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Wittgenstein Rules and Private Paperback – 2 Feb 1984

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Product details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; New Ed edition (2 Feb. 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631135219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631135210
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 1.3 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 277,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Saul Kripke has thought uncommonly hard about the central argumentof Wittgenstein′s Philosophical Investigations and produces anuncommonly clear and vivid account of that argument ... clearly andcompellingly presented ... an exemplary piece of exposition." TimesLiterary Supplement "A detailed examination of what is clearly acentral theme in Wittgenstein′s writings." Times Higher EducationSupplement "Kripke does bring a whole range of things into focus ina striking and provocative way ... What Kripke has achieved, Ithink, is the first successful translation of what Wittgenstein wassaying into the idiom of the contemporary Anglo–American mainstreamin philosophy ... full of excellent things." ( AustralasianJournal of Philosophy)

"Saul Kripke has thought uncommonly hard about the centralargument of Wittgenstein′s Philosophical Investigations andproduces an uncommonly clear and vivid account of that argument ...clearly and compellingly presented ... an exemplary piece ofexposition." (Times Literary Supplement)

"A detailed examination of what is clearly a central theme inWittgenstein′s writings." (Times Higher EducationSupplement)

About the Author

Born in Bay Shore, New York, the son of a rabbi (Myer Samuel) and a writer (Dorothy Karp), Saul Kripke demonstrated his genius to his startled parents when he was only 3 years old. He not only drew the logical consequences of ordinary beliefs, but also solved intricate problems in mathematics. As a child prodigy, he was presented by his father to distinguished mathematicians and philosophers, who were overwhelmed by his talents. His father introduced him at the age of 15 to a group of eminent mathematicians, headed by Haskell B. Curry. From his debut grew his first published article, "A Completeness Theorem in Modal Logic," which appeared in the Journal of Symbolic Logic. Kripke′s boyhood genius did not flicker out in the 1960s, when he studied at Harvard, Oxford, Princeton and Rockefeller University or, more accurately, when he worked independently at these institutions and had occasional contact with his surroundings. His academic training was unique. He ascended directly to full professorships, without ever earning a doctorate. In fact, his highest academic degree was a B.A. from Harvard University, which he received in 1962. Kripke never earned a doctorate, because no academician could be found to teach him. Consequently, the universities let him alone and admitted him to their faculties when he said he was ready. Slow to publish his lectures, Kripke nonetheless released a few articles, which he published exclusively in technical journals of philosophy and mathematics. So far his work has extended the boundaries of the most abstruse field of analytic philosophy, modal logic. He is esteemed for having invented the quantitative formulations of modality and for having opened up the ontological territory of possible worlds. At the age of 36, he was appointed James McCosh Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. Kripke′s awards include a Fulbright Fellowship (1962), Guggenheim Fellowship (1968), and a Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (1981). His work, esoteric as it may seem to a public acquainted with such "social" philosophers as John Dewey or Jean–Paul Sartre, has created new fields in mathematical set theory and modal logic, which will generate Ph.D. theses for years to come.

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Wittgenstein's celebrated argument against 'private language' has been discussed so often that the utility of yet another exposition is certainly open to question. Read the first page
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Wilson on 20 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
Wittgenstein stated of his Philosophical Investigations that he didn't intend to spare the reader from the trouble of thinking, but if possible to stimulate someone to thoughts of their own. Despite this, and perhaps out of reverance for the man, many Wittgenstein scholars have tended to concentrate enermous amounts of time and effort in simply trying to interpret his often ambiguous intentions, with relatively little attention spent on the strength of the arguments themselves.
Kripke's book is different: he offers it not as his own view, nor as a definite interpretation of Wittgenstein; rather it is the thoughts which occured to him while reading Wittgenstein. This book presents a clear, concise and inciteful take on rule-following which should be essential reading to all interested in the philosophy of language and of mind. Therefore, it is a real shame that much of the commentary on it has featured unfair and unneccessary criticism for a percieved lack of fidelity to Wittgenstein's intentions. Given the advice of Wittgenstein, and the stated goals of Kripke there is no need for any of this fatuous analysis - taken on its own it is a powerfully constructed and difficult to fault argument.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jonny Lewington on 29 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The paradox that this book illustrates remains one of the most vexing problems in philosophy. Although it may be said that this is not Kripke's thought (as the book only aims to make clear a paradox that Kripke believes Wittgenstein discovered before him), it is Kripke's writing that puts this paradox under such a clear spotlight. This is what makes this text one of the most valuable pieces of 20th century philosophy, and it should certainly be of interest to anyone studying the philosophy of language.

