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

Wittgenstein's Vienna

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  37 reviews
This is a remarkable book about a man (perhaps the most important and original philosopher of our age), a society (the corrupt Austro-Hungarian Empire on the eve of dissolution), and a city (Vienna, with its fin-de siecle gaiety and corrosive melancholy). The central figure in this study of a crumbling society that gave birth to the modern world is Wittgenstein, the brilli ...more
Paperback, 315 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher (first published 1973)
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 Wittgenstein's Vienna, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wittgenstein's Vienna

The Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilThe World of Yesterday by Stefan ZweigA Nervous Splendor by Frederic MortonFin-de-Siècle Vienna by Carl E. SchorskeThe Age of Insight by Eric R. Kandel
229 books — 161 voters
The Naked Ape by Desmond MorrisMoby-Dick by Herman MelvilleA Face Now Rendered Indescribable by Marc BrüsekeBeowulf by UnknownThe Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose
Added 13
67 books — 3 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  370 ratings  ·  37 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Wittgenstein's Vienna
James Curcio
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is somewhat of a surprise to me, but this may be one of my favorite works of philosophy. The reason why is simple: Wittgenstein's Vienna studies the thought of a particular individual not just on its apparent ground, but also, and possibly more fundamentally, within the context of the culture and history in which it arose. This is something that should be done with many of the thinkers and artists of days past, but Wittgenstein in particular almost demands this treatment.

The proof of this is
James Klagge
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
I first read Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) in a class in 1975. In 1976-77 I undertook to compile what I called a "Cultural-Historical Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus." But I soon discovered that this book had been published in 1973, accomplishing most all of what I had wanted to do, only far better. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the TLP. This is about the 4th time I've read the book, but I am only now listing it in Goodreads b/c my listings onl ...more
Luc De Coster
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I told a friend I was travelling to Vienna, she recommended to read “Wittgenstein’s Vienna” (thanks Myriam). I did not read it once but twice: before and after the trip.

The ideas of Ludwig “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” Wittgenstein (1889-1951) could be very helpful in dealing with this age of crumbling truths, conspiracy theories, unverifiable facts and images and an avalanche of cheap ideological opinions. Rigorous discipline guarding scientific and logical quality
Matthew W
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although a lot people don't seem to see the value of a book like Wittgenstein's Vienna, it is fortunate books like it exist.

What are the roots of modern racial Antisemitism? That German fellow Johann Andreas Eisenmenger apparently did a swell job exposing the Talmud as a hate-book, but what about hatred of those with Jewish blood?

It seems that Vienna, Austria was essentially the Jewish capital of Europe. Apparently, Vienna was also the capital of modern day intellectual Antisemitism. The only
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a great read!
I am thinking/agreeing that this book is probably quite fundamental to pursuing an understanding of the guy.
Connor Brown
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not only do Janik and Toulmin have an incredible depth and breadth of knowledge, but they are bold and relentlessly methodical in putting it together; They're equally at home discussing the shift from seven tone to twelve tone composition, the replacement of artificially baroque architecture with functional spaces, the emergence of "internally mapped" axiomatic systems vs historical explanations of scientific enterprise, poetic expression, journalistic styles and rivalries... and deftly charting ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kumar Ramanathan
This is an engrossing and original account of scientific and cultural life in late-Habsburg Vienna, hard to put down even when the concepts are particularly tricky. The authors' main idea is that the philosophy of Wittgenstein, both in its early and late incarnations, has been misunderstood because seen through the lens of the British analytic tradition. Thus, Wittgenstein is better understood as a typical pre-WWI Viennese, deeply concerned with topics such as integrity in a world of falsehoods ...more
Stephen Case
Oct 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Wittgenstein is a name that looms large on the landscape of twentieth-century philosophy, and one day I’ll get around to actually reading his work. For now though, I’m still dancing around the edges. I’ve written about Logicomix before as a creative introduction to the mathematical and philosophical scene in which Wittgenstein appeared, and about a year ago that led me to an excellent biography on Wittgenstein. This latest book on the philosopher, which had come up several times before in refere ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
"Wittgenstein passionately believes that all that really matters in human life is precisely what, in his view, we must be silent about."

The book argues that the themes of Wittgenstein's Tractatus are connected to a larger body of discourse which preoccupied fin de siècle Viennese intellectuals. The first five chapters outlines the intellectual milieu of Vienna--the controversies as well as innovations in political theory, art, music, architecture and science. Every idea and theory mentioned in
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
If, like me, you have insomnia, and Ambien doesn't work, and Trazodone doesn't work, and Sonata doesn't work, perhaps you'll want to try this book.

It has "the true scholastic stink"--the authors aren't content to state something once; they prefer to state it five times, and heap the sentiment with additional adverbs and adjectives at every pass. Cause adverbs add authority and precision, right? Ha ha.

