Jean-Paul RIOPELLE, L'hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, 1992 (détail)[ * ]

Wittgenstein the Musical: Notes toward an Appreciation

Béla Szabados


Wittgenstein’s works and notebooks contain many remarks on music. This essay  collects and collates available materials on the music Wittgenstein listened to, and on the role music played in his life. Besides situating this music and its appreciation in a Viennese setting, I also address, albeit tentatively, the question of the relevance of music to his work in aesthetics and philosophy. I conclude with comments on real family resemblances and differences between Ludwig Wittgenstein the philosopher, and his brother Paul Wittgenstein the concert pianist.

I pass a bunch of musicians in the street.

It's about 12.30, rehearsal just over, they're

standing around outside the side door of the church.

A good rehearsal; and it's April. They're laughing,

horsing around, talking about shoes, or taxes, where

to go for lunch, anything

except what their heads are full of.

It's a kind of helplessness, you can see

they're still breathing almost in unison, like people

the searchlight has passed over

and spared, their attention

lifts, swerves, settles; even

the gravel dust stuttering at their feet is coherent.

  Jan Zwicky, Musicians [1]

1. An Appetite for Music?

In an engaging little book on Schopenhauer Michael Tanner makes striking observations about the absence of desire for music in the history of philosophy. "In the case of music philosophers have, on the whole, shown a notable lack of interest. That is partly because most of them seem to have little appetite for music, a fact to be noted rather than pondered. Schopenhauer is one of the great exceptions, and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein are two of the others; Nietzsche's philosophy always has music in at least the background, and Wittgenstein certainly thought of music as a deep phenomenon though he wrote little that is valuable." [2]

I think these observations are on the mark as far as generalizations go. However, what Tanner’s says about one of the exceptions- namely, the case of Ludwig Wittgenstein- I find puzzling. The questions that immediately arise are: If Wittgenstein wrote much about music, which Tanner conversationally implies, where is such a body of work to be found? Why is most of it without value? What is the “little that is valuable” and why? In any case, why did Wittgenstein think of music as a deep phenomenon?  These questions cry out for answers, or at least for discussion that may be of interest to students of musical aesthetics, to those interested in a dialogue between music and philosophy, to Wittgenstein scholars, and to lovers of music at large.

 I suggest that at present we are not in a position to make the sort of evaluation that Michael Tanner proposes about Wittgenstein and music. Here are a few reasons why. Even though Wittgenstein wrote quite a lot about music, his remarks about music are scattered over his entire corpus, and so far no one has brought them together or taken stock of it. While the masterworks that bear his imprimatur, namely, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Philosophical Investigations, contain many neglected allusions to music, Culture and Value and the Wittgenstein Nachlass unexpectedly present us with a wealth of material on, or related to, music. These materials have not been collected together, nor have they received due scholarly attention, and unless we gather and carefully reflect on them, any judgment as to value seems premature, even impulsive, if only because unsupported. So the project of assessment requires a gathering of the fugitives, a serious consideration of remarks that philosophers in general tend to be dismissive of or take lightly, giving them the sort of sustained attention routinely given to Wittgenstein’s other remarks on issues of meaning, reference, intention, and so on.

What I aim to do here is a sort of prelude to such a task of appreciation and assessment. I begin with the music Wittgenstein listened to and gather the biographical fragments that indicate the role that music played in his life. Then I turn to the cultural background of fin de siècle Vienna to situate Wittgenstein's musical tastes. Then I retrieve some of Wittgenstein’s remarks on music which bear on the question of how they might relate to his lectures on aesthetics and to his philosophical activity. In closing, I turn to real family resemblance and difference between Ludwig and his brother, the concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein.

2. Music: Biography or Philosophy?

When he was working on what now appears as the second part of the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein said to his friend Drury: "It is impossible to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life," adding, " How then can I hope to be understood?" [3] This is an interesting remark for it surprisingly relates understanding music's significance for Wittgenstein as a person, to understanding his philosophy, since in the context the question “How then can I hope to be understood?” is an allusion to his philosophical work. Wittgenstein’s comment does not sit well with the analytical tradition’s sharp divide between biography and philosophy. According to this tradition, whether one loves music or regards it as important is merely of biographical interest, a matter external to philosophical activity. In opposition to this, Wittgenstein’s remark holds forth the prospect of music's philosophical import (at least for understanding his own philosophy), thereby straddling the conventional divide between biography and philosophy. [4]

The theme of what can and cannot be said is also struck, since the “It is impossible to say in my book one word…” bit resonates with the cryptic utterance of the Tractatus: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” [5] The early work asserts that ethics and aesthetics are one in that they are both “transcendental” [6] , and part of what this means is that through music (or the other arts) the sense and value of human life is shown, but nothing can be said about this in a book of philosophy. Since the Tractarian admonishment about what can and cannot be said depends on the show/say distinction, and since the later Wittgenstein rejected this distinction, the remark to Drury needs to be understood somewhat differently.

 One way to do so is to connect it to the later philosophy’s view of explanation and reduction: “We must do away with all explanation and allow only description to take its place.” [7] Of course, such a negative attitude to explanation is directed to “out of place” theoretical explanations, but does not include an aversion to ‘explanation’ in the sense of clarification of meaning. In the case of the meaning of music for us, neither a scientific-theoretical, nor a verbal explanation suffices, and obviously no description is a substitute for listening. If someone were to ask: What is valuable in a Beethoven sonata?  The sequence of notes? The feelings Beethoven had when he was composing it?  The state of mind produced by listening to it?  “I [Wittgenstein] would reply, that whatever I was told, I would reject, and that not because the explanation was false but because it was an explanation: If I were told anything that was a theory, I would say, No, no! That does not interest me—it would not be the exact thing I was looking for.” [8] This sort of remark, of course, allows room for observations that enable us to hear the music as expressive of the human: of the tragic, of the heroic, of the ironic and so on.

