Wittgenstein and Modern Philosophy: A Review

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JUSTUS HARTNACK, Wittgenstein and Modern Philosophy (trans: Maurice Cranston, New York: Anchor Books, 1965) pp. (x+142). Paper. The book Wittgenstein and Modern Philosophy, written by Professor Justus Hartnack, was first published in Danish. Later this book was translated to English by Maurice Cranston who was the author of Freedom, What are Human Rights?, Jean-Paul Sartre and the standard biography of John Locke. Hartnack is also famous for his book Philosophical Problems. The book Wittgenstein and Modern Philosophy deals with the philosophy of the most famous contemporary philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. This book covers over one hundred and forty two pages. It begins with a preface by the author. This book, having five chapters, is the interpretation of Wittgenstein’s philosophical works. The first chapter, under the title ‘Biographical Introduction’, dealt with the life history of Ludwig Wittgenstein—the most renowned figure of the time. He was a great philosopher who dedicated himself to the growth of philosophy. “…philosophy was his life” (p.3). Though he made lectures on British universities, he was not at all English, but an Austrian Jew, living and working in England. He was born in Vienna in 1889, the son of a rich engineer. Initially he had a taste to engineering; but later, it transformed to mathematics and he became a disciple of Bertrand Russell in Cambridge University. At the outbreak of the First World War, he contributed a few years in the Austrian army. His first and the most famous book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was published in 1922. Indeed the language of the book is elusive, “it has had an enormous influence among philosophers” (p.6). Its influence was particularly marked in the logical positivism that became so fashionable in the years between the wars. But the later teachings of Wittgenstein were contrasting to the former teachings. His The Philosophical Investigations (1953), which published only after his death marked a new beginning in the world of philosophy. Besides the above books, he was also the author of the book, The Blue and Brown Books (1958). His writings paved a place for Wittgenstein in the history of philosophy. The second chapter named ‘The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ gives out a brief summary of Wittgenstein’s eighty pages book—Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The author begins with the traditional notion of language—“consists of words and each word possesses meaning insofar as it stands for something” (p.13). It is the search for the problem of philosophical assertions that brings out the serious errors in using the language. So, Russell in his Principia Mathematica comes up with the need of constructing a new language preserving the logical form. It was the beginning of symbolic logic. But Wittgenstein was not satisfied with this new language because “he did not think there was any need to construct a new language because he held that there is only one language” (p.16). His book Tractatus shares this idea. The author expresses the content of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus in nine parts in this chapter. The world, thought and propositions nave the same logical form—world is represented by thought and it is expressed in words as propositions. So, according to Wittgenstein, “the world is the totality of facts, not of things” (p.18). A thing is not itself a fact even the thing is bound up with the notion of a fact. The author uses the example: “It is a fact that my watch is lying on the table, but neither the watch nor the table is a fact” (p.25). The thought and propositions serve as pictures of facts. This is known as ‘Picture Theory of Language’—language is a picture or model of facts. Pictures are models of reality and these are made up of elements that represent objects. The combination of objects in the picture represents the combination of objects in reality. So the function of the language is to represent the state of affairs in the world. But the proposition does not...
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