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Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 22 Feb 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (22 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854117
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.3 x 10.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

Lucidly and attractively written. (Heythrop Journal)

Anyone wanting to come to grips with the later Wittgenstein's views on philosophy, his beliefs about the nature of thought and language, and his many unignorable (if sometimes muddled and often muddling) ideas in the philosophy of the mind could do no better than start here. (Guardian)

[Grayling] is to be congratulated on the success of his enterprise in a book which is a model of expository elgance ... an admirably clear and concise introduction (Philosophical Books)

About the Author

A. C. Grayling is Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Sumernumary 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 editor of Philosophy: A guide through the subject and Philosophy 2: Further through the subject.


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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Grayling does not appear to know Wittgenstein very well at all, as other reviews have already pointed out. This introduction is more misleading than helpful and much below the standard quality of the Very Short Introduction series in general. Ray Monk seems a much better place to start for beginners on Wittgenstein.
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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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By A Customer on 25 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
Certainly more readable than Wittgenstein's works, but I feel Grayling fails to focus enough on the ideas held within Wittgenstein's most important work, philosophical investigations. The idea of a context specific 'language-game' remains one of the most important notions put forward in twentieth-century philosophy. Grayling fails to show how that idea corresponds to other ideas/philosophers, and he equally fails to put forward one of the Wittgenstein's most perplexing ideas - does 'slab' when spoken mean 'slab', 'bring me a slab', 'look at that slab' etc, - i.e. what is the difference between a word and a sentence? Otherwise, the basics are set out in the 'very short intro', but I feel that Grayling underplays Wittgenstein's importance.
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Format: Kindle Edition
.... when the most helpful favourable (5 star) and unfavourable (1 star) review both say the same thing about the book; or, at least, about the nature and value of what is specific to the author about what the book tells you about its subject......
The way I would put it, is that Grayling's evaluation of Wittgenstein --- is the kind of stuff that gives academic philosophers (indeed, academics generally) a bad name.
For the 'favourable' reviewer, the book's value overall is redeemed by the fact that the first few chapters give a straightforward and clear account of Wittgenstein's life and, to some extent, work. But in the end, I think that you probably don't really need to buy that -- when Ray Monk's 'How to read Wittgenstein' is available at about the same price. It's not in a Kindle format, but the slim paperback is about the same size and weight as a Kindle; no contest!
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