Customer Reviews: Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
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on October 10, 2006
Just a few comments on this 50th anniversary--supposedly FINAL--edition of the translation:

1) After 50 years Anscombe STILL did not fix the snafu in section 412 where she forgot to translate a parenthetical. She was informed of this in the 1950's!

2) To change the translation of "Lebensform" from "form of life" to "life-form" after all these years is unnecessary and stupid. It rings too much of biology and Star Trek.

3) To change the pagination, by which all references to Part II and inserts to Part I have been made for 50 years, is an unnecessary bother.

4) The translation has NEWLY-INTRODUCED typos in sections 38, 41, 47, and then I stopped counting. How is this an improvement?

Please bring the older editions back in print!
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`Philosophical Investigations' by Ludwig Wittgenstein is arguably the most important philosophical work of the 20th century, followed close behind by Wittgenstein's earlier work, the `Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus'. While the earlier work was heavily influenced and endorsed by Bertrand Russell, who was always better known than his Austrian colleague in the world at large, the latter work is a complete departure from the logic based philosophy of Russell and the Logical Positivists, for whom the Tractatus was their bible. Although I have never seen this in any philosophical or historical analysis of Wittgenstein's work, the `Philosophical Investigations' were much closer to the `common sense' style of philosophy of G. E. Moore than to the thinking of Russell. All three were Cambridge dons and it is certain that Wittgenstein and Moore knew one another very well. The only thing which may have prevented Moore's ideas from influencing Wittgenstein is that the latter man was a much deeper thinker whose ideas still shape modern philosophy while Moore has become something of a footnote in the history of philosophy, best known for his common sense defense of the real world and his `naturalistic fallacy' invention in his pretentiously titled `Principia Ethica'.

Wittgenstein and Moore certainly were the joint parents of modern English and American academic philosophical style and doctrines. While Wittgenstein did not publish very much in his lifetime, his influence is widespread and deep due to his long tenure as a teacher at Cambridge, from the early thirties to his death in 1955. As abstruse as Wittgenstein's philosophy may seem at first look, it is really exceptionally applicable to everyday thinking. One of my favorite stories about Wittgenstein is in a memoir written by the American philosopher and Wittgenstein student, Norman Malcolm. During World War II, Wittgenstein and Malcolm were chatting about something the Germans had done and Malcolm said it was against the English character to do any similar action. At this comment, Wittgenstein lost his temper at how his student, Malcolm could make such a statement which so totally went against Wittgenstein's teachings. A much less anecdotal application of his thought is his notion of `family resemblences' expounded early in the `Philosophical Investigations' as a tool for analyzing the meanings of words. His example was the notion of games. Try as you might, someone can probably find a counterexample to virtually any definition of games which will fit into a reasonably sized dictionary definition. Wittgenstein's solution was that everything which can be called a game has a `family resemblance' to other games and does not have a family resemblance to most things which are not games.

This is just one tool and two examples of the extreme empiricism in Wittgenstein's thought. While there is a world of difference in the styles of Wittgenstein and the great Scottish philosopher David Hume, there is a strong `family resemblance' between their doctrines in that neither was in the least congenial to generalizations of any sort. The biggest difference between the doctrines of Wittgenstein and Hume is that while Hume was concerned with what we can know, Wittgenstein was concerned with the meanings of what we say and write.

Wittgenstein's most famous doctrine in the `Investigations' is that to determine the meaning of words and ideas, look at how they are used. This became his E=mc squared. All his students wielded this doctrine like a bludgeon to beat any `old school' position into submission.

Although the doctrines of the Tractatus and the Investigations are quite different, Wittgenstein's style of writing in aphorisms appears in both works and appears in virtually every posthumous collection of his notes which have been published in the last 60 years. Unlike Nietzsche, this style was not an artifice or merely done for effect. Wittgenstein's thinking was so intense I think he simply did not have the patience to connect the dots between his primary inspirations.

After the notion of `use' and `family resemblences, the most important position in the Investigations may be his arguments against the notion of a private language. While no one in everyday life has the slightest notion that they may be talking in a private language, the concept is central to the refutation of many older philosophical positions as diverse as those of Bishop Berkeley and Rene Descartes. The concept simply was that a language that is by its nature understandable by only its creator is not possible. It is not a language.

While Wittgenstein's own works stayed close to everyday language or mathematical thinking, the great virtue of the `Philosophical Investigations' over the system of the Tractatus is that the later work creates tools which may intelligently be applied to all kinds of discourse, from Ethics to Aesthetics to Politics to Religion. The later work does not turn its back on these things as some may have seen in the earlier work when it relegated virtually all discourse not about the natural world to the bin of meaninglessness. Since Wittgenstein's intention was to show the emptiness of metaphysics, he followed his thinking to its logical conclusion and threw the baby out with the bathwater in the Tractatus.

One of the most indelible images imprinted on my thinking from my study of the `Philosophical Investigations' is the comment that the search for the solution to a philosophical problem is often like trying to force open a locked door, when all you need to do is turn around to see the open window. This is the notion of thinking outside the box writ large.

