De la certitude
Ludwig Wittgenstein
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De la certitude

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,783 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Written over the last 18 months of his life & inspired by his interest in G.E. Moore's defense of common sense, this much discussed volume collects Wittgenstein's reflections on knowledge & certainty, on what it is to know a proposition for sure.
151 pages
Published 1987 by Gallimard (first published 1969)
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Some interesting things that people are certain about:


You have an invisible friend who is the most important being in the world and responsible for everything that happens.


The great strength of science is that all its findings are provisional and subject to revision at any moment if new evidence comes in. This is why you should trust it.


Even 0.1% growth over a few tens of millenia would result in an economy bigger than the known universe. But, although it is impossible...more
David Katzman
I’m not…certain how I feel about this book. What I mean more precisely is…that…it is impossible for me to be certain how I feel about this book. In fact, it’s impossible for me to really be certain of anything whatsoever. According to Mr. Ludvig Vittgen-shhhhhhhtein, that is.

On Certainty was a rather enjoyable read despite the fact that it contained 676 numbered paragraphs of somewhat repetitive analysis. But if one is as fascinated by philosophy as I am, then it’s no bother. Some would say Witt...more
What can we be certain of? The only thing Wittgenstein is certain of is that there's something fishy about philosopher G.E. Moore's assertions "I know that that's a tree" or "I know that here is a hand" or "I know that I have never been far above the earth's surface." Wittgenstein is terribly perturbed by these statements but doesn't know quite why. It has something to do with the fact that the only people who ever make such statements are philosophers; the rest of us "know" such things by simpl...more
i couldn't decide whether this book is for humans or space aliens. i guess it's for both.

wonderful wittgenstein. 90 excruciating pages (676 numbered sections) on whether G. E. Moore was justified in holding up his hand and saying, "I know that here is my hand." the second half is quite creepy to read, as he was dying of cancer while writing it. the dates are on the entries, with the final page written two days before he died.

127 - how do i know that someone else uses the words "I do...more
Erik Graff
Nov 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Wittgenstein fans
Recommended to Erik by: Bill Ellos
Shelves: philosophy
As recalled, this was my favorite volume of the very many produced by the clever fellows who have made careers out of his. Wittgenstein himself published very little, but an enormous body of works attributed to him have been culled from his correspondences, notebooks and students' notes of lectures and conversations.

On Certainty comes as close as Wittgenstein ever does to being a systematic philosopher rather than just playing at being a skeptic, phenomenologist, speculator or analyst of languag...more
Theresa Macphail
I love Wittgenstein for, if nothing else, his pithy writing style. I also find him helpful for thinking through my research data in terms of the relationship between certainty, uncertainty, and the production of knowledge. Worth it, even if you haven't read Philosophical Investigations.
Oct 27, 2007 Jamey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Sully
Shelves: philosophy
Strange, wonderful little book. It has its dull moments, but there are moments of blazing light.

How certain am I, that I have never been to Jupiter?
"It is as certain as any grounds I could give for it."
Mohammad Amin Abbaszadeh
ويتگنشتاين را در قم خواندم. يعني در تمام مدتي كه از ظلمت شب (با اتوبوس) به سمت طلعت سحر در تحرك بودم.
در قم بيشتر در باب يقين ويتگنشتاين غور كردم.
ويتگنشتاين آن چيزي نبود كه تصور مي‌كردم. بعدها سه كتاب از او را خواندم.
در باب يقين او حاصل دو سه سال آخر عمر اوست كه بعدها علي‌الظاهر جمع و نشر شده.
دو وجهه متفاوت از او برداشت كردم.
يك. ويتگنشتاين در خدمت تجدد
دو. ويتگنشتاين در خيانت به تجدد.

دوستانم معتقد به گزينه‌ي دوم هستند. اما من ويتگنشتاين را ادامه مدرنيته و در خدمت جهان متجدد فهميده‌ام. البته فع...more
Michael Starks
Sep 08, 2012 Michael Starks rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Michael by: nobody
On Certainty was not published until 1969, 18 years after Wittgenstein’s death and has only recently begun to draw serious attention. I cannot recall a single reference to it in all of Searle and one see’s whole books on W with barely a mention. There are however xlnt books on it by Stroll, Svensson, McGinn and others and parts of many other books and articles, but hands down the best is that of Daniele Moyal-Sharrock (DMS) whose 2004 volume “Understanding Wittgenstein’s On Certainty” is mandato...more
Olli K
I read Tractatus Logico Philosophicus and On Certainty one after another and I must say that On Certainty is much more enjoyable to read than TLP. At least if you do not have any previous knowledge about philosophy.

I was happy to notice that this book was not so hard to read and gave the reader opportunity to form own opinions. At one point I even noticed that there was a flaw in Wittgenstein's thinking.

If you do not have any or very limited previous knowledge about philosophy and wish to read...more
David Williamson
I know I liked On Certainty, but that would be playing the language game properly, and not making a statement of fact, of this I can be certain but not know, of which I can be wrong but still believe...

This book sometimes feel like its a head on collision between philosophy and the everyday. What we can say and its implications within varied contexts, contexts that can never be nailed down. It's almost like what it would be like if an AI computer had a mental breakdown. Good stuff.
Wittgenstein always fascinates me. He is not easy to read unless you are willing to go into his terrain of mind. He has a different mind from most of us, above, on a meta level of what we call "things in life". This book questions all the things we take for granted in order to live, to the extreme extent of almost being silly. After the questioning, there is not much left to maintain the human life. I wonder how many people can overcome that void.
The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty.

