4th Wittgenstein Conference of Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Society


Various aspects of Indian Philosophy and Wittgenstein

During December 28-30, 2019

Organised by

Department of Philosophy

University of Lucknow


Various aspects of Indian Philosophy, viz. Philosophy of Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics, and Logic have their resemblances with the philosophy of Wittgenstein which have so far,to a great extent, remained unexplored. The resemblances between any two philosophies serve inputs for a comparative philosophizing. Even a cursory reflection on these resemblances shows that Indian Philosophy and Wittgensteinian Philosophy are closer, not only in their methodology, aphoristic style, but also in their approaches to various philosophical problems.

First of all we find that Wittgenstein’s life was like a rishi – not only in his preference to living an ascetic life but also his concept of living a happy life as espoused particularly in Tractatus and Notebooks 1914-16 and prescribed in Upanishads and Smritis.

We learn from Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Geniusthat Wittgenstein had advised his student K J Shah to go back to India and follow Gandhi. Some Indian Wittgensteinians such as Suresh Chandra has written about the points of the convergence of the thoughts of Wittgenstein and Gandhi on the critique of modern western civilization. It seems that there is a possibility of exploration of many other points of convergences between these two thinkers.

Further, Ray Monk describes that Wittgenstein used to read Tagore’s mystical poems in the meetings of Vienna Circle which forced Carnap, Feigl and Waismann realize ‘the author of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was not the positivist they had expected.’ Next, in this context, Monk again registers an anecdote about Wittgenstein’s translation of Tagore’s drama The King of the Dark Chamber. Wittgenstein accepted that ‘there is indeed something grand here.’ Monk holds that, Wittgenstein’s translation of Tagore’s The King of the Dark Chamberneed to be read along with his lectures on religious belief as ‘Tagore expresses Wittgenstein’s own religious belief.’ Here if we accept Monk’s view that ‘Wittgenstein’s denial of the necessity to have reasons for religious beliefs’ as the basic conviction of thoughts of these two thinkers, then several philosophical issues come on the surface. Among these, the conversation between the maidservant Surangama and the Queen Sudarshana in the The King of the Dark Chamber, which appearsas an essential element of its translation by Wittgenstein and Yorick Smythies, has to be looked into from new perspectives.

Next, we find that K J shah has written the similarities between the philosophy of language of Wittgenstein and Bhartrihari. This has been published in Sibajiban Bhattacharyya’s Word and Sentence; Two Perspectives:Bhartrhari and Wittgenstein.The basic issues, in this context, are: (1) the one to one relationship between language and reality, (2) use, context, and language-games, and (3) The Inexpressible and privacy of language. Bhartrhari’s thought, in which language can be explained as an enlightened lamp is similar to the picture theory of meaning. Moreover, like Wittgenstein, Bhartrhari also talks about ‘usage’ and ‘context’ of an expression as determinant factors of meaning. Further, like the realm of ‘showable’ of Wittgenstein, Bhartrhari’s transcendental reality (Shabdadvaita) is beyond any expression. There is a possibility to show that Bhartrhari supports the idea of the rejection of private language, even though Wittgenstein denies any role of ‘a flash of insight’ in determination of meaning of an expression. Moreover, it would be enlightening to show as to whether Wittgenstein would supportAbhihitanvayavada or Anvitabhidhanavada?

            Panneerselvam in The Problem of Meaning with reference to Wittgenstein and Shankar: A Study in the Philosophy of Language has shown the similarities between Shankara’s concept of meaning and that of Wittgenstein through notions such as Advaitic critique of Sphota theory, source of the knowledge of Brahman, ‘saying’ and ‘showing’ distinction, the ‘fly bottle’ and liberation.

Next, Chris Gudmunsen in Wittgenstein and Buddhism maintains that there are straightforward similarity between Buddhists’ and Wittgensteinian positions on meaning, ethics, metaphysics, etc. There is a need to critically evaluate the alleged similarities between Buddhism and Wittgenstein brought forward by Gudmunsen. For Gudmunsen: “What I am arguing is that since both had rejected realism about universals – and this, surely, is not dispute – they were led to a similar view about how words relate to each other. The realism which was rejected had involved the idea that that a word like ‘blue’ corresponds to or refers to a single something which constitutes its essential meaning, muddied perhaps in actual application of the word. Once this idea had gone, from where can words derive their meaning? Only from their position in a public language; from what use people make of them. To define ‘blue’, there is no single thing one can point out as that to which the word refers….Words are related in a language-game quite naturally and harmoniously. (For) the Buddhist logicians…A word derives its meaning by carving out a place for itself. It does not seem to me that there is any important logical difference between the two approaches. In avoiding a referential norm of meaning, they are both in agreement with Nagarjuna’s ‘insistence that the meaning of words, i.e. ‘names’ is derived from the relationship which one word has with other words, not from an intrinsic relationship with an existent objective referent.”

Undoubtedly, it is surprising that above remarks of Gudmunsen has gone unnoticed among Wittgensteinians on the one hand and Buddhist Philosophers on the other. In his zeal to establish own conclusions about the similarities between Wittgenstein and Buddhism on meaning and universals, Gudmunsen has undermined their differences and misinterpreted their philosophy of language. So there is a need to show as to how Gudmunsen’s position is superficial and need to be rejected or supplemented with differences in both positions, unless we risk getting contented with apparent similarities as the final ones.

