The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy - Vol. 1

The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy - Vol. 1

The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy - Vol. 1

The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy - Vol. 1


This is the second volume of David Pears's acclaimed study of Wittgenstein's philosophy from the Notebooks and the Tractatus to Philosophical Investigations and other later writings. Dealing with writings from 1929 onward, Volume II provides close discussions of those doctrines and ideas thatreveal the general overall structure of Wittgenstein's thought. Designed to fill the gap in the secondary literature between brief introductions and long commentaries, The False Prison relates the general to the particular within a clearly delineated framework, making Wittgenstein's difficultthought more accessible to philosophy students and nonspecialists.


This is the first of two volumes of a continuous study of the development of Wittgenstein's philosophy. The treatment is selective, but his investigation of the foundations of mathematics is the only topic that is left untouched. Part I starts with a brief sketch of the development of his ideas from the beginning to the end. Part II , which deals with his early system, fills the rest of Volume I. Part III, which covers his later philosophy, will appear in Volume II.

The main reason for dividing the book into two volumes was that many people study Philosophical Investigations without first reading the Tractatus, and those who do read the Tractatus do not always show the same interest in his later work. These tendencies are often reinforced by university courses on his philosophy. So the market seemed to demand a division.

However, it would have been unnatural to present his early system in complete isolation from what was to come later, and so without the benefit of any hindsight. For one thing, the comments, favourable and unfavourable, which he started to make in 1929 on his own earlier work could hardly be left for later consideration. Also, many of his earlier ideas reappear in the second phase of his philosophy nearly always transformed, but often easier to appreciate in their new form. So the line between Parts I and II does not divide the completion of the Tractatus from everything that came after it.

I first read the Tractatus when I was an undergraduate. I did not understand it and after my final examination it was one of the books that drew me into further work in philosophy. Like many other people, I was fascinated by its austerity and by its intimations of a perfect structure behind the disorder of the world.

Part II is based on work done for lectures at Oxford University and for a course given at the University of California, Los Angeles. I hope that it will convey some of my original feeling for the Tractatus, but with more understanding. I have learned much from some of the many articles and books published by others in the last forty years and from discussions with my pupils.

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