chapter  8
WITTGENSTEIN’S REMARKS ON GÖDEL’S THEOREM
ByGRAHAM PRIEST
Pages 21

Wittgenstein’s Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics received perhaps the most lukewarm reception of all of his posthumously published work. For example, Anderson said that it is ‘hard to avoid the conclusion that Wittgenstein failed to understand clearly the problems with which workers in the foundations of mathematics have been concerned’ (1964:489); Kreisel called it ‘a surprisingly insignificant product of a sparkling mind’ (1959:158); and even Dummett, who is a good deal more sympathetic, after reminding us wisely that these are remarks culled by editors from notebooks that were never intended for publication, averred

many of the thoughts are expressed in a manner which the author recognized as inaccurate or obscure; some passages contradict others; some are quite inconclusive; some raise objections to ideas which Wittgenstein held or had held which are not clearly stated in the volume. (1964:491)

The remarks on Gödel’s theorem, in particular, drew very negative comments. Kreisel thought that Wittgenstein’s ‘arguments are wild’ (1959:153); Anderson said that they ‘indicate that Wittgenstein misunderstood both the content of and the motivation for…Gödel’s theorem’ (1964:485); and here is Dummett again: ‘other passages again, particularly those on consistency and Gödel’s theorem, are of poor quality or contain definite errors’ (ibid.).1 The aim of this paper is to revisit the issue, some half a century on, to see whether these harsh words are justified.