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How to Read Wittgenstein

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Approaching the writing of major intellectuals, artists, and philosophers need no longer be daunting. How to Read is a new sort of introduction--a personal master class in reading--that brings you face to face with the work of some of the most influential and challenging writers in history. In lucid, accessible language, these books explain essential topics such as ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton Company (first published February 7th 2005)
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Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
About this I shall remain silent.
Feb 21, 2019 added it
Need to reread
J.F. Lawrence
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
1. The world is everything that is the case.
7. What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence.

Ray Monk's clearly written book explains how you get from the first proposition of Ludo W's Tractatus via logical steps to the seventh and final proposition. He discusses the mystical aspects of this baffling work and how it might apply to ethics. Anybody who, like me, has struggled with the Tractatus to see in it anything more than a massively overcomplicated set of tautologies whose message (if
Ege Özmeral
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think that the best introduction (or refresher) to the philosopher is the Short Introduction by Grayling, which I highly recommend:

Monk's book is the best short interpretation for non-specialists. But it is an opinionated interpretation. And it happens to be one that I love!! Very interesting that Monk is not seeing latter Wittgenstein as a refutation of early Wittgenstein but rather as a necessary refinement of what he was trying to do in the first
Eoin Conroy
I'm clearly not a Wittgenstein expert, if it was necessary for me to read this book, so I am no position to judge whether this is a worthwhile introduction to his body of thought. What I have identified in this book (from my position of ignorance), is a self-defeating modus operandi, as Ray Monk attempts to provide a basic introduction, while simultaneously attempting to provide an original argument. It is almost impossible to introduce any philosopher's work without attempting to untangle ...more
Vince Ciaramella
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wittgenstein is one of my favorite thinkers. In fact, I feel he is underrated. It might be because the Tractatus looks like Ikea furniture instructions. The first time I tried to read it I had no clue what was going on. Well, it took some researching and reading about the author first to get me through the Tractatus. Ray Monk's book would have been a BIG help if I would have read it first.

Before you go and try to fathom Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, read this first. It will give you an idea of
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
If this book is indicative of others in the series I look forward to reading them. Monk, whose biography of W. I have read, does a wonderful job approaching W's writing chronologically, providing a condensed intellectual biography and providing me with a better understanding of W whose writings I have found very difficult. Most of what I have read about W tends to give the writer's view of W. This short book delightfully tries to stay close to W wrote. A very good place to start trying to ...more
I should start asking myself if there is something Wittgenstein was not interested in. Despite the rare approach to philosophy, it remains one of these twentieth century essential looks that does not fall into relativism or scientism. I am not sure of being fully equipped to read his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus or even his more accessible Philosophical Investigations, but surely Ray Monk has managed to give his readers a wider perspective.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, 2018
If you're travelling to a new country, it is nice to have a guide. One who is knowledgeable but doesn't warp every sight into his own perspective. Someone who leaves you to explore, to sample and to understand for yourself. Ray Monk is that guide for the work of Wittgenstein.
Jackson Cyril
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book-- cannot recommend it enough. Longer review hopefully coming later when I gather my thoughts...
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As "lay-reader" introductions to Wittgenstein go, this is stunning. It in some sense constitutes the typical intro to the main texts (and key concepts therein) of Wittgenstein, and this expository aspect is about as clear and precise as a text this brief on a thinker so complex could get.

What really makes it stand out, however, is Monk's emphasis on the question of just what exactly Wittgenstein is trying to do in these texts, and why it is that he does so. It is this issue which is perhaps the
Nov 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Armchair Philosophers
I was pretty neutral going into this one. More ink has been shed in the last twenty years by Wittgenstein than seems right for any civilized people. And yet . .. at least it's not Derrida.

Mr. Monk takes the task of an introductory piece as a chance to push his own interpretation of the work to the fore. While this makes it very difficult for a new comer to see the many variations of meaning that people have applied to Wittgenstein's work it also makes it eminently readable.