Some of Wittgenstein's ideas can be very easy to grasp, like the notion of `family resemblences'. Others like the concept of a private language may be very, very hard. This means that even a nonprofessional can come away with something from this very, very important book.
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on July 22, 2004
it would probably say something about The Tao. What does the Tao have to do with Wittgenstein? Very little. I bring it up because there are three books of philosophy which I believe everyone should struggle with at some point in their lives. The first is Plato's Republic, for what I hope are obvious reasons. The other two are The Tao Te Ching and Philosophical Investigations. These two books have common threads that are often unremarked on, but perhaps the most pertinant point to this review is the fact that both are often mistaken, by people who should know better, for being much more esoteric than they actually. The Tao Te Ching is in many ways a manual for surviving in tumultuous times, and most of it's advice, stripped of it's poetry, is nothing if not practical.

Similarly, Philosophical Investigations is a user's guide for the urge to philosophize. Throughout the book, Wittgenstein instructs the reader on not what to think, but how to go about thinking. If there is a thesis at all in this book, it is that we must be cautious about how we use language. He goes to great lengths to illustrate why this is, and exactly what sort of nonsense happens "when language goes on holiday."

Unfortunately, it is not a lesson that everyone in the philosophical community learned from Uncle Ludwig. One suspects that the history of philosophy in the 20th century might have gone quite differently if folks like Quine, Lewis, Nagel, Harman, and Ryle had spent a little more time putting together Wittgenstein's puzzles. There is a great deal of confusion in the world of philosophy, a great deal of disagreement, and a great deal of nonsense. Wittgenstein's legacy is that he realized that this was the first problem that must be faced by anyone at all tempted by the questions of philosophy.

Was he right? Are all philosophical problems reducible to linguistic puzzles? Are we led astray by our picture of the world as it is presented to us by our language? Is there an important distinction between an empirical and a grammatical truth?

I, for one, was convinced by this book. Others are not. But to possess an interest in philosophy at all and to not have at least engaged this book is unforgivable.
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on February 5, 2004
I must respectfully disagree with the person who gave this book one star and called it one of the greatest intellectual frauds of the 20th century.
This book is beyond doubt one of the greatest works of philosophy not only of the 20th century but ever.
Without going deeply into the details here, it should be apparent that difficult and persistent problems require radical solutions. While Wittgenstein's solutions to age old philosophical problems may infuriate those with a vested interested in continuing to discuss them endlessly, anyone with an open mind will immediately see the value in his work. If you think that a good deal of philosophizing thoroughout its history has been the utterly misguided search for so-called real essences, then Wittgenstein's later philosophy provides an interesting and insightful response to that history of philosophy.
After reading this book you will never think the same way again.
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on September 16, 2011
Why aren't dual language editions this easy to find with other philosophical authors? I love this work because it offers the constant opportunity to brush up on German as I'm reading the English text, or, should I choose to approach Wittgenstein in the original, a constant source of clarity with the English translation. It's totally unsurprising that Anselm is the classic edition of Wittgenstein used by scholars. It's great!
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on June 16, 2014
I can't read this book for more than five minutes without laughing.

It is 246 pages long but amounts to 123 pages text if you don't read the left hand page, written in German, to read instead the right, which is in English.

Where a person can pick up something thick by Kant to follow a mind of angelic brilliance and think he understands what he just read but has a devil of a time paraphrasing it,reading Wittgenstein provides a different reader experience. W repeats and repeats and repeats his basic insight with masterful rephrasing for 123 pages.

Wittgenstein writes a 123 page long Zen koan. Philosophy students learn to get the koan.

For me, the book repeats the idea that what I think I mean in words and grope toward saying in other words and do say in badly expressed words to the other guy will not be absolutely understood because what he hears filters through a really tiny mesh of misunderstood life experience so what gets through in words is different because his understanding of the words is as baseless as mine.

He absolutely asserts there is no absolute way to move an idea from one person to another because the vehicle for movement is language which does not connect to anything absolute. As Sly Stone asserted in Rocky, "Absolutely."

In my imagination I have fancied using this book for dramatic effect on a plane. I see myself reading, smiling sardonically, and writing rude things in the margin. This is something I saw Clint Eastwood do in a movie and I would like to be as cool as Clint. What would probably happen is a sky marshall, alerted by a flight attendant who had a masters in philosophy , would come down the aisle, cuff me, and punch out my lights because he was a post doc in philosophy before he got stuck in the air cop gig. And he really liked Wittgenstein.
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on July 29, 2006
Originally published in 1953 the `Philosophical Investigations' was the latter of Wittgenstein's two influential philosophical texts (the Tractatus being the offer). This Fiftieth Anniversary edition provides the original German text and Anscombe's English translation on opposing pages.

The Investigations is widely considered to be one of the most influential philosophical texts of the last century. Although it touches on a range of issues including logic and philosophy of the mind it is largely focused on issues pertaining to the philosophy of language. That said, I share the view that Wittgenstein is difficult to categorize - in many ways he stands outside the mainstream of philosophy.

