Between the Vienna Circle and Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Philosophical Teachers of G. H. von Wright

Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 14:47-67 (2010)
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Georg Henrik von Wright always mentioned that his academic teachers had been Eino Kaila and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He even spoke of the two as his “father figures”. Georg Henrik was a sunny boy, but his “fathers” appear to be quite enigmatic. An industry of philosophical literature is needed to interpret Wittgenstein. Kaila seems to be at most a minor figure with some contacts to the Vienna Circle. It is not wrong to see von Wright as a follower of Wittgenstein, and von Wright’s life-long work was decisive for the fact that all of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass is now available. In what follows, I will concentrate more on Kaila and his Viennese connections than on Wittgenstein. I make an attempt of trying to see the two “fathers” from a perspective that was or at least could have been von Wright’s contemporary view. Vienna – or, more accurately – the recent past of Vienna was also von Wright’s city of dreams. Kaila is an interesting case as concerns the networking typical of the Vienna Circle, especially as an example of Rudolf Carnap’s rich scientific contacts at that point of his career. It was Kaila who made the start of von Wright’s career possible and determined a number of his philosophical interests and orientations, including the specific way in which von Wright’s work can be said to be linked to the Vienna Circle and logical empiricism. Of course, after World War II “analytic philosophy” was the acceptable designation for that kind of work that von Wright was pursuing in Cambridge, but his story can not be told without attention to the impulses from Vienna



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Juha Manninen
University of Oulu

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