Sophomore research project advances accessibility to Austrian philosopher’s writings

Désirée Weber, associate professor and chair of political science and Abhishek Manhas ’26, a double major in mathematics and computer science partnered in a sophomore research project to extend the reach of a world-renowned philosopher’s manuscripts.

A novel collaboration between The College of Wooster and the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project extended the reach of the world-renowned philosopher’s manuscripts by utilizing the expertise of each partner. Wooster’s Désirée Weber, associate professor and chair of political science, and Abhishek Manhas ’26, sophomore research assistant, mathematics and computer science major, worked with Michele Lavazza, director of the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project, to proofread Hindi translations of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty and Philosophical Investigations and publish the proofed translations on the project’s website.

The translation project involved a bit of serendipity for Weber, whose interest in philosophy and language led to researching Wittgenstein’s philosophies for her doctoral dissertation. As a result of her research, she gained a strong understanding of Wittgenstein’s work and started volunteering with the project that makes his work publicly available free of charge on a multilingual website in a variety of reader-friendly formats. Weber had the idea to hire a sophomore research assistant to help with a Hindi translation and transfer the subsequent content to the Wittgenstein website.

Manhas, who came to Wooster as an international student from India with native expertise in Hindi, “was the perfect candidate,” Weber said. His knowledge of the Hindi language was critically important. Additionally, he had interest and expertise in computer science and HTML coding for websites. Manhas admitted he was not familiar with the complex philosophies of Wittgenstein; however, the more he read, he found commonality in their interest in mathematics. “A lot of Wittgenstein’s writing is from a very logical, mathematical point of view,” Manhas said. During the process, he also learned some intricacies of the Hindi language that hadn’t been taught in school.

He worked with Weber to ensure the meaning of the work was accurate and grammatically correct. Together, they collaborated with Lavazza and built off each other’s knowledge in different areas. “We each brought unique parcels of what we know to share with one another and translated between the things we know. It often led to interesting insights,” Weber said. Manhas’s expertise in HTML and coding contributed to the Hindi font displaying properly on the website. Weber’s knowledge of Wittgenstein’s work and German—the language of many of his manuscripts—and Lavazza’s expertise in Wittgenstein and the website overlapped and made the group work interesting, she said.

For Manhas and Weber, many of their conversations about the project went beyond the typical classroom conversation, adding to the value of their mentor-mentee relationship. “Sometimes the conversation would take us elsewhere as we learned things we didn’t know,” Weber said. Manhas appreciated the opportunity to work on a project with a professor on a topic that was outside of the coursework for his majors. “I never would have met Professor Weber if I hadn’t done the project. Learning from her about a different field than I’m studying is something I really value,” Manhas said.

Beyond the value of a strong mentor-mentee relationship, the project’s impact beyond the College was also meaningful, Weber said. “We worked on a project that reached outside and beyond Wooster. We were involved in a project that makes Wittgenstein’s works publicly accessible and spans different regions of the globe, different points in time and across decades and continents.”

Posted in Experiential Learning, News on July 1, 2024.

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The study of power, with concentrations in U.S. politics, international relations, political theory and comparative politics.

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Delve into ethical and moral debates while critically analyzing the issues facing humanity

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Numbers + patterns + structures multiplied by a zest for analysis and inquiry

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Solve complex problems with creative solutions using computer programming and applications

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