I have occasionally heard it said that Wittgenstein is appealing and accessible to non-philosophers. Undoubtedly this will vary from reader to reader, however, I think a good understanding of the philosophical questions of the time is essential to getting the most out of Wittgenstein - he spends little time framing the issues under discussion and without this background many of his musings may seem meaningless.

From a historic perspective this is one of the most important works in twentieth century philosophy, on a more basic level it is a choppy and poorly constructed work. I struggle with Wittgenstein, sometimes viewing him as trivial other times as profound. Clearly, many great thinkers are in the latter camp, as are ironically many neophytes who want to appear as if they understand Wittgenstein.

Overall, this is an excellent edition of a modern day classic - an essential addition to any serous student's library. I would not, however, recommend this as an entry point to the world of philosophy.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon October 6, 2014
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher whose books such as Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the current book are among the acknowledged “classics” of 20th century philosophy. Born into a wealthy family, he gave all of his inheritance away, served in the Austrian Army during World War I, taught schoolchildren in remote Austrian villages, but ultimately taught at Cambridge for many years. The Tractatus was the only book he published during his lifetime, but his papers have been posthumously edited, and notes of lectures taken by his students have been transcribed, and have resulted in many published books, such as Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, & Religious Belief,On Certainty,Philosophical Grammar,Philosophical Remarks,The Blue and Brown Books,Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics,Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology,Remarks on Colour,Zettel, etc.

The Editors note at the beginning of the book, “What appears as Part I of this volume was complete by 1945. Part II was written between 1946 and 1949. If Wittgenstein had published the work himself, he would have suppressed a good deal of what is in the last thirty pages or so of Part I and worked what is in Part II, with further material, in its place.” Wittgenstein himself explained in the Preface, “The thoughts which I publish in what follows are the precipitate of philosophical investigations which have occupied me for the last sixteen years… I have written down all these thoughts as REMARKS, short paragraphs, of which there is sometimes a fairly long chain about the same subject, while I sometimes make a sudden change, jumping from one topic to another… After several unsuccessful attempts to weld my results together into such a whole, I realized that I should never succeed… Up to a short while ago I had really given up the idea of publishing my work in my lifetime… since beginning to occupy myself with philosophy again, sixteen years ago, I have been forced to recognize grave mistakes in what I wrote in [the Tractatus]… If my remarks do not bear a stamp which marks them as mine, I do not wish to lay any further claim to them as my property. I make them public with doubtful feelings… I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But, if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.”

He states, “If I hear someone say ‘it’s raining’ but do now know whether I have heard the beginning and end of the period, so far this sentence does not serve to tell me anything. But how many kinds of sentence are there? Say assertion, question, and command? There are COUNTLESS kinds: countless kinds of use of what we call ‘symbols,’ ‘words,’ ‘sentences.’ And this multiplicity is not something fixed, given once for all; but new types of language, new language-games, as we may say, come into existence, and others become obsolete and forgotten… Here the term ‘language game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the SPEAKING of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life. Review the multiplicity of language-games in the following examples, and in others: Giving orders, and obeying them… Speculating about an event… Forming and testing a hypothesis… Play-acting… Guessing riddles… Making a joke; telling it… “ (I, #22-23)

Famously, he asserts, “For a LARGE class of cases---though not for all---in which we employ the word ‘meaning’ it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.” (I, #43)

He explains, “Instead of producing something common to all that we call language, I am saying that these phenomena have no one thing in common which makes us use the same word for all---but that they are RELATED to one another in many different ways. And it is because of this relationship, or these relationships, that we call them all ‘language.’ … Consider for example the proceedings that we call ‘games.’ I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all?... if you look at them you will not see something that is common to ALL, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that… Look for example at board-games… Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost… is there always winning and losing, or competition between players?... we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and cross-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail. I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than ‘family resemblances’; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, color of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way---And I shall say: ‘games’ form a family.” (I, #65-67)

He says, “We want to say that there can’t be any vagueness in logic. The idea now absorbs us, that the ideal ‘must’ be found in reality. Meanwhile we do not as yet see HOW it occurs there, nor do we understand the nature of this ‘must.’ We think it must be in reality; for we think we already see it there. The strict and clear rules of the logical structure of propositions appear to us as something in the background---hidden in the medium of the understanding… The ideal, as we think of it, is unshakable. You can never get outside it; you must always turn back. There is no outside; outside you cannot breathe. Where does this idea come from? It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off.” (I, #101-103)

He argues, “When I talk about language (words, sentences, etc.) I must speak the language of every day. Is this language somehow too coarse and material for what we want to say? Then how is another one to be constructed? And how strange that we should be able to do anything at all with the one we have!... A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of our words---Our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity… A philosophical problem has the form, ‘I don’t know my way about.’ Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundation either. It leaves everything as it is.” (I, #120, 122-124)