If music means a lot to a person then we expect him to listen to and appreciate music. Wittgenstein did so whenever he had a chance. And he could not say in his philosophical book how much music meant to him, for that suggests that an explanation could accomplish this, when what is required is appreciative listening. What we have here is a “Listen and hear” analogue to the "Look and see" attitude in philosophical inquiry. What then can we expect in the writings of a philosopher with a passionate appetite for music? We can at least expect evidence of philosophizing through music, thinking of philosophical issues through the ears, as it were. Wittgenstein does so by drawing analogies between a meaningful sentence and a musical theme, by putting philosophical and musical issues side by side, by letting each shed light on the other. The treatment of such particular analogies in Wittgenstein's works is a demanding task and is only beginning to be addressed. [9]

The claim that music was an important part of Wittgenstein's life has strong support from diverse sources: from reports of his friends and family, from his own diaries, and the frequent allusions to music in his philosophical lectures and works.  Here is a recollection of Maurice Drury's: "To watch Wittgenstein listening to music was to realize that this was something very central and deep in his life…I will never forget the emphasis with which he quoted Schopenhauer's dictum, 'Music is a world in itself.'” [10] And what Wittgenstein himself writes in a 1937 diary entry confirms a lively, although as we shall see later, a highly discriminate, appetite for music: "When I imagine a piece of music, something I do every day & often, I rhythmically grind my upper & lower front teeth together. I have noticed it before but usually it takes place quite unconsciously. Moreover it's as though the notes in my imagination were produced by this movement. I think this way of hearing music in the imagination may be very common. I can of course also imagine music without moving my teeth, but then the notes are much more blurred, much less clear, less pronounced." [11] We do not hear from Wittgenstein's dentist here with dire warnings about the onset of thinning or disappearing teeth due to these musical grindings, even though later on in life, in a moment of self-reflection, Wittgenstein describes himself as philosophizing with "toothless gums." [12]

3. Ludwig the Whistler

What then is the sort of music that Wittgenstein imagined every day and often? We can get a good idea of this by looking into biographical texts. In their excellent biographies of Wittgenstein, Ray Monk [13] and Brian McGuinness [14] allude to his enthusiasm and passion for music, but the material is scattered and in general unrelated to his philosophical activity.

To provide some background: he came from a musical home where there were several grand pianos.  Recall the boy Wittgenstein in Derek Jarman's film echoing what Wittgenstein said to F.R. Leavis: "In my father's house there were seven grand pianos." [15] This is probably the right number, if the pianos in Karl Wittgenstein’s houses other than the family home in the Alleegasse are counted. [16] In any event, the Wittgenstein family played music together, arranged for performances at their home, where Johannes Brahms, Josef Labor and other Viennese musical notables were frequent guests. The mother played the piano, the father the violin. His eldest brother committed suicide when his ambitions as a concert pianist had been apparently thwarted by the father. The older brother Paul was a concert pianist who lost his right arm in World War I and for whom Ravel composed a piano concerto for the left hand. It is also noteworthy that, while studying engineering in Berlin, young Ludwig is reported to have attended Wagner's The Mastersingers at least a dozen times. What could he have seen in it that so engaged him?  Perhaps the source of attraction was that the opera simultaneously treats problems of music and life and solves these problems by invoking the need for rules and reverence even within spontaneity. [17] These are themes that parallel some of Wittgenstein’s own philosophical preoccupations, as we shall see later. 

Although Ludwig took piano lessons as a child he got nothing out of it and abandoned it. He did not learn to play an instrument until much later, when in the early 1920s he entered Teachers' College, where one of the requirements for the diploma was the ability to play an instrument. He chose the clarinet, which he could teach himself. His sister, Hermine writes: "Music, too, came to have an ever stronger attraction for Ludwig. In his youth he had never played an instrument, but as a teacher he had to acquire this skill and chose the clarinet. I think that only from then on did his strong musical sense become really developed; at any rate, he played with great musical sensibility and enjoyed his instrument very much. He used to carry it around in an old stocking instead of in a case, and …he often cut a curious figure." [18]

Paul Engelmann, whom Wittgenstein met during the Great War and who became a good friend, provides a few more details. He tells us that when they first met during the war, Wittgenstein "played no instrument; later he learned to play the clarinet, and played it very well; I once heard him in Schubert's 'Shepherd on the Rock'. Instruments apart, he whistled beautifully. On one occasion, when the conversation turned to the viola part in the third movement of a Beethoven string quartet, he whistled  the part from beginning to end, with a tone as pure and as strong as that of an instrument. I have repeatedly heard him perform such feats." [19] How appropriate whistling the air is for a philosopher who has regard for, and builds on, the everyday! Engelmann also notes that Wittgenstein had a detailed knowledge of the whole Western European musical repertoire, and this was so before he learned an instrument. Running in the family then, music was, and though Ludwig was not actively engaged in music making until later, he had a participant's understanding of it through the natural practice of whistling.

There is earlier testimony for Wittgenstein as whistler in David Pinsent's Diaries from 1912 to 1913, published as A Portrait of Wittgenstein as a Young Man. [20]   Having met Wittgenstein at a Cambridge social, Pinsent later observes that "Wittgenstein is very musical with the same tastes as I", which explains why we get on so well together despite having known each other only for three weeks." [21] They are both “mad about Schubert” and start performing Schubert songs together, Pinsent taking the piano part and Ludwig whistling the part for the voice.

Pinsent's diary is full of delightful and informative details about two trips he and Wittgenstein took: one to Iceland and one to Norway.  They set out for Iceland on Saturday, September 8th, 1912. The boat called the 'Sterling' resembles an ordinary Channel steamer. "Lunch was at 11.0--consisting of sausagy sorts of things, cold, laid on the table to be chosen from. Afterwards we strummed the piano--for there is one on the ship--mostly Schubert songs, of which we have an edition with us." Then there is the trip to Norway. On August 30th, 1913, they sailed on the Wilson Line S.S. 'Eskimo' from Hull bound for Christiania. "The sea seems to be absolutely calm--but it is foggy and the hooter is making an awful row every quarter of a minute." [22] Soon after landing, Wittgenstein went off to Bergen and acquired two volumes of Schubert songs some of which they performed “in our customary manner.” [23] By September 21st, 1913, Pinsent reports; "We have now a repertoire of some 40 Schubert songs--which we perform--Ludwig whistling the air and I playing the accompaniment." [24]

There is regular and frequent attendance at the Cambridge University Musical Club with Pinsent and others, including Bertrand Russell. Wittgenstein's reactions to the program are indicative of his musical tastes. Bach, Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert and Brahms's compositions are usually received with enthusiasm, while those of Strauss usually avoided. On October the 4th, 1912, for example, Wittgenstein and Pinsent attend a concert “with Brahm's Requiem "splendidly performed--those climaxes in it are simply indescribable--W said he had never enjoyed it more--and he has heard it pretty often…..The second half of the concert began with two selections from Strauss' 'Salome': W refused to go in for them, and stayed outside till the Beethoven….The Beethoven following was the 7th symphony--gorgeous." [25] Again at the Cambridge University Musical Club, on October the 4th 1913, they attend Beethoven's Septet and Schubert's Octet- the performance was a bit wooden but enjoyed enormously, especially the Octet- "wonderfully mystic and romantic." [26] The fact that Wittgenstein gave a miss to the Strauss may be due to an aversion or an indifference, or alternatively to Wittgenstein’s awareness that he can take in only so much music and appreciate it. On another occasion Wittgenstein went to hear Beethoven's Choral symphony with Russell, an event that Wittgenstein later described as "a turning point in my life".

