Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures

The Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures project deals with an edition of hitherto unpublished notes of lectures Ludwig Wittgenstein held in Cambridge. The notes were taken by Yorick Smythies, a student and very close friend of Wittgenstein’s.

Smythies’ notes cover the period from 1938 to 1947. Most of them were taken from Easter Term 1938 to Lent Term 1941. No other notes from that period are known to exist except theLectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, the Lectures on Freedom of the Will, and the Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics. All these publications draw from notes by Smythies.

Extensive research has brought out the high quality of Smythies’ unpublished notes. The projected publication of this material is certain to open new discussions on Wittgenstein’s treatment of central philosophical questions. The value of Smythies’ notes is reinforced by the fact that Wittgenstein discusses various subjects in his lectures in a more systematic and focused way than in his own written work. This series of lectures display a continuity which is not found in his published writings. Wittgenstein uses numerous examples in his lectures that we find in identical or similar form in his published works, but often in different contexts. Especially the use of examples show connections and interrelations between themes of Wittgenstein’s philosophy that are not obvious at first sight. References to theNachlass and to Wittgenstein’s published writings will help the reader to see the similarties and the differences. The Whewell’s Court Lectures will be a helpful complement to Wittgenstein’s published works.

The material exists in various stages, beginning with the original notes which Smythies took during the lectures. They are written in a kind of shorthand, often difficult to read, which he had developed in order to get closer to what Wittgenstein was saying in the lectures. On the basis of these notes, Smythies produced handwritten fair copies, which he read out and taped. Finally, a secretary prepared a collection of typescripts using the tapes, 21 in total, which Smythies had dictated. The final aim of this research project is to publish the complete notes Smythies took at Wittgenstein’s lectures and to make Smythies’ tape recordings available in an audio format.

Project director: Dipl.-Volksw. Dr. Volker A. Munz, M.A.

Project assistant: lic. phil. Bernhard Ritter


As part of the Digitised Manuscripts to Europeana (DM2E) project, a group of scholars will begin working on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Brown Book in early 2013. This document will be made available to Europeana by the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen (WAB).

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. In 1999, his posthumously published Philosophical Investigations (1953) was ranked as the most important book of 20th-century philosophy by the Baruch Poll, standing out as ‘…the one crossover masterpiece in twentieth-century philosophy, appealing across diverse specialisations and philosophical orientations’.

In 2009, WAB created the online platform Wittgenstein Source which gives open access to 5,000 pages of manuscripts and typescripts from the Wittgenstein nachlass, including the Brown Book corpus. The Brown Book was dictated by Wittgenstein to students in Cambridge in 1934-35 as a summary of his philosophy at that time. One aspect of the book is the introduction of ‘language games’ which shed light on the complexity of our language. The Brown Book was revised several times; Wittgensteinsource includes both the typewritten dictation and the last revision in Wittgenstein’s own hand, which led to the Philosophical Investigations.

A group of scholars will gather around Wittgenstein Source in order to address their questions to the Brown Book. In order to achieve this, they will make use of the Pundit platform, which is being developed within the DM2E project. The platform allows scholars to access the Brown Book easily and to create semantic annotations of particular relevance. Through the platform, they will also be able to interact and comment on each other’s views and questions.

WAB will provide the texts as well as an ontology which can be used as the backbone for scholarly annotation and interaction on these texts. This ontology will include names for the single texts (on a remarks level), the persons and works referred to, text-genetical relations, but also terms for subject entries, and, moreover, properties which allow scholars to express argumentative relations between single annotation statements.

The Wittgenstein pilot has an important experimental aspect as it will demonstrate to what extent humanities scholars are willing to migrate research and argumentation activities to a digital environment, and highlight the challenges and limitations they experience as well as the new opportunities this kind of working makes available to them.

Brown Book

DM2E project



Enrich the Wittgenstein ontology inherited from the DISCOVERY project with further classes and properties.

In AGORA’s semantic linking experiment carried out by CNR-ILIESI and UIB-WAB a subset of the content (scholarly articles, monographs) will be linked to related data sets (editions of texts, manuscripts) most of which are already available in the Philosource Federation. The semantic linking will connect the digital objects with ontological classes that express the most important domain concepts. The experiment’s goal is to enable a novel way of building, querying and browsing a knowledge network and to assess its suitability as a collaborative research tool as well as a learning tool. The resulting RDF graphs will be published on the web and harvested by the Federation Portal.

In the first 18 months, UIB-WAB has enriched the Wittgenstein domain ontology inherited from the DISCOVERY project with further classes and properties. It has continued with populating it with instances, especially in the secondary sources and subject domains. The backbone for UIB-WAB’s ontology work is its transcriptions of both primary and secondary sources in XML TEI, from which OWL files are extracted via XSLT stylesheets. The OWL files can be visualized in the ontology browser SwickyNotes which permits interlinked browsing of texts and related ontologies.

Nachlass (WAB 5000)