, dabbling in academia, military service, education, and even as a hospital orderly. Moreover, during his life, he wrote voluminously but published only a single manuscript. The posthumous publication of his many volumes confirmed this view for future generations, ultimately rendering Wittgenstein a towering figure in the areas of logic, semantics, and the philosophy of mind. His investigations of linguistics and psychology would prove particularly revelatory, offering a distinctive window through which to newly understand the nature of meaning and the limits of human conception.
Wittgenstein’s Big Ideas
- Argued that conceptual confusion about language is the basis for most intellectual tension in philosophy;
- Asserted that the meaning of words presupposes our understanding of that meaning, and that our particular assignment of meaning comes from the cultural and social constructs surrounding us;
- Resolved that because thought is inextricably tied to language, and because language is socially constructed, we have no real inner-space for the realization of our thoughts, which is to say that the language of our thoughts renders our thoughts inherently socially constructed.