Skip to main content

Wittgenstein's Whewell's Court Lectures: Cambridge, 1938 - 1941, From the Notes by Yorick Smythies




Wittgenstein's Whewell's Court Lectures: Cambridge, 1938 - 1941, From the Notes by Yorick Smythies

Volker Munz (Editor), Bernhard Ritter (Editor), Yorick Smythies

ISBN: 978-1-119-16638-2 April 2017 392 Pages



Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures contains previously unpublished notes from lectures given by Ludwig Wittgenstein between 1938 and 1941. The volume offers new insight into the development of Wittgenstein’s thought and includes some of the finest examples of Wittgenstein’s lectures in regard to both content and reliability.

  • Many notes in this text refer to lectures from which no other detailed notes survive, offering new contexts to Wittgenstein’s examples and metaphors, and providing a more thorough and systematic treatment of many topics
  • Each set of notes is accompanied by an editorial introduction, a physical description and dating of the notes, and a summary of their relation to Wittgenstein’s Nachlass
  • Offers new insight into the development of Wittgenstein’s ideas, in particular his ideas about certainty and concept-formation
  • The lectures include more than 70 illustrations of blackboard drawings, which underline the importance of visual thought in Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy
  • Challenges the dating of some already published lecture notes, including the Lectures on Freedom of the Will and the Lectures on Religious Belief

Preface ix

Editorial Introduction xiv

List of Editorial Conventions xx

Abbreviations xxii


1 Lectures on Knowledge 6
⟨Easter Term 1938⟩

2 Lectures on Necessary Propositions and Other Topics 50
⟨Easter Term 1938⟩

Lectures on Gödel 50

Puzzle of Trinity College 57

Necessary Propositions 62

Continuation. (Notes taken by J.C.T.) 72

‘Absolutely Determinate’ 74

Continuous Band of Colours 76

Are There an Infinite Number of Shades of Colour? 77

‘All There’: Logical Necessity 78

Achilles and the Tortoise 82

Infinitesimal Calculus and Free Will 83

3 Lectures on Similarity 88
⟨Michaelmas Term 1939⟩

4 Lectures on Description 137
⟨Lent Term 1940⟩

5 Wittgenstein’s Reply to a Paper by Y. Smythies on ‘Understanding’ 190
⟨Lent Term 1940⟩

6 Lectures on Belief 203
⟨Easter Term 1940⟩

7 Lectures on Volition 254
⟨Michaelmas Term 1940⟩

8 Lectures on Freedom of the Will 282
⟨Lent Term 1941⟩

Appendix 297

9 Y. Smythies’ 1940 Paper on ‘Understanding’ 300

10 Preparatory Notes for Y. Smythies’ 1945 Paper on ‘Meaning’ 308

11 The King of the Dark Chamber, by Rabindranath Tagore, translated from the English of Rabindranath Tagore into the English used 327
L. Wittgenstein and Yorick Smythies

12 Comments Prompted by the Notes Taken From Wittgenstein’s Lectures on Volition and on Freewill 336
Y. Smythies

Bibliography 348

Index 000

'The book contains twelve chapters. The editors introduce us thoroughly to each and provide detailed information about the sources they have used. They also enrich the text with comments about similar or complementary passages in the Nachlass. . . . There is no doubt a great deal to be learnt from this book by anyone with an interest in Wittgenstein's philosophy.' -- Alois Pichler, Grazer Philosophische Studien 95 (2018) 589-603