Gottfried Gabriel: "Solipsism? The Leitmotif in Wittgenstein's Life and Philosophy"

This lecture will highlight the close relation between Wittgenstein’s life and train of thought, using his treatment of solipsism as an example. The intensity with which Wittgenstein explored this theme hints towards an existential background that is further developed in a comparison of his works with the entries in his diaries. The treatment of solipsism will be presented as an expression of an inner wrestling for the correct view of world and life. With the transition from early to late philosophical thought is paired a revised understanding of the concept of a felicitous life, which in turn is reflected in an altered understanding of language. The replacement of an analysis of the general form of propositions by the description of language games and the departure from logical forms towards forms of life – from a practical point of view – corresponds with a new approach to overcoming alienation.

This inquiry takes into consideration the distinction between ‘context of discovery’ and ‘context of justification’. Wittgenstein’s existential problems with life will be taken as central in order to gain a better understanding of his efforts, without intermingling queries concerning authenticity with those regarding truth. For a systematic assessment of Wittgenstein’s initial espousal of solipsism (in the ‘Tractatus’) and his later criticism (in the ‘Philosophical Investigations’) the various types of solipsism, which Wittgenstein used as benchmarks, will be taken into consideration, in particular, Weininger’s ethical solipsism, Schopenhauer’s contemplative aesthetic solipsism as well as Descartes’ methodic solipsism.

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