Philosophy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in logical reasoning. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Are there any philosophers who might be considered affiliated or belonging to the same turn or school, or perhaps hold the same kind of views, as Wittgenstein?

share|improve this question
Can you be a bit more specific about the challenges you encountered trying to read Wittgenstein? – Joseph Weissman Feb 6 '12 at 13:41
I share your difficulty in understanding Wittgenstein's writings, and if assume correctly, your unfavorable opinion of his style. There are a number of very short intro's to W, that are much more explicit. Kripke comments on W in a favorable style, but that's another level deeper. – Mitch Feb 6 '12 at 17:50
I don't mean for this to expand into a discussion about why I find Wittgenstein's writing murky by design, but compare for example the introduction of the Tractatus by Russel and the main text of the Tractatus. Just compare the amount of different interpretations of what Wittgenstein says in his philosophy and the number of interpretations what Russel says in his philosophy (are there even debates about what Russel actually thought?). – Speldosa Feb 6 '12 at 21:32
I think the question is way too broad to be useful (even after the edit). If you were to focus on a specific topic from Tractatus and/or PI and ask something like, "I want to read more about X, which I know Wittgenstein covers. But I find his writing style too hard going. Does any other philosopher cover X in a more readable way?" As it is, the "question" sounds more like a rant about Wittgenstein's writing-style than a real query about any particular philosophical topic. – Jon Ericson Feb 7 '12 at 23:12
@Chuck that is an interesting point. Now regardless of the thinker I would still have an issue with the idea that there is an "alternative" to a philosopher, that could give you the same material "more simply" -- besides secondary literature on the thinker in question... I would definitely reconsider my close-vote here given a more reasonably-scoped, less open-ended formulation. Now, asking after other thinkers holding "similar" views or "affiliated" with a given turn or school -- this would be completlely satisfactory to me. – Joseph Weissman Feb 8 '12 at 22:22

Even though his style is rather simple and direct, Wittgenstein is not someone whose writing you can just pick up and 'dive into.' I'd recommend familiarizing yourself with a lot of context before even beginning to read - not only as far as the content is concerned but also as far as the dialectical form. The Investigations for instance make little sense unless you take care to separate the three interlocutors in the text - separated by single, double or no quotation marks. Similarly, you need to be aware of the separate, stand-alone arguments that litter the Tractatus - that is the only way to give the text structure (the numbering of the propositions creates the illusion of a single strain of thought, pursued to completion, but that's not at all how one should read the Tractatus (if, that is, one wants to avoid frustration).) So, in summary, read a lot of exegeses and/or introductory essays (e.g. Anscombe or Potter for the Tractatus, the Routledge volume for the Investigations etc.) before engaging with the texts, make sure you are familiar with the structure and, finally, a lot of historical context won't do any harm, although that is advice true of any text, philosophical or otherwise.

Now on the other hand, to answer your actual question, are there any other philosophers who write more clearly on the issues Wittgenstein himself was concerned with? I don't know - clarity is certainly a matter of taste. I for one think Wittgenstein is by far the clearest philosopher I have ever read and find a lot of the analytic philosophers that succeeded him and who wrote in the name of 'clarity and rigour' much harder to penetrate. I will suppose that you are interested in (what is now labelled) the philosophy of language. The problem is no-one has written like Wittgenstein or about the things Wittgenstein wrote about in much the same way - and I am guessing you are not after scholarly appraisals or purely exegetical works. The only contemporary philosopher I would recommend in that vein is Richard Rorty - he is a great writer and very lucid and, in my opinion, holds ideas that Wittgenstein would surely have sympathized with.