Next, an exploration in the field of epistemology takes us to the resemblances between theories of pramanyavada (svatah/paratah) as espoused in various schools of Indian Philosophy and Wittgenstein’s view about conditions of the validity of knowledge as reflected in On Certainty. In this context, a debate between Nyaya and Wittgenstein could be established. Nyaya Manjari discusses against apparently Self-evident (SvatahPramanya) cases. The propositions such as ‘my body’ seems to be known immediately, at the time when it arises, and we do not feel the need to verify it by successful activity. A question arises: Are such cases the cases of intrinsic validity? For NyayaManjari: “…the knowledge of truth in such cases is conditioned by familiarity. Therefore, it is not self-evident though it arises quickly.” The authenticity of the knowledge of a new object is ascertained on the ground of practical success to which it leads, if it is true. “When a new object is cognized repeatedly, it becomes familiar and we need not test the truth of its cognition on subsequent occasions in the same way in which we tested it when it was new.” The cases of alleged self-evident truths or the instances of intrinsic validity of cognitions such as mentioned above, i.e. ‘my body’, ‘my hand’ etc. has not only been the point of debate among Indian epistemologies but also between contemporary western philosophers such as G. E.Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The issues raised in Moore’s essays ‘Proof of an External World’ and ‘A Defence of Common Sense’ has found its rebuttal in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. It is enlightening to analyse the similarities and differences between various Indian theories of Pramanyavada and the epistemological position of Wittgenstein. In particular, it is debatable as to whether Wittgenstein in OnCertainty, as against G. E. Moore’s views on common sense and the proofs of the external world, would prefer svatahpramanyavada or paratahpramanyavada?

Finally, even a cursory reflection about the issue of living a happy/meaningful life reveals amazing similarities between the approaches of Indian culture and that of Wittgenstein. Wittgensteinian thoughts seem to be closer to the Indian form of life which has been left unexplored so far. This conference would aim at abridging this gap between Indian and Wittgensteinian ways of living and thinking. In this context, many Indian thinkers, which have not been described above, such as Sankardev, Tiruvalluvar, Jnaneshwar, Valmiki, Tulsidas etc. could also be interpreted from various perspectives of Wittgensteinian thinking.


Gandhi and Wittgenstein

Gandhi and Wittgenstein on the inexpressibility of religious belief

Gandhi and Wittgenstein on the Critique of Modern Western Civilization

Wittgenstein and The King of the Dark Chamber

Wittgenstein and Tagore

Mysticism in Tagore and Wittgenstein

Bhartrihari and Wittgenstein

Shabdadvaita of Bhartrhari and Wittgenstein

Philosophy of Language of Bhartrhari and Wittgenstein

Is language private?:Bhartrihari and Wittgenstein

Meaning: Bhartrihari and Wittgenstein

Bhartrihari and Wittgenstein on Meaning

Panini and Wittgenstein on Meaning

Abhihitanvayavada/Anvitabhidhanavada and Wittgenstein

Gudmunsen’sWittgenstein and Buddhism

Nagarjuna and Wittgenstein

Buddhism and Wittgenstein

The Levels of reality in Buddhism and Wittgenstein

Metaphysics: Buddhism Wittgenstein

Ethics: Buddhism and Wittgenstein

Nyaya and Wittgenstein

Pramanyavada and Wittgenstein

Pramanyavada and On Certainty

Nyaya, Moore and Wittgenstein

svatahpramanyavada/paratahpramanyavada and Wittgenstein

Living a happy life: Indian Philosophy and Wittgenstein

Meaning of life: Upanishads and Wittgenstein

Metaphysics: Upanishads and Wittgenstein

Indian Ethics and Wittgenstein

Advaita Vedanta and Wittgenstein

Sankardev and Wittgenstein

Tiruvalluvar and Wittgenstein

Jnaneshwar and Wittgenstein

Valmiki and Wittgenstein

Tulsidas and Wittgenstein

Indian Culture and Value and Wittgenstein’s Culture and Value

Indian Philosophy of Law and Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Society (LWPS)

The society was registered in 2015 at Lucknow. It has organized three conferences so far at University of Lucknow (2016), University of Imphal (2017), and Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Mumbai (2018). It has published an anthology which will be inaugurated in the forthcoming conference. It is in the process of publishing second anthology soon.

 Conference Registration Fee & Membership Fee*  **
Types Indian Participants (INR) Foreign Participants (INR)
Research Scholars/Students 1500 3000
Academician/Professionals/Faculty 2500 5000
Life Membership of LWPS 2000 5000
Annual Membership LWPS 500 2000

* Only a member can participate in the conference.

** Registration Fee includes conference kit, breakfast, lunch, dinner during the conference. TA and accommodation will be provided to selected paper presenters depending on the availability of financial resources.

Important dates:

Last date for paper submission: December 10, 2019

Issue of paper acceptance: December 12, 2019

Paper submission guidelines:

For any enquiry:

Professor K. C. Pandey

Department of Philosophy,

University of Lucknow


Email: lwps2014in@gmail.com  & kcpandeyp@gmail.com

Ph. 9451050439, 8400668089, 7007878327