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Philosophical Investigations (3rd Edition)

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A book by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Written by one of the century's truly great thinkers, Ludwig Wittgenstein'sPhilosophical Investigationsis a remarkable--and surprisingly approachable--collection of insights, statements, and nearly displayed thinking habits of the philosopher's work … see full wiki

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Author: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Publisher: Prentice Hall
1 review about Philosophical Investigations (3rd Edition)

One of the Seminal Works of Twentieth Century Philosophy

  • Jul 9, 2000
I'm not sure how one goes about reviewing a book like this since it cannot be captured in a paragraph or two. Suffice it to say, when I read it in my undergraduate days it was an eye-opener.

In his earlier Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, Wittgenstein had sought to build a picture of the world by exploring how language mirrors reality in order to capture it. In Philosophical Investigations, a book which became the bible for a whole new way of philosophical thinking (but which he never published in his lifetime), Wittgenstein scrapped all that for the view that language ultimately WAS the world because it contained it. A subtle but powerful difference in the way one sees things. He achieved this not through a traditional and long-drawn out philosophical argument but rather by a series of pithy, note-like questions and answers to himself. The argument does not so much build as unfold, as the reader sees more and more (from a multiplicity of angles) the nature of language as Wittgenstein came to conceive it in his later years. What it did for me back then was to wean me away from a narrow and rigorous positivism, which had previously colored everything I did and said, allowing me to see the value of many of the "non-concrete" forms of life in which we find ourselves. It doesn't answer the ethical or metaphysical questions of traditional philosophy so much as it builds a "world" in which they seem intelligible if one approaches them in the non-traditional, Wittgensteinian way which is so crisply demonstrated here.

In this book, no less than in his later teachings, Wittgenstein radically altered (dare one say revolutionized?) the way we think about language and knowledge and even thinking itself. And how we view the philosophical project. If, in the end, we have not given up the struggle to solve philosophical problems in favor of "dissolving" them, which he generally recommends here, it is not because he did not offer us new insight into the matter but rather because his strategy leads to a more open and broader view of the world in which we find ourselves. Because of this book I found greater comfort in the company of the great metaphsyicians and existentialists, for all the fuzziness of their language (which Wittgenstein implicitly criticizes), and learned to feel at ease with phenomenologists and even religionists (is that a fair formulation for those who embrace the concept of deity in any of its many variants?). And that, it seems to me, is what philosophy must be about in the end, about the big questions, Ludwig Wittgenstein's technical queries and explorations notwithstanding. But he gets you there if you will give him the time and attention necessary to crack the world open, like the opaque and rather hard-boiled egg it often seems to be.

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