MS 153b



General note on MSS 153a to 155

These are the first items in the series of what Georg Henrik von Wright called “pocket notebooks”: they are of the right size to be carried in a jacket pocket, and it seems quite likely that on occasion Wittgenstein actually did carry them this way when out of doors. Use of the small letters “a” and “b” indicates that b is a continuation of a.

            In the particular case of this series, however, work on the very voluminous pocket notebook 153a was interrupted for a lengthy period: the sequence of remarks is continued in MS 155. But what is correct is that MS 153b constitutes the continuation of MS 153a. MS 154, for its part, comes soon (but not directly) after MS 153b.

            In studying these notebooks one will wonder again and again whether any of the original notebooks were lost or destroyed by Wittgenstein himself. The notebooks themselves contain occasional (apparent) references to other manuscripts that could be interpreted as alluding to material that is no longer extant. However, in the context of our descriptions, speculation over these issues will be kept to a minimum.


This pocket notebook begins with a general observation on philosophy — a kind of leitmotif of the period we are dealing with (“Die Philosophie nimmt ihre ganze Emphase von den Sätzen //der Auffassung// her, die sie zerstört” — perhaps, “All the aplomb characteristic of philosophy is owed to the pronouncements //the view// it demolishes”). This is the beginning of the continuation of correspondences between pocket notebooks and Bände, in this case Band VIII (MS 112, p. 225, 22 November 1931). The last remark from MS 153b corresponding to a remark in MS 112 can be found on p. 41r (cf. Band VIII, p. 250, 26 November 1931). The next entry in MS 153b (41r-v) matches up with the second remark on the first page of MS 113 (Band IX). The last entry corresponding to a remark in Band IX is the characteristic observation “Der aufregende Charakter der grammatischen Unklarheit” (roughly, “The exciting character of grammatical obscurity”), cf. MS 113, p. 82 (29 February 1932).

            A few remarks from MS 153b were later collected in Vermischte Bemerkungen / Culture and Value. Moreover, a number of remarks were written in English. At least some of them were possibly noted down in preparation for a lecture.