Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, fully Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein

Austrian Jewish Philosopher who worked primarily in Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics, Mind and Language

"A man lives eternally if he lives in the present."

"In order to know an object, I must know not its external but all its internal qualities."

"Ethics does not treat of the world. Ethics must be a condition of the world, like logic."

"It is much easier patiently—and tolerantly—to avoid the person you have injured than to approach him as a friend. You need courage for that."

"That the world is, is the mystical."

"When one is frightened of the truth ... then it is never the whole truth that one has an inkling of."

"Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself."

"If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present."

"Not how the world is, but that it is, is the mystery."

"If you and I are to live religious lives, it mustn't be that we talk a lot about religion, but that our manner of life is different. It is my belief that only if you try to be helpful to other people will you in the end find your way to God."

"The real question of life after death isn't whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves."

"Hell isn't other people. Hell is yourself."

"The limits of my language means the limits of my world."

"The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long."

"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves."

"How small a thought it takes to fill a life."

"I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own."

"What can be shown, cannot be said."

"The world of the happy is quite different from that of the unhappy."

"Make sure that your religion is a matter between you and God only."

"Only a man who lives not in time but in the present is happy."

"The world is the totality of facts, not things. "

"To believe in a God means to understand the question about the meaning of life. To believe in a God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning."

"What do I know about God and the purpose of life? I know that this world exists. That I am placed in it like my eye in its visual field. That something about it is problematic, which we call its meaning. This meaning does not lie in it but outside of it. That life is the world. That my will penetrates the world. That my will is good or evil. Therefore that good and evil are somehow connected with the meaning of the world. The meaning of life, i.e. the meaning of the world, we can call God. And connect with this the comparison of God to a father. To pray is to think about the meaning of life. "

"Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through. If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present. Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit. The temporal immortality of the human soul, that is to say, its eternal survival after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but this assumption in the first place will not do so for us what we always tried to make it do. Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive forever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time."

"An entire mythology is stored within our language."

"The logical picture of the facts is the thought."

"To convince someone of the truth, it is not enough to state it, but rather one must find the path from error to truth."

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

"Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language."

"Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement."

"The child learns to believe a host of things. I.e. it learns to act according to these beliefs. Bit by bit there forms a system of what is believed, and in that system some things stand unshakeably fast and some are more or less liable to shift. What stands fast does so, not because it is intrinsically obvious or convincing; it is rather held fast by what lies around it."

"One can mistrust one's own senses, but not one's own belief. If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely," it would not have any significant first person, present indicative."

"Man has to awaken to wonder — and so perhaps do peoples. Science is a way of sending him to sleep again."

"Aim at being loved without being admired."

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

"Someone who knows too much finds it hard not to lie."

"Genius is talent exercised with courage."

"If life becomes hard to bear we think of a change in our circumstances. But the most important and effective change, a change in our own attitude, hardly even occurs to us, and the resolution to take such a step is very difficult for us."

"No one likes having offended another person; hence everyone feels so much better if the other person doesn't show he's been offended. Nobody likes being confronted by a wounded spaniel. Remember that. It is much easier patiently -- and tolerantly -- to avoid the person you have injured than to approach him as a friend. You need courage for that."

"Ambition is the death of thought."

"Wisdom is passionless. But faith by contrast is what Kierkegaard calls a passion."

"At the end of reasons comes persuasion."

"For a truly religious man nothing is tragic. "

"An inner process stands in need of outward criteria. "

"The world is independent of my will. "

"Philosophy is not a theory but an activity."

"No one can think a thought for me in the way that no one can don my hat for me."

"If this stone won’t budge at present and is wedged in, move some of the other stones round it first. "

"To pray is to think about the meaning of life."