Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Philosophical Investigations, published posthumously, contains in part 1 a body of work completed by Ludwig Wittgenstein by 1945. This material includes a preface in which he comments on the book, characterizing it as an “album” of “sketches of landscapes,” in virtue of its being a collection of philosophical remarks that Wittgenstein used to attack the problems with which he concerned himself. Parts 2 and 3, written between 1947 and 1949, were added by the editors, G. E. M. Anscombe (who translated the work from the German) and R. Rhees. The German and English versions appear side by side.

Discussion of the work’s contents preceded its publication because of the appearance of the “Blue Book” and the “Brown Book,” collections of typescripts and notes based on Wittgenstein’s lectures at Cambridge. In part, Wittgenstein became interested in publishing Philosophical Investigations during his lifetime because of a reluctance to rest his reputation on secondhand reports of his philosophical remarks.

An aura of mystery, therefore, surrounded Philosophical Investigations when it finally appeared—and something of the aura yet remains as arguments on the interpretation of the sense and direction of Wittgenstein’s remarks tend to condition the understanding of the book. Nevertheless, there is little argument about the central theme; in spite of Wittgenstein’s erratic and peripatetic method, the purpose of his remarks manages to become clear.