Wittgenstein wanted to show us that "I know such and thus" does not mean it's true nor is it satisfying, but it shows me that "He/She believes such and thus". In other words, we should distinguish knowledge and truths... what we KNOW and what there IS, does knowing something make it objectively true? or is it a matter of subjectivity?
"If I believe that I am sitting in my room when I am not, then I shall not be said to have made a mistake."... Oka...more
This was an excellent read. Wittgenstein's main works are, of course, the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations, but some consider On Certainty to be his third major work. Unfortunately, On Certainty was not formally organized by Wittgenstein. It is more or less a collection of notes, which represent Wittgensteinian thought post-PI.

Some readers take Wittgenstein's stance in these notes to be sceptical. I personally don't sympathize with this view. If anything, Wittgenstein is starkly anti-s...more
Amazing. Wittgenstein goes in circles a bit trying to get across his point (then again, these are his notes/journal), but this ranks among my favorite books of all time.
Wittgensteinas - tai lyg švitrinis popierius racionalumo skalpeliui šveisti.
Jun 18, 2008 Meghan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
More Wittgenstein!
Do we become more or less certain as we get closer to death? In Wittgenstein's case, judging from his notes during his final days, he was open to questioning even the most obvious and trivial facts. The book was published posthumously from notes compiled within his last two years alive in the early 1950s, and did not appear to a broader audience until nearly 20 years after his death.

The text was written mostly, but not exclusively in German. I benefited from having the German and English side-b...more
Really interesting book. A diary of Wittgenstein's thoughts on a couple of Moore's pieces, on which the latter proved the obvious: "This is my hand," "That is a tree." The aphorisms add up to a complex analysis of thought, belief, knowledge, language games, forms of life, learning, doubt, and what is a mistake is. The basic argument is that for Moore his hand really is certainly his hand, yet Moore's knowledge is not really anything more than his firm conviction in his own belief. All knowledge...more
Philip Cartwright
As the title suggests, On Certainty is a sustained meditation on the philosophical problems surrounding concepts such as “certainty”, “knowledge” and “belief”. Unlike Philosophical Investigations, which Wittgenstein spent several years obsessively polishing and refining (though it was never actually finished), On Certainty is first-draft material jotted down over the last eighteen months of his life. As such it is both fascinating and frustrating to read. Fascinating because of the insights it c...more
I don't much care for the format: the book consists simply of 600-700 numbered aphorisms, or in some cases simply statements, of Wittgenstein's. There is no real structure, though certain statements follow from those which preceded them.

That said, the numbered statements are really interesting and sometimes quite odd while quite logical. Also, as a beginning German student, it's wonderful to have short statements like this in a bilingual edition. Many words are used over and over again, and it p...more
As a Philosophy undergrad, Wittgenstein's writing was refreshingly plain-spoken. So much Modern Western philosophy is poorly written, so much philosophy is poorly written. Which is frustrating because the point is to clearly present some idea.

Anyway, Wittgenstein's numbered series of questions and remarks strikes me as a more appropriate way to render philosophical ideas -- more appropriate than the grammatically confusing literature of all those Modern Western giants. W's writing seems less im...more
The ideas in this book were outstanding. I had to give it four stars because they couldn't be presented at their best (to fault no one, esp not Wittgenstein). The book is a posthumous mish-mash of Wittgenstein's notes for his next published work. I don't think this book could be better than it already is, given the circumstances, and it's very interesting to see the cogs and gears of LW's mind, but it's not a polished, cohesive book, unfortunately.

My friend Ana gave me this book as a gift. She i...more
Js Gladstone
This English volume of Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty' provides great insight into some of L.W.'s most complex and provocative notes on knowledge and doubt. Much of the dialog centers around the grounds for which information or knowledge can be certain in two separate contexts: 1. In 'language games'(everyday use of knowledge and certainty); and 2. In metaphysical philosophy (particularly in response G.E. Moore's comments on the subject, i.e "I know that that is a tree"). This book was a great lit...more
Benjamin Guido
Obviously most readers have liked this book. Perhaps I expected too much of what was basically a personal journal of some of Wittgenstein's later thoughts. But I found him to have no truly substantive thesis, to ramble, seemingly contradict himself, and many other thing unsatisfactory to me as reader. He does make good points about language, capacity for doubt, and Moore's common sense beliefs, among others. It was a short read, but I felt it could have been much shorter to say what I understand...more
Isis Themis
Labai daug kartojasi ir mala tą patį. Nuobodok.
"On Certainty" is a book I wonder how people react to. Wittgenstein, in many short, numbered sections of different types - series of questions, short arguments, philosophical puzzles, etc. - writes about "certainty": what does it make sense to be certain of? is certainty a state? are the things we are certain of certain? It is a quick read, and interesting enough. Wittgenstein is a useful philosopher to know (for an example, see Chantal Mouffe, "The Democratic Paradox.").
Sean Howard
Feb 06, 2008 Sean Howard rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone interested in the concepts of "being" and "knowing"
What a rare opportunity to peer over the shoulder of one of the great thinkers of our past.

The format is indeed unusual. It's a series of thoughts numbered, as if pulled from a private journal (which it was.)

The book was never finished. The most annoying part is that the edition I read had not done a great job at capturing the author's annotations. There are a number of places where he references other statements, but these are lost.
Collected notes from Wittgenstein published posthumously. He struggles to reconcile Moore's smart-ass "here is a hand" response to skepticism with the challenges strong skepticism poses, and fit it into his own language-game model. He approaches several solutions, finds them unsatisfactory and re-starts. His overall approach is to look at what we mean when we say "I know" rather than to prescribe a universal level of proper skepticism.
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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...more
More about Ludwig Wittgenstein...
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Philosophical Investigations The Blue and Brown Books Culture and Value Remarks on Colour

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“I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again 'I know that that’s a tree', pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: 'This fellow isn’t insane. We are only doing philosophy.” 98 likes
“I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.” 50 likes
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