Kripke employs a clear and very sensible structure: he underlines a paradox, explains it using clear examples and then goes on to address and 'defeat' possible counter arguments. Unlike many philosophers, he seems not only a good thinker but a good writer too, and whilst this book is not recommended for someone with no philosophical knowledge, no specialism in the areas of either Wittgenstein or the philosophy of language is required. In fact, the book is laid out so that (apart from, perhaps, the introductory chapter) the reader does not have to be familiar with the works of Wittgenstein at all.

If only all philosophers on undergraduate reading lists wrote as nicely as Kripke does!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
An elegant and lucid look at Wittgenstein 13 Dec. 1999
By Chris - Published on
Format: Paperback
Like all of Kripke's work, this book makes a wildly original contribution to the subject, and like all of his work, it is pure pleasure to read. Kripke's writing is the perfect mixture of lucidity and profundity. In the book, Kripke interprets the central theme of Wittgenstein's work as an examination of what it means to follow a rule, and Kripke explores this train of thought and examines the consequences. This leads to a new form of skepticism, of which Wittgenstein's private language argument is a consequence.
Although Kripke's interpretation seems to have fallen out of favor in many circles, this book is still a classic. Regardless of whether you agree with Kripke's conclusions, this book will make you think deeply.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Interesting 12 Sept. 2006
By Reader From Aurora - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Originally published in 1982, Saul Kripke's Rules and Private Language has become a classic in contemporary analytic philosophy and probably the most notable (if contentious) analysis of Wittgenstein's later work.

As noted by Kripke himself, the work is more an elaboration of Kripke's thoughts in reaction to the Philosophical Investigations, than a truly dedicated attempt to uncover Wittgenstein's perspective. In large part as a result of this bold approach, Kripke comments have become both extremely well known and controversial. Readers unfamiliar (or rusty) with Kripke may find the pertinent chapters in Scott Soames' excellent Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2: The Age of Meaning helpful in preparing for this text.

Overall, I recommend this book to readers of analytic philosophy - it is a relatively quick and enjoyable read. Familiarity with the Philosophical Investigations, however, is likely a prerequisite to understanding and appreciating this text.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Masterpiece that never ceases to be inventive and thoughtful 8 July 2004
By Zander Haberstaft - Published on
Format: Paperback
Kripke opens up this work with something important to say: This book is the culmination of his first reading of Wittgenstein's P.I. and how "it struck to me". Therefore, Kripke doesn't hold any of these views anymore.
In this book he acts like an attorney in a court room defending a possible interpretation of the "Wittgensteinian paradox". The paradox, briefly summed up, is the question of whether a past rule determines future usage in a new (set of) problem(s). Another sub-problem is whether the result of a function was the intention of the person who commands/uses the function.
The first essay deals with answering the constant questioning by a sceptic that Kripke thinks up. The essay goes down all sorts of various and different pathways. (Kripke takes and examines the "dispositional theory" of intention for example.)
Kripke ends somewhere in the second essay with claiming something like: A private language or privately followed rule (in a new way) cannot be followed individually because it has to be agreed upon in the community. Some of Kripke's argument against private language resides in ressurectioning David Hume's argument against a private causation.
The argument against individual intention contra another's intention rest on the resonance with the community again. If one person follows one rule, and another person follows some other rule, and if the answers differ, then the correct answer to problem will be the one that is agreed upon. (Kripke doesn't take up the argument against people that are following different rules but arrive at the same answer.)
That completes the first two essays. The postscript is interesting but tackles a different issue: The certainty of other minds being like ours. Again, Kripke examines the 'other minds' problem from Kripke's perceived view of Wittgenstein. The postscript is very short and doesn't come to any earth-shattering conclusions but is nevertheless a great thought exercise.
Conclusion/Personal Reaction:
Loved the book. It is a very unfavorable reading of Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations", but in some ways it is the best book on that work. It is incredibly thoughtful and raises important concerns for epistemology and the philosophy of mind.
I advise you to have the Wittgenstein's "P.I." next to you because often Kripke cites propositions that he doesn't quote.
Simply put, a must for any fan of Kripke's meager alotment of written work and a must for any fan of Wittgenstein.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Kripkean insight at its sharpest 19 Nov. 2000
By Jeffrey Wolf - Published on
Format: Paperback
Saul Kripke is legendary for his contributions to modal logic, philosophy of language and semantic conceptions of truth. He is, as someone once remarked, the Bobby Fisher of contemporary philosophy.
This is evident in this book. Kripke argues that the key to understanding Wittgenstein's 'private language argument' in his "Philosophical Investigations" is found in Wittgenstein's discussion of rule following which comes near the beginning of PI. Though this thesis has been critiqued for its apparent dissimilarity to some other views of Wittgenstein's, it is striking, original and intriguing nonetheless.
The radical skepticism inherent in (Kripke's understanding of) the Wittgensteinian paradox is astounding and will lead you to question the very basis of your belief system. Read this book if you're into Hume, Wittgenstein, Berkeley or Kripke--it is, unlike many philosophical works, very easy to understand.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Saul Aaron Kripke (born 1940) is an American philosopher and logician, who is Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Princeton University, and teaches Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center. His writings include Naming and Necessity, Reference and Existence, Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers, Volume 1, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1982 book, “The main part of this work has been delivered at various places as lectures, series of lectures, or seminars. It constitutes, as I say, ‘an elementary exposition’ of what I take to be the central thread of Wittgenstein’s later work on the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mathematics, including my interpretation of the ‘private language argument,’ which on my view is principally to be explicated in terms of the problem of ‘following a rule.’ A postscript presents another problem Wittgenstein saw in the conception of private language, which leads to a discussion of some aspects of his views on the problem of other minds… I had hoped to add a second postscript on the philosophy of mathematics. Time has not permitted this…”

