Item description for Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by A. C. Grayling...
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was an extraordinarily original thinker, whose influence on twentieth-century thinking far outside the bounds of philosophy alone. In this engaging Introduction, A.C. Grayling makes Wittgenstein's thought accessible to the general reader by explaining 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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Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.02" Width: 4.45" Height: 0.41" Weight: 0.3 lbs.
Release Date Jul 28, 2001
Publisher Oxford University Press
ISBN 0192854119 ISBN13 9780192854117
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More About A. C. Grayling
A. C. Grayling is a professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of the acclaimed Among the Dead Cities, Descartes, Toward the Light of Liberty, Meditations for the Humanist, and Thinking of Answers. A fellow of the World Economic Forum and past chairman of the human rights organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Times (London), the Financial Times, the Economist, the New Statesman, and Prospect. He lives in London.
A. C. Grayling currently resides in London. A. C. Grayling has an academic affiliation as follows - Birkbeck College, University of London University of London University.
A. C. Grayling has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)?
Good and bad Jan 25, 2008
A marginal philosopher whose influence on philosophy is minimal and whose arguments are riddled with paradox. That seems to be Grayling's assessment of Wittgenstein.
And yet Wittgenstein is a philosopher who has had a major impact on both Anglo-American philosophy and Continental philosophy. He is Daniel Dennett's 'hero' (in the Time 100), Searle rates him as the greatest 20th century philosopher, Dreyfus rates him as one of the two greatest 20th century philosophers. There is no debating the issue. It is as objective a fact as you can ask for that Wittgenstein is a towering figure in 20th century philosophy.
On the other hand, Grayling does give a fair presentation of some of Wittgenstein's arguments. He spends rather too much time, I think, on his earlier work, but as I'm more familiar with the later work that was fine with me. Maybe that's not so good for newcomers to Wittgenstein.
One important problem is that Wittgenstein is not a system building philosopher. But Grayling tries to extract a system, claiming that any part of Wittgenstein's work supports any other. As a result, he sees Wittgenstein's edifice falling in its entirety when he pokes it at a few locations. But this really isn't the case at all. Wittgenstein's writings are packed with small but interesting observations that stand or fall on their own and serve more as challenges to the received philosophical view than as parts of an overarching new system.
So in summary I'd say this book is very mixed. It has a better than average exposition of W's philosophy (the only other one I've read is Ayer's which is so bad it's embarassing to read) but has some slightly bizarre opinions.
Excellent introduction to Wittgenstein Jun 5, 2007
This is an ideal overview of Wittgenstein for those looking to get an initial grasp on his work. Grayling's style is admirably clear and accessible, which is especially valuable because the writing of Wittgenstein himself can be notoriously difficult and cryptic. The book provides a well-organized, concise summary of the Wittgenstein's two philosophic periods (earlier and later). While you might feel a little lost or confused when Grayling is explaining Wittgenstein's writings, don't worry -- at the end of tbe summaries of both periods Grayling offers critical analyses where he reveals that he is also confused by some things, and in his analyses he will probably address many of the questions you have. While this book isn't easy, and a little philosophic background would probably be helpful, given the diffculty of the subject matter you can't really expect it to be much easier. Highly recommended -- would that there was an intro of this quality for every philosopher.
Love the Wittgy, hate the Grayling. Jan 3, 2007
I love the VSI series, but this volume was a bit of a disappointment. Mr. Grayling is very repetitive, and I do not agree with his critique of Wittgentein's later philosophy. Furthermore, he claims that it has had little influence on today's philosophy, which just seems completely false to me. The naturalization of epistemology is completely in accord with Wittgenstein's ideas, Kuhn's 'paradigms' are a version of Wittgenstein's 'forms of life', not to mention the current emphasis on practices. If Wittgenstein is not an influential figure in today's philosophy, Mr. Grayling, then who do you think is??
A gem! Jul 23, 2006
This book is astounding! I have never before encountered a short introduction that so clearly, concisely, accurately or effectively communicates a complex and largely obscure subject. As a result, this book is a remarkable achievement in its own right, not only illuminating the mysteries of Wittgenstein's very difficult work, but doing so in a way that will serve as a timeless model of successful communication. That is not to say that this book is `easy' or that Wittgenstein's complex ideas have been made simple. I only say that the author has presented those ideas in ways that put them within the reach of intelligent readers who are prepared to work in exchange for a very gratifying intellectual return. With Grayling as a guide, Wittgenstein is accessible! Incredible!
Clearly written and critically sound May 28, 2006
Grayling's introduction to Wittgenstein's early and later works is by far the most critical, when comparing the piece to other recent introductory attempts by other qualified writers. Generally, the author does an exceptional job, as was his stated intention, at writing this "introduction" for an uninformed audience, one with little or no knowledge of Wittgenstein or philosophy in general.
The overall tone of the writing is one of scepticism, a serious doubt as to Wittgenstein's importance in terms of his contribution to 20th century philosophy. Considering the space provided, Grayling's argument(s) are thorough and persuasive in parts, however his attempt at objectivity, to then give the reader incentive to continue investigation into the subject, can be questioned, (if objectivity was actually his aim) as the reader comes away believing Wittgenstein to be more of a poet, a creative designer of witty aphorisms than a serious philosopher, as his concluding remarks make quite clear:
"But I find that when one advances beyond the manner and reflects on the content, the irresistible feeling is this: that the journey through Wittgenstein's circuitous, metaphorical, sometimes opaque negations and suggestions is long; but the distance it takes is a short." (P. 134)
In other words, when the reader wades through Wittgenstein's unnecessary symbolism, witty metaphors and dense, unpacked arguments, the actual content is not as profound as we were first led believe. All in all, though, Grayling believes the Austrian to be one of the great "personalities" of philosophy, but as a philosopher, will be soon forgotten: however, as he states, time will tell.
Having said that, Grayling is an excellent writer having to distil a body of complex work that has been analysed and debated for over half a century.
Wittgenstein's first major work, the `Tractatus', a notorious complex thesis, was summarized and explained clearly, even including a short lesson on basic logic, making the work much easier to grasp. The later philosophy, `Philosophical Investigations' and others, which include the philosopher's notions of private language, language-games, use and rules, shed light on these concepts.
Graylings arguments on cultural and cognitive relativism were exceptionally clear and interesting, arguing against Wittgenstein's "form of life" concepts. Unfortunately these arguments needed elaboration, but the author was under severe space constraints.
An excellent introduction to Wittgenstein's philosophy and overall, critically sound.