'Tis true - a novel
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
3 1/2

Short but useful introduction to Wittgenstein's body of work by the author of the excellent Wittgenstein biography "Duty of genius". By no means a companion book to the tractatus or the PI, but has interesting "Denkanstöße" and explications of Wittgenstein's thinking that can help understanding and contextualizing his work.
Dec 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Books of exposition like this probably oughtn't be necessary, I suppose, but for anyone who finds all the rather arcane terminology of symbolic and formal logic as intimidating as I do, this is awfully helpful. It's stronger on early Wittgenstein than late, but the excerpts are well chosen and the author seems like one of the rare few who have a sound grasp of both the substance and the spirit of the man's writing. And, having read it, I feel like for the first time I might actually have some ...more
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book, I take it, is intended to be a simple exposition of some key ideas from both Wittgenstein's earlier and later writings. Thus, if you are looking for a simple, quick, and clear introduction, then this is probably a good book for you. But it must be emphasized that it is only an introduction, and at times the ideas are presented in an overly simplistic manner. In many ways, it is much more valuable for helping one understand the person of Wittgenstein than understanding his writings. ...more
Pete daPixie
For readers coming in from the cold to explore Wittgenstein, then Ray Monk's contribution to this very commendable series of 'How to Read' books should be as good a place as any to begin.
My personal interest stems from the historical genus rather than the philosophical, hence I have to say the extracts from 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus' were to me like eating cardboard smeared with an over generous layer of Marmite. Sorry, not my cup of tea Ludwig.
Tylor Lovins
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This book is the best introductory book on any subject that I have read. Essentially the method is (1) quoting from the author's text at the beginning of the chapter, then (2) explicating how this text relates to and/or establishes itself as the main conviction of the author. In this case Monk does a chronological exposition of Wittgenstein's works. It is the most useful and perspicuous book about Wittgenstein that I have read.
Chris Schaeffer
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Ray Monk is like, the go-to guy on Wittgenstein as far as I'm concerned, so if I'm going to take tips from anyone on the subject it's him. This book is short and breezy (I read it in a go at a Borders one afternoon while waiting for a spring storm to let up) but hey, I don't know, it did offer some insights on 'Philosophical Investigations' that I hadn't considered, and did more with Wittgenstein's P. Coffey review than I was expecting.
Dec 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, 2012, 2015
This subpar rating has less to do with the quality of the book itself than my own lack of understanding. After reading this book, I still am not sure I could pass a test on Wittgenstein's basic views as espoused by this book. This likely speaks more of the difficulty of Wittgenstein's thought and less about Monk's ability to write about it. This may very well be a great introduction for many, but for me, Wittgenstein's philosophy remains as impenetrable as ever.
Jose-elias Alvarez
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is simply essential is you want to understand the Tractatus. It is not as powerful on Wittgenstein's later philosophy though. To than end, i'll recommend Wittgenstein: A very short intro. However, this short book is a magnificent one and since I like the earlier Wittgenstein better, I really love this book.
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a short and very clearly written introduction. I am having trouble with the "Tractatus", but this book was extremely helpful in working through some of those problems. It also made me more comfortable with not understanding a lot of things right away (or ever).

Ray Monk makes me excited to read and study more Wittgenstein!
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Requires a bit more background in Wittgenstein and philosophy than I was expecting. Comments on a lot of uncertainty amongst scholars and doesn't make very many clear assertions are explain anything in ways that are particularly intuitive to me. Definitely got something out of it, but not what I wanted.
Daniel Seifert
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Monk provides an excellent primer of sorts as a accompaniment for the reading of Wittgenstein's TRACTATUS LOGICO-PHILOSOPHICUS while also inserting later thoughts from, e.g., Philosophical Investigations and Blue Book.
Lauren Albert
Oct 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A brief book by the main biographer of Wittgenstein. It is not a summary but rather short excerpts from Wittgenstein's writings along with discussions on how they reflect the main themes of his philosophy. 7/09
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This little book is a real gem.
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I personnaly do not like "How to read" series. But this one is an exception. A good intro to Wittgenstein. Contrary to Zizek's How to read Lacan which is written by simple copy and pastes.
Brad East
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinarily helpful, clearly written and easy to read, and as concise as possible. Highly recommended as an entree to Wittgenstein.
Ben Craik
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
Doesn't go into much detail, but great for what it is.
B. Mason
Monk provides an excellent introduction to Wittgenstein and the controversy surrounding his scholarship. For a philosopher with so little output he left quite a mark and after reading this slim book I feel more prepared to enter his oeuvre with a well informed understanding.
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Ray Monk is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton, where he has taught since 1992.

He won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the 1991 Duff Cooper Prize for Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. His interests lie in the philosophy of mathematics, the history of analytic philosophy, and philosophical aspects of biographical writing. He is currently working on a

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