The subject matter interests me and is relevant to my work, and I hoped to gain some knowledge
Alex Zakharov
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
An unusual book with unexpected structure, it took the time to grow on me, but upon finishing it I definitely walked away a fan. Janick and Toulmin (J&T) seem to start out on a same trajectory as Schorske’s “Fin-De-Siècle” and cover a similar cast of characters (Klimt, Schoenberg, Otto Wagner, Karl Lueger, Herzl) but then they plunge into a philosophy-heavy meditative analysis of interrelation between philosophy, science, ethics and language, and then finally level off with unintended side-effec ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great stuff - intellectual history that's pretty heavy on the philosophical conundrums of the age. Prepare yourself for heavy doses of Kant, Schopenhauer, and Kierkegaard, as well as Wittgenstein.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wonder if a book like this could’ve been written today? A book that tells the story of a city--Vienna-- through the lens of a man--Wittgenstein-- and then tries to understand his philosophy from within the context of the culture of the place and its preoccupations. The book really begins from where Schorske's book, Fin de Siecle Vienna left off: a crumbling society. The first part of the book is very reminiscent of Schorske and goes over similar ground tracing this dying Hapsburg empire and th ...more
Boris Cesnik
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great companion to Carl Schorkse's masterpiece 'Fin-de-Siecle Vienna' - every little helps. Every little tile added to the mosaic once called Vienna, every small clue, anecdote, story, thought, recount brings me to an era than never was is and will be for me but I feel closer and closer each time I read a book such as this.
Wittgenstein is beyond, behind, above and ahead of me - I can't comment as this is my first encounter with his philosophy.
What I can say though is that the language, writing
Wittgenstein is a stumbling stone for (most of) us, except for those few experts. Understanding the context of his thinking, the effervescence of ideas from where the Tractatus, for example, is born, opens a new gate towards the understanding of Wittgenstein`s thinking. The book is very well written, in a very understandable language, and very well documented. ...more
Ed Brenegar
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever been to Vienna, or are planning to go, then I highly recommend this book. It tells the story of the city from the perspective to the great scientists and philosophers who were there before and after the First World War.
vittore paleni
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, fascinating, much-needed-revisionist re-contextualization of Wittgenstein’s thought. Also a very fruitful parallel and comparison with Peter Gay’s ‘Weimar Culture.’
Wilkin Beall
Jan 19, 2015 rated it liked it
this book is best for some background on the remarkable era before the first world war in Vienna. Details such as the housing shortage in the city and the chronic sanitation problem is helpful. The first chapter on karl kraus is clear as well. What is not so clear is the middle of the book where the authors struggle, unsuccessfully to crystalize the development of the preeminent philosopher of the 20th Century. No one assumes that would be easy but it is almost as if the authors are too intimida ...more
Paul Blaney
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was looking for a good cultural history of fin de siecle Vienna. This wasn't it, but I persevered. A dense and challenging read, like taking your brain to the gym, but rewarding too.

The central argument is that Wittgenstein and the philosophical questions he undertook were in part a product of late-Hapsburg Viennese society. And that misunderstanding of Wittgenstein, by for example the logical positivists, was partly due to a failure to see the man and his work within their proper historical
Aug 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommended for people who do not judge books by covers. The one in this picture is for a different edition; I can only find one picture of mine online, here []
It's tiny, but trust me: it is an Atari version of the Taj Mahal with a Wall-Street-Journal-style portrait of Wittgenstein, with space invaders on the side! To add a touch of class!

Post-reading-less-superficial review: the cover remains the most remarkable thing about this book. The real point of it
Ted Morgan
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Again, I do not remember precisely when I read this work. I assume it was after I read his book "Human Understanding". I do recall loving this work though it has come under fire and under criticism. It fascinated me because it put Wittgenstein within a rich cultural matrix that I had not really known even though I had read Austrian history.

I considered it popular history though, perhaps, it is not. There are good historians who do not like Wittgenstein and who avoid talking about him in terms o
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What stuck with me in this cultural gloss of Wittgenstein's philosophy is the notion of a philosophical "phase space", or simply the limits of language and, therefore, philosophy. Using the logical formalism of Russell, Wittgenstein characterizes the "possible states" of philosophical propositions, and argues that rigorous ethical propositions are impossible. An incredibly engaging read, it is surprising how interconnected this cultural milieu was: Wittgenstein off to study with Boltzmann when t ...more
A classic look at the social life and intellectual circles of Vienna at the end of the Habsburg era. While I think Toulmin overstates any air of crisis (he knows 1914 will happen, the cafe debaters of, say, 1910 don't), he does manage to catch the atmosphere of a city whose thinkers are producing much of what will come to be modern thought and art while understanding that the world around them is dissolving.
Steven Fowler

Wittgenstein's own writings are far from lucid prose by the standards of the English speaking community. Janik and Toulmin offer an excellent introduction to the cultural milieu that helped shape that thought thereby providing the English speaking reader an excellent backdrop to help decipher the meaning in Wittgenstein's own thoughts.
Geoffrey Rose
Nov 10, 2012 rated it liked it
The thesis isn't always convincing but this is well done cultural and intellectual history.

An interesting, fun read that places Wittgenstein's theories in their appropriate historical context.

Recommended for any interested in fin de siecle Vienna.
David Markwell
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at Wittgenstein and the Vienna that he grew up in. Places the Ttractatus into a tradition of Viennese thought which I was completely unaware of. A good read for anyone interested in Wittgenstein as a philosopher and a human being.
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Fabulous book which sets Wittgenstein and the Tractatus against fin-de-siecle Vienna. An essential conjunction.
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly interesting read!
Mills College Library
943.61304 J337 1996
Nov 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Very very long read but super informative on the social conditions and history of Austria Hungary
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius
  • The Conquest of Happiness
  • The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
  • The Discovery of King Arthur
  • Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings
  • El caballero de la armadura oxidada
  • The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake
  • The Art of Always Being Right
  • Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain
  • La démocratie des crédules
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • The Sword of Kaigen
  • Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
  • Free Thought and Official Propaganda
  • Alexandru Lăpuşneanul
  • O noapte furtunoasă
  • The Problems of Philosophy
See similar books…

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
11 likes · 6 comments
“By what procedures do men establish the rule-governed links they do between language, on the one hand, and the real world, on the other?” 1 likes
More quotes…