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Ludwig Wittgenstein


Worldwide Publisher:
Oxford University Press

From the Publisher:


  • The first full-length essay on Wittgenstein’s life and thought together
  • Puts Wittgenstein’s religious mysticism into an entirely new key, beyond ‘God’, ‘Belief’, ‘Proof’, and ‘Existence’
  • Offers a radical new way of understanding Wittgenstein’s sexuality and attitude to sex as the key to his spiritual and intellectual identity
  • Challenges the view of Wittgenstein as a damaged schizoid


After his intellectual biography, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Miles Hollingworth now turns his attention to one of Augustine’s greatest modern admirers: The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein’s influence on post-war philosophical investigation has been pervasive, while his eccentric life has entered folklore. Yet his religious mysticism has remained elusive and undisturbed.

In Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hollingworth continues to pioneer a new kind of biographical writing. It stands at the intersection of philosophy, theology and literary criticism, and is as much concerned with the secret agendas of life writing as it is with its Subjects. Here, Wittgenstein is allowed to become the ultimate test case. From first to last, his philosophy sought to demonstrate that intellectual certainty is a function of the method it employs, rather than a knowledge of the existence or non-existence of its objects — A devastating insight that appears to make the natural and the supernatural into equally useless examples of each other. This biography proceeds in the same way. Scattered in every direction by this challenge to meaning, it attempts to retrieve itself around the spirit of the man who could say such things. This act of recovery thus performs what could not otherwise be explained, which is something like Wittgenstein’s private conversation with God.




Chapter 1 – On the Spirit of a Man

Chapter 2 – Biography versus Genius

Chapter 3 – Numbers Station

Chapter 4 – When the Camera Is on Us

Chapter 5 – Sex and the Last Stand


Index of Names


Recommendations & Reviews:

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits. This is a book that is informed by Wittgenstein’s profoundly mystical and pioneering sensibility. Eccentric, eclectic, elegant, esoteric and erudite it cracks open conventional ways of approaching philosophy and biography and is all the better for it. I was intrigued, moved, dazzled and confounded. Certainly the best non-fiction book I read in 2018.”
Salley Vickers, author of Miss Garnet’s Angel

“This is a staggeringly original book, huge in ambition and achievement alike.” — Rowan Williams

“Captivating and real. One of the best and most original books I read this year.” — Anna Maria Polidori

The “mysticism” (6) Hollingworth finds in Wittgenstein goes beyond the classic idea of the inaccessibility to reason of the individual soul’s communion with God precisely insofar as it focuses on how human beings are moved by each other in ways unrepresentable by rules of reason and logic… That is, he shows that “the language used between us is in itself irrelevant. It is the effort that you make to feel my original tilt of soul that matters” (188). Language is only “a stick that we prod the other person with to get their attention and
to get them looking into our face. What happens after that is magical… each word between two human beings is like a doorway of escape to another world… Words are natural, whatever it is that passes between us is supernatural” (188). In other words, Wittgenstein’s view of language celebrates love, “for it is love in all its degrees that we find in each other’s faces… Wittgenstein is famed for writing nearly nothing about his love life. Yet now we realize that the whole of his philosophy was about it” (158). This strikes me as crucial and basically right, although—or because—it opens up
huge new questions. — JOEL BACKSTRÖM, Journal of Religion

 “This book displays an inheritance from Wittgenstein’s philosophy and life that is different than many other interpretations. Hollingworth has chosen to write the text in a way that is inherently self-conscious, and one can see how this style of writing could emerge from studies of Wittgenstein’s own self-criticism and forms of writing. It is good to be reminded that there are many possible ways in which a philosopher’s life and work may be received.” — Thomas D. Carroll, Reading Religion

“Summing up: Recommended” — CHOICE

“As quixotic as it sounds, this biography battles against the deadening effects of biographies, it drags the hidden biographer — the disengaged biographer being a pose, an act — into the light.” — Nick Mattiske, Insights Magazine [Full review HERE]

“Hollingworth swivels often—and so gracefully—from his subject to our subjectivity that you’ll come quickly to see how much fun humanistic learning can be. He brings you originality, surprise, provocation, and a Wittgenstein you’ll not be expecting and will not soon be forgetting.” — Peter Iver Kaufman, Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

“In short, this book is a tour de force — it’s all here: philosophy, mathematics, aesthetics, psychology, literature, words, love, sex, God, silence. Reading Ludwig Wittgenstein is like waking up from a dream and knowing you will never see the world in the same way again.”
—Todd Breyfogle, Director of Seminars for the Aspen Institute