He suggests, “Describe the aroma of coffee. Why can’t it be done? Do we lack the words? And FOR WHAT are words lacking? But how do we get the idea that such a description must after all be possible? Have you ever felt the lack of such a description? Have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded? [William] James: ‘Our vocabulary is inadequate.’ Then why don’t we introduce a new one? What would have to be the case for us to be able to?” (I, #610)

He observes, “‘But mathematical truth is independent of whether human beings know it or not!’ Certainly, the propositions ‘Human beings believe that twice two is four’ and ‘Twice two is four’ do not mean the same. The latter is a mathematical proposition; the other… may perhaps mean: human beings have ARRIVED at the mathematical proposition. The two propositions have entirely different USES. But what would THIS mean: ‘Even though everybody believed that twice two was five it would still be four’? For what would it be like for everybody to believe that?” (II, pg. 226)

This book and his “Tractatus” are both absolute “MUST READING” for anyone studying contemporary philosophy.
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on October 21, 2012
" But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness: nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false."(OC 94).
"Superstition is nothing but belief in the causal nexus." TLP 5.1361

"Now if it is not the causal connections which we are concerned with, then the activities of the mind lie open before us." "The Blue Book" p6 (1933)

"We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course, there are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer." TLP 6.52 (1922)

"Nonsense, Nonsense, because you are making assumptions instead of simply describing. If your head is haunted by explanations here, you are neglecting to remind yourself of the most important facts."
Z 220
"Philosophy simply puts everything before us and neither explains nor deduces anything...One might give the name `philosophy' to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions." PI 126

"The more narrowly we examine actual language, the sharper becomes the conflict between it and our requirement. (For the crystalline purity of logic was, of course, not a result of investigation: it was a requirement.)"PI 107

"The wrong conception which I want to object to in this connexion is the following, that we can discover something wholly new. That is a mistake. The truth of the matter is that we have already got everything, and that we have got it actually present; we need not wait for anything. We make our moves in the realm of the grammar of our ordinary language, and this grammar is already there. Thus, we have already got everything and need not wait for the future." (said in 1930) Waismann "Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle (1979)p183

"Here we come up against a remarkable and characteristic phenomenon in philosophical investigation: the difficulty---I might say---is not that of finding the solution but rather that of recognizing as the solution something that looks as if it were only a preliminary to it. `We have already said everything.---Not anything that follows from this, no this itself is the solution!"...."This is connected, I believe, with our wrongly expecting an explanation, whereas the solution of the difficulty is a description, if we give it the right place in our considerations. If we dwell upon it, and do not try to get beyond it." Zettel p312-314

When thinking about Wittgenstein, I often recall the comment attributed to Cambridge Philosophy professor C.D. Broad (who did not understand nor like him). "Not offering the chair of philosophy to Wittgenstein would be like not offering the chair of physics to Einstein!" I think of him as the Einstein of intuitive psychology. Though born ten years later, he was likewise hatching ideas about the nature of reality at nearly the same time and in the same part of the world and like Einstein nearly died in WW1. Now suppose Einstein was a suicidal homosexual recluse with a difficult personality who published only one early version of his ideas that were confused and often mistaken, but became world famous; completely changed his ideas but for the next 30 years published nothing more, and knowledge of his new work, in mostly garbled form, diffused slowly from occasional lectures and students notes; that he died in 1951 leaving behind over 20,000 pages of mostly handwritten scribblings in German, composed of sentences or short paragraphs with, often, no clear relationship to sentences before or after; that these were cut and pasted from other notebooks written years earlier with notes in the margins, underlinings and crossed out words, so that many sentences have multiple variants; that his literary executives cut this indigestible mass into pieces, leaving out what they wished and struggling with the monstrous task of capturing the correct meaning of sentences which were conveying utterly novel views of how the universe works and that they then published this material with agonizing slowness (not finished after half a century) with prefaces that contained no real explanation of what it was about; that he became as much notorious as famous due to many statements that all previous physics was a mistake and even nonsense, and that virtually nobody understood his work, in spite of hundreds of books and tens of thousands of papers discussing it; that many physicists knew only his early work in which he had made a definitive summation of Newtonian physics stated in such extremely abstract and condensed form that it was impossible to decide what was being said; that he was then virtually forgotten and that most books and articles on the nature of the world and the diverse topics of modern physics had only passing and usually erroneous references to him, and that many omitted him entirely; that to this day, over half a century after his death, there were only a handful of people who really grasped the monumental consequences of what he had done. This, I claim, is precisely the situation with Wittgenstein.

