Wittgenstein’s Thought Experiments and Relativity Theory

  • Carlo PencoEmail author
Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


In this paper, I discuss the similarity between Wittgenstein’s use of thought experiments and Relativity Theory. I begin with introducing Wittgenstein’s idea of “thought experiments” and a tentative classification of different kinds of thought experiments in Wittgenstein’s work. Then, after presenting a short recap of some remarks on the analogy between Wittgenstein’s point of view and Einstein’s, I suggest three analogies between the status of Wittgenstein’s mental experiments and Relativity theory: the topics of time dilation, the search for invariants, and the role of measuring tools in Special Relativity. This last point will help to better define Wittgenstein’s idea of description as the core of his philosophical enterprise.


Description Language games Mental experiments Relativity theory Einstein Wittgenstein 

Wittgenstein, L. abbreviations


The Big Typescript, TS 213. Edited and translated by G. G. Luckhard and M. A. E. Aue, Oxford: Blackwell 2005


Lectures on the Foundation of Mathematics, Cambridge, 1939. Edited by Cora Diamond, Ithaca: Cornell U.P. 1976


Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1, Blackwell, Oxford, 1982


On Certainty/Über Gewissheit. Oxford: Blackwell, 1974


Philosophical Remarks/Philosophische Bemerkungen. Oxford: Blackwell, 1964. Engl. transl. Oxford: Blackwell, 1975


Philosophical Investigation/Philosophische Untersuchungen. Edited and translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell 1968


Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1978 (Third edition)


Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, 2 voll., Oxford: Blackwell, 1980


Vermischte Bemerkungen. Edited by Von Wright, Frankfurt aM, 1977


Zettel. Oxford: Blackwell, 1967


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy of Language, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GenovaGenoaItaly

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