An Introduction to the Later Wittgenstein for Students
This book, which grows out of eight years of teaching the later Wittgenstein, focuses on his great work, Philosophical Investigations. After a brief resume of the background that led him to change his approach to philosophy dramatically, it addresses the two main subjects of the Investigations, language and the mind, and concludes with reflections on the scope and place of his work. More
Ludwig Wittgenstein is usually recognized as one of the great philosophers of the 20th century. An Austrian mentored by Bertrand Russell at Cambridge before World War I, he published, just after the War, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a work of analytical philosophy that he grandiosely portrayed as solving all the problems of philosophy for good. With this in mind, he left philosophy for almost ten years, returning to the field in the late 1920's. At that time, he began to find flaws in the Tractatus which, within a short time, exploded its main principles and led him on a ten year quest to fashion philosophy in a new form, focused on investigations of our uses of language. This led to the great work of his career, Philosophical Investigations, which was not published until after his death in the 1950's. The present book is designed to assist students seeking to unlock the thought of the Investigations. It focuses on the background briefly, then the philosophy of language and philosophy of mind, the two main subjects of the Investigations, and concludes with a reflection on broader issues raised by his approach and on his place in recent philosophy. There is some consideration of issues raised in what used to be called Part II of the Investigations but, in the most recent edition of the work by Hacker and Schulte, is treated as a separate piece called "Philosophy of Psychology - A Fragment". There is also a consideration of some issues raised in his last notebook, On Certainty, including some related to metaphysics and others that introduce a sort of relativism.
Wittgenstein wrote in numbered paragraphs rather than continuous prose. His thoughts often seem to wander and he is for that reason difficult to read, especially for those confronting his later work for the first time. Although there are a number of introductions available, none treats the philosophy of mind in as much detail as the present book. It should not be used as the textbook for a Wittgenstein course by itself but it will provide much insight in learning to read Wittgenstein. Indeed, it grows out of my own experience teaching Wittgenstein for some eight years.
Wittgenstein is often now dismissed as a relic of the history of philosophy, except by a small group of devotees. My contention is that he remains relevant to much philosophical discussion and that he offers techniques of philosophical investigation, by way of our concepts. that enlarge our philosophical understanding and living approaches to philosophy that can continue to excite the philosophical imagination.
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