“A small, shabby crystal, yet a crystal”: A life of music in Wittgenstein’s Denkbewegungen

In B. Sieradzka-Baziur, I. Somavilla & C. Hamphries (eds.), Wittgenstein's Denkbewegungen. Diaries 1930-1932/1936-1937: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Innsbruck, Austria: StudienVerlag. pp. 83-112 (2019)
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Ludwig Wittgenstein's life and writings attest the extraordinary importance that the art of music had for him. It would be fair to say even that among the great philosophers of the twentieth century he was one of the most musically sensitive. Wittgenstein’s Denkbewegungen contains some of his most unique remarks on music, which bear witness not only to the level of his engagement in thinking about music, but also to the intimate connection in his mind between musical acculturation, the perils of modernity, and the challenge, which was very personal to Wittgenstein, of philosophizing amidst what he believed was a dissolution of the resemblances which unite his culture’s ways of life. In particular, Denkbewegungen contains unique remarks on modern music, the problem of Gustav Mahler’s music, and the music of the future. Also, it contains, among other things, some unusually forward-looking remarks on the differences between Brahms and Bruckner, which both probe deeply into the nature of musical creativity and anticipate his later philosophical move beyond the inner/outer divide in his last writings. I shall offer a close reading of Wittgenstein’s remarks on music in Denkbewegungen, which situates them in the broader context of his philosophical development in his middle-period and beyond. I aim to show the deep integration of Wittgenstein’s thinking about music with his philosophical development, his deep sense of cultural lamentation, and his development as a person and as a philosophical expositor.
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