A Companion to Wittgenstein
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A Companion to Wittgenstein

Hans-Johann Glock, John Hyman, Hans-Johann Glock, John Hyman

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eBook - ePub

A Companion to Wittgenstein

Hans-Johann Glock, John Hyman, Hans-Johann Glock, John Hyman

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The most comprehensive survey of Wittgenstein's thought yet compiled, this volume of fifty newly commissioned essays by leading interpreters of his philosophy is a keynote addition to the Blackwell Companions to Philosophy series. Full of penetrating insights into the life and work of the most important philosopher of the twentieth century, the collection explores the full range of Wittgenstein's contribution to philosophy. It includes essays on his intellectual development, his work in logic and mathematics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and action, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of religion, and much else.

As well as examining Wittgenstein's contribution to human understanding in detail, the Companion features vital contextual analysis that traces the relationship between his ideas and those of other philosophers and schools of thought, including the Aristotelian and continental philosophical traditions. Authors also address prominent themes that remain current in today's philosophical debates, explaining Wittgenstein's continuing legacy alongside his historical significance. Essential reading for scholars of philosophy at all levels, A Companion to Wittgenstein combines engaging commentary with unrivaled academic authority.

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Part I

Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Development

There are two good reasons why Wittgenstein’s development is a philosophically intriguing problem as well as a complex and intricate matter.
The first reason is that Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations, two philosophical classics and two very different books. Ever since the publication of the Investigations their mutual relation has been a matter of debate.
The second reason is that during the decades since Wittgenstein’s death a wealth of material has been published from his papers, including several books as well as nearly complete electronic editions of his manuscripts and his correspondence. These books do not constitute independent treatises on various topics or questions; to a large degree they contain variations, preparatory material, or continuations of things Wittgenstein expounded in his Investigations or in the Tractatus.
The question about Wittgenstein’s development could therefore be phrased thus: how does all this material connect and make sense, and how can we best understand “Wittgenstein’s progress?” (assuming that he was indeed progressing).
Early introductions to his philosophy established a simple two‐part scheme, still in widespread use today, sometimes labeled “Wittgenstein I” and “Wittgenstein II” (Pitcher, 1964; Fann, 1969; Pears, 1971; Biletzky and Matar, 2014). The first more detailed presentation, proceeding publication by publication, can be found in Kenny (1973). On the whole this abundance of material has deterred scholars from attempting manuscript‐based interpretations of Wittgenstein’s philosophy in its entirety. In the meantime, the topic of the early and the later Wittgenstein surfaces even in quite popular treatments of his philosophy (e.g., Hankinson, 1999).
Many authors writing on him have focused either on the early or on the later Wittgenstein. It is fairly easy to dismiss the Tractatus as less important if one believes the Investigations to be his one true masterwork (see for instance Hacker, 1996), and one can also find the Investigations of less interest if one believes that symbolic logic is the modern philosopher’s indispensable tool (Russell). There exists, however, a tradition of “hardcore Wittgensteinians” opposing the division into Wittgenstein I and Wittgenstein II on account of strong underlying continuities. This line started with Anscombe (1959), Rhees (1970), Winch (1969), and Mounce (1981), with more recent contributions from Diamond (1991), who took her start into Wittgenstein through editing his 1939 Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics, and Conant (2012). Reading the Tractatus with the later developments in mind, one can easily fall into the trap of reading too much of the later Wittgenstein into his early work – yet doing so can also sharpen one’s understanding of the ways in which those later ideas developed from his earlier ones.
This first chapter discusses some general features of Wittgenstein’s work, then gives an overview of his early writings, and finally surveys his philosophical activities after 1929 (his “development” in the more specific sense of the term).
The evidence collected will suggest that there is quite substantial continuity, but also one major turning point in Wittgenstein’s way of handling philosophical questions. This turning point took place around 1931–1932, as will be explained in Section 4 below.