Had W lived into his 80's he would have been able to directly influence Searle, Symons, and countless other students of behavior. If his brilliant friend Frank Ramsey had not died in his youth, a highly fruitful collaboration would almost certainly have ensued. If his student and colleague Alan Turing had become his lover, one of the most amazing collaborations of all time would likely have evolved. In any one case the intellectual landscape of the 20th century would have been different and if all 3 had occurred it would almost certainly have been very very different. Instead he lived in relative intellectual isolation, few knew him well or had an inkling of his ideas while he lived, and only a handful within philosophy have any real grasp of his work today. He could have shined as an engineer(he has an aviation patent), a mathematician (he sketched out a proof of Euler's theorem, since shown to be valid and grasped the psychological foundations of math , incompleteness, infinity etc., as no one else (afaik) has to this day), a physiologist (he did wartime research in it), a musician (he played instruments and had a renowned talent for whistling), an architect (the house he designed and constructed for his sister still stands), or an entrepreneur (he inherited one of the largest fortunes in the world but gave it all away). It is a miracle he survived the trenches and prison camps (while writing the Tractatus) in WW1, many years of suicidal depressions (3 brothers succumbed to them), being trapped in Austria and executed by the Nazis (he was partly Jewish), and that he was not persecuted for his homosexuality and driven to suicide like his friend Turing. He realized nobody understood what he was doing and might never (not surprising as he was half a century ahead of psychology and philosophy, which only recently have started accepting that our brain is an evolved organ like our heart.)

PI was not published until 1953, 2 years after his death and can be viewed as two quite different books. Part one is from his middle or W2 period and Part two is from his final or W3 period (which overlaps extensively with his books LWPP1 and 2), when his ideas crystallized into a unique and amazingly deep and prescient description of behavior. Although W wrote thousands of pages and is the most discussed philosopher in modern times, only a few have any real grasp of what he did and how it anticipates in detail many of the latest advances in psychology and philosophy (descriptive psychology). It is essential to first read some of the commentaries on his work by others. One of the best is that of Daniele Moyal-Sharrock (DMS) whose 2004 volume "Understanding Wittgenstein's On Certainty" is mandatory for every educated person, and perhaps the best starting point for understanding Wittgenstein, psychology, philosophy and life, since it explains the unconscious, axiomatic structure of animal behavior. Next I would suggest the writings of Daniel Hutto, especially his "Wittgenstein and the End of Philosophy"(2004). However (in my view) like all analyses, they fall far short of grasping his unique and revolutionary advances in describing behavior by failing to put them in a broad evolutionary and contemporary scientific context, which I will attempt in skeletal outline here. Finally, all of Searle should be read, with special attention to "Rationality in Action" and his more recent works. Though Searle does not say and seems to be unaware, his work follows directly from that of W.

To say that Searle has carried on W's work is not to imply that it is a direct result of W study, but rather that because there is only ONE human psychology (for the same reason there is only ONE human cardiology), that anyone accurately describing behavior must be voicing some variant or extension of what W said. I find most of Searle foreshadowed in W, including versions of the famous Chinese room argument against Strong AI. Incidentally if the Chinese Room interests you then you should read Victor Rodych's xlnt ,but virtually unknown, supplement on the CR--"Searle Freed of Every Flaw". Rodych has also written a series of superb papers on W's philosophy of mathematics --i.e., the EP (Evolutionary Psychology) of the axiomatic System 1 Primary Language Games (PLG's) of counting as extended into the endless SLG's (Secondary Language Games) of math. I will also note that nobody who promotes Strong AI and CTM (Computational Theory of Mind) seems to be aware that W's Tractatus is the most striking and powerful statement of their viewpoint ever penned (behavior is the logical processing of facts). Of course decades later (but before the digital computer was a gleam in Turing's eye) he described in great detail why CTM was a bankrupt point of view that must be replaced by psychology (or you can say this is all he did for the rest of his life).

Wittgenstein (W) is for me easily the most brilliant thinker on human behavior of all time and this is his most famous work. His work as a whole shows that all behavior is an extension of innate true-only axioms (see "On Certainty" for his final extended treatment of this idea) and that our conscious ratiocination emerges from unconscious machinations. His corpus can be seen as the foundation for all description of animal behavior, revealing how the mind works and indeed must work. The "must" is entailed by the fact that all brains share a common ancestry and common genes and so there is only one basic way they work, that this necessarily has an axiomatic structure, that all higher animals share the same evolved psychology based on inclusive fitness, and that in humans this is extended into a personality based on throat muscle contractions (language) that evolved to manipulate others (with variations that can be regarded as trivial). This book, and arguably all of W's work and all useful discussion of behavior is a development of or variation on these ideas. Another major theme here, and of course in all discussion of human behavior, is the need to separate the automatisms which underlie all behavior from the effects of culture. Though few philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists etc explicitly discuss this, it can be seen as the major problem they are dealing with. I suggest it will prove of the greatest value to consider W's work and most of his examples as an effort to tease apart not only fast and slow thinking(e.g., perceptions vs dispositions--see below), but nature and nurture.

