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Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 22. Februar 2001

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  • Taschenbuch: 160 Seiten
  • Verlag: Oxford University Press; Auflage: New Ed (22. Februar 2001)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0192854119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854117
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 17 x 1,3 x 10,7 cm
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Lucidly and attractively written. Heythrop Journal Anyone wanting to come to grips with the later Wittgenstein's views on philosophy, his beliefs about the nature of thought and language, and his many unignorable (if sometimes muddled and often muddling) ideas in the philosophy of the mind could do no better than start here. Guardian [Grayling] is to be congratulated on the success of his enterprise in a book which is a model of expository elgance ... an admirably clear and concise introduction Philosophical Books


Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was an extraordinarily original philospher, whose influence on twentieth-century thinking goes well beyond philosophy itself. In this book, which aims to make Wittgenstein's thought accessible to the general non-specialist reader, A. C. Grayling explains the nature and impact of Wittgenstein's views. He describes both his early and later philosophy, the differences and connections between them, and gives a fresh assessment of Wittgenstein's continuing influence on contemporary thought.

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3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von John S. Ryan am 26. März 2000
Format: Taschenbuch
A.C. Grayling, also the author of the highly recommended _An Introduction to Philosophical Logic_, here provides a short, easily readable, and surprisingly lucid introduction to the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Anyone who has tried to read Wittgenstein himself will find Grayling's clear exposition a blessed relief. And Grayling's conclusions are very insightful; he has a keen eye for the contradictions inherent in Wittgenstein's theorizing about doing away with theorizing, and he is altogether skeptical that Wittgenstein's influence on analytic philosophy has been as great as some have maintained. Grayling's closing personal view of Wittgenstein's contributions is too delightful to omit: "the journey through Wittgenstein's circuitous, metaphorical, sometimes opaque negations and suggestions is long; but the distance it takes one is short.'
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3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Richard L. King am 6. April 2000
Format: Taschenbuch
Even though I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy, I did not study Wittgenstein as a student. After receiving a degree in law and devoting two decades to building a law practice, I once again returned to philosophy, and attempted to read Wittgenstein's "Tractatus" and "Philosophical Investigations." I was at a loss. I simply did not understand what Wittgenstein was trying to say. I then read Grayling's brief introduction to Wittgenstein, which provided a foundation for returning to the original texts. Grayling's "Wittgenstein" proved invaluable to understanding Wittgenstein, and I recommend that anyone approaching Wittgenstein for the first time read Grayling's essay before reading Wittgenstein's texts.
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Review of Grayling's Wittgenstein 16. Oktober 2008
Von Dr. A. J. McGee - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
This book is really only useful for lecturers offering a course on Wittgenstein and looking for a book that neatly exhibits a number of misconceptions about his work that can be used for the purpose of discussion in class to clarify what Wittgenstein actually did say.

The book aims to sketch Wittgenstein's early and later philosophies, and then offer an evaluation of them. In what follows, for reasons of space and what I consider to be the most important aspect of Wittgenstein's work, I will only review Grayling's engagement with Wittgenstein's later philosophy. My review will focus exclusively on the criticisms Grayling makes of Wittgenstein in his evaluation of the later philosophy. These concern Wittgenstein's account of meaning in terms of use, the methodological claim that philosophy does not consist of proffering theories or theses about its subject of investigation, and the claim that language (as opposed to empirical, fact-stating claims made in language) cannot be justified by reference to a language independent reality, viz, the remark that grammar is autonomous.

The first criticism Grayling makes is of Wittgenstein's account of meaning in terms of use. Grayling gives two examples which he considers refute Wittgenstein's account. First, he claims that someone can know that the Latin word 'jejunus' means hungry but not know how to use the word. Second, conversely, a person may know how to use 'Amen' and 'QED' without knowing their meanings. These two examples are meant to show that Wittgenstein is wrong to give an account of meaning in terms of use.

These criticisms are not cogent. Firstly, Wittgenstein does not equate meaning and use, but expressly acknowledges that use is broader ("not every use is a meaning" - Last Writings in the Philosophical Psychology, volume 1, remark 289). He would therefore happily acknowledge that there are aspects to the use of words that have no bearing on their meaning, for instance, where I use a word effectively, insolently, or musingly. Secondly, none of these examples (jejunus, Amen and QED) suffice to refute Wittgenstein's account. In the case of the person who learns that the Latin word 'jejunus' means hungry, but is not able to use the word in Latin, that person must nevertheless be able to use the word 'hungry' in English in order to properly grasp the meaning of the word in Latin. He knows what 'hungry' means, and this is why he is able to know what 'jejunus' means. And his knowledge of what 'hungry' means is manifested in his capacity to use the word correctly in English, as well as in his capacity to explain the word correctly to others. In short, it is only because he has mastered the use of 'hungry' in English - he does not, for instance, use the word to indicate that he needs a drink and where others would use the word 'thirsty' - that he is able to understand the meaning of 'jejunus' in Latin. His ability to know the meaning of the Latin word is therefore parasitic on his ability to know the meaning of, and hence use, its equivalent in his native tongue.

