Fonds RHEE - Papers of Rush Rhees

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Reference code



Papers of Rush Rhees


  • 1951-89 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

28 boxes and 11 volumes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Rush Rhees was born in Rochester in New York on 19 March 1905. His father, also Rush, was President of Rochester University and his mother, Harriet, the daughter of the President of Smith College. Rhees studied Philosophy at Rochester but was expelled from the course in his Father’s absence by Professor G. M. Forbes for asking 'rude and insolent' questions.

Rhees left the USA and studied Philosophy at Edinburgh, graduating in 1928. After this he worked in the philosophy department at Manchester before spending a year in Innsbruck from 1932 to 1933. In the latter year he became a research student in Cambridge, working with G. E. Moore, though he never submitted a thesis. Rhees left Cambridge in 1940 to take up an assistant lecturers post at Swansea, where he stayed until taking early retirement in 1966. Thence he moved to London where he held a visiting post at King’s College for a while, but returned to Swansea where he was awarded an honorary chair and where he died in 1989.

While in Cambridge, Rhees met Ludwig Wittgenstein, attending his lectures in 1939. Rhees and Wittgenstein became friends and after a period of war work in Newcastle Wittgenstein went to stay with Rhees in Swansea for six months in 1944. On Wittgenstein’s death in 1951, Rhees was named as one of Wittgenstein’s literary executors, the others being G. H. von Wright and Elizabeth Anscombe, and was surprised to receive a box of Wittgenstein manuscripts. In Wittgenstein’s will, the literary heirs were instructed to publish such of his manuscripts as they thought worthy. Over the next fifty years, they produced a series of publications on which much of our knowledge of Wittgenstein’s philosophy is based. Rhees was responsible for Philosophical Remarks and Philosophical Grammar and also edited the Philosophical Investigations and Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics with his co-heirs.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The papers were given to the library by G H von Wright, who like Rhees was one of Wittgenstein's literary heirs

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Scope and content

The papers in this archive consist of papers created by Rhees in his role as literary executor of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein

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      Existence and location of originals

      A substantial part of the archive consists of copies of items from Wittgenstein's nachlass. The originals of these are mostly in Trinity College - see

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      Related units of description

      Rhees' archive was split between this material and his more personal and working papers distinct from those relating to his work as one of Wittgenstein's literary executors. This is held by the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University. There is also a considerable amount of material in the von Wright and Wittgenstein Archives in Helsinki.

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