"One could call Schopenhauer an altogether crude mind. I.e., he does have refinement, but at a certain level this suddenly comes to an end & he is as crude as the crudest. Where real depth starts, his finishes.

One might say of Schopenhauer: he never takes stock of himself."

-Wittgenstein, from 'Culture and Value', a collection of his remarks

What does Wittgenstein mean by this?

  • Hello. What is the source? Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 23:50
  • 1
    Wikipedia article on Wittgenstein , section on faith
    – shrey
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 7:26
  • Are you asking for the 'literary' meaning or wishing to get some background on the statement? Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 8:19
  • some background . I wanted to know in what context was this spoken.
    – shrey
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 18:01
  • I've added background to my answer since it has been requested by you and others.
    – hellyale
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 18:05

5 Answers 5


He is calling Schopenhauer dumb.

One could call Schopenhauer a quite crude mind. I.e., he does have refinement, but at a certain level this suddenly comes to an end & he is as crude as the crudest. Where real depth starts, his finishes. One might say of Schopenhauer: he never takes stock of himself.

The full text of the quote can be found here

Philosophy unravels the knots in our thinking; hence its results must be simple, but its activity is as complicated as the knots that it unravels. -- Ludwig

From the link above with the entire quote you can find the following passage :

enter image description here

You can try to say there is more here, claim that is how it is, that there is some deeper meaning to this quote, but I have yet to encounter any reason why there is more here. In fact those that have made such claims, have the very knots that Wittgenstein is trying to untangle within their thoughts.

From Culture and Value - L.W : Culture and Value - L.W

He is calling Arthur dumb, plain and simple. Not just dumb, but among the dumbest. His choice of the word crude adds yet another jab, as it was one of Schopenhauer's go to words when taunting the intellect of those he thought beneath him.

  • 1
    Interesting. Are there any other examples of distinguished philosophers slagging each other off? :)
    – Bumble
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 19:20
  • 1
    @Bumble Tons, here are some others flavorwire.com/469065/… I do wonder if there is anyone that Nietzsche did not take a jab at in some way or another.
    – hellyale
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 19:30
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    And Wittgenstein is smart. When he encountered the real depth around 1921 he discovered the grand "mystique". lol.
    – John Am
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 21:59
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    Someone flagged this as "not an answer" (not me) and another user commented to the same effect. Could you expand on what the terms mean to Wittgenstein. That would make it a stronger answer.
    – virmaior
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 9:31
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    @hellyale : thanks for providing background
    – shrey
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 15:58

No one can enter Wittgenstein's mind of course, there is however a bit of history to it. In his youth Wittgenstein was enamored with Schopenhauer's epistemology (largely inherited from Berkeley and Kant), but when he became interested in logic and mathematics he found it wanting on account of their nature and role. In particular, he was impressed by Frege's critique of "psychologism" about logic and converted into his conceptual realism. Youthful disappointments cast a long shadow.

  • 1
    Hi. Can you provide a source for this biographical datum? Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 23:53
  • 2
    @Ram Tobolski Wikipedia mentions it with reference to Malcolm's biography Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein#Faith
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 18:57
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    Thanks. Yet the opening quote still seems a riddle. Witt. undoubtedly believed that Schop. was wrong. But why would he attribute to Schop. a lack of depth? What did Witt. mean by "real" depth? Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 0:32
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    @Ram Tobolski If it is a reference to something specific (which I am not at all sure it is) one guess would be the inability of psychologistic epistemology to account for universality of logic. After all, Wittgenstein grew dissatisfied with Frege on this account too, and Tractatus was his own vision of logicism. From that perch Schopenhauer might have looked like a simpleton. Alternatively, it could refer to Schopenhauer's "crude" and glossy style of reasoning, as opposed to Frege's and Russell's precision drilling. But these are speculations.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 20:22

Late Wittgenstein wrote that because he was very critical of Schopenhauer's philosophy. You may think his criticism was maybe too strong, but it is natural among philosophers to employ that kind of strong criticism. Wittgenstein has also been heavily criticized by the philosopher Mario Bunge, who said "Wittgenstein is popular because he is trivial" (Bunge 2020). So no philosopher, not even Schopenhauer or Wittgenstein, are free of that kind of "rude criticism".

It is, though, a bit surprising, because early Wittgenstein adopted Schopenhauer's epistemological idealism, and some traits of Schopenhauer's influence (particularly Schopenhauerian trascendentalism) can be observed in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Glock 2000; Glock 2017).


Bunge, Mario (2020): Mario Bunge nos dijo: «Se puede ignorar la filosofía, pero no evitarla». URL = https://www.filco.es/mario-bunge-no-evitar-filosofia/

Hans-Johann (2000). The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Hans-Johann (2017). A Companion to Schopenhauer. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.


An article by Severin Schroeder provides a speculative interpretation of what W. may have meant:

“It should also be noted that Schopenhauer’s observation is very limited.  He correctly observes that words are not always accompanied by mental images, but he doesn’t seem to realize the philosophical significance of this negative observation.  Locke had invoked images (‘ideas’) to explain how arbitrary signs are invested with meaning.  If this is wrong, the question arises how else words become meaningful.  Yet Schopenhauer, unaware of the problem, has nothing to suggest.  All he says is:

The meaning of the speech is immediately grasped, accurately and clearly apprehended, without as a rule any conceptions of fancy being mixed up with it.  [WWR1 §9; p.39 [72]]   The problem that Locke’s imagist theory of language tries to solve, unsatisfactorily, and to which Wittgenstein will give a very different solution; the philosophical problem of meaning and intentionality is one that Schopenhauer hasn’t even seen.  In that he compares unfavourably with Berkeley (confirming Wittgenstein’s judgement about the latter’s greater depth), who did not only remark that words can occur meaningfully without accompanying mental images, but who at least hinted at the idea that their significance lies in their use (for example, to arouse passions in the hearer).  Thus it can be said of Berkeley with far greater justification than of Schopenhauer that he anticipated the Wittgensteinian insight that meaning is not to be explained in terms of images, but in terms of use.”



That is simple.

Schopenhauer in hes works wrote about deep and not deep way of writing. Aristotle for exemple was not a deep philosopher.

Second intepretation can be, that genius of this autor is never in full potential. Kant and Berkeley was hard to understand but u always can see what is a point of Schopenhauer works.

So that is not negative opinion, this is what Wittgestein would say abot matter of facts.

  • Please provide quotes & references to back your points
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 14:30

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