Simply Wittgenstein (Great Lives)
"There are many introductions to the life and work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, but I think James Klagge has produced the very best. Taking as his premise that his reader may know nothing about Wittgenstein or, for that matter, about philosophy, Klagge gives a lucid, charming, and wholly convincing account of Wittgenstein’s basic ideas, his way of thinking, his views on religion, culture, ethical behavior, and so on. He is especially good at explaining the root concepts like “language game,” "form of life,” and “private language.” But perhaps the highlight of this book is its set of applications: that is, how do Wittgenstein’s concepts and writings help us to understand the events of our time from courtroom cases to the bombing of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Wittgenstein, Klagge shows, literally helps us to live our lives: he is the philosopher par excellence of the twentieth—and now the twenty-first—centuries.
Klagge’s own clarity is exemplary: he never condescends to the reader and yet makes Wittgenstein’s thought wonderfully clear." —Marjorie Perloff, Sadie Dernham Patek Emerita Professor of Humanities at Stanford University
Born in Vienna into an extremely wealthy and highly cultured family, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) grew up surrounded by art, music, and a disturbing amount of dysfunctional behavior. After studying mechanical engineering and developing an interest in aeronautics, he became obsessed with mathematics and logic, which led to his life’s work exploring the relationship between language, philosophy, and reality.
In Simply Wittgenstein, James Klagge presents a fascinating portrait of this brilliant and troubled man, while exploring his two extraordinary books—the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations—in which he gave concrete form to his singular and perplexing ideas. Drawing on 30 years of teaching about Wittgenstein at both the undergraduate and graduate level, Klagge provides a clear and accessible introduction to these seminal works, helping the reader understand the revolutionary nature of Wittgenstein’s insights and the reason they continue to resonate in our own time.
Though Wittgenstein himself was convinced that he would never be properly understood, Simply Wittgenstein shows, with brevity and lucidity, that his ideas have had a profound and enduring effect on how we think about language and life.
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