MS 105

I. Philosophische Bemerkungen


General note on MSS 105-122 (Bände I to XVIII)

Between 1929 and 1940 Wittgenstein produced 18 large manuscript volumes. He himself numbered them as Bände I to XVIII and gave most of them general titles like “Philosophical Remarks” or “Philosophical Grammar”. This indicates that he himself perceived these volumes as belonging to a series. Some of them evidently contain new material spontaneously written down and not drafted in other notebooks. Parts of several of these volumes, however, are based on earlier remarks recorded in pocket notebooks, for example, while other parts contain revisions of earlier manuscript volumes or typescripts. The best-known case of this last kind are MSS 114ii and 115i (Bände X and XI), which contain a revision (erste Umarbeitung) of parts of TS 213 (The Big Typescript). The same typescript forms the basis of the first section of volume XII (MS 116), but the process of selecting remarks from the TS and transferring them into Band XII is such that most people would not feel inclined to speak of a process of revision. At any rate, there are clear breaks between the earlier portion of MS 114 and the subsequent revision of TS 213 contained in the same ledger as well as between the first half (winter 1933-34) of volume XI and its second half, which was written in the late summer and the autumn of 1936 (containing the German revision of the Brown Book, entitled “Philosophische Untersuchungen”).


General note on MSS 105-114 (Bände I to X)

There are good reasons for treating the series of volumes from I to X (or, more exactly, up to MS 114i) as forming a separate, or separable, part of Wittgenstein’s oeuvre. However, as has been pointed out above, even these volumes were not produced according to one uniform pattern. Some of the remarks were written spontaneously, as it were, that is to say without a basis in earlier drafts. Other remarks contained in these volumes were copied, or transferred in revised form, from earlier writings. Most of these volumes are punctuated by personal remarks of a private or confessional nature as well as by reflections on music, literature, religion and a few other kinds of topic. Sometimes, but by no means always, these reflections are separated from the more straightforwardly philosophical material by certain marks (e.g. “||…||”) or by being written in Wittgenstein’s usual code. But in spite of these and other qualifications that might come to mind it is helpful and surely not misleading to view volumes I to X as the central record of Wittgenstein’s strikingly  original and continuous production between his return to Cambridge in January 1929 and a new stage in the process of articulating and arranging his ideas. But even if we are agreed that these ten manuscript volumes are to be regarded as the core record of his thought during the early middle period of his philosophical development, it will be useful to divide this material into three parts, corresponding to interruptions of the writing process motivated by an urge to have his handwritten remarks typed up. Once in possession of a typed version, Wittgenstein was prepared to think about the order of his individual remarks, about possible arrangements and re-arrangements. Moreover, he could now proceed to actually carrying out such arrangements and re-arrangements by way of cutting typescript or carbon copy into fragments that were subsequently put together in a new order and, in some cases, supplemented by handwritten changes or explanations or exemplifications giving the older material a new twist. — There are three interruptions of the kind alluded to in the previous paragraph:

(1)     24 March 1930: Easter vacation, in Vienna Wittgenstein dictates selected remarks from vol.s I to IV. The result is TS 208, which is soon cut into fragments that are subsequently re-arranged so as to form TS 209 (Philosophical Remarks).

(2)     The material written down in the remainder of volume IV (MS 108) between 25 April and 9 August 1930 is dictated and typed sometime in the summer of this year (TS 210).

(3)     The contents of MSS 109-114i are sifted and dictated to a typist while on vacation in Austria. The resulting typescript (TS 211) comprises ca. 800 pages and may have been dictated in the course of two or more series of sessions. But most of the work of producing this typescript was surely done after 5 June 1932 (the last date to be found in MS 114i).

It is likely that TS 211 was completed in the summer or autumn 1932. So we may assume that in the course of less than four years (1929-32) Wittgenstein managed to fill ca. 3000 pages of manuscript volumes and dictated almost 1100 pages of this material to a typist. The story of this material is continued in other parts of this account (see especially MSS 114-15, 140, TSS 208-13), but at this point readers should allow the message to sink in: if we remember that much of this material was absolutely new and the result of reflections that stood in contrast, or were diametrically opposed, to the author’s earlier convictions, we find that we are dealing with a unique document witnessing to Wittgenstein’s stunning creative powers.


Notes on MS 105 (Band I)

One peculiar feature of MS 105 is this: its first two verso pages are used as a kind of journal and record some of Wittgenstein’s impressions and feelings during the first days after his return to Cambridge (dated 2, 4, 7, and 15 February 1929). The recto pages were evidently destined to be used for more straightforwardly “philosophical” entries (dated 2, 4, 5, and 6 February). There are no further dates to be found in this or the next volume (MS 106). The next date to be found after this long gap is 11 September 1929 (p. 87 of MS 107), and the regular dating of manuscript entries begins  “6 October” (p. 153 of MS 107, that is to say: there is a completely undated part of these manuscript volumes comprising more than 500 pages between February and September 1929).

            Another peculiarity of this manuscript volume is the following: once he has reached the end of the recto pages in MS 105, Wittgenstein continues his remarks in the next volume (MS 106), following the same method as in MS 105, that is, filling first all the recto and then all the verso pages (if one allows for the exception of a few journal entries on p. 4). Only after having filled the whole of volume II does Wittgenstein return to volume I (MS 105) to write on the pages left blank during the first round of recording his ideas.

            In MSS 105-8 Wittgenstein uses the marginal signs “/” and “*” for the purpose of selecting remarks. Practically all the remarks marked by an “/” were transferred into TS 208, whereas hardly any of the remarks marked by an “*” found their way into the typescript.

            As regards the contents of these remarks, there are passages and wordings strikingly reminiscent of the Tractatus next to observations obviously critical of or very remote from the spirit of Wittgenstein’s book. Topics discussed are: visual space, questions in number theory, the ideas of object and complex, concepts like “axiom” and “picturing” or “projection”. The names of Frege, Russell, and Ramsey are mentioned several times. Some of these topics and names return in the second part of this volume (that is, after the discussions in MS 106), and in addition there is interesting material on the idea of verification and the notion of a system.

            On the whole, one may want to say that while the first pages of these notes tend to sound tentative and, perhaps, a little diffident, it does not take Wittgenstein very long to gather his wits and to write with a degree of confidence that may seem surprising in one who has only recently resumed thinking and writing about these questions after ten years’ absence from the scene.

            Much of this material can be found in Philosophische Bemerkungen (Philosophical Remarks).