Wittgenstein’s Panpsychism


Like many after him, and like Buddha before him, Wittgenstein believed – or at least his early version believed –  in thoughts without a thinker. His logic went something like this:

1. Thoughts are facts of the world.

2. Facts are basic features of the world and do not depend upon other facts for their existence

3. Therefore thoughts do not need thinkers QED.

So what is the self? The self is the bound of the world.

Where in the world is the subject to be found? The subject does not belong in the world: rather it is a limit of the world. (Notebooks 1914: 5.632 -5.633)

The image is a photograph of Adolph Hitler, who was Wittgenstein’s age and went to his school. It is unclear if the boy on the lower left is really Wittgenstein. Hitler was held back, Wittgenstein was advanced, and so they were two years apart – so why in the same photograph? It is sometimes speculated that given his malignant narcissism, Hitler would have been jealous of Wittgenstein’s superior intellect and accomplishments and wealth, and that Wittgenstein is the Jewish schoolmate Hitler discusses in Mein Kampf.

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About Peter Freed, M.D.

I am a psychiatrist (psychopharmacology and psychotherapy) specializing in the so-called "personality disorders," particularly narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. I was a Fellow and then an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia from 2004- 2011. I am currently in private practice in NYC.