Keele Philosopher finds one of Wittgenstein's last interviews

Wittgenstein Discovery

A Keele philosopher has discovered a first-hand account of a meeting with Ludwig Wittgenstein that took place in the last few months of Wittgenstein’s life.

Honorary senior fellow Stephen Leach discovered the account in the archives of the Rockefeller Foundation and it has recently been put online by the Nordic Wittgenstein Review under the heading ‘Chadbourne Gilpatric and Ludwig Wittgenstein: a fateful meeting.’ The full text of the article is available here.

It was already known that Wittgenstein was interviewed by Chadbourne Gilpatric of the Rockefeller Foundation – with a view to offering him a grant for the publication of his work – but only via second-hand accounts. One of Wittgenstein’s friends reported that Wittgenstein had complained to Gilpatric that nowadays he finds himself contradicting himself. That was inaccurate. It is now apparent that Wittgenstein’s complaint was that he finds himself making the same point in different ways and not being able to judge which is best.

In his very last days, Wittgenstein thought back to his meeting with Gilpatric: “675. If someone believes that he has flown from America to England in the last few days, then, I believe he cannot be making a mistake.” (On Certainty) He is here arguing against what he sees as the incoherence of radical scepticism. But he was also thinking back to his meeting with Gilpatric – and perhaps to the fate of his unpublished manuscripts.

Encouraged by Gilpatric, the Rockefeller Foundation went on to help fund their publication, including funding a fellowship that enabled Elizabeth Anscombe to see Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (1953) into print.

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