Wittgenstein and His Literary Executors

Christian Erbacher


Rush Rhees, Georg Henrik von Wright and Elizabeth Anscombe are well known as the literary executors who made Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later philosophy available to all interested readers. Their editions of Wittgenstein’s writings have become an integral part of the modern philosophical canon. However, surprisingly little is known about the circumstances and reasons that made Wittgenstein choose them to edit and publish his papers. This essay sheds light on these questions by presenting the story of their personal relationships—relationships that, on the one hand, gave Rhees, von Wright and Anscombe distinct insights into Wittgenstein’s philosophizing; and, on the other hand, let Wittgenstein assume that these three former students, and later colleagues and friends, were the most capable of preparing his work for publication. Using hitherto unpublished archival material as well as information from published recollections, the essay sketches the development of the personal and philosophical bonds from which the literary heirs’ distinct ways of handling Wittgenstein’s unpublished writings grew in later years.

Full Text:



Anscombe, Elizabeth, 1950. “The Reality of the Past.” In Philosophical Analysis: A Collection of Essays, edited by M. Black, pp. 38–59. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

——, 1981a. The Collected Philosophical Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe, vol. II, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind. Oxford: Blackwell.

——, 1981b. The Collected Philosophical Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe, vol. III, Ethics, Religion and Politics. Oxford: Blackwell.

——, 2008. Faith In A Hard Ground: Essays on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics, edited by M. Geach and L. Gormally. St. Andrews: St. Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs.

——, 2011. From Plato to Wittgenstein, edited by M. Geach and L. Gormally. St. Andrews: St. Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Bouwsma, O. K., 1961. “The Blue Book.” The Journal of Philosophy 58: 141–62.

Brentano, Franz, 1968. Kategorienlehre, edited by A. Kastil. Hamburg: Meiner.

Broad, C. D., 1925. The Mind and Its Place in Nature. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

——, 1944. “Hr. von Wright on the Logic of Induction (I–III).” Mind 1953: 1–24, 97–119, 193–214.

——, 1959a. “Autobiography.” In The Philosophy of C. D. Broad. (Library of Living Philosophers, vol. 10), edited by P. A. Schilpp, pp. 3–70. New York: Tudor.

——, 1959b. Review of Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. Universities Quarterly (= Higher Education Quarterly) 13: 304–06.

Brouwer, L. E. J., 1996. “The Structure of the Continuum.” In From Kant to Hilbert: A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics, vol. II, edited by W. Ewald, pp. 1186–96. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Erbacher, Christian, 2015. “Editorial Approaches to Wittgenstein’s Nachlass: Towards a Historical Appreciation.” Philosophical Investigations 38: 165–98.

Erbacher, Christian and Sophia Victoria Krebs, 2015. “The First Nine Months of Editing Wittgenstein: Letters from G. E. M. Anscombe and R. Rhees to G . H. v. Wright.” Nordic Wittgenstein Review 4: 195–231.

Erbacher, Christian and Bernt Österman, 2014. “A Passport Photo for Two: On an Allusion in the Pictures of Wittgenstein and von Wright in Cambridge.” Nordic Wittgenstein Review 3: 139–49.

Erbacher, Christian and Tina Schirmer, 2016. “On Continuity: Rush Rhees on Outer and Inner Surfaces of Bodies.” Philosophical Investigations 39, forthcoming.

Geach, Mary, 2008. “Introduction.” In Anscombe (2008), pp. xiii–xxvi.

——, 2011. “Introduction.” In Anscombe (2011), pp. xiii–xx.

Geach, Peter, 1969. “The Moral Law and the Law of God.” In God and the Soul, pp. 117–29. London: Routledge and Kegan.

——, 1988. “Editor’s Preface” In Wittgenstein (1988), pp. xii-xv.

Jaeger, Werner, 1934–1947. Padeia. Die Formung des griechischen Menschen. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Kaila, Eino, 1979. Reality and Experience: Four Philosophical Essays, edited by R. S. Cohen, with an introduction by G. H. von Wright. Dodrecht: Reidl.

