Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Philosophical Investigations” as Want to Read:
Philosophical Investigations
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Philosophical Investigations

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  11,608 ratings  ·  274 reviews
Hardcover, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 464 pages
Published January 15th 2001 by Blackwell Publishing, Inc. (first published 1953)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Philosophical Investigations, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Philosophical Investigations

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,608 ratings  ·  274 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Roy Lotz
For the podcast version of this review, see the link:
If you read first Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, and then follow it with his Philosophical Investigations, you will treat yourself to perhaps the most fascinating intellectual development in the history of philosophy. Wittgenstein has the distinct merit of producing, not one, but two enormously influential systems of philosophy—systems, moreover, that are at loggerheads with one an
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An offline discussion with Simon Evnine prompted me to reread the first few sections of this book, which I hadn't looked at in ages. They inspired the following short story:

Wang's First Day on the Job

Wang is a Chinese construction worker who's just arrived in the US. He doesn't know a word of English, but he figures he'll get by. The important thing is that he knows construction work. His English-speaking cousin takes him to a building site and manages to get him hired by Wittgenstein Constructi
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language, philosophy
This is the first work by Wittgenstein I’ve ever read. I’ve been terrified of him for years, truth be told. I’ve read a biography by W.W. Bartley III (wouldn’t you love to be ‘the third’? I would stick the three I’s on the end of my name too, if I was, but unfortunately I’m only Trevor the Second…). The main memory I have of that book is of Wittgenstein waiting to be captured in WWI and him humming the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh. That has always been one of my all-time favourite piec ...more
I couldn't possibly do Philosophical Investigations justice in a review. Even though I've read it several times, I don't understand more than a fraction of it. The unworthy thought does sometimes cross my mind that its author didn't understand it either, but you understand I'm just jealous because I'm not a Great Philosopher. I would so like to be one.

Assuming you aren't an aspiring Great Philosopher, my advice is not to take this book too seriously... it is very frustrating. Skim it quickly, th
John Carncross
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is about the concept of grammar. Can a single word be a meaningful, grammatical statement? I have a toddler, and so I know that it can. 'Milky' means the same thing as 'bring me the milky' in our language game. So, how can this be? What about grammar? Well, Wittgenstein argues that there must be a grammar for the imperative 'milky' to be understood. Where is this grammar?

There are rules and training that indicate what must be done when Seneca says "milky." For example, I go to the refr
o my crap, what a tortured soul Ludwig Wittgenstein was. this guy stared into the impenetrable pitch blackness that was the tangled midnight jungle of his own inner existence, sharpened his machete, and plunged in, hacking and flailing and lunging wildly. he wrestles chiefly with the concepts of language, meaning, understanding, and states of consciousness.

part I consists of 693 short numbered sections (about 4 to a page). this was sent to the publisher but pulled back at the last second five y
Jon Stout
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: idealists and realists
Shelves: philosophy
This book is too complex to summarize, but here is a nutshell: If you want to know the meaning of a word, consider how the word is used. Words are used in a variety of “language games,” interactions among people, which display “family resemblances.” That is, there is no single model which shows the essence of how words are used, but rather there are many overlapping and differing language games, each of which is a different model.

Enough summarizing. Now to what I am interested in, what I called,
Erik Graff
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wittgenstein fans
Recommended to Erik by: Bill Ellos
Shelves: philosophy
This book was assembled posthumously, Wittgenstein having published very little in his lifetime. Although usually coupled with the Tractatus, it is actually more representative of his thought and method.

The virtue of Wittgenstein may be that with him there is no hint of metaphysical conceit or self-deception, but rather a consistent treatment of reality as, in fact, various "language games" ("language" being understood broadly to include everything from the semiotic to the symbolic, the denotati
As a philosopher, Wittgenstein isn't terribly systematic-- rather shocking for an "analytic" thinker. I would argue that he's an original, using analytic (thought experiments), continental (literary examples), pragmatic (everyday life as a litmus test), and Nietzschean (aphoristic style, attitude problem) elements. Hell, I'm almost loathe to call it philosophy at all. It's more like a gorgeous, dense, glittering puzzle box. I guarantee that when I read it again somewhere down the line, I'll get ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mind-games
Exasperating, but worth it.

