Juliet Floyd "On Wittgenstein's Nachlass: Report From the Field"

Wittgenstein's thought, expressed in an enormously complex, rich, multivariate and disparate corpus of writings, has so far benefitted from and required the considerable range of biographical and editorial expertise applied to it. As Toulmin and Janik argued, the multicultural density, range, and number of his remarks is so great and the synthesis and meaningful display and collection of his writings so difficult, we do well to attend to historical and cultural questions, always keeping in mind the philosophical significance of his work. For the first 50 years after his death, the assemblers of Wittgenstein's Nachlass made crucial contributions to the presentation, arrangement, and synthesis of his writings.

Now, 60 years after his death, philosophical, cultural and linguistic translations continue to be part of the business of understanding Wittgenstein's contributions, as are accounts that situate him within twentieth century philosophy as a whole.  While the bulk of the work of making the material available and keyword searchable is completed, it is not finished, and philosophical and interpretive questions remain, and will remain, as Wittgenstein has joined the canon of western philosophy.

Sometimes (e.g. in his writings on Gödel, arguably in many remarks in Culture and Value, as well as the Philosophical Investigations) it is essential to be able to see an image of the actual page Wittgenstein wrote, and to determine how many revisions he made, how much and what else he had written that day, how tentative he seemed, and so on.  It is also however essential to bear in mind the range of thinkers he admired and spoke with, since he often assumes certain things about his audience, and borrows metaphors, problems, and phrases from others, whom he does not always name.  Sometimes (as in the remarks on mathematics) we need to know a lot about when and with whom he actually talked, which parts of mathematics with which he was most engaged, which parts he didn't know about or had no taste for, what was going on in the subject around him, and what he was aiming at in presenting and investigating specific examples.

My talk will report on recent work I have undertaken, some jointly with Felix Mühlhölzer, attempting to reconstruct the important philosophical ideas behind Wittgenstein's writings on mathematics between 1937 and 1951. Wittgenstein's philosophical reactions to Turing will be compared and contrasted with Gödel's.  My focus will be on Wittgenstein's interchanges with Turing, which have the potential to revise, both our understanding of Wittgenstein's philosophy, and the significance of Turing's work to twentieth century philosophy.

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