Wittgenstein on Weyl: the law of the excluded middle and the natural numbers

Jann Paul Engler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In one of his meetings with members of the Vienna Circle, Wittgenstein discusses Hermann Weyl’s brief conversion to intuitionism and criticizes his arguments against applying the law of the excluded middle to generalizations over the natural numbers. Like Weyl, however, Wittgenstein rejects the classical model theoretic conception of generality when it comes to infinite domains. Nonetheless, he disagrees with him about the reasons for doing so. This paper provides an account of Wittgenstein’s criticism of Weyl that is based on his differing understanding of what a general statement over infinite domains consists in. This difference in their conception of generality is argued to be central to the middle Wittgenstein’s overall stance on intuitionism as well. While Weyl (and other intuitionists) reject the law of the excluded middle on grounds of constructivity, Wittgenstein argues that general statements over infinite domains do not express propositions in the first place. The origin of this position as well as its consequences for contemporary debates on generality are further assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number216
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2023


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