Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Autograph

26 April, 2022

In honor of the 133rd anniversary of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Moscow Center for Consciousness Studies presents one of the important documents from his legacy – his autograph comments and corrections in an offprint of Ludwig Hänsel's essay 'Wertgefühl und Wert' (Sense of Value and Value).

This document is a graphic evidence of Wittgenstein's categorical rigor in evaluating philosophical claims, and one of the main sources of direct statements of the later Wittgenstein on the philosophy of value (Wertphilosophie). This document is one of the copies of MCCS Book Collection; it is published in open access for the first time1.

Ludwig Hänsel (1886-1956) was a teacher in Vienna and a prominent figure in the field of education in Austria. He met Wittgenstein in early 1919 when they were fellow prisoners-of-war at Cassino, Italy, at the end of the First World War. There they had a lot of discussions on questions of philosophy, ethics and religion: Wittgenstein introduced Hansel to the ideas of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and Hansel introduced him to the text of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. They remained close friends for more than 30 years until Wittgenstein's death in 1951 (the last letter from Wittgenstein to Hansel is dated 1st Feb. 1951).

Hänsel is known for his works on educational theory, psychology, religion, literature and philosophy (on which he published about 20 articles, mostly about ethics). He was in the habit of sending his work to Wittgenstein for comment and correction. A few examples remain in private collections such as the present one in which Wittgenstein, pulling no punches, takes his old friend severely to task for unclear writing and sloppy thinking. (On the other hand, he does signify his approval of Hänsel's points – by means of marginal exclamation marks – in no fewer than ten places).

In the margins of the text, like a schoolmaster, Wittgenstein convicts Hänsel of waffle ("Geschwätz, gehauen nicht & nicht gestochen!"), ambiguity ("Wie verschwommen!") and lack of focus ("Wenn man sich mit jedem Esel herumschlägt, wird man leicht selber einer" – If you grapple with every donkey you'll become one yourself). He asks at one point "Was ist durch diese Fassung geleitet?" (How does this get us any further forward?), and at another writes "Hier wird kein Problem gelöst, sondern nur das, was problematisch wiederholt" (Here you haven't solved the problem, only restated it). He also observes "Nimm die Wiederholungen fort & das Leere der Paragraphen wird sich zeigen" (Take these repetitions out, and the vacuity of the paragraphs will be manifest). Towards the end, in mock-exasperation, he declares "Wenn das Philosophie ist, dann sollten die Menschen ein für allemal auf sie verzichten" (If that is philosophy, then we should all give it up for good), and against Hänsel's closing paragraph he suggests he keep his pearls of wisdom to himself – "Behalt's bei Dir!" Summarising his opinion on the front wrapper (upper field2), Wittgenstein writes: "Auch ein Museum braucht einen Kurator, der weiß, was wohin zu stellen ist, und nicht Dreck + Wertvolles durcheinander in alle Schränke stellt" (Even a museum needs a curator who knows what to put where, and who doesn’t jumble up crap + valuable in all the cupboards).

A discussion of this annotated copy can be found in Christian Paul Berger's chapter 'Wittgensteins Kritik an Hänsels Aufsatz Wertgefühl und Wert', in Ludwig HänselLudwig Wittgenstein. Eine Freundschaft. Briefwechsel, Aufsätze, Kommentare. Innsbruck: Haymon Verlag, 1994, eds Somavilla, Unterkircher & Berger, pp. 339-354. For Berger, the significance of the annotations is that they show that and how Wittgenstein was provoked by Hänsel into a close confrontation with the theory of value: here we "come across Wittgenstein's very late, more or less direct statements on the question of values" ('…treffen wir ja auf sehr späte, mehr oder minder direkte Äußerungen Wittgensteins zur Frage nach den Werten', p. 343). They display not only Wittgenstein's unbending strictness in all philosophical matters, but also his dismissal of the Wertphilosophie as uttering mere similes or parables instead of the knowable scientific facts that it claims to provide. In this context, Hänsel's essay is the central conduit through which Wittgenstein came into argumentative contact with Alexius Meinong, Max Scheler and other Germano-Austrian philosophers concerned with questions of value.

Stapled offprint in original plain paper wrappers, 160mm x 235mm, 40 pp., housed in a protective cloth case; Wittgenstein's pencilled annotations in German faintly on the front wrapper and clearly on 12 pages, a further 16 pages with a mixture of his question marks, wavy lines, deletions, underlinings, exclamation marks, etc.


[1] The published Wittgenstein’s autograph is a property of the Moscow Center for Consciousness Studies (MCCS). Reprinting of this material is impossible without the written permission of MCCS. When quoting, a reference to MCCS and to this web page is obligatory.
[2] This inscription was slightly erased and therefore, apparently, was subsequently duplicated below and on the back of the front wrapper.