In London, about a week later Pinsent and Wittgenstein heard Beethoven's violin Concerto and Brahms' First Symphony with Steinbach conducting.  On November the 7th at the Guildhall they hear Mozart's Sonata for 2 pianos, and "W was very enthusiastic about the Mozart." [27] Two days later, at the Cambridge University Musical Club, they attend Dohnányi conducting Beethoven's 4th piano and Violin Sonata. If we look at the intervals, we realize that Wittgenstein probably attended concerts at least twice a week. There were also "informal" concerts, as on Saturday, April 12, 1913; where they heard a Chopin fugue, a Bach Fugue, a movement of a Brahms's Sonata for Piano and Violin and a Mozart trio. [28] And on April the 9th, they go to the Guildhall: "The program was splendid and included Bach's Chaconne, a Mozart Sonata for 2 pianos, the Kreutzer Sonata of Beethoven and Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn. The latter was amazing--the most wonderful thing I had heard for a long while. The theme itself is indescribable- the variations typical of Brahms at his very greatest, and finally when at the end the theme emerges once more, unadorned, fortissimo and in tremendous harmonies, the effect is to make one gasp and grip one's chair!" [29]

During this period of 1912 and 1913 Wittgenstein was also associated with the Cambridge experimental psychology laboratory, where, with David Pinsent as subject, he conducted experiments on the various factors in music appreciation, such as pitch, rhythm and the property of being musically meaningful. Another noteworthy feature of the relationship was that the two friends argued against "modern music" with other musically minded students- taking up all and sundry. [30] The student who supported modern music was W. M. Lindley: “[T]hen he and Wittgenstein got arguing about modern music, which was rather amusing. Lindley used not to like modern stuff, but has been corrupted!” [31] Again, “Wittgenstein and Lindley came to tea: there was a lot of animated discussion about modern music—Lindley defending it against us two—which was great fun.” [32]

4. Dirge

Wittgenstein enlisted as a volunteer in the Austrian army in August 1914 and served to the end of the war when he was taken prisoner. David Pinsent died on the 8th of May 1918. His mother wrote to Wittgenstein thus: "My dear Mr. Wittgenstein, I know you will be very grieved to hear the sad news I have to tell you. My son David was killed while flying. He was engaged in research on Aerodynamics and he had done a great deal of very valuable work. He was perfectly happy when flying, he loved it…. We are told that the work he did will be the means of saving many lives in the future and he met his death investigating the cause of a previous accident." [33] Wittgenstein wrote back: "Most honoured, dear, gracious Lady, Today I received your kind letter with the sad news of David's death. David was my first and my only friend…the hours I spent with him have been the best in my life, he was to me a brother and a friend. Daily I have thought of him and have longed to see him again. If I live to see the end of the war I will come and see you and we will talk of David. One more thing, I have just finished the philosophic work on which I was already at work in Cambridge. I had always hoped to show it to him sometime, and it will always be connected with him in my memory. I will dedicate it to David's memory." [34]

 5. The Second Coming"

Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge some fifteen years later to begin a new life in philosophy and, we might add, in music--a period that biographer Ray Monk referred to as "the Second Coming." [35] Music continues to play a very important part in his life and is a way he interacts with his friends and students as they listen and discuss it afterwards. Drury recollects a 1930 meeting of the Moral Sciences Club in C.D. Broad’s rooms at Cambridge. “Before the meeting began, Wittgenstein and I stood talking looking out of the window; it was a dull grey evening just getting dark. I told Wittgenstein that I had been listening to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and how impressed I had been by the second movement. Wittgenstein: ‘The chord with which that slow movement opens is the colour of that sky’ (pointing out of the window). ‘At the end of the war, when we were retreating before the Italians, I was riding on a gun carriage and I was whistling to myself that movement. Just at the very end of the movement Beethoven does something which makes one see the theme in an entirely different light.” [36] This not only gives us a striking image, but embodies the method of juxtaposition: a sky-scape  is put side by side with a piece of music to bring out their respective expressive powers.

 John King, who was another student of Wittgenstein in the early thirties recalls: "Music, indeed was the chief topic of conversation--never philosophy. Music was one of the great passions of the Norfolk Rectory where I was born and brought up; and I kept up my choral singing in various choirs in Cambridge. I also had a portable gramophone in my digs at Portugal Place; and Wittgenstein came several times to hear some of the few records which I had. Two records in particular called forth remarkable comments. I once put on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th movements of Beethoven's Quartet in C sharp minor, Opus 131, played, I believe by the Lener String Quartet. He was rapt in his attention and most excited at the end of the playing. He jumped up as if something had suddenly struck him and said: 'How easy it is to think that you understand what Beethoven is saying.' (and here he seized a pencil and a piece of paper)  'how you think you have understood the projection' (and he drew two kinds of a circle, thus) 'and then suddenly' (and here he added a bulge) 'you realize that you haven't understood anything at all.'" [37] Although this may seem obscure, it is really full of significance, since the method of projection concerning questions of meaning was occupying Wittgenstein at the time.

"The second comment came from a playing of my then most recent acquisition, Brahms's String Quartet in B flat Major, opus 67. I told him that I particularly liked the 3rd movement where a superb and hauntingly lovely theme is given over to the viola. After this movement, he said with his characteristic rapt look--drawing breath, shutting his eyes and gathering his brows, and drawing down his chin with mouth closed, just as if he were savouring something exquisite, 'How strange it is that musicians at that time were so much concerned with the 'cloven hoof'. These comments took my breath away: I remained tongue-tied, and have cursed myself ever since for not questioning him about what he meant." [38]

Perhaps two things are noteworthy here. It is ironic how King himself unwittingly refutes his own observation that “Music, indeed was the chief topic of conversation—never philosophy,” since the very comments that take his breath away--the first about Beethoven and the method of projection, the second about Brahms and the ‘cloven hoof’-- have philosophical import for Wittgenstein as he evidently puts musical and philosophical ideas side by side. The second thing is the advent of the gramophone record, an obvious change in the technology of music, and the subsequent listening to records in students’ ‘digs’.

