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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

2 - Logical atomism


In 1918 Russell gave a series of lectures in London with the title “Logical Atomism.” He glowingly praised Wittgenstein, writing that the lectures

are largely concerned with explaining certain ideas which I learnt from my friend and former pupil Ludwig Wittgenstein. I have had no opportunity of knowing his views since August 1914, and I do not even know whether he is alive or dead. He has therefore no responsibility for what is said in these lectures beyond that of having originally supplied many of the theories contained in them.

Russell was eager to launch his new program for philosophy as the science of logical form and to introduce Wittgenstein. But in his efforts to establish a reputation for Wittgenstein, he embellished matters greatly. Wittgenstein's ideas were at a very immature stage during his conversations with Russell between 1912 and 1914, and his studies on logic in Norway were poorly developed. Wittgenstein's “Notes Dictated to G. E. Moore in Norway” (dated April 1914) did not reach Russell until April 1915. The war intervened, and Russell lost contact with Wittgenstein. He did not hear of him again until June 1919.

When Russell finally did get news, he found that Wittgenstein had managed to write a book while in the Austrian army. With the war at an end, Wittgenstein wrote a letter to Russell from an Italian prison camp in Cassino.

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