Friday, January 8, 2010

Wittgenstein revisited

Ray Monk, who is a professor of philosophy at the University of Southampton in England, published How To Read Wittgenstein back in 2005. I remember wanting to read it at the time because introductory books on W's thought are fairly rare and difficult to write because his thought is quite complex. I am hoping that Monk's is good as I just purchased it. Of course, Monk wrote what is the standard biography of Wittgenstein, a brilliant book in its own right: Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius.

I remember The Duty of Genius because I received it as a gift from my lovely wife the very first Christmas we were married. As student newlyweds we had no money and decided that we would buy each other presents costing no more than $20.00. When she asked me what I wanted it was an easy call. I read the book over Christmas break along with some essays by Alvin Plantinga. For anyone who wishes to immerse her/himself in Wittgenstein, I would recommend The Duty of Genius.

As I am just perusing How To Read Wittgenstein I can write that if the back cover is any indication, it will prove to be a worthwhile introduction to thought of my dear W:
"Though Wittgenstein wrote on the same subjects that dominate the work of other analytic philosophers - the nature of logic, the limits of language, the analysis of meaning - he did so in a peculiarly poetic style that separates his work sharply from that of his peers and makes the question of how to read him particularly pertinent.

"At the root of Wittgenstein's thought, Ray Monk argues, is a determination to resist the scientism characteristic of our age, a determination to insist on the integrity and the autonomy of nonscientific forms of understanding. The kind of understanding we seek in philosophy, Wittgenstein tried to make clear, is similar to the kind we might seek of a person, a piece of music, or, indeed, of a poem."

Another great book on W's thought, especially as it bears on theology, is Fergus Kerr's Theology After Wittgenstein. In 2010 I am once again seeking the consolation of philosophy, which, as W pointed out, is therapeutic in its own right.

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