The Advantage of Theft over Honest Toil

Joseph Agassi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Gregory Landini offers a new and an illuminating reading of Ludwig Wittgenstein's idea about his own innovation: it is the invention of a notation that removes the mystery from all theorems of logic and of mathematics as it renders their proofs part of their wordings. This makes all theorems in principle as boring as "all four-legged animals are animals." This idea is Wittgenstein's doctrine of showing. It is worthless; yet, as Landini shows, every time Wittgenstein offered an elaboration on it, Russell checked it carefully and found it of no value. This, let me add, shows that Russell was in error in suggesting that intellectually there is no "advantage of theft over honest toil": at times one may pay back and with high interest. Other cases may be due to misjudgment rather than to sloth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-526
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophy of the Social Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • History of logic
  • Logical positivism
  • Russell
  • Wittgenstein


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