In the case of 'Amen' and 'QED', these examples have a ritualistic use, so it is possible to use them correctly without knowing their meaning. We know, for example, that 'Amen' is used at the end of a prayers, and so we can do likewise when we pray. It is therefore no accident that Grayling should choose these examples. Would Grayling say the same thing, however, of 'dog', 'retina', 'supercilious' or 'understanding'? I think not. If I look up the word 'dog' in a dictionary, I find it's meaning. But I haven't grasped its meaning if I apply it to hummingbirds. Similarly, if I look up 'supercilious' and start using it where other people use 'superficial', this is good evidence for concluding that I think that 'supercilious' means 'superficial' and that I therefore do not understand - and hence know - the meaning of the word. Using the word correctly is a criterion for whether I understand the word, that is, for whether I know its meaning. It is for this reason that Wittgenstein highlights the conceptual connections between meaning, understanding and explanation. If you want to know what meaning is, he says, then a good place to start is to look at what we do when we explain the meaning of a word to someone. Instead of asking what meaning is, let's ask what an explanation of meaning is. Once you understand what an explanation of meaning is, you will understand what meaning is. For meaning is what is explained when someone gives an explanation of meaning (if there were theses in philosophy, everyone would agree with them).

The second criticism Grayling makes is of Wittgenstein's claim not be offering philosophical theses. Famously, Wittgenstein claimed that if there were theses in philosophy, everyone would agree with them. Elsewhere, he insisted that philosophy has nothing to do with having opinions about things. At first glance, these claims seem to be naïve, since there is so much disagreement among philosophers. However, the statement is made in the context of Wittgenstein's methodological reflections about the nature of philosophy as he is practising it and, in particular, in the context of a discussion of how philosophy, as an enterprise, differs from science. In philosophy, one is concerned not with factual but with conceptual explanations: "What is time?" and "what is meaning?", for example, reflect an unclarity about our concepts of time or of meaning and are not capable of being answered by scientific investigations. Some of the puzzlement can be removed by reminding ourselves, for example, that time is what is measured by a clock. In the case of meaning, we can remove our puzzlement by reminding ourselves that meaning is what is explained when someone gives an explanation of meaning, and then go on to look at what someone's understanding the explanation of the meaning consists in - how we tell when someone understands the meaning of a word - to shed further light on the question. These questions led Wittgenstein to clarify meaning in terms of rule-following: we know someone understands a word when he can use it correctly, that is, makes his own linguistic practice with that word conform to its rule-governed use. As can be seen, these quasi-tautologous explanations (time is what is measured by a clock, meaning is what is given by someone's explanation of meaning) are hardly controversial - hence the claim that if there were theses in philosophy, everyone would agree with them - yet they do shed light on a domain of inquiry that has consistently generated puzzlement, by opening up further domains of inquiry to which they are conceptually linked (meaning, understanding, rule-following). Further, until someone (i.e. Wittgenstein) points these apparent trivialities out, they are not obvious. No one before Wittgenstein had thought to approach the puzzle of meaning by looking at what is given by an explanation of meaning.

The next step after reminding ourselves of some of important trivialities, is to look around for the source of our puzzlement. Augustine's puzzlement concerning time stemmed from his adoption of a picture of time as a river. In other cases, it may be that the use of a substantive makes us look for a substance that corresponds to it. None of these claims, however, are meant to be controversial (for instance, if Augustine did not acknowledge that he was picturing time as a river, then the search for the source of the puzzlement would not be over). It is here that the analogy with psychoanalysis is important, because the criterion for whether the source of the puzzlement is correctly identified is the person's acknowledgement that a given candidate is the source of their puzzlement. This is another sense in which Wittgenstein is not proffering a thesis - there is no holding onto it in the face of recalcitrant evidence. It is immediately abandoned if it is not acknowledged as the source of someone's puzzlement.