The syntax of the Investigations has a jaggedly Asperger’s feel to it. Too often Wittgenstein sounds like a malfunctioning android jabbering its core protocols to itself, pacing in frantic circles, waving its arms in a vexed “Philosophy is the sickness and I’m the cure” manner. The loathsome blend of pedantry and vagueness throughout Part 1 -- hectoring in tone, nebulous in definition -- can be maddening. (As a communicator, Wittgenstein often ranks with Kant or Heideg
Jun 07, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Serendipitous Charlatans
To date the most overrated work of 20th century analytic thought (if one wishes to truly count the later Wittgenstein as an analytic). Written in a fragmentary styled not seen in the traditional philosophical corpus since Spinoza, Wittgenstein often leaves the reader guessing at what he could possibly be referencing. The work starts out quite strong as a critique of Russell and Moore, concerning their conceptions of language and its logic. But as the work progresses, many philosophers mistakenly ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Here are some lines:

19. . . . And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.

40. Let us first discuss this point of the argument: that a word has no meaning if nothing corresponds to it. . . .

47. But what are the simple constituent parts of which reality is composed?--What are the simple constituent parts of a chair?--The bits of wood of which it is made? Or the molecules, or the atoms?--"Simple" means: not composite. And here the point is: in what sense 'composite'? It makes no se
Rowland Pasaribu
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the publication of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein felt he had nothing more to contribute to philosophy. He spent the 1920s in a variety of jobs. He was a schoolteacher in a small Austrian village, a gardener, and an amateur architect. During this time, he still had some connection with the philosophical world, notably in his conversations with Frank Ramsey on the Tractatus that gradually led him to recognize that this work was flawed in a number of respects. In the late twenties, he also came ...more
Bob Nichols
I’ve read some excellent reviews of what Wittgenstein intended with book. The role that the social context plays in our language – the use and interpretation of words and propositions can be understood as a social game that is conducted according to certain rules - is good stuff, but it’s not an area of inquiry that interests me.

I was struck by Wittgenstein’s equation of language analysis with his repeated (and seemingly categorical) references to “doing philosophy.” With that term and this boo
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First off, this book is only 197 pages long. The reason Goodreads says it's 464 pages is because this edition is dual language. One side is in German (the original text) and the other side is in English.

Compared to other philosophical readings I've read in the past, I found this one a little easier to follow. I wouldn't call this an easy read though. It's quick, but after you read the book you're still think about Wittgenstein's philosophy. I think I had an easier time with this compared to than
Randal Samstag
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Wittgenstein: Apostle, soldier, school teacher, hermit, mathematician, architect, inheritor of the Chair of the Moral Sciences Club from Moore at Cambridge, cousin of F. von Hayek, scion of the wealthiest (Jewish according to the Nuremberg laws) industrialist family in Austria who renounced his fortune. W was one of the most intimidating characters in the English philosophy scene. Take a look at Wittgenstein's Poker to get just how impossible a character he was.

W has influenced every significant
Steven Peterson
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
One aspect of this book that makes it important for simply that contribution is the notion of "language games." If language produces reality, different languages produce different realities. In this book, German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein developed the related notion of "language games," islands of language, unique each to itself, not wholly translatable one into another. Each of us inhabits a particular language game, he claims, which channels how we see things and understand the world and ...more
Anthony Buckley
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This is, of course, one of the great books of the 20th century, and it blew my head away when I first read it. However, I have since come to mistrust its conclusions. The central task of language is communication. The central question in linguistics is "How is it possible for one person to understand another?" It is actually possible for people from quite different societies to come to understand each other. How is this possible? I do not think Wittgenstein gives a satisfactory answer to this qu ...more
Tim McIntosh
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the most influential book of philosophy written in the 20th century. (It's only rival is likely Heidegger's Being and Time.) This is my third time reading this very technical book. Each time I read it two things happen: 1) The focus of the book seems more narrow. 2) The ramifications of the book seem more broad.

