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Introduction                                                               


Although I like "analytical philosophy" I do not share the fondness many "analytical philosophers" have for Wittgenstein.

But I do have a considerable sympathy for Wittgenstein's Tractatus, even though I think it is a fundamentally obscure and pretentious book, that purported to give a semantics for natural language and mathematics - which indeed is difficult - but did not really do so, but hid its failures behind an artistic presentation in terms of numbered theses and obscure mystical claims.

Since I was first exposed to the Tractatus when I was 17, I did think and write a considerable amount about it, but my own conclusion at the time is the same as it is now: Bertrand Russell was a clearer mind, a better writer, and a greater philosopher, and his "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy" is a better book than is the Tractatus, basically because it is concerned with the same themes, but doesn't flimflam the reader with supposed mysticism and obscurely numbered theses without explanations.

Even so, the Tractatus gives enough grounds to comment on it, and I do so in the files in this section, and not all my comments will be negative.

What I don't have any sympathy for is Wittgenstein's later linguistic philosophy, and I think Broad's, Russell's and Gellner's reactions to it are quite sensible, and that Gellner's refutation of it, in "Words and Things" (published with a foreword by Russell), is well worth reading for those who believe they need Wittgensteinian instructions "to be shown the way out of the metaphysical fly-bottle". ("Words and Things" was published by Penguin around 1970.)

So on this site I will not consider Wittgenstein's later philosophy, except by referring the reader to Gellner mentioned above, and to J.N. Findlay's "Wittgenstein : A Critique", which indeed is a good criticism by a one-time pupil of Wittgenstein.

Incidentally, for English-speaking philosophers who know German and who are impressed by the later Wittgenstein it might make sense to inquire into Lichtenberg and Mauthner, who had the sort of ideas about language which made Wittgenstein well-known in the 1950-ies and 1960-ies, but whose ideas were both earlier and less obscure and pretentious. (Especially Lichtenberg is a joy to read.)