“I’ve Had A Wonderful Life”

On another blog, someone commented with a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein (1989-1951), an Austrian-British 20th Century philosopher:

To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning

As I read this, I asked myself, “Self, does this mean life has no meaning without a belief in God?”

Hmmmm.

Ludwig_Wittgenstein_by_Ben_Richards
Ludwig Wittgenstein (by Ben Richards)

In a cursory reading about Ludwig on Wikipedia, I found it rather interesting that he made the following comment as he lay on his death bed, just before losing consciousness for the last time, “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life.”

In the last years of his life, Wittgenstein was said to be agnostic — in a qualified sense. Qualified in that he did not accept any religious faith. In fact, he was impatient with “proofs” of the existence of God and any attempts to give religion a rational foundation.

So it would seem his original thinking, as stated in the above quote, had changed by the end of his life. He had found meaning in life despite his agnosticism … to the extent he was able to say on his death bed, “I’ve had a wonderful life.”

In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus  (1922), he wrote:

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.

I like this: eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

There is no other time but now. There is no other life but this one. Enjoy the life you have at this moment. Even if you are living with pain and suffering, always remember, you still have LIFE! You are still able to enjoy the magnificence of the universe, the love of friends and family, the joy of simply “being.”

And when the time comes for it all to end, may each of us join Ludwig and say, “I’ve had a wonderful life.”

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10 thoughts on ““I’ve Had A Wonderful Life”

  1. “So it would seem his original thinking, as stated in the above quote, had changed by the end of his life.”

    Perhaps his original statement was intended to convey that to him seeing that life has meaning was as close to divine as one can get.

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  2. Just a cursory reading over his Wikipedia link gives me the impression he didn’t believe in God in a conventional sense, even though right up to the very end he apparently did believe in some sort of deity and accepted it as a “properly basic” proposition.

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  3. Hmmm. I guess we interpreted what we read in different ways. I got the impression, as I noted in my posting, that he was an agnostic at the end — which would seem to me to take away from his God and life’s meaning statement.

    But I admit, I didn’t read everything. There’s a LOT there!

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  4. I like your conclusion. I suspect it will be true that when we are gone it won’t be unpleasant, it’s just unfathomable. So yes, we live in the present and when death comes I doubt it will bother us after it finishes it’s work.

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  5. In case of interest, Wittgenstein comes across as, ostensibly, a very religious man but certainly didn’t subscribe to a particular religion. When reading conversations he had with people, his own notebooks, etc., the picture you get is of someone very religious, burdened in many ways. I’m not sure if I included it in my own blog in the past but he once commented to his friend, Drury, something along the lines of: “I am not a religious man but I can’t help but every problem in life from a religious point of view”, which, I feel, is hugely insightful. He certainly respected sincerely religious people; sometimes, you get the impression he envied them. The sincerity is crucial.

    The quotation you stumbled across was voiced in a time when he was in a transition phase. Pre-WW1, he was quite mocking of the religious but, during the time he served in the war years, came to have a completely different view altogether. B. Russell commented that he became a ‘mystic’ in these years and there’s certainly some truth in it. He became what is generally called more ‘spiritual’, I suppose.

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    • Thank you for the expansion of information on Wittgenstein, Witty Ludwig.

      As you may have concluded, the quote that I saw triggered my thinking, which is why I did a bit more research on Mr. W. (emphasis on “bit more”). It appears from your comment (and moniker?) that you are much more versed in this gentlemen’s history than I am.

      Whatever his religious leanings, I still like what he said on his deathbed. 🙂

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      • Yes, I do too. One of his good friends commented that it is extremely powerful, very poignant, when you consider how tortured his life could be at times and how often he contemplated suicide etc.. In and of itself, a great comment; in the context of his life, wonderful.

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