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Thomas Wartenberg - "Illustrating Wittgenstein: Using Art to Depict Philosophy"

Thomas Wartenberg
Peabody Hall, Room 115

Thomas Wartenberg, Professor Emeritus in Philosphy at Mount Holyoke College of Massachusetts, will be visiting UGA from Feb 10-15. Wartenberg works at the intersection of philosophy and popular culture and is considered one of the leading people in the US working on teaching philosophy to children. A former Fulbright Research Fellow and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, Wartenberg was the winner of the 2011 APA/PDC Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs and the 2013 Merritt Prize for Distinguished Service to the Philosophy of Education. He is the author of Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy through Children's Literature (Rowman and Littlefield).

Abstract of "Illustrating Wittgenstein: Using Art to Depict Philosophy":

Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most important philosopher in the twentieth century. His two central works, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations, are both philosophical classics. Each of them focuses on the nature of language, but their two accounts of its functioning are remarkably different, with the Investigations rejecting virtually every claim made in the Tractatus. Each of these books is notable for its difficulty, with the result that there are disputes about virtually every aspect of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.

Given the difficulty of understanding Wittgenstein’s ideas, it is surprising to discover that his philosophical writings as well as his life have inspired artists. Wittgenstein, more than any other philosophers, has inspired visual arts—we will only be discussing prints, paintings, and sculptures—to create works that attempt to illustrate Wittgenstein’s ideas.

In this talk, I will discuss a wide range of these illustrations of Wittgenstein’s ideas (and, to a lesser extent, his life) by artists like Joseph Kosuth, Jasper Johns, Eduardo Paolozzi, Sol LeWitt, and Mel Bochner. The central question I will discuss is whether, and if so, how, these works actually illustrate the  very abstract claims Wittgenstein makes in his writings. I will also discuss why Wittgenstein has attracted the attention of artists more than any other philosopher.

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