Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction by A.C. Grayling

If you are seeking a primer on Wittgenstein, you probably cannot do much better than this work. In 140 pages, Grayling provides a brief biography, an analysis of Wittgenstein’s early work (the Tractatus), an analysis of his later work (mainly the Philosophical Investigations), and then a look at Wittgenstein’s influence. This book did exactly what I had hoped it would do: provide an understanding of what Wittgenstein argued and if it made sense. In fact, Grayling did this so well that I no longer feel compelled to read any Wittgenstein as it seems like I disagree with the main themes of his work, as well as the fact that the ideas weren’t always presented clearly (and that Wittgenstein disagreed with his early work makes the Tractatus even less intriguing).*
Wittgenstein’s main concern is with language and how our use of language leads to philosophical problems. He has/had some quirky ideas about what could be discussed and some assertions that just have be agreed with intuitively or not at all.  Finally, although impactful, Wittgenstein’s influence does seem to be overrated.
Although this overview is not all that is the case, it is highly recommended.
*As I have not read the primary sources I am choosing to place some trust in Grayling even though I know it is one philosopher’s opinion.


Anonymous Nim Chimpsky said...

It's a mistake to think that Grayling offers a fair and biased representation of Wittgenstein's work. In the world of Wittgenstein scholarship Grayling is generally viewed with particular contempt mainly due to the fact that he ignores and misrepresents much of Wittgenstein's later work.

7:22 AM  

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