Stranger Fruit

On Wittgenstein

i-44c5e813145eba9f6ad3580f0091a99a-witt.jpg I recently finished a biography of Ludwig WIttgenstein and came away thinking that, while the man was probably brilliant, he was not by any means a person who was easy to know. That aside, I started to read his first work, Tractus Logio-Philosophicus (1921/2), and immediately realized I was way out of my depth, particularly as I’m not a huge fan of analytical philosophy.

Wittgenstein’s basic argument is thus:

  1. The world is everything that is the case.
  2. What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts.
  3. The logical picture of the facts is the thought.
  4. The thought is the significant proposition.
  5. Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. (The elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself.)
  6. The general form of truth-function is: i-82092596ba69ac3337a502b4399461ad-wittfn.png. This is the general form of proposition.
  7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Needless to say, a lot goes on in between those propositions. My question is simply this … does any reader know of a useful “Wittgenstein for Dummies” type book or for that matter web exposition?

Comments

  1. #1 Dr. Free-Ride
    March 23, 2006

    I don’t know of a good Wittgenstein for Dummies, alas. But I suspect that the Tractatus is what inspires a lot of the late-Wittgenstein love. (In other words, I’m not sure how big a hit the late-Wittgenstein would have been without the early-Wittgenstein to compare it to.)

    Which biography was it? Would you recommend it?

  2. #2 John Lynch
    March 23, 2006

    Monk’s (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140159959/strangerfruit-20) – it’s worthwhile, though I was more interested in W’s life and just glossed the math/philos.

  3. #3 Mark
    March 23, 2006

    Hi

    I studied philosophy at Cambridge 1969-72 when Wittgenstein was considered to be the ultimate answer to everything. Have you looked at the Philosophical Investigations? I am sure the biography explains that he decided the Tractatus was ill-advised and began again with the Investigations. I have kept them all these years, despite a career in industry, and find them readable (in small bursts), full of insight and almost impossible to summarise.

    I also recommend Wittgenstein’s Poker for a fascinating insight into the times, the character of the man and a comparison with Karl Popper.

    Hope this is of some use.

    Cheers

  4. #4 John Lynch
    March 23, 2006

    Yup, I’ve read Wittgenstein’s Poker – that’s what prompted me to read Monk’s biography in the first place.

  5. #5 Mark
    March 23, 2006

    John – seems like our posts crossed in the mail. I will look out for Monk – but I think you need to read PI to get to grips with the philosophy.

  6. #6 Bruce Thompson
    March 23, 2006

    7., I didn’t say that.

  7. #7 blogista
    March 23, 2006

    Uh. If I’m reading #7 right, it means “if you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, shut up”.

    So I’ll just shut up.

  8. #8 John Wilkins
    March 23, 2006

    I think that the best way to get to know Ludwig is to read Ludwig without the commentators. My favourite book is Über Gewißheit (On Certainty). I think it’s the single most wonderful philosophy book of the 20th century.

    Then, and only then, read the PI.

  9. #9 John Wilkins
    March 23, 2006

    Oh, and point 7 says that claims of reference or ontology that do not resolve down to the logical atoms of propositions cannot be sensibly stated, let alone discussed. Something a bout a fly in a flybottle…

  10. #10 Mark
    March 23, 2006

    “I think that the best way to get to know Ludwig is to read Ludwig without the commentators. My favourite book is Ü¢er Gewiߨeit (On Certainty). I think it’s the single most wonderful philosophy book of the 20th century.

    Then, and only then, read the PI.”

    John – I am surprised about the recommended order. On Certainty is a collection of notes that Wittgenstein wrote without a view to publication. It was written after PI, sometimes refers to concepts in PI e.g. language games, is narrower in its focus and I would say harder to appreciate unless you had read a lot of other philosophy.

    Still I am delighted to have come across someone who has read it. I don’t meet that many :-)

    Cheers