Boltzmann and Wittgenstein or how pictures became linguistic

Synthese 119 (1-2):135-156 (1999)
Abstract
Emphasis in historiography of science is naturally placed on the discoveries and inventions which scientists make and generally less on new methods of doing science, but sometimes the latter can he an important clue to help us understand the former. For example, while we all acknowledge how great the contributions of Maxwell, Boltzmann, Planck, and Einstein were to physics from roughly 1870 to 1920, we often overlook the significance of a methodological phrase which was popular during that same period, namely, what in German was called “Bildtheorie” or in English “picture theory”. But even before we can properly study its significance we have to know what the theory was, but even this presents problems, since the meaning changed. In fact, this paper is an attempt not only to describe the history of that change from Maxwell to Wittgenstein but to study in particular how Boltzmann’s conception of Bildtheorie seems to have been at least partly incorporated into the approach of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
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