When Ludwig Wittgenstein writes that “[a]mbition is the death of thought,”[1] what is he referring to? In English, “ambition” has two meanings. The first is the strong desire to do something, typically requiring resoluteness and hard work. The second is the wish and determination to achieve success. Therefore ambition may be taken either as a drive or as an aspiration. Ambition in the latter sense is a goal that reduces thinking to a means to reach a kind of triumph, which may call for a striving to please. In contrast, the life of thought must be one of dedication, openness, availability, and humbleness.


[1] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, revised edn., ed. G. H. Von Wright (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998) 88e.