Georg Henrik von Wright

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Georg Henrik von Wright (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈjɔrj ˈhɛnːrik fɔnˈvrikːt], 14 June 1916 – 16 June 2003) was a Finnish philosopher, who succeeded Ludwig Wittgenstein as professor at the University of Cambridge. He published in English, Finnish, German, and in Swedish. Belonging to the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland, von Wright also had Finnish and 17th-century Scottish ancestors.[1]

Von Wright's writings come under two broad categories. The first is analytic philosophy and philosophical logic in the Anglo-American vein. His 1951 books, An Essay in Modal Logic and Deontic Logic, were landmarks in the postwar rise of formal modal logic and its deontic version. He was an authority on Wittgenstein, editing his later works. He was the leading figure in the Finnish philosophy of his time, specializing in philosophical logic, philosophical analysis, philosophy of action, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and the close study of Charles Sanders Peirce.

The other vein in von Wright's writings is moralist and pessimist. During the last twenty years of his life, under the influence of Oswald Spengler, Jürgen Habermas and the Frankfurt school's reflections about modern Rationality, he wrote prolifically. His best known article from this period is entitled The Myth of Progress, and it questions whether our apparent material and technological progress can really be considered "progress".

In the last year of his life, among his other honorary degrees, he held an honorary degree at the University of Bergen.[2]


  • The Logical Problem of Induction, PhD thesis, 31 May 1941
  • Den logiska empirismen (Logical Empirism), in Swedish, 1945
  • Über Wahrscheinlichkeit (On Chance), in German, 1945
  • An Essay in Modal Logic, 1951
  • A Treatise on Induction and Probability, 1951
  • Deontic Logic, 1951
  • Tanke och förkunnelse (Thought and Preaching), in Swedish, 1955
  • Logical Studies, 1957
  • Logik, filosofi och språk (Logic, philosophy and language), in Swedish, 1957
  • The Varieties of Goodness, 1963. (1958-60 Gifford Lectures in the University of St. Andrews, online) He considered this his best and most personal work.
  • Norm and Action, 1963 (1958-60 Gifford Lectures, St. Andrews, online)
  • The Logic of Preference, 1963
  • Essay om naturen, människan och den vetenskaplig-tekniska revolutionen (Essay on Nature, Man and the Scientific-Technological Revolution), in Swedish, 1963
  • An Essay in Deontic Logic, 1968
  • Time, Change and Contradiction, 1969
  • Tieteen filosofian kaksi perinnettä (The Two Traditions of the Philosophy of Science), in Finnish, 1970
  • Explanation and Understanding, 1971
  • Causality and Determinism, 1974
  • Handlung, Norm und Intention (Action, Norm and Intention), in German, 1977
  • Humanismen som livshållning (Humanism as an approach to Life), in Swedish, 1978
  • Freedom and Determination, 1980
  • Wittgenstein, 1982
  • Philosophical Papers I-III, 1983–1984
  • Filosofisia tutkielmia (Philosophical Dissertations), in Finnish, 1985
  • Vetenskapen och förnuftet (Science and Reason), in Swedish, 1986
  • Minervan Pöllö (The Owl of Minerva), in Finnish, 1991
  • Myten om framsteget (The Myth of Progress), in Swedish, 1993
  • The Tree of Knowledge, 1993
  • Att förstå sin samtid (To Understand one's own Time), in Swedish, 1994
  • Six Essays in Philosophical Logic, 1996
  • Viimeisistä ajoista. Ajatusleikki (On the End Times. A Thought Experiment.), in Finnish, 1997
  • Logiikka ja humanismi (Logic and Humanism), in Finnish, 1998
  • In the Shadow of Descartes, 1998
  • Mitt liv som jag minns det (My Life as I Remember it), in Swedish, 2001

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