MS 117

XIII. Philosophische Bemerkungen


General note on MSS 116-122 (Bände XIII to XVIII)

Chronologically speaking, the first two (of four) parts of MS 116 (= 116i and 116ii), the first part of MS 117 (= 117i), the whole of MS 118 and most of MSS 119 and 120 are very closely connected, even interrelated; at some points one might speak of overlap. Many entries bear a date or are easy to date.

            The connections between the relevant parts of MSS 117-120 can, very roughly speaking, be described as follows: MSS 117i-120i are Wittgenstein’s notebooks from the time he spent in Norway after his return there in August1937. The earliest entries can be found in MS 118 (continuously dated from 13.8. to 24.9.37). Similar observations apply to MS 119, which is the immediate continuation of MS 118 (beginning on 24.9., running on to 19.11.), and virtually all of MS 120i (beginning on 19.10. and running on to 10.12. — the day before Wittgenstein’s departure from Skjolden).

            MSS 118 and 119 resemble each other in several respects: both of them are used by Wittgenstein as notebooks from which he picks certain remarks which are then transferred and revised in MS 117; both of them contain a fair number of diary remarks chronicling the history of Wittgenstein’s contemporary writings as well as of his moods, impressions, and feelings. MS 117i, on the other hand, is basically a reservoir of more or less polished remarks selected from MS 118 and to a small extent from MS 119, and in contrast to these latter two does not contain a journal.

            Owing to the existence of this journal we are informed about an interruption in Wittgenstein’s work, which can be dated as having occurred more or less exactly on 23 October 1937. The interruption is due to his having taken out his »old typescript« (as he calls it now), that is to say, a copy of the Big Typescript (= TS 213). From this point onwards he re-reads large parts from the first half of this typescript and works on it in the following sense: he selects remarks that arouse his interest and copies them in more or less revised form into a very large and so far unused manuscript book. This is MS 116i, which as it were contains the result of Wittgenstein’s temporary loss of interest in the work he was doing in MSS 117-119.

            One of the most striking features of volumes XIV to XVI is the journal Wittgenstein keeps in these manuscript volumes. Many, but by no means all, of the remarks forming this journal were written in code. This habit of regular journal-writing was interrupted around the time Wittgenstein spent in Dublin in February and March 1938. This was the time of the Anschluss and increased worries about the safety of his relatives. These worries and the difficulty, or impossibility, of concentrating on his own problems and writings may have been a crucial factor contributing to Wittgenstein’s giving up on his journal.

            Of course, this is not the only difference between volumes XIII to XVI, on the one hand, and the last two (XVII and XVIII), on the other, but it is a convenient way of marking a break. At the same time, we must remember that volume XIII (= MS 117) itself forms a composite structure made up of heterogeneous parts: its first part is closely connected with MSS 118 and sections of 119, but other parts of MS 117 are in no way connected with this conglomerate, while its last part (= MS 117v) even brings up the rear inasmuch as it constitutes the continuation and terminus of the train of remarks making up MS 122. This latter manuscript volume is the last one of those Bände Wittgenstein marked as belonging to a special series by assigning Roman numbers to them. Perhaps there is a certain irony in the fact that the tail end of the series is not to be found in the as it were »officially« last volume but was tucked away in an earlier one.


Notes on MS 117 (Band XIII)

As has been pointed out in the General Note, the first part of MS 117 (= 117i) serves chiefly as a receptacle for remarks selected from MS 118 and, to a much smaller degree, from MS 119 (the last of these latter kinds of remark was written on 7 October 1937, cf. MS 117: 96, MS 119: 81-83). Many of them were later transferred into a typescript (TS 221) which, in its turn, was the basis for a rearrangement of remarks (TS 222) more or less the same as remarks in Part I of Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (3rd edition 1978). There can be little doubt that MS 117i was  meant to result in the second part, as it were, of the early version of the Investigations. To what extent this material was really intended to constitute a sustained examination of problems in the philosophy of mathematics or, perhaps, of ideas about the foundations of mathematics is a question that needs to be discussed in a different context. At any rate, many of the remarks to be found here are well-known from RFM or the published version of TS 221 (Kritisch-genetische Edition of PU, Frühfassung). A couple of remarks from MS 117i ended up in the Investigations (§§607, 608).


The second part of this manuscript (117ii) is fairly short (117: 97-110) and seems to stand in no direct relation with any other manuscript. It bears the title »Ansätze« and was published in part II of RFM (§§1-22, on Cantor’s diagonal method, etc.). In view of the fact that MS 117i was completed in October 1937 while the beginning of MS 117iii was written on 27 June 1938, we can be sure that MS 117ii was composed sometime between these two dates.


The third part of MS 117 (MS 117iii = MS 117: 110-126) is almost as short as MS 117ii. It bears the date »27.6.«[1938] and consists of three drafts of Wittgenstein’s preface to what is known as the early version of the Investigations (TS 225, dated August 1938, published in Kritisch-genetische Edition of PU, 207-9). For even earlier drafts, see Pichler in: Working Papers no. 14.


The fourth part of MS 117 (MS 117iv, = MS 117: 127-148) seems to continue the work begun in MS 116i: it selects and revises remarks taken from TS 213 (= BT). On just over 20 pages Wittgenstein covers 10 sections (§§48 to 57) of the BT mainly dealing with various aspects of our concept of thought or thinking. Towards the end of this part the reader encounters independent reflections on the notion of a law, on Gödel, and on the idea of a sentence-radical, etc. — There is some overlap between two or three remarks from the beginning of this part and a short section of MS 121, written between 17.7. and 5.9.[1938]. This fact may help us in trying to assign a date to this material.


The fifth part of MS 117 (MS 117v = MS 117: 148-273) contains the closing section of the series of Bände commenced in vol. I (= MS 105). Its title is »Continuation of Volume XVIII« [= MS 122]. Its pages are continuously dated from 3.2.40 to 16.6.[40]. The main part runs on to 20 March (p. 270). Then there follow a few scattered remarks, in part belonging to Wittgenstein’s journal, jotted down on 27.3., 6.4., 18.4., 7.6., 15.6., and 16.6. Most of the remarks to be found in the main part seem to be similar to RFM-related material or material known from the notes of lectures Wittgenstein gave on questions concerning the foundations of mathematics. (RFM III, §§59-90 was culled from MS 117v.) To mention just one recurrent theme: he keeps returning to his comparison between an anthropological and a purely mathematical description of people’s calculations. — Most of the material written on 22 February is more or less the same as remarks found on pp. 25r to 28r of MS 162b. This section contains one instance of Wittgenstein’s famous observation to the effect that a proof creates a new concept. — There are a few remarks belonging to Wittgenstein’s journal as well as observations of a more general nature of the kind collected in Culture and Value.