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Wittgenstein in Exile Hardcover – December 22, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


[A]fter more than half a century of scholarly effort, Wittgenstein is still not properly understood contends James Klagge in this impressive, fresh work. Combining rigorous historical scholarship, creative philosophical work and insightful cultural critique, Wittgenstein in Exile will be of lively interest to readers of Wittgenstein on all levels.

(Philosophy in Review)

Wittgenstein in Exile is a thought-provoking book...Professor Klagge possesses the ability to formulate -- with greater clarity than I myself have been able to muster -- thoughts that I have nevertheless frequently had; it is in this regard that I most commend his book.

(British Wittgenstein Society BookNOTES)

Klagge's discussions are always clear, thoughtful, and intelligent...Klagge does not enter the house of Wittgenstein by the front door but writes for those who, having tried that approach unsuccessfully, want to look around the side to see if there is a way in there. For people in that position this is an excellent resource.

(The Philosopher's Magazine)

An important contribution to research on the philosophy of Wittgenstein...Klagge illuminates numerous themes and passages in Wittgenstein...provocative and stimulating.

(Trenton A. Jerde Cognitive Critique)

Professor Klagge's detailed knowledge both of the minutest details of Wittgenstein's biography and the whole range of his posthumous philosophical papers lends the study depth...[Klagge] has written a book that is as intelligible as it is humane, which will certainly be immensely useful in helping beginners to appreciate the difficulties but also to enjoy the rewards of learning to philosophize with Wittgenstein.

(Allan Janik Humanities and Social Sciences Online)

Surprisingly enjoyable...highly engaging. Klagge writes extremely well and shows an unusually high level of scholarship...thoughtfully and often convincingly presented and discussed.


Rich and varied in content...a stimulating read...Klagge makes fruitful use of less-known Wittgenstein material, such as notes from his lectures...[and] has important things to say on all the issues he raises.

(Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

Another and more important reason is the fact that the questions raised by the book will stimulate readers to think about aspects of Wittgenstein and his work that are too often neglected. It is an additional virtue of Klagge's work that the material put at our disposal is rich enough to allow readers to assess a great number of arguments that could be adduced for very different, and perhaps incompatible, readings of Wittgenstein.

(Joachim Schulte Biography)

I mentioned Wittgenstein's approach to philosophy, and would like to recommend an enthralling and scholarly account of him that I've just read: James Klagge's Wittgenstein in Exile. Among other things, this book is a good companion to thinking about the nature of philosophy.

(Anthony Gottlieb 3:AM Magazine)

A subtle and fascinating study of Wittgenstein as outsider, with respect to both the world in which he lived and the intellectual consensus in philosophy and the mind sciences with which his views were (and are) so dramatically at odds. Klagge addresses the intriguing questions of why Wittgenstein felt he would not be understood, and why we, increasingly, may fail to understand him.

(Louis Sass, author of The Paradoxes of Delusion: Wittgenstein, Schreber, and the Schizophrenic Mind)

Fascinating and convincing. This book makes a central contribution to Wittgenstein studies.

(Marjorie Perloff, Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities, Stanford University, and author, Wittgenstein's Ladder)

James Klagge's portrayal of Wittgenstein as an exile is original, engaging, and persuasive. In a crowded field, it is a genuinely useful addition to the secondary literature and should be read by all those interested in understanding both Wittgenstein himself and his philosophy.

(Ray Monk, author of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius)

About the Author

James C. Klagge is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Virginia Tech. He is the coeditor of two collections of Wittgenstein's writings, Philosophical Occasions: 1912--1951 and Public and Private Occasions, and the editor of Wittgenstein: Biography and Philosophy.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (December 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026201534X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262015349
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,863,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I haven't read every work on Wittgenstein, but I have read much. "Wittgenstein in Exile" rates among the best. As many of the editorial reviews suggest, Professor Klagge combines an extremely high level of scholarship with a pellucid writing style and expository focus. There are no barriers between the ideas and the reader- no woolly language, no fuzzy thinking, no jargon, no distractions. Professor Klagge offers a judicious blend of history of philosophy, biography, and explanation.

One should not let title mislead them. Although the idea of exile is a central theme, the book delivers a broad view of Wittgenstein's work. The theme of exile serves merely as an organizing concept, and an interesting one at that.

Towards the end of the book, Professor Klagge observes that Wittgenstein's influence today has diminished, and is not commensurate to the value of his work. That is a shame. This book, however, goes some way to promoting and explaining Wittgenstein's thought, and its importance.

Thank you, Professor Klagge.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book, partly because it has interesting things to say about a number of topics addressed by Wittgenstein, and partly because it approaches Wittgenstein's work in an interesting way. It isn't a biography, but it includes more elements of biography than you might expect. The basic idea is that Wittgenstein was a kind of exile from his time, and that this makes his work difficult for the rest of us to understand. So the book is partly about Wittgenstein's life and times, with particular emphasis on his fears of not being understood, partly about what it means to be an exile, and partly, in fact mostly, about Wittgenstein's philosophical work itself.

Because of the unusual angle of approach (the concept of exile), I doubt this would make a very good first introduction to Wittgenstein's work. But if you have tried and failed to get to grips with his philosophy, or if you want ideas about how to teach his work to others, then I think this could be a very helpful book. It's written very clearly, draws on a wide variety of sources, and is respectful of Wittgenstein without being afraid to take issue with him. It's also a fairly quick read, containing only about 150 pages of text (though with about 60 pages of notes, for those who want more). Since it covers so much material (and such varied material) in such a short space it's not surprising that the book has been accused of being scattered, but its discussions are always thoughtful and sensible, and lucidly presented. If you have struggled either to understand or to explain Wittgenstein's thinking then this could be the book for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd like to like this book more. The idea of understanding a philosopher's work by understanding the philosopher himself is appealing. But here, I just don't think that the theme of Wittgenstein as "exile" helped to deepen my understanding of Wittgenstein's work significantly.

Klagge treats Wittgenstein's status as an "exile" from different angles. Wittgenstein was always physically and psychologically at some distance from his surroundings, both places and people. He spent much of his intellectual career in Cambridge, and interspersed reclusive stays in Norway that seemed to function as personal and philosophical retreats.

On a cultural scale, Klagge brings to bear Spengler's distinction between "culture" and "civilization", with "culture" being (more or less) the true flowering of an era, with vibrant, life-giving institutions. "Civilization" is its aftermath, like the denouement of a culture, going through the motions it has set in place but lacking the vibrant, fertile spirit of the culture. The West is, in Spengler's treatment in The Decline of the West, in this stage of "civilization". Klagge, though, says that Wittgenstein himself was out of step with this Spenglerian progression, a man from the age of Western "culture" tossed into the age of Western "civilization," consistently at odds with the decline around him.

Klagge's theme of exile does seem to fit Wittgenstein. As a person, his behavior seemed socially askew and difficult to understand. His philosophical work is remarkably difficult to understand -- difficult in a way so different from, for example, his contemporary, Heidegger.
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By W on April 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book shows us what does it mean to understand wittgenstein and what understanding means to Wittgenstein. A very interesting treatment of the subject, by using the word "exile" as a guide, it proves to be a useful tool to get into the mind of one of the greatest thinker of all time.
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