Reports on the 4th Ludwig Wittgenstein Summerschool

Volker Munz asked participants of the 4th Ludwig Wittgenstein Summschool, both lecturers and students, to give their impression on the summerschool. Here are the reports they have written:

David Stern

Dear Volker,
I understand that you would like a written report on my impressions of the 4th Wittgenstein Summer School.  Let me start by saying that I thought it was not only extremely successful, but also a very pleasant and intellectually stimulating event for all concerned.  The thirty or so participants were clearly very committed to the project of giving a close reading of the Blue Book.  After Hans Sluga provided a brief overview of some of the main philological, historical, and philosophical issues raised by the text during our first hour, the group spent fifteen hours, spread over four consecutive days, working our way through the first half of the Blue Book.  I strongly believe that this kind of close reading, in which a diverse group shares their different approaches to the text, measuring the strengths and weaknesses of those approaches page by page, and day by day, is the best way of coming to grips with Wittgenstein’s writing.  Reading the text by oneself, or drawing on the guidance offered by a traditional lecture course, cannot offer the perspective provided by a collaborative discussion.  Such a setting provides an opportunity to appreciate the wide range of issues raised by the text, and the way in which Wittgenstein develops and interweaves his discussion of those topics in the course of a such a carefully constructed and composed text.
Beyond the scheduled sessions, the discussion continued over lunch and late into the evening; the level of immersion and commitment displayed by the participants was quite extraordinary.  Over half of them had taken part in a previous summer school, and the prior institutional history, together with the lively interest in this unusual opportunity to take part in a close reading of a key Wittgenstein text, was a crucial factor in the success of the School.  I also note that the vast majority will be staying on for the Symposium, and many will be presenting papers on Wittgenstein-related topics.  I have been working on the Blue Book for over thirty years, and have frequently used it as a text in my teaching; nevertheless, I learned a great deal about the Blue Book over the last few days, and am very grateful for the opportunity to take part in the summer school.

David Stern

Hans Sluga

Lieber Volker,

Die Wittgenstein Summer School 2012 war für mich ein ganz außergewöhnliches Ereignis. Die Gelegenheit, einen wichtigen Wittgenstein Text mit einer Gruppe von hochtalentierten internationalen Studenten gründlich durchzusprechen kommt nicht oft. Unsere Gespräche waren, wie Du weißt, intensiv und dauerten oft informell bis in die späte Nacht. Nicht nur die Studenten sondern auch ich und, wie ich glaube, David Stern haben dabei ungeheuer viel gelernt. Ich selbst habe mich über die Jahre hin oft und eindringlich mit Wittgensteins Blauem Buch befasst—aber nie mit so reicher Ausbeute an neuen Gedanken und Einsichten. Es war auch ein Vergnügen, eine neue Generation von Wittgensteinspezialisten kennenzulernen. Ich bin mir gewiss, dass die Beziehungen, die zwischen den Teilnehmern der Summer School geknüpft worden sind, noch lange halten werden.

Für mich selbst war die Summer School die größte Bereicherung des Symposiums, die ich mir vorstellen kann. Schon heute hat sich aus weiteren Gesprächen mit den Studenten ergeben, dass die jetzt stattfindenden Vorträge für sie durch die Summer School eine ganz neue Dimension und Bedeutung erhalten haben.

Ich darf Dir und der gesamten Leitung des diesjährigen Symposiums daher für die Organisation der Summer School danken. Für die kommenden Jahre kann ich sagen: Nur weiter so!


Sebastian Greve

Die Summer School war wie schon zuvor sehr schön, tatsächlich fand ich sie so gut wie noch nie; das mag an meiner Vorliebe für das Blue Book liegen. Ich fasse gern meine positiven Erfahrungen kurz auf Englisch zusammen.
‘The summer school has been most rewarding to me. The unique opportunity to discuss Wittgenstein’s philosophy 24 hours a day (literally) is of indispensable value to every student with a serious interest. The discussions in the seminar as well as the conversations during the rest of the days have been immensely helpful, and I am looking forward to next year already!’

Vielen Dank für die schöne Zeit,
und herzliche Grüße,

Sebastian Greve.

Florian Gstöhl

Es war meine zweite Summer School an der ich teilgenommen habe. Das herausragenste an dieser Sommer School ist das Zusammentreffen von Wittgensteininteressierten von überall von der Welt die sich in dieser Woche explizit mit Wittgenstein auseinandersetzen. Es ist einfach großartig eine Gruppe vorzufinden, die von verschiedenen Denkrichtungen beeinflusst sich mit Wittgenstein auseinander setzt. In dieser Form ist die Summer School einzigartig und ich hoffe
es wird noch viele mehr geben.

Ganz liebe Grüße

Florian Gstöhl

Maja Jaakson

Hi Volker,
Sure thing.  The ALWS summer school is now something I look forward to attending every year; it provides an excellent opportunity to take up a close study of Wittgenstein’s work with top scholars.  Although the atmosphere is relaxed and congenial, the sessions themselves are intense and invigorating.  I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting many clever, insightful and truly lovely people at the summer school and symposium.



Joseph Zanella

Here are my notes on the 2012 summer school. Hope they are of some use.
From a recent conversation at the University of Copenhagen: —How long were you there [in Kirchberg]? —Five days. —What did you do? —We read the Blue Book. —All of it? —No, we skipped some. —How far did you get? —Page thirty-three.
The above covers the question “What happened?” fairly well. That is pretty much what happened at the summer school this year. The question this fairly typical conversation often raises in its wake is “Why would one want to pay to spend five days with thirty-odd people very slowly reading one’s way through a minor book by Wittgenstein?”
If I am honest I have to say: I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that question. That is, not one that makes sense in the climate and age in which we live, one that would count as a reason. Then again on other occasions I might turn that around and say, that precisely because it does not makes sense to do so in this climate and age I’m doing it anyway in order to, perhaps, balance the score a bit. But that doesn’t seem right either.
So why do it? Maybe to answer that question I have to talk about what didn’t happen. What didn’t happen is: 1) we did not find out who Wittgenstein is; 2) we did not find out exactly what his philosophical theory is; 3) we did not find out what the Blue Book is ultimately or essentially about; 4) we did not find out what the book’s main argument is; 5) we did not find out whether the book had a main argument; 6) we did not find out whether the book had even one argument… I could go on. It must seem horrifying.
“What the hell were you doing for five days!” —Reading the Blue Book beginning from page one and getting as far as page thirty-three. And it is one of the best things I’ve ever taken part in. And perhaps this is what’s important here. The doing of it.
Rhees says that Wittgenstein, while getting the PI ready for publication, often said: “Whatever I do I mustn’t hurry.” Wittgenstein also said that he would wish that his work at least would get someone to think thoughts of their own. His writing, to me, is always best when read aloud. I think he says something somewhere to the same effect. It is well known that his lectures contained large stretches of silence. The sort of penny-drop silence that a remark in any one of his books might strike a reader with. Being made to stop and forced think. Or forced to get thinking going again.
So what did I get out of the summer school? Maybe this: that I was made to slowly work my way through thirty-three pages of the Blue Book and it got me thinking. And that is enough, really. It is not something one is often made to do.

Best wishes,

Joseph Zanella