Special Issue Research Article

The Philosophical Significance of Wittgenstein’s Experiments on Rhythm, Cambridge 1912–13



Wittgenstein’s experiments on rhythm, conducted in Charles Myers’s laboratory in Cambridge during the years 1912–13, are his earliest recorded engagement in thinking about music, not just appreciating it, and philosophizing by means of musical thinking. In this essay, I set these experiments within their appropriate intellectual, scientific, and philosophical context in order to show that, its minor scientific importance notwithstanding, this onetime excursion into empirical research provided an early onset for Wittgenstein’s career-long exploration of the philosophically pervasive implications of aspects. Dramatically moving beyond the conceptual limitations, which were inscribed by Charles Myers’s scientific program, Wittgenstein got a glimpse of a philosophical angle, which was bound to become very important to him not only in aesthetics, but also for his overarching philosophical development. He became interested in what we actually do when we re-phrase, compare, come up with good similes in order to illuminate something definite within the space of possibility, so a new aspect may come to life.


WittgensteinmusicrhythmpsychologyexperimentsCharles Myersaesthetic puzzlechurch modes
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 57 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 28–43
  • DOI: 10.33134/eeja.27
  • Submitted on 15 Sep 2019
  • Accepted on 1 Nov 2019
  • Published on 15 Apr 2020
  • Peer Reviewed