The claim not to be in the business of offering theories in philosophy does not prevent Wittgenstein from giving an account of meaning. That account, however, is a description of concepts, not empirical phenomena, and the aim is to give a perspicuous overview of the relations between a number of concepts in order to resolve puzzlement about some of the concepts in question. In the case of meaning, Wittgenstein did this by exhibiting the connection between meaning and understanding and the following of rules. To that extent, the investigation is conceptual, not factual and so differs from scientific inquiry. In this sense, there are no (scientific) theses/theories in philosophy. In making his criticism, Grayling appears to have missed this dimension of Wittgenstein's philosophy entirely, which, given its centrality to Wittgenstein's later philosophy, is a serious defect in Grayling's evaluation.

The third criticism Grayling makes - of Wittgenstein's remark that language (as opposed to claims made in language, the fact-stating language game, for example) cannot be justified by reference to reality - is puzzling. Wittgenstein's claim is that concepts, unlike statements of fact, are not the bearers of truth, and so cannot be said to be true or false. Statements of fact presuppose the concepts deployed in them. Grayling does not understand Wittgenstein's claim in this way at all. At one point he attributes to Wittgenstein a linguistic version of Berkelean idealism, by claiming that Wittgenstein held "reality is not, as he had thought in the Tractatus, independent of language and thought". He then has an easy time of retorting "if we accept some such view we are obliged to explain what appears to us, in our ordinary experience of it, to be the independent character of the world. Why, if there isn't a genuinely independent world constraining the way we act, think, and talk, does it seem as if there were one?" (p 117). To attribute to Wittgenstein such a claim is astonishing, and anyone familiar with the discussion of solipsism in the Blue and Brown Books, his discussion of Russell's scepticism (the world may have been created 5 minutes ago, complete with records of the past) in the Cambridge lectures, and his discussion of philosophical scepticism in On Certainty, will know that it is ludicrous to attribute this view to Wittgenstein, so much so that it is not worth belabouring the point here, other than to say that, in attributing this claim to Wittgenstein as a claim that Wittgenstein consciously made, Grayling has not demonstrated sufficient familiarity with Wittgenstein's texts and a sufficient standard of exegesis to justify the opportunity he has been afforded to contribute to this otherwise excellent series of introductions.
53 von 61 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A lucid introduction to Wittgenstein 6. April 2000
Von Richard L. King - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Even though I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy, I did not study Wittgenstein as a student. After receiving a degree in law and devoting two decades to building a law practice, I once again returned to philosophy, and attempted to read Wittgenstein's "Tractatus" and "Philosophical Investigations." I was at a loss. I simply did not understand what Wittgenstein was trying to say. I then read Grayling's brief introduction to Wittgenstein, which provided a foundation for returning to the original texts. Grayling's "Wittgenstein" proved invaluable to understanding Wittgenstein, and I recommend that anyone approaching Wittgenstein for the first time read Grayling's essay before reading Wittgenstein's texts.
50 von 58 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Misconstrues the later-Wittgenstein and discourages further study 1. September 2005
Von Alex - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
In the second chapter, Grayling succeeds in writing a clear, albeit very basic and very superficial, exposition of one of the main lines of thought contained in The Tractatus. If that's all you're after, then this pamphlet might do.

I advise you to stop reading after the second chapter.

Grayling openly states his failure to understand the later-Wittgenstein: "Nor is it true that Wittgenstein's [later] writings contain no systematically expressible theories, for indeed they do."

This is to ignore Wittgenstein's clear instuctions: "We must do away with explanation and description alone must take its place...we must not advance any kind of theory." (Phlosophical Investigations 109); "Philosophy neithers explains nor deduces anything." (PI 126). Consequently the rest of the paper misinterprets, and almost entirely misses the point of, the later-Wittgenstein.

There is, finally, a bizarre appendix denigrating Wittgenstein's philosophical contribution. It essentially reads: "Wittgenstein is not a good philosopher, however I won't bother explaining to you why - just take it from me!". The chapter will discourage novices who might otherwise have read Wittgenstein for themselves, on the basis not of argument, but the meagre authority of Grayling (and it certainly is a meagre authority). The conclusion runs against the sole heuristic function of these little leaflets: encouraging the layman to read the great-philosophers for himself. They should aim to serve as a appetiser and orientation to the real study (which must take place later). On both these counts, the pamphlet fails.

I attach a reading list for those looking for introductions to Wittgenstein's thought.

