45 of 60 people found the following review helpful
If a lion could speak...
, July 22, 2004
This review is from: Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?