Hertz and Wittgenstein's philosophy of science

The German physicist Heinrich Hertz played a decisive role for Wittgenstein's use of a unique philosophical method. Wittgenstein applied this method successfully to critical problems in logic and mathematics throughout his life. Logical paradoxes and foundational problems including those of mathematics were seen as pseudo-problems requiring clarity instead of solution. In effect, Wittgenstein's controversial response to David Hilbert and Kurt Gödel was deeply influenced by Hertz and can only be fully understood when seen in this context. To comprehend the arguments against the metamathematical programme, and to appreciate how profoundly the philosophical method employed actually shaped the content of Wittgenstein's philosophy, it is necessary to make an intellectual biographical reconstruction of their philosophical framework, tracing the Hertzian elements in the early as well as in the later writings. In order to write Wittgenstein's biography, we have to take seriously the coherence of his thought throughout his life, and not let convenient philosophical ideologies be our guidance in drawing up a “Wittgensteinian philosophy”. To do so, we have to take a second look upon what he actually wrote, not only in the already published material, but in the entire Nachlass. Clearly, this is not easily done, but it is a necessary task in the historical reconstruction of Wittgenstein's life and work.
Keywords Wittgenstein  Hertz  Boltzmann  Russell  Hilbert  Gödel  philosophy of science  nineteenth-century physics  picture theory  metamathematics
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DOI 10.1023/A:1020703303373
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