Drury relates another episode which identifies Wittgenstein's preferred symphony by Brahms. "We listened this evening in Desmond Lee's rooms to a performance on gramophone records of Brahms's third symphony. Wittgenstein's complete absorption in the music was most impressive. When it was finished he asked that we might hear it all over again. This, he said, was his favourite of the four symphonies of Brahms….” And later on in the same conversation, Wittgenstein said that “Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto is remarkable in being the last great concerto for the violin written. There is a passage in the second movement which is one of the great moments in music.” [39]

6.  Wittgenstein and “Modern Music”

As we have seen earlier, Wittgenstein’s negative attitude to "modern music" is evident in several entries of David Pinsent's diaries. “Modern music” was something that the young Wittgenstein and Pinsent enthusiastically argued against at Cambridge. Regrettably, we are not given any indication of the actual content of these debates.

One interesting question is what could they have meant by “modern music”? The obvious candidates would seem to be the composers Schönberg, Berg and Bartók, on the Austro-Hungarian side, and perhaps Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel from France, and possibly Stravinsky from Russia. To be sure, these composers would be within the compass of Wittgenstein’s judgment, but at the time the ground breaking atonal compositions of the Austro-Hungarians were still nascent or at least looking for an audience. As to the French composers, Wittgenstein never mentions them.

 So who were the composers Wittgenstein and Pinsent had in mind when they argued vigorously against “modern music”? There are reasons to think that Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler may have represented “modern music”for them. The aversion to Strauss seems palpable in the following entry in Pinsent’s diary: “The second half of the concert began with two selections from Strauss’s Salome: Wittgenstein refused to go in for them, and stayed outside till the Beethoven, which followed. He went out after that and went back to Lordswood by himself.”  After hearing the Strauss, Pinsent comments: “The Salome was rot, but very clever and amusing in consequence.” [40] We can speculate then that Wittgenstein gave the Strauss a miss because of his aversion to “modern music,” but he missed the Bach, which ended the concert, because he reached the limits of his ability to listen further.

There is reason to think that the early Wittgenstein may have been influenced by the pro-Brahms-anti-Wagner school of Viennese criticism which opposed Gustav Mahler and others for radically departing from the musical tradition of Mozart and Brahms. The vehemence of such attacks indicate that Mahler and others were to be blamed for the threat to, and the impending collapse of, that tradition. What is more, the critique was extended to the music of Austrian composers influenced by Richard Wagner, such as Anton Bruckner, Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg.

The fact that the young Wittgenstein was influenced by this school of Viennese musical criticism would partly explain his rather combative attitude towards “modern music” as represented by the figures I mentioned. Indeed, Pinsent records in his diary that on November 30th, 1912 Wittgenstein argued again with Lindley against “modern music” and we encounter a surprising moral censure: “Lindley used not to like modern stuff, but he has been corrupted!” [41] The tone of moral censure expressed in ‘corrupted,’ not to speak of the exclamation mark, is noteworthy for its deep reverence for, and an anxiety about, the musical tradition.

Later remarks, made in the early 1930s during the crucial transition period from the early philosophy of the Tractatus to the later philosophy of the Investigations give an explicitly negative assessment of Mahler’s music, but offer a different perspective. Mahler and modern composers are no longer blamed for the cracks in, or better still, the breakdown of, the tradition. Rather the later Wittgenstein adopts a Spenglerian attitude towards the culture: “I shouldn’t be surprised,” remarks Wittgenstein, “if the music of the future were in unison. Or is that only because I cannot clearly imagine several voices? Anyway I can’t imagine that the old large forms (string quartet, symphony, oratorio etc.) will be able to play any role at all. If something comes it will have to be—I think—simple, transparent. In a certain sense, naked. Or will that hold only for a certain race, only for one kind of music (?)” [42]  

That Mahler was a target of the early arguments against “modern music” receives further textual support from Wittgenstein’s diaries where the entries on Mahler indicate that Wittgenstein thought Mahler’s work to be “bad” and even “worthless”, a judgment that flies in the face of our contemporary assessments. “A picture of a complete apple tree, however accurate, in a certain sense resembles it infinitely less than does the smallest daisy. And in this sense a symphony by Bruckner is infinitely more closely related to a symphony from the heroic period than is one by Mahler. If the latter is a work of art it is one of a totally different sort. (But this observation itself is actually Spenglerian.)” [43]

  Notice that the complaint about Mahler is that he is abstract, a paper flower, lacks wild life, he is too tamed and civilized; Mahler relates to Beethoven as a picture of a tiger to a tiger. Is this a comment about Mahler as such or a comment about Mahler as a figure for what the culture of the west has become? I find it difficult to say which, partly because Wittgenstein can and does compare Anton Bruckner's symphonies to Beethoven's, and then Mahler’s to Bruckner’s. He seems to be appreciative of Bruckner and depreciative of Mahler despite the fact that both are influenced by Wagner and the age difference between them is only a few decades. What Mahler allegedly lacks is primordial force—his music does not have what all great works of art possess: “a wild animal tamed.” [44] This sort of remark is occasionally applied to Mendelssohn as well, and it has an unpleasant resonance with the anti-Semitism of Wagner’s essay on Judaism in Music. [45] Wittgenstein, as Joachim Schulte observed, “tended… to attribute weak or feminine (though not necessarily negative) characteristics to what he considered Jewish.” [46]

Since Wittgenstein is identifying with these great musical figures, comparing and contrasting himself to them, there are important implications here regarding the issue of how Wittgenstein's philosophy stands to the tradition. One such implication is that the later philosophy is so radically different from the great western philosophical tradition that it can not be compared to it, and he is wondering whether the word "philosophy" actually applies to it without qualification. He finally decides that it does, but only if it is made clear that it is a successor to what used to be called philosophy.

 What we have here is a very different attitude to the pro-Brahms-anti-Wagner critics and their descendants. Unlike them, Wittgenstein does not think that it is Mahler’s fault that the genres or the forms of the musical tradition broke down, losing their vitality and power. Nor does Wittgenstein think--to make a parallel point--that the end of traditional/essentialist philosophical theorizing is his own fault. The blame-game is inappropriate. Along with this comes a different way of listening to and appreciating composers. This is a way that values each composer for his particularity, and the mature Wittgenstein, unlike Eduard Hanslick the leader of the pro-Brahms-anti-Wagner school of criticism, does not use one composer as a stick to club another. Hanslick used Brahms and Mendelssohn as sticks to club Wagner. When Wittgenstein considered “modern music,” he admitted that the language and vocabulary of “modern music” was foreign to him and he said that he cannot understand it.

7. Music and Philosophy: A Dialogue

In his lectures on aesthetics Wittgenstein remarks “[t]o describe appreciation you have to describe a whole culture." This remark encourages the retrieval of tradition and context in understanding his reflections on music and its appreciation. In light of this, I now situate Wittgenstein's attitude to and remarks on music in the larger context of Austrian-German musical aesthetics and criticism. Sketching this background may help us with the task of providing a perspective on Wittgenstein's practice of listening to music.

