Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951)
Austrian Philosopher – Wittgenstein, who spent a great deal of his life in Cambridge UK, is known for his contribution to Existential thought through his treatise on language. Although not necessarily thought of as an existentialist – his approach to philosophical enquiry reflects the close descriptive quality of the discipline of phenomenology. In his works Wittgenstein asks the reader to think of language and its uses as a multiplicity of ‘language-games’ within which the parts of language function, and have meaning, and this understanding will help to dissolve the problems of philosophy. This view of language represents what many consider ‘meaning as representation’. Wittgenstein argues that these “problems” are, in fact, “bewitchments” that arise from the philosophers’ misuse of language. He emphasises that the meaning of words are their use in languages. The implications of his observations for psychotherapy are enormous, posing a direct challenge to mainstream notions of mental illness, and are proving influential for generations of Existential Psychotherapists.