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The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project is committed to ensuring the highest possible quality of the texts that are available on our website.
Our "mission statement" and practical goal is to make Wittgenstein's texts freely available online – where "freely" means both for free and with a free licence – in as many languages as possible. We value open access to culture, but we are painfully aware of the risks that may come with it. Free content has an inherent potential for very wide reach, to the point that, for example, a free translation may become the default precisely by virtue of being free, regardless of its quality – i.e., despite potentially not being as good as a non-free translation.
Therefore, we take the issue of quality very seriously, and we strive to guarantee that all our editions, both of original texts and translations, meet high standards.
However, it should also be stressed that the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project is inspired by the ethos of online free-culture projects such as the Wikimedia Projects and Project Gutenberg. While guaranteeing that our content is good is of paramount importance and second to none among our editorial concerns, making a non-paywalled edition available to readers is more important to us than guaranteeing that the non-paywalled edition is of equal or higher quality than the paywalled one or ones. Considering, among other things, that translations can set themselves different goals (for example to privilege the faithfulness to the original over the naturalness of the rendition, or the opposite) and that the assessment of a translation's quality is, to a certain degree, also a matter of taste, we programmatically prefer publishing content that is good instead of not publishing content that is not excellent.
How we work
As far as original-language texts are concerned, our approach is to identify, among the available editions, a reliable source for the text. Since the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project focuses on Wittgenstein's writings that have previously been published in book form, the texts are reproduced with no changes, except the occasional correction of a typo (which is not indicated) and very rare editorial interventions (which are indicated in the colophon of the individual text or in a dedicated footnote). The source edition of each text is cited in its colophon.
Of course, our own procedure for converting books into HTML pages may sometimes cause typos, formatting errors or other issues to appear in the text. Upon being uploaded to the website, all original-language texts are proofread by members of the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project.
Some of the translations that are available on this website were purpose-made for and by the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project (see below, § Original translations). Other translations had already been published elsewhere and are either in the public domain or were originally released under a free licence that grants others permission to reuse the text.
These translations, such as Ramsey's English translation of the Tractatus or Sergio Sánchez Benítez's Spanish translation of Philosophie, were originally published in conformity with the procedures and criteria of traditional publishers or journals, and are therefore to be considered reliable and high-quality. On the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project's site, they are marked as "Scholarly Approved" (see below, § The "Scholarly Approved" label).
Since the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project’s scope is more similar to that of a publishing house than to that of an academic journal, the procedures that ensure the quality of purpose-made translations for this site do not involve a peer-review.
After researching the best practices of publishing houses, we elected to rely, most importantly, on trusted translators. This approach is grounded in the idea that no number of qualified revisions can make a poor or mediocre translation into a good one. Translators are usually selected among young scholars with translation experience and a strong background in Wittgenstein studies.
All translations are edited and proofread by members of the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project team. With few exceptions, the translations are proofread by more than one person, before and after typesetting.
The "Scholarly Approved" label
Additionally, in order to provide a simple way for readers to confidently trust a given translation, an evaluation system was set up within the framework of which some translations are also examined by established scholars who have a standing within the Wittgensteinian academic community. These translations are marked with the "Scholarly Approved" label.
The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project is grateful to the British Wittgenstein Society for their support sourcing the necessary expertise.
While details about the individuals who performed this evaluation are available in the colophon of individual texts, the following visual device helps readers easily tell the texts that have undergone this scrutiny from those that have not:
All "Scholarly Approved" texts.
The "Featured" label
In addition to the quality of the translation, the quality of the edition is also very important to us.
We put the greatest effort in formatting our texts in a way that maximises both readability and elegance. We provide the web version of each text, which is accessible, searchable, and responsive, along with a downloadable, customisable PDF version.
Some of our editions also include an editor's introduction and footnotes that are intended to guide readers who are not familiar with Wittgenstein's philosophy through the text. Our aim is to provide these introductions especially for what might be considered as Wittgenstein's "main works", i.e., editions that are likely to be of interest to readers new to Wittgenstein. By highlighting the editorial history of such works and explaining their role in the context of Wittgenstein's writings, we hope to help readers orient themselves while still providing access to more specialised or "minor" works, as well as translations.
The editions of both original-language texts and translations which we consider complete from the point of view of this set of appendices are marked as "Featured texts" and carry the following label:
The reader’s role
We encourage readers to report any errors that may have survived our proofreading via the button with an e-mail icon which is available in the web version of each text, in order for us to promptly correct them.
For general feedback, please do not hesitate to contact us.