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Monk Ray : Ludwig Wittgenstein [Paperback]

Ray Monk
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Nov 1991

'Monk's energetic enterprise is remarkable for the interweaving of the philosophical and the emotional aspects of Wittgenstein's life' Sunday Times

'Ray Monk's reconnection of Wittgenstein's philosophy with his life triumphantly carries out the Wittgensteinian task of "changing the aspect" of Wittgenstein's work, getting us to see it in a new way' Sunday Telegraph

'This biography transforms Wittgenstein into a human being' Independent on Sunday

'It is much to be recommended' Observer

'Monk's biography is deeply intelligent, generous to the ordinary reader... It is a beautiful portrait of a beautiful life' Guardian

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition (28 Nov 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140159959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140159950
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,532,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Monk's energetic enterprise is remarkable for the interweaving of the philosophical and the emotional aspects of Wittgenstein's life" (Sunday Times)

"Ray Monk's reconnection of Wittengenstein's philosophy with his life triumphantly carries out the Wittengensteinian task of "changing the aspect" of Wittgenstein's work, getting us to see it in a new way" (Sunday Telegraph)

"This biography transforms Wittengenstein into a human being" (Independent on Sunday)

"It is much to be recommended" (Observer)

"Monk's biography is deeply intelligent, generous to the ordinary reader... It is a beautiful portrait of a beautiful life" (Guardian) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Winner of the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 1990 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
I read this book when it first came out in hardback and was highly impressed with it. Unlike the previous reviewer, I did have a background in studying Wittgenstein - at a university which was steeped in the Wittgensteinian tradition and so came to this book already knowing a great deal of his work; I had studied almost all the published work and knew a considerable amount of biographical detail. I think the book captures brilliantly, both the central aspects of Wittgenstein's work and his character as a man. It is written in a style which is clear, accessible and serious. For anyone wanting to start studying Wittgenstein I would recommend this book. For those interested in the man, I would recommend supplementing the book with Norman Malcolm's Memoir and Rush Rhees' Recollections of Wittgenstein. For those who want to read Wittgenstein; I would start with the Blue and Brown Books before moving on to the Philosophical Investigations. Commentators on Wittgenstein? - there is a huge selection! Personally I think Hacker is the most reliable. But read this book first!
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography and exposition 11 Mar 2005
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Wittgenstein's philosophical writings are very difficult, not only in content but also in presentation. He was always unhappy about committing his ideas to paper, and when he did so, he would set them down in a highly compressed form as numbered notes, sometimes in the form of aphorisms. When he sent the manuscript of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, neither of these considerable intellects could understand it (which didn't stop Russell from writing a foreword when it was eventually published.)

The 650 pages of Monk's magnificent biography are of course anything but compressed, and allow us to understand how Wittgenstein arrived at his conclusions. Monk writes beautifully, and he sets out the intellectual processes with the utmost clarity; but an additional and very special merit of this book is the skilful interweaving of Wittgenstein's thought and his personality.

Wittgenstein was a tortured and difficult man: intense, introspective, uncompromising, ruthlessly honest with himself and with others. He was torn between his need for solitude and his need for philosophical discussion. There was within him an immense tension between logic and mysticism. He feared madness and was frequently uncertain about the value of philosophy: he gave it up altogether for a few years after the First World War and taught for six years at elementary schools in backward rural areas of Austria. In later life he was a practising but ashamed homosexual, and for this and other reasons often felt "indecent" and suicidal. He found friendship and even elementary courtesies difficult unless there was a total identity of philosophical ideals.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Ray Monk's biography of Wittgenstein is both very detailed and very revealing.
He shows us perfectly Wittgenstein's apparent evolution from the logical-philosophical themes of the Tractatus over language-games to the philosophy of psychology.
At first sight, the later Wittgenstein denied completely his Tractatus work and cursed 'the wretched effect that the worship of science and the scientific method had upon our whole culture'.
But that is only apparently so, because the famous last sentence of the Tractatus - 'Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent' - means that nothing can be said about the realm that was more important for him than logical theory: ethics.
The Tractatus is only a theory to preserve the purity of language.
Wittgenstein didn't sink into the morass of language. He was immediately drowned in it.
At the end of his life, Freud's work became his obsession and his comments on that work constituted an attempt to say something about what cannot be said.
The members of the 'Wiener Kreis' were completely astonished to discover that Wittgenstein was in no way a positivist like themselves.
Ray Monk gives us also a clear picture of Wittgenstein's complex and difficult character: his egotism, extreme possessiveness of his friends, fear of becoming loveless, difficulty to communicate, irascibility, mental instability ('see the madman in yourself'), his ambivalence about sexuality (a continuous battle between shame, sex and love) and his culpability. He was continuously seeking redemption for his sins, especially his pride and vanity.
This monumental biography is a very deep digging and extremely clear portrait of a controversial philosopher.
I also recommend Derek Jarman's feature film 'Wittgenstein'
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great and interesting read 6 May 1999
By A Customer
This book forms both an excellent introduction to the theories and philosophical development of the subject, and a fascinating biography. Concepts are explained succinctly and understandably (even if like me you have no prior knowledge on the subject), as and when they arise in the chronological account of Wittgenstein's life. The biography is fascinating enough to read from cover to cover, and I never found myself tiring of the book as I originally expected from its rich content. Thoroughly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful biography that gives a human side to a complex man
Amazing biography, clearly written and able to simplify a very complex author. Ray Monk gets you excited about logic, which is an amazing feat in itself, and is very good at mixing... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nuno H
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable achievement
The best way I've found to get inside the life & thoughts of one of the 20th century's most outstanding men.
Published 5 months ago by Lawrence Foulds
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful
A beautifully written account that is both philosophically precise and lucid without being outputting for a non-philosopher yet entirely human in the treatment of one of the 20th... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Stephen Murphy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I bought this biography because I was asked to give a presentation on Wittgenstein for a U3A Philosophy group - there are no knowledgable philosophers in this group just amateur... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Rozfran
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent piece of work
I have just read this again and am astonished by it. Several times I have entertained the idea of following Wittgenstein's path from Ottertal to Sogne Fiord to Ireland as well as... Read more
Published 18 months ago by W. Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and insightful
An intelligent and sympathetic portrait of a fascinating personality. This book is both detailed and comprehensive, with Monk allowing many of the principal characters to speak for... Read more
Published 23 months ago by duracell34
Some books do not need ratings or ephemeral ratings. They are timeless and Ray Monk is one of them. This is a man surely sent by God if there was one, a meteor that changed the... Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2012 by THE CUSTOMER
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book about an incredible man.
Ray Monk elegantly and brilliantly ties together several themes in Wittgenstein's life, from the most specific Viennese cultural ideals to the detailed psychological aspects of... Read more
Published on 9 Mar 2012 by Torbjorn66
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant philosopher or nutty professor?
Writing a life of Ludwig Wittgenstein would be a challenge to anyone.

Not only was he a strange kind of man with none of the ambitions most people share - a spouse,... Read more
Published on 20 Nov 2011 by John Fitzpatrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Speaking as a philosophy ignoramus, I recommend this highly.
I've read it twice, which is unusual for me. Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2010 by joelunchpail
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