Contents 2001



Wittgenstein's posthumous manuscripts given EU status

Researchers of Wittgenstein from all over the world now come to Western Norway, where Wittgenstein once sought peace and solitude.

Text: Hilde Kvalvaag

Ludwig Wittgenstein spent some of the most productive periods of his life in isolation in a little cabin beside a narrow Norwegian fjord.

Drawing by THREE from a photograph of Wittgenstein taken by Knut Erik Tranøy in Cambridge in 1951.

When he died in Cambridge in 1951 the Austrian philosopher had only produced a single work of philosophy, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. But although he published little, he wrote a great deal. Wittgenstein left nearly 20000 pages of unpublished manuscripts - the Nachlass - of which less than a third has been published in book form.

Norwegian editing of the posthumous manuscripts started with the launch of the Norwegian Wittgenstein Project in 1981. When this project was forced to abandon its work in 1987, the Wittgenstein Archive was established in 1990 at the University of Bergen. The Archive is now located in the HIT Centre (Research Programme for Information Technology in the Humanities) and is a joint venture of the Department of Philosophy andHIT.


Wittgenstein was extremely self-critical and he often rewrote his manuscripts over and over again. They are full of crossings-out, corrections, alternatives and additions. In order to reproduce the texts as completely and accurately as possible, the Wittgenstein Archive has developed its own registration standard - a coding system. It has also developed special software that allows the coding system to be utilised in presenting and analysing the texts.

The task of producing a machine-readable version of the posthumous manuscripts of Wittgenstein (the Nachlass) was completed in 2000, when the Wittgenstein Archive, in collaboration with the Wittgenstein Trustees and the Oxford University Press, published "Wittgenstein's Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition".

Great interest in Wittgenstein

The Archive recently received a positive response from the European Commission to its application for RI status. This is probably the first time that a humanities project has been awarded RI status. Over a period of two and a half years the EU will provide 165,433 Euros (about NOK 1.3 million) of support for research in the Archive. This will mean that about 30 visiting students of Wittgenstein will receive fellowships to visit the Wittgenstein Archive.

"This will enable a large number of young researchers to come to Bergen during the next three years to use the Wittgenstein Archive, and raise academic awareness of Bergen as a centre of Wittgenstein research. This means that the Archive will not simply lie here gathering dust, but will be actively used", says Jan Petter Myklebust, director of the University of Bergen's International Office.

There is a great deal of interest in Wittgenstein both in Europe and in other parts of the world. More than 5000 researchers claim that Wittgenstein is their primary field of interest. European researchers will now be invited to apply for research fellowships. A committee of internationally recognised experts in the fields of information technology and philosophy will choose the successful applicants.

Rewarded investments

Claus Huitfeldt, head of the HIT Centre, led the Wittgenstein Archive from 1990 - 1999.

"We are obviously very pleased about the recognition that is implicit in being the first humanities to be given RI status, and that the University is now being rewarded for the important investments it made in the Wittgenstein Archive during the 90s".

"This support is also important because we can now build up the active research group that the Wittgenstein Archive needs to develop. This will also be useful for projects in the field of text technology in general, both with respect to other electronic editions that we are involved in, and to research and development in the fields of text coding and web technology", says Huitfeldt, who emphasises that it is Alois Pichler, the researcher who now leads the Archive, who deserves the credit for writing the successful EU application.



Fjords and philosophy

The University of Bergen's Wittgenstein Archive has recently been named a "European Research Infrastructure", and is the third centre at the University to be awarded this status. Marine Sciences and Physics were already such "large-scale facilities".


Reponsible editor: Morten Steffensen Contact editorial staff