wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Ludwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and LanguageLudwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and Language


Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)


Austrian-born British philosopher (pictured right) who spent his academic career at Cambridge.

A protégé of Bertrand Russell (pictured right below), he was famous for his views on language.Ludwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and Language


His most famous books are...

Tractatus (1921).

Philosophical Investigations (1953).


What did he say about language?


1. Language has a purposeLudwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and Language


  • has lots of different purposes.
  • will change as new situations and technologies arise (inventing new words for new inventions).

Wittgenstein’s “picture theory of learning” states that words can represent reality and fact in the same way as a painting represents its subject.

 Ludwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and Language

2. Meaning matters

  • understand what a word (or concept) really means
  • realize that different uses and circumstances will change this meaning.

So Wittgenstein said

“Don’t ask for the meaning, ask for the use”.

 Ludwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and Language

3. Language is public

We learn and understand language and mental characteristics (e.g. virtues like love) from other people in social situations (e.g. work and family).



4. “Language game”

Wittgenstein created this term to describe how the use of words is similar to playing games, because they are both human activities, governed by rules that can be interpreted in different ways.

 Ludwig Wittgenstein - Philosophy and Language

5. Be precise and clear

Use words accurately, clearly and precisely.

So don’t use a statement out of context e.g. a religious concept in science.

“What can be said at all can be said clearly”, Wittgenstein said.


Key quote on success

Genius is talent exercised with courage.


Key quote on change

Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.


Key quotes on communication

What can be said at all can be said clearly.

Don’t ask for the meaning, ask for the use.

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.


Key quote on education

Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.


Key quote on decision making

The problems can be solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known.


Key quotes on learning and wisdom

Philosophy is not a theory but an activity.


Key quote on corporate culture

At the core of all well founded belief lies belief that is unfounded.


Key quote on happiness

Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving yourself.


Key quote on the learning organization

If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.


Key quote on learning and ambition

Ambition is the death of thought.


Key quote on health

The human body is the best picture of the human soul.


Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books