Review of Friedrich August von Hayek’s Draft Biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Text and Its History, edited by Christian Erbacher


  • Jack Manzi University of East Anglia



Friedrich von Hayek’s Unfinished Draft of a Sketch of a Biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein was the first attempt at the task of assembling a comprehensible picture of the life of his pre-eminent cousin, Ludwig Wittgenstein. As the title might suggest, von Hayek never finished this task, his efforts being stymied by both Wittgenstein’s literary executors and Wittgenstein’s sister, Margaret Stonborough. Here, and for the first time, Christian Erbacher presents the first real publication of this draft, with accompanying commentary, and an afterword by Allan Janik.

 Perhaps the best way to describe Erbacher’s work here is as a ‘biography of a biography’. His introduction to von Hayek’s manuscript details the story behind its creation, beginning with an outline of von Hayek’s own relationship with Wittgenstein, and the parallels between their academic careers. In doing so, Erbacher not only also describes the history of von Hayek’s sketch, but also the history of Wittgenstein-biography as a genre in itself. For what emerges from Erbacher’s extensive work in researching the von Hayek sketch is that, despite never coming to fruition itself, the work that von Hayek put into collecting the materials for writing a biography of Wittgenstein was hugely influential in all future endeavours of chronicling Wittgenstein’s life.