Lichtenberg, Georg Cristoph
(1742–1799)
German scientist and philosopher. Lichtenberg was born near Darmstadt, the seventeenth child of a Protestant clergyman. Curvature of the spine affected him from childhood. He attended the university of Göttingen from 1763, and apart from brief travels, including visits to England, he remained there for the rest of his life, teaching mainly mathematics and physics. His philosophical reputation rests on his aphorisms, which he collected in notebooks throughout his adult life. Probably the most famous is his remark on Descartes's cogito, seized upon admiringly by later empiricists such as Mach : ‘We should say, “it thinks”, just as we say, “it thunders”. Even to say cogito is too much if we translate it with “I think”. To assume the “I”, to postulate it, is a practical need.’ Lichtenberg held the modern-sounding doctrine that the task of philosophy was not to resolve disputes such as that between realism and idealism, but to enable us to get beyond them. He also wrote that his entire philosophy was a correction of linguistic usage. Wittgenstein is known to have admired his work and adopted a similar aphoristic style. Some of his works are collected in The Lichtenberg Reader, trs. H. Mautner and H. Hatfield (1959).

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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