Perhaps the first thing to put right up front is the intimate relationship between music and philosophy in Austrian-German culture. As Steven Burns observed: “[U]nlike much Anglo-American philosophy, nineteenth century German philosophy is in constant dialogue with literature, theology, and politics, and that a full understanding of this period cannot be realized by attending to the officially philosophical works alone.” [47] This is especially true of the dialogue between philosophy and music, in which Wagner engages Hegel and Schopenhauer, and in turn Nietzsche engages Wagner. In this dialogue music offers material for philosophical reflection.

Given this historical and cultural context, we can revisit John King’s comment that the chief topic of conversation was about music and never philosophy. For one thing, such an exclusive disjunction between music and philosophy may have come naturally to King, but was foreign to Wittgenstein. Ironically, as we have noted already, King is curiously mistaken about the character of the conversation—“always about music, never about philosophy”—since the very comments that he finds fascinating and render him tongue-tied-- are about both philosophy and music. Wittgenstein’s comments made about projection in connection with Beethoven’s Quartet in C sharp, opus 131, acquire philosophical significance once put side by side with the fact that Wittgenstein was at the time was working on problems concerning meaning and truth, about how we relate propositions to the world through what he calls “the method of projection.” It is also noteworthy that the young Wittgenstein spoke of a musical event, attended with his friend and mentor Bertrand Russell, as “a turning point in my life.” That this event was Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, celebrating human fraternity, is hardly accidental. Keeping in mind the choral component and how the human voice is put to symphonic purpose, it is worth mentioning here that the highest compliment in Wittgenstein’s repertoire was: “You are a real human being.” And in a 1937 notebook entry we read the cri de coeur: “Let us be human.” [48]

When we add to this textual cluster the fact that Schumann, a composer, is Wittgenstein’s cultural ideal, then we begin to see that Wittgenstein saw himself as a participant in the dialogue between music and philosophy that Steven Burns brought to our attention. In this dialogue justice, meaning, truth, and community, the good and the right, were themes for music as well as for philosophy. And we forget at our peril that a central and influential participant in that conversation was Wittgenstein’s fellow Viennese elder, Eduard Hanslick.

8. Wittgenstein’s Vienna

Allan Janik's and Steven Toulmin's seminal retrieval of the cultural context of Wittgenstein's philosophy in Wittgenstein’s Vienna, as well as Janik's recent book Wittgenstein's Vienna Revisited, both identify Hanslick as a dominant figure in musical aesthetics not only in that he was the most influential music critic, but the father of modern music criticism. Since neither of these books take up the topic of Wittgenstein on music, or for that matter, relate Hanslick to Wittgenstein, I extend their retrieval a little. Through his book On the Musically Beautiful: A Contribution towards the Aesthetics of Music [49] , which underwent 15 editions between 1854 and 1922, and through his role as music critic from 1854 to 1904 for the Neue Freie Presse--the Globe and Mail of Viennese newspapers-- Hanslick was a dominant figure in Viennese and German musical culture. For nearly half a century he was the most confident of musical censors--a bitter opponent of Wagner and Liszt, and Brahms's warmest supporter. (There is no doubt that Wagner had him in mind as he drew the figure of  Beckmesser in The Mastersingers--in fact in two early sketches of the libretto the name 'Hans Lich' appears instead of 'Beckmesser'). [50] No Viennese interested in music could avoid reading Hanslick, even if they wanted to.

For Hanslick, the history of music began with Bach and Handel, but in his heart it began with Mozart and reached its summit in Beethoven, Schumann, and Brahms. For Wittgenstein too music seems to mean music spanning form Bach through Mendelssohn to Schumann and Brahms. "Music", he said to his friend Drury, "came to a full stop with Brahms; and even in Brahms I can begin to hear the sound of machinery." [51] Wittgenstein and Hanslick then share a conception of music and inhabit a musical tradition that was home for both. This tradition was a “given” in which their life in music was grounded, and it provides the backdrop for their reactions and assessments. The early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus privileged this tradition, but in the later Wittgenstein this tradition became one among many others--with the proviso that he himself had his roots in this cultural tradition and identified with it.

There are limits to our ability to appreciate and understand. Appreciation and understanding may be difficult, if not impossible, outside one's musical tradition, unless one acquires a participant's understanding of that other tradition. There is a 1914 diary entry about linguistic and moral meaning that foreshadows this perspective: “If we hear a Chinese we tend to take his speech as inarticulate gurgling. Someone who understands Chinese will recognize language in what he hears. Similarly I often cannot recognize the human being in someone etc.” [52] This remark is equally applicable to music and throws some light on the young Wittgenstein’s and Pinsent’s attitude to what they called “modern music.”

We get a lively sense of this sort of situation in the case of Hanslick’s incapacity to appreciate Liszt’s and Wagner’s “music of the future”—even though their compositions were innovative successors to the musical tradition Hanslick privileged. Their compositions were perhaps heard by Hanslick as a kind of musical gurgling, when compared to Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Brahms. This inability to discern musical meaning in what one hears is partly explained by a narrow, dogmatic view of music. A salient feature of Hanslick’s musical criticism was his attack on Liszt's and Wagner’s innovations as well as on program music in general. The basis for this criticism was that Liszt and Wagner undermined the "autonomous significance of music, suggesting to the listener that it is nothing but a means for the generation of musical configurations." What is more, Wagner's "doctrine of endless melody is formlessness raised to the level of principle." If we take this at face value, Hanslick was unable to hear any worthwhile connections between Wagner’s and Liszt’s innovations on the one hand and the traditional forms on the other hand. If we look at Wittgenstein’s and Pinsent’s attitude this way, we can see more than a mere preference in their attacks on “modern music.”

In Lectures on Aesthetics Wittgenstein gives as an example of a very high culture, namely German music of the 18th and 19th centuries:  "You get a picture of what you may call a very high culture, e.g., German music in the last century and the century before, and what happens when this deteriorates…The words we call expressions of aesthetic judgement play a very complicated role, but a very definite role, in what we call a culture of a period. To describe their use or to describe what you mean by a cultured taste you have to describe a culture. What belongs to a language game is a whole culture. In describing musical taste you have to describe whether children give concerts, whether women do or whether men only give them, etc, etc. (Whether children are taught by adults who go to concerts, that the schools are like they are, etc.) In aristocratic circles in Vienna people had such and such a taste, then it came into bourgeois circles and women joined choirs, etc. This is an example of a tradition in music." [53] When arts and crafts are alive and well, the rules are preeminent and extraordinary care is lavished on certain details; when thousands of people are interested in the minutest details. In a period of deterioration everything is copied and nothing is thought about. A picture of what happens when a dining room table is chosen more or less at random, when no one knows where it came from or thought about its design.”