In the course of many years reading extensively in W, other philosophers, and psychology, it has become clear that what he laid out in his final period (and throughout his earlier work in a less clear way) are the foundations of what is now known as evolutionary psychology (EP), or if you prefer, psychology, cognitive linguistics, intentionality, higher order thought or just animal behavior. Sadly, almost nobody seems to realize that his works are a vast and unique textbook of descriptive psychology that is as relevant now as the day it was written. He is almost universally ignored by psychology and other behavioral sciences and humanities, and even those few in philosophy who have more or less understood him, have not carried the analysis to its logical (psychological) conclusion, nor realized the extent of his anticipation of the latest work on EP and cognitive illusions (the two selves of fast and slow thinking--see below). His heir apparent, John Searle, refers to him periodically and his work can be seen as a straightforward extension of W's, but he does not really get that this is what he is doing. Other leading W analysts such as Hutto and Moyal-Sharrock do marvelously but (in my view) stop short of putting him in the center of current psychology, where he certainly belongs.

I eventually came to understand much of W by regarding his corpus as the pioneering effort in EP, seeing that he was describing the two selves and the multifarious language games of fast and slow thinking, and by starting from his 3rd period works and reading backwards to the proto-Tractatus. It has been extremely revealing to alternate W with the writings of hundreds of other philosophers and evolutionary psychologists (as I regard all psychologists and in fact all behavioral scientists, cognitive linguists and others). It should also be clear that insofar as they are coherent and correct, all accounts of behavior are describing the same phenomena and ought to translate easily into one another. Thus the recently fashionable themes of "Embodied Mind" and "Radical Enactivism" should flow directly from and into W's work. However almost nobody is able to follow his example of avoiding jargon and sticking to perspicuous examples, so even the redoubtable Hutto (see below) has to be heavily filtered to see that this is true. However, even Hutto does not get how completely W has anticipated the latest work in fast and slow, two-self embodied thinking (acting).

W can also be regarded as a pioneer in evolutionary cognitive linguistics--the Top Down analysis of the mind and its evolution via the careful analysis of examples of language use in context, by exposing the many varieties of language games and the relationships between the primary games of the true-only unconscious, axiomatic fast thinking of perception, memory and reflexive emotions and acts (often described as the subcortical and primitive cortical reptilian brain first-self functions), and the later evolved higher cortical dispositional conscious abilities of believing, knowing, thinking etc. that constitute the true or false propositional secondary language games of slow thinking that are the network of cognitive illusions that constitute the second-self personality. He dissects hundreds of language games showing how the true-only perceptions, memories and reflexive actions of system one grade into the thinking, remembering, and understanding of system two dispositions and many of his examples also address the nature/nurture issue explicitly. With this evolutionary perspective, his later works are a breathtaking revelation of human nature that is entirely current and has never been equaled. Many perspectives have heuristic value, but I find that this evolutionary two systems view not only lets me understand W, but cuts like a hot knife through the frozen butter of all discussions of behavior. To repeat Dobzhansky's famous comment: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." And nothing in philosophy makes sense except in the light of evolutionary psychology.

The failure (in my view) of even the best thinkers (with a few possible exceptions) to fully grasp W's significance is partly due to the limited attention "On Certainty" (OC) and his other 3rd period works have received, but even more to the inability to understand how profoundly our view of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, politics, law, morals, ethics, religion, aesthetics, literature (all of them being descriptive psychology), alters once we accept this evolutionary point of view. The dead hand of the blank slate view of behavior still rests heavily on most people, pro or amateur and is the default of the second self of slow thinking conscious System 2,(which is oblivious to the fact that the groundwork for all behavior lies in the unconscious, fast thinking axiomatic structure of System 1). System 1 is more or less equivalent to "mirroring"(Goldman), "neural resonance"(Gallagher), "biosemantics"(Millikan), and "biosemiotics"(Hutto). Steven Pinker's brilliant `The Blank Slate: the modern denial of human nature' is highly recommended preparation, even though it is now dated and limited in various ways, and he has no clue about Wittgenstein, and hence of what can be regarded as the first and best really deep investigation into the foundations of human nature. Also, he seems not to grasp that the Blank Slate view is an expression of the cognitive illusions that constitute our mental life.

The common ideas (e.g., the subtitle of one of Pinker's books "The Stuff of Thought: language as a window into human nature") that language is a window on or some sort of translation of our thinking or even (Fodor) that there must be some other "Language of Thought" of which it is a translation, were rejected by W, who tried to show, with hundreds of continually reanalyzed perspicacious examples of language in action, that language is the best picture we can ever get of thinking, the mind and human nature, and his whole corpus can be regarded as the development of this idea. He rejected the idea that the Bottom Up approaches of physiology, experimental psychology and computation (now we say Computational Theory of Mind, Strong AI, Dynamic Sytstems Theory etc) could reveal what his Top Down deconstructions of Language Games (LG's) did. The difficulties he noted are to understand what is always in front of our eyes and to capture vagueness ("The greatest difficulty in these investigations is to find a way of representing vagueness" LWPP1, 347). And so, speech (i.e., oral muscle contractions, the principal way we can interact) is not a window into the mind but is the mind itself, which is expressed by acoustic blasts about past, present and future acts (i.e., our speech using the later evolved Secondary Language Games (SLG's) of the Second Self--the dispositions --imagining, knowing, meaning, believing, intending etc.). As with his other aphorisms I suggest one should take seriously his comment that even if God could look into our mind he could not see what we are thinking--this should be the motto of the Embodied Mind.

