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In his book, “Autism and Creativity: Is there a Link Between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability?”, Michael Fitzgerald, a leading authority on autism and Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, claims Wittgenstein had higher functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). He claims that autism may even be the crucial ingredient of human creativity.

Using Wittgenstein as a case-study later in the book, Fitzgerald argues that the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations represent a process of social maturation in Wittgenstein, and that his focus on the social dimension of language in the PI mirrors the kind of  personal development commonly seen in many people with AS.

Given Wittgenstein’s interpersonal relationships and cognitive styles, Ishisaka Yoshiki concludes Wittgenstein had AS, classification ICD-10. The interpersonal diagnosis is based on the following behavorial characterisitcs of Wittgenstein:

– Egocentric
– Lack of empathy for others
– Lack of sense of social interaction, detached
– Daily life was obsessive, stereotypic, persistent
– Clumsiness
– Strange accent and intonation

Yoshiki compared Wittgenstein’s cognitive style evident in his writings with the cognitive dysfunctions seen in autism. In particular, Yoshiki considers that the lack of integration evident in Wittgenstein’s thinking, its fragmentary and analytical nature, is diagnostically important, and speculates that his preference for pictorial thinking is designed to combat this dysfunction. 

One difficulty with Fitzgerald’s and Yoshiki’s claim is that posthumous diagnosis is highly unreliable. Intense interest in a subject (philosophy in Wittgenstein’s case) , difficulties in social interaction, communication and imagination are typical traits of autism, but not sufficient for an autism spectrum diagnosis. It is not possible to diagnose the dead, so nothing definitive can be said about the Asperger status of historical figures.  Of course, the lack of diagnosis during Wittgenstein’s lifetime does not suggest that there was nothing to diagnose, but the validity of historical diagnosis is questionable.

Asperger’s Syndrome historical shortlist (in no particular order): Russell, Einstein, Newton, Bartok, Warhol, Nietszche, Gould, Turing, Jung, Carroll.

Links to related material on Wittgenstein and Asperger’s Syndrome:

Did Wittgenstein have Asperger’s Syndrome?

The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts

Humor in Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

Beyond the ‘Syndrome’: Asperger’s and PRS

10. Time is not a physical quantity. It is an interval measured by a clock.

11. Nature neither pleads nor commands. She has no face.

12. In times of uncertainty, a nation will cleave to its traditions.

13. Does life have a meaning? Look at your child.

14. To be is to be related.

David Zwirner Gallery presents A Point in Space is a Place for an Argument. Based on Wittgenstein’s remark in the Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus (2.0131) that “a point in space is an argument place”, the exhibited works explore the interrelations of space, materiality and infinity.

The displayed works symbolize materiality in a variety of ways. Al Taylor rejects traditional media in favor of “non-art” by employing broomsticks to highlight the concept of a spatial object. Isa Genzken’s heavy concrete sculptures, by contrast, represent our understanding of mass and weight. The viewing includes art of 30 different artists, and runs from June 28-August 10.

7. To hold that life is an illusion entails that the meaning of a word is an illusion; and hence that all language is a chimera. If all life is illusiory, then we cannot even say it.

8. Life is too short for Michelangelo’s Pieta.

9. One’s destiny must still be won.

4. I do not know why life is meaningful. But it is. Similarly, I do not know why I should think. But I do think.

5. We always forget the possibility of the unforeseen. In life, the unforeseen always intervenes – unseen.

6. People born in Taiwan hit the ground running and don’t stop until they expire. They fear one thing: stillness.

Happy Famous Artists are Intelligensius Anarchus and Jeff Blind. They are interested in creating conceptual and multimedial art that reflects how the perception of reality interfaces with science, politics, art, and philosophy.

Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus is a project that shows what philosophy looks like as a product brand. The names of famous philosophers replace the names of famous brands. According to the Happy Famous Artists, Wittgenstein’s TLP is mostly remembered for its famous last words: “Whereof we cannot speak, we must remain silent”. Hence the brand: “Wittgenstein – Coca-Cola Light” (2005-2006).


I like the interface between Wittgenstein’s oeuvre and the ad-value of “light”. Nice irony. For more philosopher-user products by the Happy Famous Artists, go here.

UCSC associate professor of philosophy Daniel Guevara and assistant professor of philosophy Jonathan Ellis will host a conference on Wittgenstein from June 21-28. More than 40 scholars will gather at UCSC to discuss the significance of Wittgenstein for philosophy of mind. 

While noting Wittgenstein’s groundbreaking achievements, Guevara and Ellis insist his work deserves more attention from the academic community. They hope this conference can help to bring this about.

New Wittgenstein blog: Language-Games. Featured categories are: philosophy of language; philosophy of technology. The host will attend the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Boston University this Fall.

Some clips of the villa Wittgenstein designed with Paul Englemann for his sister in 1926. There are more photos here.

My notion is that we could not understand the speech of a lion because lions could not have any conceivable share in our world. Let me attempt to clarify this thought over the coming weeks. Today, an analogy adapted from Georges Bataille. Comments welcome.

The foundation of a philosopher’s thought is the thought of another; a philosophical text is like a brick cemented into a wall. The text is the new brick. The new brick is not less visible than the adjoining bricks in the text. What the author offers the reader is not a simple element, therefore, but the ensemble into which it is woven: it is the whole human assemblage and edifice (a self-consciousness).

Similarly, what is offered in linguistic communication cannot be an element, but the aggregate into which it is inserted. Not merely fragments or scraps, but the whole human ensemble, as it were. If a lion could speak, we could only be offered a scrap. Disintergrated material. Detritus. To revert to an example from yesterday, if a zoo lion says to you in English, “Life is unfair. I was born in captivity, and I shall die in captivity”, how could I conceivably follow-up with the lion, or encourage him to explain in more detail, or console him, or any of a myriad possibilities. The lion is not a part of our world. If a lion could speak, we could not understand him. 

June 2007
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