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Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

A. C. Grayling
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Feb 2001 Very Short Introductions (Book 46)
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.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (22 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854117
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 0.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of the Humanities, London. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has written and edited many books, both scholarly and for a general readership, and has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news. He is a former Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, Patron of the UK Armed Forces Humanist association, Patron of Dignity in Dying, a former Booker Prize Judge, a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society, a member of the human rights group IHEU represented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva; and much more.

Product Description

About the Author


A.C. Grayling is Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, London, and Senior Research Fellow at St Anne's College, Oxford. He is the author of An Introduction to Philosophical Logic, The Refutation of Scepticism, and Berkeley: The Central Arguments, and is also the editor of Philosophy: A Guidethrough the Subject and Philosophy 2: Further through the Subject.

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Ludwig Wittgenstein was a philosopher. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Grayling gives what I would describe as a pretty decent overview of Wittgenstein's main works and ideas as well as a nice introductory biographic chapter that frames the whole thing pretty well.

The book purports to be written for a reader with no prior knowledge of philosophy. I'm a little doubtful about how readable the book would be for a non philosopher, in particular some of the arguments around his later philosopher required a couple of readings to become clear. I have a feeling this is a general problem with the VSI series. Because they're set out entirely as prose it can be quite easy to get swept along and only realise you didn't grasp something important a few pages too late.

Nonetheless it gives you what it claims, a short introduction and perhaps an easing into the subject at hand.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Arvid
Format:Paperback
This is a well written book on Wittgenstein that is lucid and fun to read. It contains what you would expect to find in a first introduction. The author considers Wittgenstein to be somewhat overrated. I'm currently in no position to judge, but this book has really motivated me to delve deeper into the matter and also into Wittgenstein's biography.
Overall, a very good job, Mr Grayling!
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very poor account of Wittgenstein's philosophy 6 April 2010
Format:Paperback
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.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but... 4 Aug 2006
Format:Paperback
I was a little uncertain about this book as I was very unimpressed with one of Grayling's more general introductory philosophy books. However this is an excellent introduction to Wittgenstein's thought (and in that respect (alone) superior to Monk's outstanding biography).

But, the assessment and comments on Wittgenstein's work seem at times like caricature (I will concede that Grayling is probably simplifying considerably more nuanced, sophisticated arguments so it may just seem that way).

His criticisms actually succeeded in making me more interested in Wittgenstein - what Grayling often highlighted as a flaw, I felt properly (or at least better) understood could be a significant strength.
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