Some of W's favorite topics in his later second and his third periods are the different (but interdigitating) LG's of fast and slow thinking (System 1 and 2 or roughly PLG's and SLG's), the epiphenomenality of our second self and mental life, the impossibility of private language and the axiomatic structure of all behavior. The PLG's are utterances by and descriptions of our involuntary, System 1, fast thinking, true only, nonpropositional, untestable mental states- our perceptions and memories and involuntary acts, while the evolutionarily later SLG's are descriptions of voluntary, System 2, slow thinking, testable true or false, propositional, dispositional (and often counterfactual) imagining, supposing, intending, thinking, knowing, believing etc. A useful heuristic is to separate behavior into Intentionality 1 and Intentionality 2 (e.g., Thinking 1 and Thinking 2 etc.) He recognized that `Nothing is Hidden'--i.e., our whole psychology and all the answers to all philosophical questions are here in our language (our life) and that the difficulty is not to find the answers but to recognize them as always here in front of us--we just have to stop trying to look deeper (e.g., "The greatest danger here is wanting to observe oneself." LWPP1, 459).

W makes these points throughout his works in countless examples and again his whole corpus can be regarded as the effort to make them clear. After all, what exactly is the alternative? W showed over and over that standard ways of describing behavior (i.e., most of philosophy, and much of descriptive psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, etc.) are either demonstrably false or incoherent. Once we understand W, we realize the absurdity of regarding "language philosophy" as a separate study apart from other areas of behavior, since language is just another name for the mind. And, when W says (as he does many times) that understanding behavior is in no way dependent on the progress of psychology (e.g., his oft-quoted assertion "The confusion and barrenness of psychology is not to be explained by calling it a `young science' --but cf. another comment that I have never seen quoted "Is scientific progress useful to philosophy? Certainly. The realities that are discovered lighten the philosophers task. Imagining possibilities." (LWPP1, 807). So, he is not legislating the boundaries of science but pointing out the fact that our behavior (mostly speech) is the clearest picture possible of our psychology and that all discussions of higher order behavior are plagued (as they are to this day) by conceptual confusions. FMRI, PET, TCMS, iRNA, computational analogs, AI and all the rest are fascinating and powerful ways to extend our innate axiomatic psychology, but all they can do is provide the physical basis for our behavior, facilitate our analysis of language games, and extend our EP, which remains unchanged (unless genetic engineering is unleashed to change our EP--but then it won't be us anymore). The true-only axioms most thoroughly explored in `'On Certainty'' are W's (and later Searle's) "bedrock" or "background", which we now call evolutionary psychology (EP), and which is traceable to the automated true-only reactions of bacteria, which evolved and operates by the mechanism of inclusive fitness (IF). See the recent works of Trivers and others for a popular intro to IF or Bourke's superb "Principles of Social Evolution" for a pro intro.

Beginning with their innate true-only, nonempirical (automated and nonchangeable) responses to the world, animals extend their axiomatic understanding via deductions into further true only understandings ("theorems" as we might call them, but of course like many words, this is a complex language game even in the context of mathematics). Tyrannosaurs and mesons become as unchallengeable as the existence of our two hands or our breathing. This dramatically changes ones view of human nature. Theory of Mind (TOM) is not a theory at all but a group of true-only Understandings of Agency (UOA a term I devised 10 years ago) which newborn animals (including flies and worms if UOA is suitably defined) have and subsequently extend greatly (in higher eukaryotes). Likewise the Theory of Evolution ceased to be a theory for any normal, rational, intelligent person before the end of the 19th century and for Darwin at least half a century earlier. One CANNOT help but incorporate T. rex and all that is relevant to it into our innate background via the inexorable workings of EP. Once one gets the logical (psychological) necessity of this it is truly stupefying that even the brightest and the best seem not to grasp this most basic fact of human life (with a tip of the hat to Kant, Searle and a few others) which was laid out in great detail in "On Certainty". Incidentally, the equation of logic and our axiomatic psychology is essential to understanding W and human nature (as DMS, but afaik nobody else, points out).
So, most of our shared public experience (culture) becomes a true-only extension of our axiomatic EP and cannot be found mistaken without threatening our sanity. A corollary, nicely explained by DMS and elucidated in his own unique manner by Searle, is that the skeptical view of the world and other minds (and a mountain of other nonsense including the Blank Slate) cannot really get a foothold, as "reality" is the result of involuntary fast thinking axioms and not testable true or false propositions.