Wittgenstein asks: How does language operate? His answer: Not according to a logical superstructure but according to discrete "games", rules, and patterns. What does a word mean?
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Wittgenstein students and fans
Recommended to Mari by: Martinich and Mel
When I read this years ago, I struggled with it. Tractatus had been so beautifully efficient and lucid (wrong, but beautiful nonetheless.) Then I dove into PI and floundered. On second reading I've had a lot more peripheral material to help me grasp the ideas. What I really wish I'd had was this:

Commentary on Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations by Lois Shawver

This site not only lists the complete text, but also side-by-side commentary from Shawver. I don't generally like to read books li
Nick Black
Feb 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Well, definitely awesome exposition, but I figured most of this out playing in the backyard when I was 12. Surely philosophy has something more to say than these largely self-evident truths? Anyone with half a brain will recognize and cherish Wittgenstein's exposition, but seriously, basic context-sensitive linguistics is something we've all considered intuitively.
Amazon 2009-02-20.
Jordan and Juno
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love Wittgenstein. And he lived in Manchester too. Great guy.
Connor Brown
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I won't here enumerate the book's content; brief summaries of its main points are everywhere. What makes it so excellent is in the smaller details here and there, and their implications going forwards. I read and reviewed this some time ago, but having sat on it for a while, and read some other books tangent to it, I felt compelled to come back and rewrite this.
Many people like to say that the book is poorly structured, dense and elusive. Maybe, but all to a purpose. Wittgenstein understood the
Philosophical Investigations - if you want to understand Wittgenstein, begin with the Blue and Brown Books. They prepared Philosophical Investigations. You may think that Wittgenstein is always repeating himself. As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein himself, confessed that he needed to repeat, to copy his own wrintings again. But this shows his way of thinking, turning arround a problem, a concept or any philosophical idea. He wanted to see through the language, the deep grammar. This is where he u ...more
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is a hard book to evaluate. At times, I felt that Wiggentstein was the sole beacon of lucidity in a haze of philosophical muddlement. But at others, I couldn't help but think that the Philosophical Tribulations of a certain "Louis Witteringswine" was rather way too good of a parody.

All things considered, I found the first 100 or so paragraphs to be the most informative (not incidentally, they constitute what is probably the most accessible section of the text). Elsewhere, Wittgenstein's a
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I rated this three stars at first because I wanted to look smart, but now, a few days later, I have to be honest: this was boring even when read in the context of a reading group, with plenty of secondary material; if I had attempted it on my own, it would have been completely impenetrable. I'm sure it's really brilliant and I'm just missing the point, but Wittgenstein's idea of what philosophy should look like holds no real appeal for me. Of course, I have no intention of letting this interfere ...more
Christopher Mcmaster
The only truly great work of philosophy. This is not a mere book, it is an instruction manual for how to make sense. If one's philosophical reasoning is not guided by the ideas contained within this book, one is simply poking around in the dark. Wittgenstein's ideas are at the core of any philosophy that's worth its salt, and thus this book is perhaps the most important piece of intellectual work in human history.
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the record, 3 stars reflects only my subjective enjoyment level, not the quality of the book itself. I believe my rating would be much higher if I'd had an upper-level university course to explain it all.
G.R. Reader
I remember Iris Murdoch telling me once how she and Liz Anscombe put this together out of the mess that Ludwig handed them. Four stars for them, minus two for him.

I asked Iris what he was like in bed, but she went all coy on me.
Hamidreza Mohammadi
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wittgenstein
Undoubtedly the main dilemma in PI is Rule-following problem and also the possibility and quality of Communication between people. ''you regard it much too much as a matter of course that one can communicate anything to anyone.'' §363
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Naming and Necessity
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius
  • Mind and World: With a New Introduction by the Author
  • From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays
  • German Ideology
  • The Frege Reader
  • Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
  • Sense and Sensibilia: Reconstructed from the Manuscript Notes by C.J. Warnock
  • The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy
  • The Philosophy of Language
  • Language, Truth, and Logic
  • The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 2
  • A History of Philosophy, Volume 2: Medieval Philosophy, from Augustine to Duns Scotus
  • Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation
  • Philosophical Essays
  • Phenomenology of Perception
  • Principia Ethica (Philosophical Classics)
  • Truth and Method
See similar books…
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
“The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long.” 205 likes
“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” 144 likes
More quotes…