He points out in the Introduction, “It should be borne in mind that ‘Philosophical Investigations’ is not a systematic philosophical work where conclusions, once definitely established, need not be reargued. Rather the ‘Investigations’ is written as a perpetual dialectic, where persisting worries, expressed by the voice of the imaginary interlocutor, are never definitively silenced. Since the work is not presented in the form of a deductive argument with definitive theses as conclusions, the same ground is covered repeatedly, from the point of view of various special cases and from different angles, with the hope that the entire process will help the reader see the problems rightly.” (Pg. 3)

He explains, “I suspect… that to attempt to present Wittgenstein’s argument precisely is to some extent to falsify it. Probably many of my formulations and recastings of the argument are done in a way Wittgenstein would not himself approve. So the present paper should be thought of as expounding neither ‘Wittgenstein’s’ argument nor ‘Kripke’s’: rather Wittgenstein’s argument as it struck Kripke, as it presented a problem for him.” (Pg. 5)

He observes, “when I concentrate on what is now in my mind, what instructions can be found there? How can I be said to be acting on the basis of these instructions when I act in the future? The infinitely many cases of the table are not in my mind for my future self to consult. To say that there is a general rule in my mind that tells me how to add in the future is only to throw the problem back on to other rules that also seem to be given only in terms of finitely many cases. What can there be in my mind that I make use of when I act in the future? It seems that the entire idea of meaning vanishes into thin air.” (Pg. 22)

He notes, “By ‘reading’ Wittgenstein means reading out loud what is written or printed and similar activities: he is not concerned with understanding what is written. I myself, like many of my coreligionists, first learned to ‘read’ Hebrew in this sense before I could understand more than a few words of the language. Reading in this sense is a simple case of ‘following a rule.’” (Pg. 45)

He suggests, “Wittgenstein has invented a new form of skepticism. Personally I am inclined to regard it as the most radical and original skeptical problem that philosophy has seen to date, one that only a highly unusual cast of mind could have produced. Of course he does not wish to leave us with his problem, but to solve it: the skeptical conclusion is insane and intolerable. It is his solution, I will argue, that contains the argument against ‘private language.’” (Pg. 60)

He states, “The main problem is not, ‘How can we show private language---or some other special form of language---to be IMPOSSIBLE?’; rather it is, ‘How can we show ANY LANGUAGE at all (public, private, or what-have-you) to be POSSIBLE?’ Is it not that calling a sensation ‘pain’ is easy, and Wittgenstein must invent a difficulty. One the contrary, Wittgenstein’s main problem is that it appears that he has shown ALL language, ALL concept formation, to be impossible, indeed unintelligible.” (Pg. 62)

He suggests, “If our considerations so far are correct, the answer is that, if one person is considered in isolation, the notion of a rule as guiding the person who adopts it can have NO substantive component. There are, we have seen, no truth conditions or facts in virtue of which it can be the case that he accords with his past intentions or not. As long as we regard him as following a rule ‘privately,’ so that we pay attention to HIS justification conditions alone, all we can say is that he is licensed to follow the rule as it strikes him.” (Pg. 89)

This book will be of great interest to anyone studying Kripke, or analytic philosophy in general.
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