1 Some Basic Features of Wittgenstein’s Work

Some of the features of Wittgenstein’s way of doing philosophy hardly changed over time. These include:
(1) Wittgenstein did not write philosophical books – he wanted to write the philosophical book. His ambition was to settle the matter of philosophy once and for all. In his view, the proper study of philosophy was mainly philosophy itself. His first paper on record was a four‐minute piece entitled “What is Philosophy?” It was delivered in late 1912 to the Moral Sciences Club in Cambridge, defining philosophy as “all those primitive propositions which are assumed without proof by the various sciences.” His last lecture, given to the same club in 1946, was again simply on “Philosophy” (McGuinness, 2008, pp. 35, 404; PPO 332, 338–9).
Once we have gained clarity about the nature of philosophy we will have the key to treat all particular questions – and Wittgenstein was only interested in giving the master key: most of the remaining work he would happily leave for others to do. It was only during his later career that he decided that there could not be one single key after all, but that all he could do was to give examples of his way of treating philosophical questions. He thus found it worthwhile to conduct some extended investigations into the nature of meaning and understanding, the foundations of mathematics, and the maze of psychological concepts. About some of his unwanted followers he remarked in 1949: “They show you a bunch of stolen keys, but they can’t use them to open any door” (MS 138, p. 17a).
Therefore, excepting the first two years, when he asked: “What is logic?,” his prime question and topic was “What is philosophy?” For this reason, the titles of his books and book projects all sound very general and quite similar: Philosophical Remarks, Philosophical Grammar, and the like. Wittgenstein was convinced that nobody had given an adequate answer to this question, and that it was his job to work one out. This overarching aim gives his work a high degree of unity – but also sometimes an appearance of amorphousness, as everything is very much intertwined and cannot be separated neatly into different topics discussed or questions raised and answered (as already Frege complained about in a letter to Wittgenstein dated 28 June 1919).
(2) The second feature is closely related to the first: the basic unit of Wittgenstein’s work is not the book, nor the scholarly article, but rather what he called a “remark.” This is usually a self‐standing, compressed paragraph intended to illuminate one aspect of a philosophical problem. It may take on the form of a short aphorism but it can also extend up to a page and a half. This has been compared to the work of an artist or a poet, and again and again Wittgenstein tried to sum up highly complex matters into one short paragraph. He liked to speak of the liberating, “spell‐breaking word” (das erlösende Wort) and kept on searching for it (BT 409; PO 164).
(3) When writing philosophy, Wittgenstein would first write down a large number of such remarks, and then he would try to arrange these remarks into a larger whole, eventually into a book. He intended his book to be the best possible arrangement of all his good remarks. He did, for a while at least, regard the Tractatus as such a book, but he was never completely satisfied with the Investigations and did not publish them himself.
(4) Wittgenstein was a perfectionist. On every issue he aimed at just the right way of expressing it – and here his style makes it at the same time easy and hard for academic, as well as nonacademic, readers. Both of Wittgenstein’s books are written in a concise, terse style, with many striking metaphors and comparisons, and this has made them appealing to a wide range of readers. However, academic interpreters have wildly disagreed about why he says what he says. In the course of composition he pruned away so much that to most readers the result seemed quite hermetic. Many have admired his style but have at the same time complained that they cannot make out what he is “really driving at” (see Chapter 2, WITTGENSTEIN’S TEXTS AND STYLE).
This way of writing philosophy resulted in many different versions of the same, or almost the same material, and many of the books posthumously published under his name are very similar in subject matter, and even contain a large amount of verbatim repetitions.
(5) Wittgenstein took great care of his manuscripts. He knew that they were valuable and he cared about what became of them. In 1917, and again in 1938, he had the most important ones stored in safe places (McGuinness, 2008, p. 266). Although, or because, he never had a permanent residence, he repeatedly reread and sifted his manuscripts. His care about his manuscript volumes shows some similarity to Heidegger, whose Nachlass has become the source of an even greater output of publications. To Wittgenstein, the process of developing his philosophical thoughts mattered almost as much as the final result. The overall structure of his Nachlass is, by comparison, very orderly and the most striking overall feature of his work is the ongoing transformation of his thought. His later thought is thoroughly shaped by responding to his earlier thought. Wittgenstein may not have cared much for the history of philosophy as others have written it, and he is not known to have read any contemporary philosopher, but he continuously read, rewrote, commented on, and copied his own manuscripts. This also makes for a high degree of continuity in his work.
(6) Wittgenstein’s views about the general nature and aim of philosophy hardly changed (see Chapter 13, PHILOSOPHY AND PHILOSOPHICAL METHOD). To him philosophy was definitely not one of the sciences, but neither was it to consist of “transcendental twaddle” (Letter to Engelmann, 18 January 1918). Philosophy had to start from considerations of language, and especially the language it was to be expressed in, otherwise it would be quite hopeless. In this sense, Wittgenstein always practiced the linguistic turn and advocated the liberation from the entanglement of our thinking within the loops of language. Already when he wrote the Tractatus he referred to Hertz and hi...


  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Table of Contents
  4. List of Contributors
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. Wittgenstein’s Published Works in Order of Composition
  7. Introduction
  8. Ludwig Wittgenstein
  9. Part I: Introductory
  10. Part II: Influences
  11. Part III: Early Philosophy
  12. Part IV: Philosophy and Grammar
  13. Part V: Logic and Mathematics
  14. Part VI: Language
  15. Part VII: Mind and Action
  16. Part VIII: Epistemology
  17. Part IX: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Religion
  18. Part X: Philosophical Schools and Traditions
  19. Index
  20. End User License Agreement
Estilos de citas para A Companion to Wittgenstein

APA 6 Citation

[author missing]. (2016). A Companion to Wittgenstein (1st ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/994811/a-companion-to-wittgenstein-pdf (Original work published 2016)

Chicago Citation

[author missing]. (2016) 2016. A Companion to Wittgenstein. 1st ed. Wiley. https://www.perlego.com/book/994811/a-companion-to-wittgenstein-pdf.

Harvard Citation

[author missing] (2016) A Companion to Wittgenstein. 1st edn. Wiley. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/994811/a-companion-to-wittgenstein-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

[author missing]. A Companion to Wittgenstein. 1st ed. Wiley, 2016. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.