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The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein

ISBN 0521465915 / 9780521465915 / 0-521-46591-5

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Book summary

Visiting his student Ludwig Wittgenstein one night only to find him in the throes of despair, Bertrand Russell facetiously asked whether it was logic or his sins that was troubling him. "Both," Wittgenstein gravely replied. Is it any wonder that Wittgenstein the man, as well as his elusive but profound philosophical work, continue to fascinate? "Any attempt at a definitive exposition of his ideas would be doomed to failure," according to editor Hans Sluga; therefore, the Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein is intended mainly "to alert readers to some of the most important and most interesting issues raised in Wittgenstein's philosophical writings." For the most part, the 14 essays succeed.

With the exception of Thomas Ricketts's discussion of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the focus of the essays is on Wittgenstein's later work, particularly the Philosophical Investigations. His conception of philosophy is approached from various angles by Robert J. Fogelin, Newton Garver, and Stanley Cavell. The format of Cavell's essay--which consists of his lecture notes from the 1960s and 1970s interspersed with afterthoughts from the 1990s--is somewhat irritating, but the depth of his insight makes up for it. Other essays deal with Wittgenstein's ideas about the philosophy of mathematics, ethics, necessity and normativity, the self, and epistemology. Especially worthy of attention is Donna M. Summerfield's "Fitting and Tracking: Wittgenstein on Representation." In explaining the development of Wittgenstein's thought about representation, Summerfield also manages to sketch the philosophical problem of representation in careful and perspicacious detail. All in all, The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein is recommended to anyone grappling with its enigmatic subject. --Glenn Branch [via]