34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
a clear and insightful introduction to a difficult subject,
This review is from: How to Read Wittgenstein (Paperback)
This book is one of a rare kind: Although dense in it's content it is relatively easy to read and does not sacrifice detail or accuracy to accomplish this. Ray Monk is widely known for his excellent biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein and has spent a great deal of his academic career working on his writings. I bought the book because I really liked the biography in both style and content and was wondering how Ray Monk would manage to fit so much content on so few pages. Wittgenstein is exceptionally hard to read. This is not because his style is complicated - quite the contrary: he mostly uses short and clear sentences - but because WHAT he wants to say is so hard to say. Therefore, writing an "How to read" guide in this case is quite some undertaking.
In my view, the particular strengths of the text are:
- CLARITY. Monk is very precise in his wording and yet easy to follow. Great caution is taken to not lead the reader down the track of common misunderstandings.
- COMPLETENESS OF COVERAGE. Starting with Wittgenstein's earliest writings, all main phases of his work are introduced and discussed. I find the choice of texts balanced and wise. This is all the more notable since it is hard to find prototypical passages in his vast and partly unorganized oevre.
- CONTEXT. Disagreeing with another review of the book, I find the discussion of how Wittgenstein's views relate to the intellectual framework he was in far from incomplete. Clearly, Russel's and Frege's Positions are explained in due course. Frank Ramsey's criticism of the Tractatus is oulined; Paul Engelmann's correspondence and memoir is cited as well as Maurice Drury's writings. Many connections and contrasts to classical philosophical standpoints are given (just take look at the index of the book...). As far as alternative views and current discussions go, Ray Monk can not reasonably be accused of not delivering. Just to give two examples, alternative and modern interpretations of the Tractatus (James Conant and Cora Diamond) as well as Saul Kripke's view of the Private Language Argument are presented and discussed. It should be kept in mind that this book is not intended to be a commentary but an introductory guide.
In Summa: In my opinion this is one of the very best introductions to Wittgenstein's writing. I have read many and was absolutely taken by this book. I read it twice within the first week and still go back to it often - particularly when I am looking for a short summary of a particular point. It costs next to nothing so I suggest you take my word for it and give it a try. You will definitely gain insight worth your time and money - even if you are familiar with the subject.