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Wittgenstein: The Way Out of the Fly-Bottle (Key Contemporary Thinkers) Paperback – 1 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (1 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745626165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745626161
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 579,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"This is an excellent new introduction to Wittgenstein. It is highly recommendable for graduate students and advanced undergraduates. It is also highly recommendable for professional philosophers, since Schroeder is likely to challenge one′s current conception of Wittgenstein."
–– Brian Armstrong, Grazer Philosophische Studien

"This book is a truly impressive achievement What is particularly striking is the combination of three elements that have rarely if ever been combined in such a forceful way: a well–informed and succinct presentation of the biographical and cultural context of Wittgenstein s work, an exposition of his central texts which combines lucid introduction with novel scholarship, and a dialectically astute discussion of the substantive philosophical issues."
––Hans–Johann Glock, University of Zurich

"Dr Schroeder has written an excellent introduction to Wittgenstein′s philosophy. He surveys the Tractatus and the Investigations with exemplary clarity and sweeps away recent misinterpretations with decisive arguments. His careful and methodical elucidations of the major themes in Wittgenstein′s work will greatly benefit students."
––Peter Hacker, St John s College, Oxford

From the Back Cover

This book offers a lucid and highly readable account of Wittgenstein′s philosophy, framed against the background of his extraordinary life and character. Woven together with a biographical narrative, the chapters explain the key ideas of Wittgenstein′s work, from his first book, the Tractatus Logico–Philosophicus, to his mature masterpiece, the Philosophical Investigations.

Severin Schroeder shows that at the core of Wittgenstein′s later work lies a startlingly original and subversive conception of the nature of philosophy. In accordance with this conception, Wittgenstein offers no new philosophical doctrines to replace his earlier ones, but seeks to demonstrate how all philosophical theorizing is the result of conceptual misunderstanding. He first diagnoses such misunderstanding at the core of his own earlier philosophy of language and then subjects philosophical views and problems about various mental phenomena understanding, sensations, the will to a similar therapeutic analysis. Schroeder provides a clear and careful account of the main arguments offered by Wittgenstein. He concludes by considering some critical responses to Wittgenstein′s work, assessing its legacy for contemporary philosophy.

Wittgenstein is ideal for students seeking a clear and concise introduction to the work of this seminal twentieth–century philosopher.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christopher G. Pulman on 15 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Those who have read much work by Wittgenstein will know that, despite its poetry and pithiness, it is not easily accessible for the uninitiated, and can even be obscure. With this in mind, Severin Schroeder's achievement in Wittgenstein: The Way Out of the Fly-Bottle is all the more remarkable. Interspersing the text with biographical details, Schroeder provides a comprehensive account of both Wittgenstein's early and his later philosophy, bringing out often overlooked connections between the two.

The first half focuses upon the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a fiendishly difficult philosophical text. Not only are its central claims explained with exemplary clarity, but Schroeder manages to show how even its seemingly most unsupported contentions follow logically from a small set of premises widely accepted at the time (and still upheld by some philosophers today).

In the second half of his book, Schroeder examines the Philosophical Investigations and Wittgenstein's repudiation of his earlier philosophy. Special consideration is given to the link between meaning and use (sweeping away recent misconceptions and misinterpretations), Wittgenstein's reflections on the link between the mind and behaviour, the private language argument and voluntary and intentional action. However, Schroeder's most impressive achievement in this section is the way in which he takes one of Wittgenstein's most criticised views--that of the nature of philosophy itself--and shows it to be not only reasonable, but also central to understanding Wittgenstein's philosophy as a whole.

In a concluding section, recent attacks on Wittgenstein's style of philosophising are evaluated, and shown to not have the power that they are widely regarded as having.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Z on 24 April 2006
Format: Paperback
Extremely lucid and well-written account, fluidly interweaving the biography and key philosophical insights of this monumental figure, who ended by doing too much for philosophy: In fully taking on board the ideas presented in this book, you should never feel like the need to ask another philosophical question. Wittgenstein, through Schroeder, makes everything clear.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Flatspyder on 11 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book covers the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein in a thorough and ingenious way.

