What were some of Wittgenstein’s central concerns in your reading of him?


The following is a quick list of major ideas Wittgenstein concerns himself with in The Blue and Brown Books.  At some point, I’d like to write up a sort of lexicon or dictionary of Wittgenstein’s favorite terms, so this could have some use later on and I’d love some feedback from you readers as well.

  • 1. The notion of recognizing something as something else—how or why do things make themselves present to our minds in this rather than that way?  Why do I recognize what I point to as a game of chess, despite the fact that two pawns are missing?
  • 2. Language as a grammatical system and language as something else entirely
  • 3. The meaning of “to mean”
  • 4. Explanation vs. Description
  • 5. Ostensive vs. Verbal definition (pointing/asserting an example of x vs. coming to know how it is that x is an example of y)
  • 6. grammatical distinctions as a ploy for common use of a term
  • 7.  Distinct senses of locality-mind vs physical locality, pain
  • 8. to know a pain
  • 9. sense vs. ‘not knowing how to go on’—in some instances, Wittgenstein seems to portray the sense of a term as the way in which we explain it—it is here that we feel “at home”–that is, the term no longer produces in us a sort of tension.

So, if you would like to respond, ask yourself “what are the major themes and/or ideas being dealt with here?”  Please limit the scope of that question to your primary reading: Wittgenstein is notoriously difficult to interpret, but its important to develop your own geography when it comes to locating and giving context to his sometimes simple but fleeing accusations.  I say simple because in terms of syntax and semantics, Wittgenstein is not at all that hard (he’s no Kant, if you get my drift), but what exactly he means, or if he means anything at all, is a more complicated issue.

Lastly, please excuse my recent deficit in activity.  I’ve been swamped with trying to get myself going for graduate school, and moving cities, and figure out money, that Wittgenstein’s philosophy just wasn’t immediate enough a concern. This blog is a concern for me though, and I’ll do my best to post at least once a week, and respond promptly to your comments.

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One thought on “What were some of Wittgenstein’s central concerns in your reading of him?

  1. Hi, I like your blog, I’m a fanatical student of Wittgenstein’s thought.

    I just want to point out a wonderful book by Hans-Johann Glock: A Wittgenstein Dictionary. At least if you haven’t heard of it yet. I actually think it tackles all of the 9 points you mention, and more of course.

    I heartily recommend it.

    For I remember a time when I thought exactly the same as you do, i.e. when you say “I’d like to write up a sort of lexicon or dictionary of Wittgenstein’s favorite terms”. But then I stumbled upon this book. Somebody already did it. But of course, as you say, it would be helpful to write some such lexicon on one’s own, personally.

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