Lost Wittgenstein Writings Unearthed

Christiaan Tonnis ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein / Pencil on board / 1985

It is 60 years to the day since Ludwig Wittgenstein died. What better way to mark the occasion than to rediscover an archive of the enigmatic philosopher’s work?

The University of Cambridge announced this week the existence of an archive consisting of two boxes of Wittgenstein’s manuscripts and papers, which after careful examination and preparation by Professor Arthur Gibson, is hoped to be published within the year. The collection, totaling 150,000 words, reportedly contains the work now posthumously published as the Brown Book, complete with a revised opening and 60 added pages of manuscript. An emergent exercise book with ‘a pinkish cover’ is also said to be included in the archive, which may be what has come to be known by scholars as the Pink Book, a work that has so far eluded publication.

News reports have speculated on a new light that the discovery sheds upon Wittgenstein’s personal life. Much of the work contained in the new archive, including the notes of the pink book, are written in the hand of Francis Skinner. Skinner was not only a pupil, friend and scribe of Wittgenstein, but he was also Wittgenstein’s lover. It was in fact the untimely death of the young Skinner that caused the writings of the archive to become lost. Skinner had been a sufferer of polio, which eventually took his life on 3rd October 1941, whereupon the grieving Wittgenstein handed over his work to Reuben Goodstein, a former pupil. In the 1970s, Professor Goodstein in turn left the archive to the Mathematical Association (MA) which he was once president of, and it was only recently that the MA released the material for the perusal of Trinity College, Cambridge, where Professor Gibson has been delegated his task.

This exciting moment in philosophy scholarship coincides quite felicitously with the events surrounding the commemoration of Wittgenstein’s life. Events include a graduate conference at the University of Southampton, the world premiere of a play based on Wittgenstein’s thought, and an exhibition in the Schwules Museum, Berlin, charting the life  of the man behind that great and mysterious mind.

Related Articles:

The Later Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Religion


Volume 5, Issue 11, November 2010, Pages: 1013–1022, Stig Børsen Hansen

Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Religion


Volume 6, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages: 142–151, Stig Børsen Hansen

Recent Work on Propositions


Volume 4, Issue 3, May 2009, Pages: 469–486, Peter Hanks

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