These features of attention to detail, to the particular case, to origins and form, are aspects of Wittgenstein's practice of listening and thinking about music, as indeed they were aspects of Hanslick’s practice of reviewing and of his musical aesthetics. Apparently Hanslick never reviewed a performance unless he played the music himself beforehand. Similarly, Wittgenstein was attentive to details, and took composers and their music one by one--always with a central focus on one composer and his music. So there was a period when he would listen to nothing but Bach or Haydn; at another Beethoven or Schubert or Schumann. Whom he listened to depended on what preoccupied him at the time. It was characteristic of him to explore through the particular concrete case. Recall that he is reported to have gone to Wagner's The Mastersingers more than a dozen times in a one year period. Perhaps Wittgenstein wanted to find out why Brahms, who had an aversion to all theatricality, carried around with him the score of the Mastersingers for weeks—what Brahms could have seen in Wagner—to Hanslick’s disapproval.

What does appreciation consist in for Wittgenstein? It is not shown by the interjections a person uses, such as 'Ah', 'beautiful', 'marvelous', 'charming'--just as we do not call a dog musical if it wags its tail when music is played. Rather, appreciation is shown by the way a person hums a tune, or his knowing when the bass comes in; or by certain questions such as 'Does this harmonize? No. The bass is not quite loud enough. Here I just want something different…. This is what I call appreciation. [54] Again appreciation could take different forms: it could be narrow or broad, deep or shallow.

9. Music, Language and the World

My hope is that these efforts at stage setting enable us to imagine how Wittgenstein may have seen himself as participating in the dialogue between music and philosophy. What then were some specific themes of this dialogue that Wittgenstein took up, put his own stamp on, and manifested affinities to, as well as differences from Hanslick? One central theme in the conversation between music and philosophy had to do with questions of meaning. This renders intelligible Wittgenstein’s frequent juxtapositions of remarks about the meaning of a theme in music and the meaning of a proposition or a sentence. A related question has to do with whether music is a language, perhaps a universal language. Other questions probed the relation between music and emotion, music and nature.

Here are some reminders of what Hanslick had to say about these matters. His aim was to provide a new foundation for a “scientific” musical aesthetics by arguing for the autonomy of music. In the course of doing so, he criticized Romanticist views that music is a language of feeling and put forth and defended a formalist view of music as sound in motion. Hanslick resists reductionist tendencies in the philosophy of music, tendencies crystallized in theories that seek to locate musical meaning in matters external to music. Thus he combats pictures of music as representation, whether such representation is thought of as mimetic of nature outside us, or of emotions and feelings inside us. These theories exhibited reductionist tendencies in the philosophy of music and are analogous to theories in the philosophy of language to the effect that linguistic meaning can be exhaustively identified with naming or reference. Wittgenstein may be regarded as Hanslick’s ready ally in such critiques, as we know from his treatment of such topics in the Blue & Brown Books and the Philosophical Investigations.

However, there are differences too between our two Viennese. While there is agreement with Hanslick in that relegating music to the exclusive domain of the inner--to our emotional life-- or to some external domain—is wrong-headed, he would add that a pure formalist perspective like Hanslick’s leaves music, as well as language, alone and isolated. For Wittgenstein, music has a connection with ideas and the language games associated with the forms of life that reverberate in music. Consider: “Doesn’t the theme point to anything beyond itself? Oh yes! But that means: the impression it makes on me is connected with things in its surroundings- e.g. with the existence of the German language & its intonation, but that means with the whole field of our language games. If I say, e.g.: it’s as though a conclusion were being drawn, or, as if here something were being confirmed, or,as this were a reply to what came earlier, - then the way I understand it clearly presupposes familiarity with conclusions, confirmations, replies,etc. A theme, no less than a face, wears an expression.” [55]

An unmusical philosopher then, and this includes, as Michael Tanner observed, most philosophers in the tradition, becomes an object of suspicion for philosophical reasons, since they are not in tune with, or suppress in themselves the resonance of, the forms of life and culture. This is a variation on Schopenhauer’s idea that music is the deepest of the arts because it is iconic of the will: it does not represent, but it reverberates with, life. (In this connection we need to recall that Wittgenstein lists Schopenhauer as one of the ten thinkers who provided him with “a line of thinking.”) An unmusical philosopher is deficient in an important requirement for engaging in philosophical activity: “What has to be accepted, the given, is—so one could say—forms of life.” [56]  

There are other important contrasts between Wittgenstein and Hanslick. For example, Hanslick claims that music has "autonomous significance," and wants "urgently to point to the unique and imperishable in music, i.e., musical beauty, and to how our great masters embodied it, and also to how genuine musical innovators will be cherished for all time." [57] Wittgenstein rejects Hanslick’s view that the idea of the beautiful is foundational for aesthetics, and argues that it has caused a lot of mischief by encouraging essentialism in reflection on music. For example, Hanslick lumps all good music together under the rubric of the “musically beautiful.” In opposition to this, Wittgenstein contends that the idea of the beautiful plays little if any role in musical appreciation or discernment.

 A large part of Hanslick's book is a polemic against the "music of the future" as embodied in Franz Liszt's program symphonies and Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and The Ring of the Nibelungen.  In his anxiousness to protect music's integrity against what he sees as attempts to reduce it to "nothing but a means for the generation of musical configurations," Hanslick goes to the other extreme of isolating music from the other arts, such as literature, in particular poetry, and painting. He speaks as if music has nothing to do with ideas, thought, argument, attitudes and the human.

It is important to notice here the later Wittgenstein’s anti-essentialism about the nature of all music as language. There is a respect for differences in music, a “listen and appreciate” approach. The fact that in the case of some music a similarity to language is remarkable shows that this feature cannot simply be a definitional matter. And the actual playing, the execution or interpretation is also important. Consider what Wittgenstein said about the Austrian composer and organist Joseph Labor: “Think about how it was said of Labor’s playing ‘He is speaking’. How curious! What was it about his playing that was so reminiscent of speaking? And how remarkable that this similarity with speaking is not something we find incidental, but an important & big matter!—We should like to call music, & certainly some music, a language; and no doubt this does apply to some music--& to some no doubt not. (Not that this need involve a judgment of value!) [58]

These and similar remarks seem to steer a middle way between two sorts of essentialists about music--those who want to reduce it to language, or to poetry or literature on the one hand, and those who say that music has nothing to do with language on the other. To relate them somewhat crudely to composition: one extreme is to think that we compose from word to note (Wagner); the other extreme is to think that we compose from note to word (Hanslick). Wittgenstein rejects in equal measure both theories as extreme and unwarranted generalizations about compositional practices.

