Wittgenstein on Aesthetics

Malcolm Budd

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199287505
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Wittgenstein on Aesthetics

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  • Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
  • History of Western Philosophy


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Ludwig Wittgenstein had a deep and enduring interest in at least two of the major art forms: literature and music. He practised, if only briefly, two others: architecture and sculpture. In truth, art did not lie at the centre of Wittgenstein's philosophical concerns. Nevertheless, it is precisely because he held the finest art in such high esteem, assigning to it an absolute value, that it eludes the net of language as articulated in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and he confessed that because it was impossible for him to say in Philosophical Investigations one word about all that music had meant in his life, it would be difficult for him to be understood. Tractatus has only a single gnomic remark about aesthetics: ‘Ethics and aesthetics are one’. In his lectures, Wittgenstein makes a number of claims about the concept of beauty, some of which appear also in his published writings. In his later philosophy, Wittgenstein's thoughts about aesthetics appear to have been focused almost exclusively upon art, issues in the aesthetic appreciation of nature not appearing to engage him.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; aesthetics; art; music; architecture; philosophy; ethics; beauty; Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Philosophical Investigations

Article.  10710 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; History of Western Philosophy

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