Kant, Immanuel, 1929. Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Norman Kemp Smith. London: Macmillan.

Kemp Smith, Norman, 1918. A Commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. London: Macmillan.

Kenny, Anthony, 2014. “The Life and Work of Georg Henrik von Wright and Ludwig Wittgenstein.” Video available at http://www.helsinki.fi/wwa/Video.html, accessed 26 Feb. 2016.

Körner, Stephan and Roderick M. Chisholm, 2010. “Editor’s Introduction to the English Edition.” In Philosophical Investigations on Space, Time and the Continuum, by Franz Brentano, pp. ix–xx. New York: Routledge.

Kraft, Victor, 1950. Der Wiener Kreis. Der Ursprung des Neopositivismus. Ein Kapitel der jüngsten Philosophiegeschichte. Vienna: Springer.

Lewis, C. S., 1947. Miracles. London and Glasgow: Collins-Fontana. (Revised edition appeared 1960.)

Malcolm, Norman, 1958. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. London: Oxford University Press.

McGuinness, Brian, 1988. Wittgenstein: A Life. Young Ludwig, 1889–1921. London: Duckworth.

Monk, Ray, 1991. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. London: Vintage.

——, 2001. Bertrand Russell, 1921–1970: The Ghost of Madness. London: Free Press.

Nedo, Michael, 1993. Einführung in die Wiener Ausgabe. Vienna: Springer.

Phillips, D. Z., 2006. “Rush Rhees: A Biographical Sketch.” In Rhees (2006), pp. 266–75.

Pichler, Alois, 2004. Wittgensteins Philosophische Untersuchungen. Vom Buch zum Album. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Redpath, Theodore, 1990. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Student’s Memoir. London: Duckworth.

Rhees, Rush, 1970. Discussions of Wittgenstein. London: Routledge.

Rhees, Rush, ed., 1984. Recollections of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rhees, Rush, 1996. “On Editing Wittgenstein”, edited by D. Z. Phillips. Philosophical Investigations 19: 55–61.

——, 2006. Wittgenstein and the Possibility of Discourse, 2nd ed., edited by D. Z. Phillips. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Somavilla, Ilse, Anton Unterkircher, and Christian Paul Berger, eds., 1994. Ludwig Hänsel – Ludwig Wittgenstein: Eine Freundschaft: Briefe, Aufsätze, Kommentare. Innsbruck: Haymon.

Spengler, Oswald, 1922. Der Untergang des Abendlandes, vol. 1. Munich: C. H. Beck.

——, 1923. Der Untergang des Abendlandes, vol. 2. Munich: C. H. Beck.

Stadler, Friedrich, 1997. Studien zum Wiener Kreis. Ursprung, Entwicklung and Wirkung des Logischen Empirismus im Kontext. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Teichmann, Jenny, 2001. “(Gertrude) Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (1919–2001).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. http://www.oxforddnb.com/, accessed 10 Dec 2013.

Teichmann, Roger, 2008. The Philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

von Hugel, Friedrich, 1981. The Letters of Baron Friedrich von Hugel and Professor Norman Kemp Smith, edited by L. F. Barmann. New York: Fordham University Press.

von Wright, Georg Henrik, 1938. “Logistik filosofi.” Nya Argus 13: 175–77.

——, 1940. “On Probability.” Mind 49: 265–83.

——, 1943. Den logiska empirismen. En huvudriktning i modern filosofi. Helsingfors: Söderströms.

——, 1947. “Paideia.” Nya Argus 40: 229–31.

——, 1955. “Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Biographical Sketch.” The Philosophical Review 64: 527–45.

——, 1969. “The Wittgenstein Papers.” The Philosophical Review 78: 483–503.

——, 1989. “Intellectual Autobiography.” In The Philosophy of Georg Henrik von Wright. (Library of Living Philosophers, vol. 19), edited by P. A. Schilpp and L. E. Hahn, pp. 3–58. La Salle, IL: Open Court.

