Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough

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Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough (German: Bemerkungen über Frazers "The Golden Bough") is a collection of Ludwig Wittgenstein's thoughts on James George Frazer's The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. The commentary was initially published in 1967,[1] with an English edition in 1979. Wittgenstein wrote the text in the summer of 1931, which represented his earliest efforts to compose what would eventually become the Philosophical Investigations (1953).

An important theme of the Remarks, and one which Wittgenstein would later explore more fully, is the conception of metaphysics as a "kind of magic". The text was edited by Rush Rhees, who published them separately from Wittgenstein's other work, in a possible attempt to avoid alienating Wittgenstein's readership, in light of the sympathy shown to primitive thought and practices.[2] In the Remarks, Wittgenstein famously described Frazer as more savage than those he studied, and was exceptionally critical of Frazer's interpretations[3] of primitive mythology, Christianity, and epistemology.

The remarks were later included in full in an anthology of Wittgenstein's miscellaneous work called Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951. The editors claim that Rush Rhees omitted a number of remarks from the bilingual book edition of the Remarks, and include in their anthology some remarks they believe Rhees may have erroneously excluded.[4]


  1. ^ Wittgenstein L., Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, Humanities Pr. (1987) ISBN 0391029525; ISBN 978-0391029521; also in Wittgenstein L., Philosophical Occasions: 1912-1951, ed. Klagge J., and Nordmann A., Hackett Pub Co Inc (1993) ISBN 0872201554; ISBN 978-0872201552, pp. 118–155 in (German and English),
  2. ^ Zengotita T., (1989), On Wittgenstein's Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Nov., 1989), pp. 390–398 JSTOR
  3. ^ Eldridge R., (1987), Hypotheses, Criterial Claims, and Perspicuous Representations: Wittgenstein's ‘Remarks on Frazer's The Golden Bough’, Philosophical Investigations, Vol.10, Iss. 3, pp. 226–245, July 1987;
  4. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1993). James C. Klagge, Alfred Nordmann, ed. Philosophical Occasions: 1912-1951. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. p. 116. ISBN 0-87220-155-4.