Whilst accurately describing the positions Wittgenstein held we are also treated to insightful critique and useful contextual analysis, helping us to understand his character.

For those studying Wittgenstein this is a highly recommended book to help you get the most out of his often overly concise primary texts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laertes on 1 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because of the favourable reviews. As neither an academic nor a philosopher, just an interested layman who is trying to come to grips with Wittgenstein (with some vague hope of a pin-fall one day), I have read many commentaries on what he says. Had I bought this book before most of the others, I would not have needed them. It is sub-titled `The Way Out of the Fly-Bottle' and for the general reader it is just that. Schroeder elucidates the elucidations.

He is one of the few commentators who has taken notice of Wittgenstein's comment in the Preface to the Tractatus - `what can be said at all can be said clearly'. He does not mistake a fussy precision for clarity. He is unafraid of short sentences. His arguments are in everyday language and he writes in English, not in American. He knows that a brief list is clearer than a long sentence. He knows that repetition has a place. When he has a comment to make or an argument to engage in, he sets it out plainly: the reader will not confuse his comments with Wittgenstein's original.

If you want to buy just one book as a guide to Wittgenstein's main themes then, obedient to the Tractatus' epigraph `whatever a man knows ... can be said in three words' - buy this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Buy this book 11 Jan. 2007
By meadowreader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Five stars are not enough. This is an absolutely superb introduction to Wittgenstein's thought, its background, its development, and its later influence. Schroeder does a wonderful job explaining both the 'Tractatus' and the later 'Philosophical Investigations', and the relationship between the two.

On a certain representationalist ("picture theory") view of language, Wittgenstein thought that the analytic perspective known as logical atomism had to be correct on logical grounds, and that all the problems of philosophy capable of being sensibly talked about were thereby solved, at least in principle. The logical form of a sensible assertion about the facts of the world must mirror the logical form of the facts it describes. Bertrand Russell's work had created an audience primed to accept such a doctrine, and analytical philosophy was off and running. The logical positivists, for example, quickly picked it up to use as a sword to slay all metaphysics and to put ethical and aesthetic assertions in their proper place -- somewhere outside of philosophy properly construed. Ayer's 'Language, Truth, and Logic' presented this approach to a wide audience. The 'Tractatus' itself was not easy to understand, and Wittgenstein protested that he was being misinterpreted in important ways. But he had revolutionized philosophy nevertheless.

But Wittgenstein, meanwhile, was having second thoughts about the representationalist view of language that was foundational to his 'Tractatus'. In actual use, language gets used in myriad ways other than to describe a factual situation, ways that often have a slippery quality that is not amenable to logical analysis. Philosophical analysis cannot create a level of precision that does not exist in the actual use of the language. If a concept describes no more than a "family resemblance" among the particulars it is used to refer to, then no amount of analysis can render it sharp. A sharpened concept would be a new and artificial one, a construction of the philosopher and no longer the one being used by real speakers. Wittgenstein argued that language that is not disciplined by some contact with the world is free to spin its wheels and end up in all kinds of nonsense. Thus, a speaker cannot usefully provide meaning to his utterances by some private mental imagery that accompanies them; meaningful communication requires that the meaning of words is a matter of their socially established, conventional uses; we know what words mean when we know how they are used in our linguistic community. It was considerations like these, and many more, that led Wittgenstein to the views that were eventually published as 'Philosophical Investigations', and to leave behind the pinched version of language found in the 'Tractatus'. In effect, he launched a revolution against his own, earlier, revolution.

I cannot recommend Schroeder's book highly enough. Its organization is just right, it covers all the major issues, and the writing is extremely good. There is plenty of historical context and biographical detail. Schroeder knows his subject inside and out, including the secondary literature and commentary that has grown up around Wittgenstein's work. Systematic, crystal clear, and comprehensive -- what more could you want? I would love to take this author's course on Wittgenstein, because he must be a superlative teacher. Highest possible recommendation.
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