Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) is considered by most philosophers - even those who do not share his views - to be the most influential philosopher of the 20thcentury. His contributions to the philosophy of language, mind, meaning and psychology - as well as to logic, mathematics and epistemology - permanently altered the philosophical landscape, and his Tractatus Logico Philosophicusand Philosophical Investigationscontinue to be studied in philosophy departments around in the world. In this superb introduction and overview of Wittgenstein's life and work, William Child discusses:

  • Wittgenstein's early work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, including his account of language and thought
  • Wittgenstein's subsequent rejection of some of the central doctrines of the Tractatus
  • Wittgenstein's later philosophy
  • intentionality and rule-following
  • philosophy of mind and psychology in Philosophical Investigations
  • knowledge and certainty, and Wittgenstein's final work
  • philosophy of religion
  • the legacy and influence of Wittgenstein's ideas in philosophy, and beyond.

Including a chronology, glossary, and helpful conclusions to each chapter, Wittgenstein is essential reading for anyone coming to Wittgenstein's philosophy for the first time.


Ludwig Wittgenstein was born in Vienna in 1889, and died in Cambridge in 1951. His Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a 70-page classic of twentieth-century philosophy, was completed in 1918, when Wittgenstein was 29. He then abandoned philosophy for 10 years, working first as a primary school teacher in rural Austria, and then as an architect, building a house for his sister in Vienna. Soon after his return to philosophy in 1929 he published a short conference paper; but he disliked the paper and spoke on a different subject at the conference for which it was intended. He published nothing more in his lifetime. But from 1929 until his death in 1951 he worked almost continuously on philosophy, writing thousands of pages in manuscript and typescript and, for much of this time, teaching in Cambridge, where he was a Lecturer and later Professor of Philosophy. He made a number of attempts to produce a book that properly expressed the thoughts he had developed since writing the Tractatus. But he was dissatisfied with each attempt, and never published these thoughts himself, leaving it to his literary executors to bring his work to publication after he died.

Wittgenstein’s second major work, Philosophical Investigations, was published posthumously in 1953. The standard editions of this work contain two parts. In the first three editions (published in 1953, 1958, and 2001) these are labelled Philosophical Investigations Part I and Part II. The 4th edition (published in 2009) calls them, respectively, Philosophical Investigations and Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment. I shall use the terminology of the 4th edition. The published text of Philosophical Investigations is the last of a series of versions of his projected book that Wittgenstein produced in the period from 1937 to 1946. Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment is a selection by Wittgenstein from the work he did in the three years to 1949.

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