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The Blue and Brown Books

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,509 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
These works, as the subtitle makes clear, are unfinished sketches for Philosophical Investigations, among the most important & influential philosophical work of modern times. The 'Blue Book' is a set of notes dictated to Witgenstein's Cambridge students in 1933-34. The 'Brown Book' was a draft for what eventually became the growth of the first part of Philosophical Inv ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 1st 1965 by Harper & Row (NYC et al.) (first published 1921)
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Phillip Ross
May 12, 2009 Phillip Ross rated it did not like it
Reading Wittgenstein put an end to my interest in philosophy. If philosophy is about the kinds of language games that Wittgenstein played, it wasn't worth my time.
Alex Lee
Apr 14, 2016 Alex Lee rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, rhetoric, 2016
These two books are difficult to read because Wittgenstein is unsystematic in his exploration. He is reaching towards a kind of functionalism -- but he lacks the conception or the language to cogently describe the structures he reaches towards.

For example, he introduces different cuts expecting that meaning should be somehow stabilized along the specific expressions. But then he demonstrates that meaning has no ontological necessity; in fact he highlights different modalities in which the sense
Jul 11, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
I suppose I should have read this before Philosophical Investigations, but this is still a worthy text on its own, and helps clarify some of the finer points of his intricate and complex ideas.

Covers language and philosophy of mind well. Need to reread P.I. soon.
Chad S.
Jul 01, 2014 Chad S. rated it liked it
First off, let me say, I would not recommend this book to those who are just entering the world of philosophy. If you're just getting into philosophy, this is not the book for you. With that said, I believe that anyone who has a serious interest in the discipline can benefit from reading this book. The Brown and Blue Books represent Wittgenstein's latter work, and acts as a good introduction to his Philosophical Investigations. If you're looking for the thoughts of the early Wittgenstein, please ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Peter added it
These companion studies help with reading his more 'organized' Logical Investigations because they situate the reader with respect to the project. What I have to say about these studies is not terribly important and maybe even inappropriate. After all who reads the mood of a philosopher? But every effort at 'essential definition' seemed to bother LW a great deal. Such definitions were the sort of thing after which Socrates was always asking. But I cannot understand what it means when I am asked ...more
William West
These studies and the work they gave rise to, Philosophical Investigations, are commonly understood as a refutation of the author's previous major work, Tractatus Logic-Philosophic us. I didn't read the Blue and Brown Books as a refutation, as much as a correction, of the system of thought at work in the Tractatus.

That earlier work, as I read it, contained some troublingly bizarre implications and assumptions. It at times seemed to me that Wittgenstein was implying that linguistic information,
Erik Graff
Nov 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wittgenstein scholars
Recommended to Erik by: Bill Ellos
Shelves: philosophy
Unlike most graduate students I maintained a four year teaching assistantship inclusive of summers, most of it with one fellow, Bill Ellos. Although I occasionally worked for others in the philosophy and linguistics departments, these were usually part-time, supplements to my association with Bill. Heck, I may have worked for or with him even during months when not formally assigned. I certainly worked far more hours for and with him than were mandated--not that I knew anything of any time limit ...more
May 10, 2015 Taka rated it really liked it
A fun & illuminating romp through logic, language, & philosophy—

It’s true, this is no easy read—some passages are awkwardly phrased and unnecessarily obscure, the flow from one topic to another is not always as smooth as you’d like it to be, and you wonder what Wittgenstein is trying to do with all those language games, what his overarching point is. But you sense him groping in the dark, trying to get at something important, and there are to be sure flashes of insight that will amaze yo
Jan 08, 2015 Cameron rated it liked it
Some intriguing ideas here about meaning & signs in language and thought, particularly the Blue book, though I wanted to like these books more than I did. Wittgenstein's thesis appears to be that language is a merely set of signs interwoven with our activity in the world, the meanings of which can only be defined by their use within the context and various associations of a language. Then he beats the premise to death with dozens of language games to explore the problems with language as a s ...more
Dec 05, 2011 §-- rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy
"I am, therefore, of the opinion that the
problems have in essentials been finally solved. And if I am not mistaken
in this, then the value of this work secondly consists in the fact that it
shows how little has been done when these problems have been solved." -- From the Tractatus

You're free to simply copout and say that my inability to understand the significance of this text is a result of my own deficiencies, but I stand by my skepticism: Wittgenstein's theses are, as in the Tractatus, more mod
Rowland Bismark
Jun 08, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it liked it
The Blue Book opens with the question, "what is the meaning of a word?" When asking such general questions, we often define words by thinking of of solid, material objects, like pencils, chairs, and tables. These words can be defined ostensively, by pointing to the object they denote. We might then be tempted to think that the meaning of these words is the mental act of interpretation that connects the word with the thing it denotes. Wittgenstein asserts that, contrary to conventional wisdom, th ...more
Nick Black
May 27, 2013 Nick Black rated it really liked it
Precursors to the more refined works published as the Philosophical Investigations, these Cambridge lectures (for a counterpoint, see his Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics) reveal Wittgenstein's constant struggle to formulate the body of thought known as "Wittgenstein II" (ie, all that which followed the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus). Fascinating reading for anyone who enjoyed the PI, although neither here nor in that later tome can the WII program be said to be "complete".
João Cruz
Dec 05, 2015 João Cruz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lidos-em-2015
"O que é o sentido de uma palavra?" e assim começa este livro... Nada fácil. Tendo Wittgenstein começado como matemático "fanático" da lógica totalmente demonstrável, é curioso acompanhar a sua evolução para algo tão subjectivamente distinto, ou seja, Wittgenstein divaga muito sobre a linguagem, mas em simultåneo realça o facto de que a abordagem de um problema (matemático, físico, ou outro) tem obrigatoriamente de ser feita utilizando palavras muito bem escolhidas. Por vezes, palavras que parec ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Ashley rated it really liked it
And I always thought Wittgenstein was just a stuck-up rich kid.