10. Walk the Talk: A Tension in Wittgenstein?

At this point it might be said that Wittgenstein's hostile attitude to modern music--his apparent complaints that he cannot understand it and that it is alien to him--sit uneasily with his anti-essentialism and with the idea of creative innovation in a tradition. Could it be that Wittgenstein, in criticizing “modern music” in general and Gustav Mahler in particular, is making the same sort of mistake that he diagnosed in others when he criticized their essentialism?

An inability to appreciate and an undue pessimism about the state of musical culture may be the epiphenomena of a perspective that if a thing is called by a name, in this case music, it must have something in common with all the other things called by that name. Listeners and critics, hearing a new work, search for something and when they don't find it, conclude that what they are listening to is not music or bad music.

Wittgenstein himself offers a different point of view in Philosophical Investigations that opposes such Platonism about language or for that matter about music: "I am saying that these phenomena have no one thing in common which make us use the same word for all but that they are related to one another in many different ways…I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than 'family resemblances'." [59] Here we are reminded that in a family one member will have brown hair, like one brother or sister, blue eyes like another, and be left handed like yet another.  A series of relationships connects each member of the family to all the others without there being any one thing which all the members of the family share.

If upon exposure to a new musical work, we adopted a family resemblance perspective and searched for overlapping threads of similarities and interesting differences too, rather than for a common element shared by all music, we would be in a better position to understand and appreciate. The objection against Wittgenstein then is that there is a tension in his profession and practice—an accusation of philosophical hypocrisy of sorts. To borrow a phrase from the vocabulary of Rap Music, Wittgenstein talked the talk but did not walk the walk. Had he walked his talk, he would have been more aware of the continuities in Mahler’s music with the musical tradition and its striking creative innovations.

  One way this tension can be dissolved is to read Wittgenstein as yesterday’s man: as acknowledging that he was left behind in the musical journey of the west, that he was a man of another cultural era. So was his brother Paul, yet Paul, unlike Ludwig, did exhibit a measure of sympathy for and the willingness to understand new music. Let us visit then the brothers Wittgenstein, drawing real family resemblances and differences, and see how these offer us resources for dissolving the tension noticed above. 

11. The Two Wittgensteins: Did Paul Get On and Was Ludwig Left Behind?

Consider Paul Wittgenstein's encounter with Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev, two composers, among half a dozen or so, whom he commissioned to compose piano concertos for the left hand.  Prokofiev as well as Ravel knew that Paul admired Mozart and Brahms above all. Here is what Prokofiev wrote to Paul Wittgenstein when sending his Concerto No. 4 in B-flat for the Left Hand. [60] "You are a musician of the 19th century, I am of the 20th. Don't judge the piano part too hastily; if certain moments seem to be indigestible at first, don't press yourself to pronounce judgement, but wait a while." Paul never played the piece and explained this in a way that is also instructive about Ludwig's attitude: "Even a concerto Prokofiev has written for me I have not played because the inner logic of the work is not clear to me, and of course I can't play it until it is." We might analogously say then that both Paul and Ludwig appreciated the music of 18th and 19th century, since the inner logic of later music was opaque to them and they left modern music alone. On this view, both Paul and Ludwig were left behind, because of being stuck in the past. [61]

  This approach does not do justice to Paul Wittgenstein's struggles and concert career. The episode with Ravel may suggest another way of dissolving the tension. When Ravel came to Vienna to play the Concerto, Paul's reactions were rather negative: "He (Ravel) was not an outstanding pianist, and I wasn't overwhelmed by the composition. It always takes me a while to grow into a difficult work. I suppose Ravel was disappointed, and I was sorry, but I had never learned to pretend. Only much later, after I'd studied the concerto for months, did I become fascinated by it and realize what a great work it was." By 1933 they seemed to have patched up their differences enough to allow Paul to play it in Paris with Ravel conducting. So even though the relationship had elements of tension, it eventually resulted in successful performances. There is a Canadian resonance here since the North American debut of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand was performed by Paul in Montréal in 1934. 

Ludwig never learned to pretend either, and does not appear to have put in the work required to be in a position to appreciate later developments in music.  Understandably then, Liszt, Ravel, Saint-Saens, Berlioz, Debussy, Sibelius simply do not figure in his thoughts. These were the limits of his musical understanding. It seems then that Ludwig was left behind in the journey of the creative musical culture of the west because he was unable, unwilling or indifferent to making the required effort to continue, while Paul struggled and partly succeeded in doing so. What is ironic about this is that the musical journey of what might be called critical modernism is in many ways parallel to Ludwig Wittgenstein's own deeply creative efforts in philosophy.

  Paul's loss of the right hand presented a challenge to the meaning of his life as concert pianist. Ludwig is on record saying that he had an aversion to the idea of his brother continuing his career as a concert pianist, as being perceived as "a freak". Nevertheless he identified with his brother as we can infer from his saying to friends that he knew that he himself was “a freak.” What is more, he often thought of what sort of philosophy would enable his brother to cope with and respond to such a loss--a loss that is analogous to incapacitating mental illness in a philosopher. It seems to me that Paul had done the right thing for himself in performing, teaching and commissioning works from modern composers, eventually re-establishing himself as a successful concert pianist on the circuit. He emigrated to New York, married one of his students, had children, gave  a hard time to the Nazis in negotiating a financial deal for the racial reclassification of his sisters in Vienna, whose very existence was threatened by the local authorities.

There is another way to dissolve the tension mentioned above, and I prefer it to the others alluded to above, since it is in better alignment with Wittgenstein’s respect for difference in his later philosophical perspective, and because it does greater justice to his integrity. There is a clue provided in Wittgenstein's reflections on his cultural ideal for dissolving the tension: " I often wonder whether my cultural ideal is a new one, i.e., contemporary, or whether it comes from the time of Schumann. At least it strikes me as a continuation of that ideal, though not the continuation that actually followed it then. That is to say, the second half of the 19th century has been left out. This, I ought to say, has happened quite instinctively & was not a result of reflection." [62] There are two things that strike me as interesting and important about this quote. First, it opens up the possibility of diverse ways of meaning, valuing and living outside the dominant culture. This suggests that we are not compelled to choose between the judgmental, modernistic, either/or picture of being a member of the musical avant garde and  being yesterday’s man, left behind as the culture moves on. There are many worlds of music and one may inhabit one and not another, or one or more. Another striking thing about the quote is Wittgenstein’s acknowledgment that his cultural ideal is embodied in a composer!

