Previously unpublished notes 1938 – 1941

Previously unpublished notes taken by Yorick Smithies at lectures by Ludwig Wittgenstein between 1938 and 1941 at Cambridge University will be published later this year, according to a press release from the Austrian Science Fund FWF.

The notes have been edited and organized by Volker Munz (University of Klagenfurt, Carinthia) and his assistant, Bernhard Ritter.

The notes consist of “2000 typescripts”, which Munz and Ritter formatted and edited, adding introductions, dates, and references, and will be published as “The Whewell’s Court Lectures, Cambridge 1938 – 1941” by Wiley-Blackwell.

From the press release:

“What is special about this project is the fact that no other student notes are extant from that period, except the lectures on aesthetics and on the foundations of mathematics. Hence they open additional insight into what Wittgenstein was working on during those years”, emphasises Munz. Unlike Wittgenstein, Smythies gave titles to all lectures. They concern central issues such as knowledge, belief, similarity or freedom of the will. The notes also mention discussions of authors, a rare occurrence in Wittgenstein’s work otherwise. Apart from Bertrand Russell, George E. Moore and William James, the philosopher discusses the theorems of Kurt Gödel, W. E. Johnson and the question whether there is “an infinite number of shades of colour”, as well as David Hume’s notion of ‘belief’. The lectures also highlight the important role pictures and metaphors played in Wittgenstein’s thinking. Moreover the notes contain new instances of the famous metaphor of the fly and the fly bottle and about 70 drawings by Wittgenstein which Smythies copied from the blackboard. “Many examples and issues touched upon in these notes were discussed only in a much more cryptic way in Wittgenstein’s published works. This material now opens up new connections, and some trains of thought appear more stringent”, project director Munz underlines the significance of the lecture notes.”


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