share|improve this answer
"The Investigations for instance make little sense unless you take care to separate the three interlocutors in the text - separated by single, double or no quotation marks." - Does Wittgenstein mention anywhere that he uses this form? Otherwise, I would say that he's making it more confusing than it has to be. This is a great example of where he is unclear. i'll check out Richard Rorty though. Thanks! – Speldosa Feb 6 '12 at 21:34
@Speldosa Well he doesn't mention it explicitly anywhere but you can tell that the text is written in a discursive style. Look, I think you are confusing lack of clarity with lack of context. Witt himself is certainly culpable for not giving enough context to his writing, e.g. giving a long introduction where he describes his methods and purpose. But it's not that this context does not exist. It certainly does. A little historical background on both the text itself and Wittgenstein's views will give you the context to understand what and how the Investigations are supposed to be read (cont.) – Chuck Feb 7 '12 at 5:38
And once you have that context I'm sure you'll find that he is very clear (and incredibly lucid.) The text is very approachable if you know that you are not supposed to read a doctrine into it or a single unified strand of thought (i.e. an uber-argument.) The Investigations are a collection of elucidations. The movements in it should be seen as Witt's attempt to cure people of the philosophical impulse (i.e. the impulse to philosophize) and NOT of trying to solve philosophical problems.He does so by deconstructing many paradigmatic philosoph situations. PI128: There are no theses in philosophy – Chuck Feb 7 '12 at 5:42

As far as contemporaries of Wittgenstein, who are usually thought to be in the ordinary-language school, I'd suggest Ryle, Strawson, and Hare. Austin and Searle began to move away from "meaning as use" philosophy, but are considered to be affiliated with Witt (but I do remember reading that Austin called Wittgenstein, "a charlatan").

Although Grice, Quine, Davidson, and Kirpke are not of the same school as W., they are often regarded as the offspring of the Ordinary Language School--though, perhaps, antagonistic offspring.

As Chuck mentioned above, Richard Rorty would also perhaps be considered of the same "turn" as Witt. Kuhn is also a Wittgensteinian of sorts (and Rorty claimed that Kuhn was one of the great heroes of his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature). And, with Kuhn, you might want to look at Feyerabend (who was also greatly influenced by Witt).

share|improve this answer

Off the top of my head, I don't know of any philosophers who write with more clarity than Wittgenstein. The Philosophical Investigations are a serious of thought experiments which, unlike most philosophical texts, do not rely on extensive knowledge of previous philosophers.

Is there something particular you are having trouble understanding? I have yet to find a section of the PI that did not yield to a slow, patient reading. And I think that Wittgenstein's style in the PI is directly tied to the content; he is attempting to say obliquely that which cannot be said any other way.

Perhaps you could post a specific question about some passage that is confusing you?

As for the Tractatus, it is much more compressed; however, there is a large secondary literature explicating the arguments and filling in the gaps.

share|improve this answer
I would consider 'oblique' (what you said) and 'obscurantist' (from the wikipedia article on obscurantism to be somewhat the same as 'not clear'. Yes, W uses non-technical language, but that's quite different from 'clear'. Can you elaborate on how you think W is more clear than say Russell or ..(I'm trying to think of someone relevant) Kripke? – Mitch Feb 10 '12 at 14:03
I suppose it is a matter of personal judgment, but I find Wittgenstein's thought experiments very easy to follow and engage with. I do not think they are intentionally obscure; rather, they are necessarily oblique, as they are an attempt to not pass over in silence that which we cannot say-- they must approach their subject indirectly, and point to things that cannot be explicitly formulated. As for Russell: he can be quite clear in his more popular works; on the other hand, I spent a couple years struggling with the Principia Mathematica and only managed a hundred pages or so. – Michael Dorfman Feb 10 '12 at 14:48

In french there is an excellent book by Pierre Hadot (first to introduce Wittgenstein in France) about the tractacus it's called "Wittgenstein et les limites du langage". It explores what is called "mystic" by wittgenstein. I don't know if the book has been translated.

share|improve this answer
It has not yet been translated into English, sadly. Hadot is gradually being translated more often, though; I hope that this one will arrive before too long. – Michael Dorfman Feb 7 '12 at 9:18
Thanks, but I don't know french and I don't want to read secondary litterature about Wittgenstein :) – Speldosa Feb 7 '12 at 9:20
@Speldosa I think Pierre Hadot had this humility that is the subject of many philosophy but that is shared by few philosopher. A lot of its litterature might look like secondary litterature (comments of others) if you look at the titles but it more than that. I would even say he had a fundamental influence on other important french philosopher (Foucault is a noticable exemple). He was not running after something "new" (i.e. determined by what exists) but after something truly deep inside his soul and that of humanity. – robin girard Feb 7 '12 at 9:56

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.