I conclude on a note about possible affinities between the therapeutic function of music and Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophy as therapy. Ludwig wrote that the philosopher is looking for the "saving word" to cut a clear path through our conceptual problems and deep disquietudes. Can a composer of music play a similar sort of role with respect to deep problems or tensions in our lives? This brings up the question of the uses of music. It seems that music helped Ludwig to cope with isolation and the breaking points in his life. In David Pinsent's diaries we come across moments which suggest not only that music was a basis for friendship and social interaction, but that it was also a way of coping with such existential problems as anguish, fear of, and inclination to, suicide. There is a striking resemblance here between this function of music and Wittgenstein's goals in his philosophical activity: the achievement of peace of mind, doing justice, putting the tensions right up front and dissolving them. “In this world (mine)…hardness & conflict do not become something splendid but a defect. Conflict is dissipated in much the same way as is tension in a mechanism that you melt…In this solution tensions no longer exist.” [63] Here we have the seeds for both a therapeutic conception of philosophy and of music.

To end, I return to where I began, namely, to Jan Zwicky’s Musicians: “Even the gravel dust stuttering at their feet is coherent.”


Burns, Steven. “A Flock of Nightingales: Wagner’s Music and German Philosophy”, Special issue on Justice and Aesthetics, AE, Volume 7, 2002.

Engelmann, Paul. Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein, With a Memoir, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967.

Fann, K. T., editor, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Man and His Philosophy, Harvester, 1967.

Hanslick, Eduard. On the Musically Beautiful: A Contribution towards the Revision of the Aesthetics of Music, Translated and Edited by Geoffrey Payzant, Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 1986.

Janik, Allan, and Toulmin, Steven, Wittgenstein’s Vienna, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973.

Janik, Allan. Wittgenstein’s Vienna Revisited, New Brunswick, New Jersey:

Transaction Publishers, 2001.

Lurie, Yuval. “Wittgenstein on Culture and Civilization,” Inquiry, 1989, 375-397.

McGuinness, Brian. Wittgenstein: A Life, Young Ludwig, Berkeley, California:

  The University of California Press, 1988.

Monk, Ray. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, London: Jonathan Cape,


Moore, G.E. “Wittgenstein’s Lectures in 1930-1933,” in his Philosophical

Papers, New York: Humanities Press, 1959.

Pinsent, David. A Portrait of Wittgenstein as a Young Man, From the Diary of

David Hume Pinsent 1912-1914, edited by G. H. von Wright, Oxford: Basil

 Blackwell, 1990.

Rhees, Rush. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections, Oxford: Basil

Blackwell, 1981.

Scholes, Percy A. The Oxford Companion to Music, Tenth Edition, Edited by

  John Owen Ward, 1970.

Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Representation, Volumes I and II,

translated by E. F. Payne, New York: Dover Books, 1966.

Schulte, Joachim. Wittgenstein: An Introduction, Albany, New York: State

  University of New York Press, 1992.

Shiner, Roger. “On Giving Works of Art a Face”, Philosophy, 1978, 304-324.

Szabados, Béla. “Autobiography After Wittgenstein”, in The Journal of Aesthetics

  and Art Criticism, 1992, 1-12.

Szabados, Béla. “Autobiography and Philosophy: Variations on a Theme of

  Wittgenstein,” Metaphilosophy, 1995, 63-80.

Tanner, Michael. Schopenhauer, London: Phoenix, 1988.

Wagner, Richard. Judaism in Music, translated with explanatory notes and an

introduction by Edwin Evans, London: William Reeves, 1910.

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  and B.F. McGuinness with the Introduction by Bertrand Russell, London:

  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961.

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Anscombe, revised English translation, third edition, Oxford: Basil Blackwell,


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Religious Belief,edited by Cyril Barrett, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University

of California Press, 1967.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Culture and Value, translated by Peter Winch, Revised

Edition, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980/1998. All quotations are from the

  1998 edition.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Public and Private Occasions, edited by James c. Klagge

and Alfred Nordmann, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

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Zwicky, Jan. Songs For Relinquishing The Earth, London, Ontario: Brick Books,


[1] Zwicky, 16.

[2] Tanner, 43.

[3] Rhees, 94.

[4] For a more comprehensive treatment of this topic, see the listed articles by Béla


[5] Tractatus

[6] Ibid, 6.421.

[7] Philosophical Investigations, Par.109

[8] Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, 116.

[9] See the listed article by Sarah E. Worth, for example.

[10] Fann, 67-68.

[11] Culture and Value, 32.

[12] Ibid., 27.

[13] Monk.

[14] McGuinness. This biography of the young Wittgenstein is especially informative about his love of music,Viennese background and intellectual nursery training.

[15] Rhees, 54.

[16] McGuinness, op. cit., 19.

[17] Ibid, 55.

[18] "My Brother Ludwig" in Rhees, 9.

[19] Engelmann, 89-90.

[20] Pinsent.

[21] Ibid, 5.

[22] Ibid, 61.

[23] Ibid, 73.

[24] Ibid,78.

[25] Ibid, 34.

[26] Ibid, 36.

[27] Ibid,39.

[28] Ibid,43.

[29] Ibid,53.

[30] Ibid,42, 46, 55.

[31] Ibid, 42.

[32] Ibid, 46.

[33] Ibid, 108.

[34] Ibid, 109.

[35] See Monk, especially the chapter titled “The Second Coming,” 255-280.

[36] Rhees, 130.

[37] Rhees, 84.

[38] Ibid, 85.

[39] Rhees, 126.

[40] Pinsent, 34.

[41] Ibid, 42.

[42] Public and Private Occasions, 49.

[43] Culture and Value, 17, 1931.

[44] Ibid, 43.

[45] Wagner.

[46] Schulte,17.

[47] Burns.

[48] Culture and Value, 36.

[49]   Hanslick.

[50] Scholes, 438.

[51] Rhees, op. cit, 127.

[52] Culture and Value, 3.

[53] Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics..., 9.

[54] Ibid, 6-7.

[55] Culture and Value, 59.

[56] Philosophical Investigations, p. 192.

[57] Hanslick, xxxiii-xxxiv.

[58] Culture and Value, 71.

[59] Philosophical Investigations,

[60] I am grateful to Steven Burns for bringing to my attention the connection between Paul Wittgenstein and such modern composers as Sergei Prokofiev and Maurice Ravel.

[61] For an informed and sensitive instance of this general approach to Wittgenstein’s remarks on culture, and his adaptation of Spengler, see the listed article by Yuval Lurie.

[62] Culture and Value, 3.

[63] Ibid, 12.

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