MS 120



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 120 (Band XVI)

This manuscript volume spans the time from 19 November 1937 to 26 April 1938. Thus, it is the immediate continuation of MS 119 (the first page bears the »title« »Fortsetzung des Heftes XV« — Continuation of Volume XV). Entries are dated throughout.

            The journal Wittgenstein kept in previous manuscript volumes is continued. Besides records of his impressions and emotional states it contains (quasi-)religious reflections and notes on how his work is going. He keeps worrying about the question whether he will be capable of doing decent work during the rest of his stay in Skjolden.

            Many of the remarks drafted in MS 120 were then used to fill pp. 161-258 of MS 116ii. A fair portion of this material was later used in dictating TS 228, and a number of these remarks were inserted in the final version of the Investigations. There is a good deal on the language of pain, Äußerungen (avowals), the visual field (there are explicit references to Tractatus 5.633), and the grammar of philosophically important terms like »to know«.

            The journal kept in this manuscript volume shows that 10 December was Wittgenstein’s last night in Skjolden during this period: on 12 December he finds himself on the boat to Bergen. Apparently he uses his long journey to write a number of philosophical as well as personal remarks. The first entry for 19 December states: »In Wien«. The journal is kept for another few days, but there is no entry to be found between 6 January and 8 February 1938. On this day Wittgenstein writes that he has arrived in Dublin. Here, work on his philosophical remarks continues. There are occasional references to visits to the psychiatric ward where Wittgenstein’s former pupil Drury was working. In March he feels that the political situation in Austria increasingly worries him. On 15 March he writes a long letter to Gilbert Pattison concerning the question of taking British citizenship (see MS 158 and Wittgenstein in Cambridge, no. 218). By 18 March he has arrived in Cambridge and spoken to Sraffa, who warns him of returning to Vienna and offers help.

            The brevity and jerkiness of most entries following this date until Wittgenstein reached the end of this volume on 26 April show that he was too concerned about his own destiny and that of his relatives to get much concentrated work done. Moreover, as Wittgenstein evidently wished to give classes in the Easter term, he had to organize things and to get in touch with people who could help him to find a teaching position.

            For ease of reference, the contents of this volume may be divided into MS 120i (including Wittgenstein’s stay in Vienna up to 6.1.38) and MS 120ii (comprising the rest of this volume from 8.2.30 [Dublin]).