This book changed my definition of what a philosopher's aim OUGHT to do be. Yes. I said it. OUGHT.

This is largely known as a revision or re-directing of his Tractatus, and it's interesting in a number of ways:

1) A glimpse of how one can (tends to?) modify one's philosophy throughout life - essentially changing it, but not abandoning the general framework.

2) Blue book is basically a less-complex transcript of a lecture series - Brown
Michael Alexander
May 14, 2007 Michael Alexander rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: philosophy types,
Works with interesting concepts, and demolishes some very silly thinking about philosophy of language that people bring intuitively to the subject. On the other hand, he's a bit more than supportably behaviorist, and with annoying frequency he confuses something he can't find out with something Unknowable By Definition, ignoring that science has indeed taken what were once philosophical problems and turned them into experimentally answerable questions--cog sci, quantum physics and relativity bei ...more
Jul 18, 2007 Joseph rated it really liked it
Some of the best descriptions of words ever.

"Many words in this sense then don't have a strict meaning. But this is not a defect. To think it is would be like saying that the light of my reading lamp is no real light at all because it has no sharp boundary."

He wrote the same thing in another elegant way in Philosophical Grammar. There he compares the usefullness of words to the warmth you feel from a stove. Maybe no real sharp boundary, but still really useful! The difference between the relatio
Aug 03, 2009 ezra added it
Finished the Blue Book July 10th. It kind of blew a lot of other philosophy out of the water. I'm obsessed with words and exact meanings, though, and so is he. He just clarifies really well what we're really asking or feeling when we're philosophically puzzled.

I am not quite smart enough to understand a lot of this. But I think it's largely true.

edit 8/4/09: Decided to skip the Brown Book. You can only take so much of this stuff I suppose. Still, I just procured a copy of the Investigations; mig
Mar 11, 2014 Peter rated it liked it
Feb 28, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frederick Jackson
Jul 27, 2011 Frederick Jackson rated it really liked it
I must be honest and say I did not finish this tome. But I believe that any serious student of philosophy should start with this book as it deals with the core issues of the language we must use in any philosophical discourse and how easily we can be led astray by our choice of words. At least this is how I saw it some 40 years ago.
Dec 11, 2013 Earl rated it it was amazing
I won't pretend to understand everything about Wittgenstein (add to that the fact that this is my bedside read, meaning that I might have failed to grasp a lot especially in the moments that I fall asleep), but I guess this is a good start for one who wants to understand the transition from early to late Wittgenstein.
Mar 12, 2012 Barce rated it it was amazing
This book is a gold mine of philosophical ideas and questions on language. The first part tackles the question, "If life has a meaning, what would it look like?"

I first read this in college but wasn't impressed by it until I really got into photography.
Lainie Fefferman
Jul 04, 2007 Lainie Fefferman rated it it was amazing
this was an excellent rec from alex temple. never finished it, but what i read i completely loved. makes you think about thinking in an amazingly precise way. felt like a mathematician's thoughts (high praise from me).
Sep 02, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
after reading the final word of this book, I closed the cover, sat the book on the table next to me, and wrote the first poem of what would become "Dwelling". Inspiring to a language weirdo like me.
Dec 01, 2007 Brandon rated it really liked it
I finished the blue book, which is too complex to get in to here. The brown book is basically an early version of his Philosophical Investigations, so it's more worthwhile to read those.
Mar 16, 2007 Zedder rated it it was amazing
I think this is probably Wittgenstein's best work. Clear and (kind of) to the point. Less BS than his other works.
Jun 20, 2012 and rated it it was amazing
i'm finding it difficult to pick up another philosophy book after reading this. absolutely iconoclastic.
Platte Clark
Jul 12, 2012 Platte Clark rated it it was amazing
Meaning as use is one of the most profound and useful philosophical concepts I've encountered.
Only read the blue book for now.
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  • Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition
  • Sense and Sensibilia: Reconstructed from the Manuscript Notes by C.J. Warnock
  • From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays
  • The Claim of Reason
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius
  • Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir
  • The Concept of Mind
  • Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary
  • Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous
  • The Frege Reader
  • The Complete Works: The Revised Oxford Translation, Vol. 2
  • What Is Called Thinking?
  • Mind and World: With a New Introduction by the Author
  • The View from Nowhere
  • The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein
  • Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
  • Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

Described by Bertrand Russell as "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense, and dominating", he helped inspire t
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“For remember that in general we don't use language according to strict rules-- it hasn't been taught to us by means of strict rules, either. We, in our discussions on the other hand, constantly compare language with a calculus preceding to exact rules.” 1 likes
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