I think it is clear that the innate true-only axioms W is occupied with throughout his work, and almost exclusively in OC (his last work), are equivalent to the fast thinking or System 1 that is at the center of current research (e.g., see Kahneman--"Thinking Fast and Slow", but he has no idea W laid out the framework over 50 years ago), which is involuntary and unconscious and which corresponds to the mental states of perception and memory, as W notes over and over in endless examples. One might call these "intracerebral reflexes"(maybe 99% of all our cerebration if measured by energy use in the brain). Our slow or reflective, more or less "conscious" (beware another network of language games!) second self brain activity corresponds to what W characterized as "dispositions" or "inclinations", which refer to abilities or possible actions, are not mental states, and do not have any definite time of occurrence. But disposition words like "knowing", "understanding", "thinking", "believing", which W discussed extensively, have at least two basic uses (or, one might say, in philosophical contexts, one major use and one abuse) or language games. One is a peculiar philosophical use by exemplified by Moore (whose papers inspired W to write OC), which refers to the true-only sentences resulting from direct perceptions and memory, i.e., our innate axiomatic System 1 psychology (`I know these are my hands'), and their normal use as dispositions, which are acted out and which can become true or false (`I know my way home').
The investigation of involuntary fast thinking has revolutionized psychology, economics (e.g., Kahneman's Nobel prize) and other disciplines under names like "cognitive illusions", "priming", "framing", "heuristics" and "biases". Of course these too are language games so there will be more and less useful ways to use these words, and studies and discussions will vary from "pure" System 1 to combinations of One and Two (the norm as W made clear), but presumably not ever of slow System 2 dispositional thinking only, since any thought or intentional action cannot occur without involving much of the intricate network of the "cognitive modules", "inference engines", "intracerebral reflexes", "automatisms", "cognitive axioms", "background" or "bedrock" (as W and later Searle call our EP).

Another point made countless times by W was that our conscious mental life is epiphenomenal in the sense that it does not describe nor determine how we act. It is an obvious corollary of his descriptive psychology that it is the unconscious automatisms of System 1 that dominate and describe behavior and that the later evolved conscious dispositions (thinking, remembering, loving, desiring, regretting etc.) are mere icing on the cake. This is most strikingly borne out by the latest experimental psychology, some of which is nicely summarized by Kahneman in the book cited (see e.g., the chapter `Two Selves', but of course there is a huge volume of recent work he does not cite). It is an easily defensible view that most of the burgeoning literature on cognitive illusions is wholly compatible with and straightforwardly deducible from W.

Probably the leading exponent of W's ideas on the language games of inner and outer (the `Two Selves' operation of our personality or intentionality or EP etc. ) is the prolific Daniel Hutto (DH), who teaches at the same University as DMS. His approach is called `Radical Enactivism' and is well explained in numerous recent books and papers. It is a development of or version of the Embodied Mind ideas now current and, cleansed of its jargon, it is a straightforward extension of W's 2nd and 3rd period writings (though Hutto seems only dimly aware of this). He is also author of the best deconstruction I know of Dennett's preposterous claim to be following in W's footsteps (in fact Dennett is just repeating most of the classic mistakes in grandiose fashion and hasn't a clue about W). But of course one must read Searle too and the title of his famous review of Dennett's book says it well "Consciousness Explained Away". Incidentally, unlike most philosophers and other scholars, who make little or no effort to give the general public access to their papers, Hutto has put nearly every paper (though of course often just proofs and not the final paper) free online at [...]

Here, as throughout W's works, understanding is bedeviled by possible alternative and consequently often infelicitous translations from often unedited and handwritten German notes, with "Satz" being frequently incorrectly rendered as "proposition"(which is a testable or falsifiable statement) when referring to our nonfalsifiable psychological axioms, as opposed to the correct "sentence", which CAN be applied to our axiomatic true-only statements such as "these are my hands" or "Tyrannosaurs were large carnivorous dinosaurs that lived about 50 million years ago"(and since this is an unavoidable extension of our psychology, what does this imply about creationists?).

Regarding my view of W as the major pioneer in EP, it seems nobody has noticed that he very clearly explained several times specifically and many times in passing, the psychology behind what later became known as the Wason Test--long a mainstay of EP research.

The view that even the brightest philosophers do not really grasp the context in which they are operating is perhaps most strikingly illustrated when they attempt to define philosophy. In recent years I have seen such definitions by two of those I hold in highest regard--Graham Priest and John Searle, and of course they mention truth, language, reality etc., but not a word to suggest it is a description of our innate universal axiomatic psychology and its extensions. Priest, by the way, has noted that W was the first to predict the emergence of paraconsistent logic.

Finally, let me suggest that with this perspective, W is not obscure, difficult or irrelevant but scintillating, profound and crystal clear, that he writes aphoristically because we think and behave that way, and that to miss him is to miss one of the greatest intellectual adventures possible.
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on July 28, 2009
While this edition does not solve all problems, no edition could. It is a beautiful piece of work. This is one of the great philosophical books of all time having changed philosophy and culture as well. The book was intended to put an end to academic philosophy which is one reason that it has divided academicians into two camps - religious followers and those who despise the book. But you have to read it for yourself to be even within the domain of literate. It is a well written collection of sometimes aphoristic remarks, many of which have crept into literature and even scientific thought. Brilliantly original, highly readable and certain to change the way you think.Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
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