To the left, the cabin Wittgenstein built near Skjolden, in Norway (the graphic reconstruction was done by me). It was at the head of the enormous and dramatic Sognefjord, on the west coast.

Sognefjord in Russian (it has the best pictures).

I got an interesting letter from Rik Kabel about the title of the blog:

I recently came across your blog at abadguide and noticed the line attributed to Wittgenstein. The date given is 1946. You can probably move that date back a bit after reviewing the page (taken from Wittgenstein’s Lectures On The Foundations Of Mathematics, Cambridge, 1939 by R. G. Bosanquet and others, edited by Cora Diamond, U Chicago Press 1976, 1989). It does appear that he used the metaphor in various forms.

I suppose that he said it in English, although I get the impression that he relied on native English speakers for more careful, idiomatic translations from German, as Ogden for_Tractatus_. If you know of a German statement of it by him, I would enjoy learning of it.

Rik explained his interest:

I have a thing about quotations (and pretend to be writing a book about it). I find many are inaccurate in body or attribution, including many in the standard quotation dictionaries. I also don’t really think that translations should be considered quotation as much as allusion. So, I just had to check out the Wittgenstein. It is a bad habit, but like all bad habits, it provides great pleasure.

I like to see the quotation in a slightly different form like the one Rik links to, but that he was repeating the same metaphor years later — isn’t that a little disappointing?  Middle-aged Wittgenstein is usually portrayed biographically as a man rethinking his ideas and coming to bold new conclusions, but this seems more like the bloke down the pub who says “Stop me if you’ve heard this one…”.  I don’t like to think of him repeating himself — however, Wittgenstein was a university teacher and he probably did.  And the truth is I’m quite happy to be rereading it a year after I first put it at the top of the page.  It implies that I might have a master plan that will reveal itself over time; and who knows, perhaps I do and perhaps it will.  At the moment I’m very interested in Language Hat’s recent Goats From All Over; there’s no connection, but they complement quite well, say, our three-day binge of ice cream shop naming.  The Wittgenstein quote reassures me, and hopefully others, that it’s quite okay.

To return to Rik’s question; in a note about the book, Wittgenstein’s Lectures, it says:

For several terms at Cambridge in 1939, Ludwig Wittgenstein lectured on the philosophical foundations of mathematics. A lecture class taught by Wittgenstein, however, hardly resembled a lecture. He sat on a chair in the middle of the room, with some of the class sitting in chairs, some on the floor. He never used notes. He paused frequently, sometimes for several minutes, while he puzzled out a problem. He often asked his listeners questions and reacted to their replies. Many meetings were largely conversation. These lectures were attended by, among others, D. A. T. Gasking, J. N. Findlay, Stephen Toulmin, Alan Turing, G. H. von Wright, R. G. Bosanquet, Norman Malcolm, Rush Rhees, and Yorick Smythies. Notes taken by these last four are the basis for the thirty-one lectures in this book.

I believe that at this stage in his life Wittgenstein did his own translating.  Yorick Smythies — one of a long line of Yorick Smythies, according to google — typed  some of Wittgenstein’s handwritten notes, possibly those  translated by the author into English for the postwar version of Philosophische Untersuchungen. Unfortunately he died in 1978.  Like Rik, I’m interested to see if anyone knows of an earlier attribution of Wittgenstein’s “bad guide” metaphor in either English or German  There will be a special prize for German, perhaps a guided weekend tour of A Bad Guide’s technical workshops and studios, culminating in a working lunch with the goats at the reservoir, where any day now they are due to start their summer job…

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