1. Elucidating the Tractatus: Wittgenstein's Early Philosophy of Logic and Language, by Marie McGinn (highly recommended, and quite easy to read)
2. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, Ray Monk (a biography and an easy starting point)
3. Wittgenstein's Tractatus: An Introduction, by H.O. Mounce (reading level: quite basic, not that good)
4. An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, by Anscombe (reading level: very hard)
5. Wittgenstein and the Philosophical Investigations, by Marie McGinn (reading level: easy)
6. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition, by Saul Kripke (reading level: quite easy, and this book is wonderful - a must read)
7. Wittgenstein (Arguments of the Philosophers), by Robert J. Fogelin (reading level: an useful essay relating Wittgenstein to Hume)
8. The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy, by David Pears (both volumes) (reading level: intermediate)
31 von 38 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Overbite 1. November 2005
Von Douglas Doepke - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Unfortunately, Grayling's Very Short Introduction succumbs to a pitfall typical of a very short introduction. Put simply: despite all the well-known risks of the genre, the author can't resist biting off more than the small chewing space of 132 pages can accomodate. The first 100 or so pages are informative enough, providing appropriate highlights of Wittgenstein's life and work. Of course, a lot gets unavoidably left out. Still, the contours come through with sufficient clarity to provide a good rudimentary understanding, though I wish he had pointed out more emphatically the critical nature of both phases -- how each in its own way draws bounds on what can and cannot be meaningfully stated. For it's here, I believe, that the general reader would find the Austrian thinker's conclusions most relevant to her own concerns.

The problem arises, not surprisingly, when the text turns from exposition to evaluation. To present the private language argument, as Grayling does, as inherently inconsistent or the form-of-life argument as a variety of cognitive relativism simply requires more than several pages of potted reasoning, to say the least. In fact, these are complex and controversial topics about which entire volumes have been written. To be sure, I don't object to pointing out avenues of criticism even in a very short account; I do however object to the assurance with which these objections are presented here. For such confidence goes quite beyond what the book's brief compass can support and therewith does a disservice to the unwary reader. Moreover, in assessing the Austrian phiosopher's influence, one key facet of his later thought should be kept in mind. The point of doing philosophy is to let the fly out of the bottle, not to entrap further generations in ever-more futile buzzing around the so-called perenial problems that have beguiled thinkers for centuries. In that sense, Wittgenstein's method presents an anti-institutional thrust: it seeks to dissolve problems, not perpetuate them. Thus his way conflicts at a pretty basic level with the institutional interests of academic philosophy which depend to a great extent on perpetuating those perennial problems. Is it therefore surprising that his therapeutic approach has found little favor among philosophy departments, whatever the ultimate merits. I don't claim this sociological point as exhaustive, but I do think it's an undernoted factor in the general blunting of his legacy.

Anyway, this slim volume comes as a disappoitment given Grayling's previous works, while there are a number of general intoductions that deal more sensitively with Wittgenstein's later work than this one.
14 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Good summary, vulgar criticism 25. Oktober 2010
Von Ilya Novoseltsev - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
I have to give Dr.Grayling his due - this is a *good* summary of Wittgenstein's thought, given its size. But only if you ignore the last part (more on that later).

Grayling is correct to note in the beginning that Wittgenstein is philosopher's philosopher and thus somewhat unappealing to the general public. He attempted to outline the background in which Wittgenstein worked in his early period to allow the readers to appreciate the importance and novelty of Tractatus, and then proceeded from Tractatus to his later works.

Tractatus part was solid and lucid, but already one could notice Grayling's quaint insistance that Wittgenstein made little to no impact on the Vienna Circle. Oh well. When he discussed the later Wittgenstein, I apprecitated how he tied together the related but different strands of Wittgenstein's thought and demonstrated their coherence and mutual necessity. I would have said that Grayling has a good grasp on Wittgenstein had it not been for the last 30 pages of this book due to which I give this introduction 3 starts instead of 4 or even 5. It may even seem like these 30 pages were written by a different author.

My personal opinion is that an introduction to some philosopher should present a consensus-based summary of his views and place in the history of thought; and inspire the reader to study this philosopher further. This introduction degenerated in the last 30 pages (and that's almost a quarter of the book!) to unrelenting and spiteful criticism of Wittgenstein's later views and Wittgenstein's value as a philosopher. I have read authors critical of Wittgenstein but they never allowed themselves to claim that his philosophy is 'unquestionably' unjustified, that his texts are obscurantist, that his theoires (whatever that is) are self-contradictory, that so far his influence is minimal and his value as a philosopher is questionable, that his works are not even philosophy by contemporary standards, but poetry, etc. He allows himself too much based on a series of pedantic and predominantly strawmen arguments which have been successfully dismantled by another reviewer here.

This is bad taste. Why they would pick someone so biased against Wittgenstein to write an introduction to him, I do not understand.
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