Ludwig Wittgenstein was a remarkable man in many ways. Born into an immensely wealthy Viennese family with strong cultural connections, he gave away most of his inheritance, and switched from studying aeronautical engineering to philosophy, initially with Bertrand Russell as his tutor at Cambridge. He fought with the Austrian army in the First World War, during which he wrote parts of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a book which was taken up almost as a Bible by the Vienna Circle. Then, thinking he’d solved all the major philosophical problems, he built a modernist house for his sister and trained as a school teacher. He later returned to Cambridge as a lecturer and something of a cult figure, attracting disciples, many of whom adopted his mannerisms. His posthumous Philosophical Investigations is still celebrated as one of the major works of 20th-century philosophy, though readers still dispute exactly what various passages in it mean.
If you’re looking for a biography of Wittgenstein, Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius is a superb and very readable biography that provides insights into the man and his intellectual milieu. It’s one of the best philosophical biographies around and we highly recommend it.
Books by Ludwig Wittgenstein
Interviews where books by Ludwig Wittgenstein were recommended
Even if you’ve never studied philosophy, it’s nice to be able to read a few books and get a sense of what it’s all about. Here, we asked our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, to talk us through five key works of Western philosophy—many of them in the public domain and available for free as ebooks—and explain why, despite one or two odd conclusions or quirky writing styles, they’ve played such an important role in expanding our understanding of the world.
Logic is an excellent form of mind-training because it involves a very particular way of thinking and focus on truth. But how does it work and what are its limitations? Tom Stoneham, a professor of philosophy at the University of York, picks some great books for anyone who wants to learn more about logic.
Our political and economic systems are inadequate and failing. But what can we do? The author of a new book on the subject tells us what inspired his involvement in the Occupy movement and how a leaderless revolution could work