——, 1995. “Wittgenstein and the Twentieth Century.” In Wittgenstein: Mind and Language, edited by Rosaria Egidi, pp. 1–22. Dodrecht: Kluwer.

——, 2001. Mitt Liv som jeg minns det. Helsingfors: Söderström.

——, 2008. En livslång vänskap: brevväxlingen mellan Göran Schildt och Georg Henrik von Wright 1937–2001, edited by E. Kurskopf. Ekenäs: Christine och Göran Schildts stiftelse.

Waismann, Friedrich, 1976. Logik, Sprache, Philosophie. Stuttgart: Reclam.

Wisdom, John, 1937. “Philosophical Perplexity.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 37: 71–88.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1933. “Letter to the Editor.” Mind 42: 415–16.

——, 1953. Philosophical Investigations, edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and R. Rhees. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1958. Preliminary Studies for the “Philosophical Investigations”. Generally Known as The Blue and Brown Books, edited by R. Rhees. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1966. Lectures and Conversations, edited by C. Barrett. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1969a. On Certainty / Über Gewißheit, edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1969b. Philosophische Grammatik, edited by R. Rhees. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1976a. Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, 3rd ed., revised and reset, parts IV, V, VI, VII, edited by G. H. von Wright, R. Rhees and G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1976b. Wittgenstein’s Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics: Cambridge, 1939, edited by C. Diamond. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

——, 1977. Remarks on Colour / Bemerkungen über die Farben, edited by G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1979. Wittgenstein’s Lectures: Cambridge, 1932–35, edited by A. Ambrose. Totowa, NJ: Rowan & Littlefield.

——, 1980a. Culture and Value, edited by G. H. von Wright. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1980b. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology / Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie, vol. 1, edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1980c. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology / Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie, vol. 2, edited by G. H. von Wright and H. Nyman. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1982a. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology / Letzte Schriften über die Philosophie der Psychologie, vol. 1, edited by G. H. von Wright and H. Nyman. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1982b. Wittgenstein’s Lectures: Cambridge, 1930–32, edited by D. Lee. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 1988. Wittgenstein’s Lectures on Philosophical Psychology 1946–1947, edited by P. T. Geach. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

——, 1989. Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung / Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, critical edition, edited by B. McGuinness and J. Schulte. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

——, 1992. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology / Letzte Schriften über die Philosophie der Psychologie, vol. 2, edited by G. H. von Wright and H. Nyman. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

——, 2000a. “The Big Typescript”. Vienna: Springer.

——, 2000b. Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition, edited by the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

——, 2001. Philosophische Untersuchungen, Kritisch-genetische Edition, edited by J. Schulte, H. Nyman, E. von Savigny and G. H. von Wright. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

——, 2003a. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Public and Private Occasions, edited by J. C. Klagge and A. Nordmann. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

——, 2003b. The Voices of Wittgenstein: The Vienna Circle, edited by G. Baker. London: Routledge.

——, 2009. Philosophical Investigations, 4th ed., edited by P. M. S. Hacker and J. Schulte, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, P. M. S. Hacker and J. Schulte. Oxford and New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

——, 2011. Gesamtbriefwechsel: Innsbrucker elektronische Ausgabe, 2nd release, edited by A. Coda, G. Citron, B. Halder, A. Janik, U. Lobis, K. Mayr, B. McGuinness, M. Schorner, M. Seekircher and J. Wang. Innsbruck: Forschungsinstitut Brenner-Archiv.

——, 2012. Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911–1951, edited by Brian F. McGuinness. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

——, 2016. Lectures, Cambridge 1930–1933. From the Notes of G. E. Moore, edited by D. Stern, B. Rogers and G. Citron. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

——, forthcoming. Wittgenstein’s Whewell Court Lectures, Cambridge 1938–41, edited by V. Munz. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig and Rush Rhees, 2015. “Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Conversations with Rush Rhees (1939–50): From the Notes of Rush Rhees”, edited by G. Citron. Mind 142: 1–71.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15173/jhap.v4i3.2703

Christian Erbacher
University of Bergen (Norway) and University of Siegen (Germany)