I recently read Ray Monk's excellent biography of Wittgenstein, and would like to read something by the Austrian philosopher himself. It seems that you need to know a fair amount of logic to start with. I've taken college philosophy classes before (including logic), but they seem too easy and are not much of help here. So what are some texts you would recommend to study before reading Wittgenstein? Thanks!

Edit: I'm not confining the scope to logic books only. I thought that was the part I didn't understand, but it could very possibly be wrong. Also, if possible, could you recommend books that do not directly concern Wittgenstein but will be helpful?


2 Answers 2


Wittgenstein's lifetime concern was how language relates to the world. He offered two ways to answer the question: the early Tractatus way, and the later Philosophical Investigation way.

In the Tractatus era, Wittgenstein, still influenced by Vienna Circle and logical positivism, regarded the world as being composed of atomic facts. He thought that there was a one-to-one correspondence between a proposition and a fact.

In the Philosophical Investigation era, Wittgenstein gave up on the Tractatus approach, and proclaimed that linguistic meaning obtains, neither through references nor through mental images, but through the use of language itself. Insofar as members of a linguistic community understand how to use a given word properly, according to him, they can be said to understand the meaning of the word.

If you want to know about the Important Wittgenstein, you should just read the Investigation. The work influenced many other academic fields (poli sci, sociology, e.g.).

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    quibble: he didn't just give up on Tractatus, he unequivocally rejected it, i believe. It's only of historical interest today.
    – user20153
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 19:48
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    I think you are right. But Wittgenstein's ladder makes me hesitate to affirm your claim with enthusiasm. Commented May 10, 2017 at 20:00
  • hmmm. i'm inclined to think the ladder is a Tractatus ladder, which does not lead to PI. Not so sure there is a ladder for PI, only a hermeneutcal circle. you can throw away the ladder for Tractatus, PI is a different matter.
    – user20153
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 20:08
  • i wonder what LW would say.
    – user20153
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 20:10
  • One thing backwards here: I think it's Kraft who describes a VC member, maybe Schlick, finding Tractatus in the library, and bringing it to their reading group at the very beginning. It inspired the development of LP, not the other way around. (Hi Nanhee! I was at mn w/ you) Commented May 18, 2017 at 16:26

Oxford University Press. Wittgenstein A Very Short Introduction by Grayling A C Available on ebay for about £5

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