Works on the Philosophical Investigations

This page is about works discussing the Philosophical Investigations

Pole, David, The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein: A Short Introduction with an Epilogue on John Wisdom, University of London, Athlone Press, 1958.
Publisher: Athlone Press.
Book Information:
Hardback: 134 pages

Brief Discussion:
Famous as the first full length treatment of the Philosophical Investigations, and for the severe criticism it received at the hands of Stanley Cavell in ʻThe Availability of Wittgensteinʼs Philosophyʼ, David Poleʼs book is nevertheless worth reading today as an early critical reaction to Wittgensteinʼs later work. Of particular interest is the way in which Pole can so often give an accurate description of some aspect of Wittgensteinʼs method (e.g., the role of a picture on page 91) whilst simultaneously appearing to have no grasp of its significance beyond a wish to say - in this case, for example - that pictures and models do, contrary to what he takes to be Wittgensteinʼs view, play a positive and functional role in building our (philosophical) thinking. He sees Wittgenstein by contrast as trading purely in demolition. David Poleʼs main contribution was to aesthetics, and his later posthumous collection of essays, Aesthetics, Form and Emotion, was published by Duckworth in 1983.

Pitcher, George, Ed., Wittgenstein The Philosophical Investigations: A Collection of Critical Essays, New York: Doubleday Anchor 1966.

Book Information:
Paperback: 510 pages

Brief Discussion:
The Classic early Collection which set the tone for Wittgenstein interpretation over the following decade or more, particularly in relation to the notion of a “criterion” and The Private Language Argument. Contains the following essays almost all of which previously published elsewhere. An unusually high proportion are from The Philosophical Review: A.M. Quinton: Excerpt from “Contemporary British philosophy”; Reviews of the Philosophical Investigations individually by P.F. Strawson, Norman Malcolm and Paul Feyerabend; Stanley Cavell: The Availability of Wittgensteinʼs Philosophy; Renford Bambrough: Universals and Family Resemblances; Haig Khatchadourian: Common Names and “Family Resemblances”; Rogers Albritton: On Wittgensteinʼs Use of the term “Criterion”; A.J. Ayer followed by R. Rhees on Can There be a Private Language? ; John W. Cook: Wittgenstein on Privacy; Alan Donegan: Wittgenstein on Sensation; Anthony Kenny: Cartesian Privacy; Norman Malcolm: Knowledge of Other Minds; C.S. Chihara & Jerry Fodor: Operationalism & Ordinary Language; Michael Dummet: Wittgensteinʼs Philosophy of Mathematics; Charles S. Chihara: Mathematical Discovery & Concept Formation; Charles S. Chihara: Wittgenstein & Logical Compulsion; Barry Stroud: Wittgenstein & Logical Necessity.

Pitcher, George, The Philosophy of Wittgenstein: an Aid to the Understanding and Interpretation of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and The Philosophical Investigations, Eaglewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall 1964.

Book Information:
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-10: 0136644589
ISBN-13: 978-0136644583

Brief Discussion:
One of the first detailed studies of both the earlier and the later philosophy, notable for its refusal to treat the “objectsʼ of the Tractatus as sense-data and adopting the unusual view that private sensations as portrayed in the Investigations play no role in the language-game. This book helped to set the terms of the ongoing debate on Private Language in Pitcherʼs later edited collection of essays: Wittgenstein The Philosophical Investigations A Collection of Critical Essays, with its host of famous contributors.

Hutto, Daniel D., "Was the Later Wittgenstein a Transcendental Idealist?" in Current Issues in Idealism, Coates, P. & Hutto, D. (eds), Thoemmes Press: Bristol 1996: 121-53.
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Brief Discussion
Hutto examines critically William's claim that Wittgenstein in his later philosophy is a transcendental idealist. He concludes that 'unless we imagine ourselves in the position of a philosophical God, there is no sense in our sponsoring of either transendental idealism or realism'.

McDougall, Derek A., 'Pictures, Privacy, Augustine and The Mind: A Unity in
Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations', Journal of Philosophical Research, Vol. 33, 2008, 33-72.

Brief Description
This paper weaves together a number of separate strands each relating to an aspect of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. The first strand introduces his radical and incoherent idea of a private object. Wittgenstein in § 258 and related passages is not investigating a perfectly ordinary notion of first person privacy; but his critics have treated his question whether a private language is possible, solely in terms of their quite separate question of how our ordinary sensation terms can be understood in a philosophical context to acquire meaning. Yet it is no part of his intention to demonstrate logically that ordinary sensations are not intrinsically meaningful. This is a tempting yet misleading picture, the picture also expressed through the idea of Augustine’s child who is conceptually articulate prior to learning how to talk. This picture lies behind the born Crusoe, an idea at the centre of the dichotomy between language as essentially shared and essentially shareable, a dichotomy considered here to result from a misconception of two quite separate but related aspects of Wittgenstein’s treatment of following a rule. The notion of a misleading picture in both its pre-theoretical and philosophical aspects also plays a crucial role in a treatment of Saul Kripke’s well-known “Postscript: Wittgenstein and Other Minds”.

Wright, Crispin, Rails to Infinity: Essays on Themes from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Harvard University Press, 2001.

Book information:
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 28, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 067400504X
ISBN-13: 978-0674005044

Book Description:
The book is published on the fiftieth anniversary of Wittgenstein's death and brings together thirteen of Crispin Wright's most influential essays on Wittgenstein's later philosophies of language and mind, many hard to obtain, including the first publication of his Whitehead Lectures given at Harvard in 1996. Organized into four groups, the essays focus on issues about following a rule and the objectivity of meaning; on Saul Kripke's contribution to the interpretation of Wittgenstein; on privacy and self-knowledge; and on aspects of Wittgenstein's philosophy of mathematics. Wright uses the cutting edge of Wittgenstein's thought to expose and undermine the common assumptions in platonistic views of mathematical and logical objectivity and Cartesian ideas about self-knowledge. The great question remains: How to react to the demise of these assumptions? In response, the essays develop a concerted, evolving approach to the possibilities and limitations of constructive (neo-Fregean) philosophies of mathematics and mind.

Wright, Crispin, “Rule-following without Reasons: Wittgenstein's Quietism and the Constitutive Question” in Wittgenstein and Reason, ed. John Preston; Ratio vol. XX, no. 4, Pages 481 - 502

Brief Discussion
(From the Abstract of the paper)
This is a short, and therefore necessarily very incomplete discussion of one of the great questions of modern philosophy. I return to a station at which an interpretative train of thought of mine came to a halt in a paper written almost 20 years ago, about Wittgenstein and Chomsky, hoping to advance a little bit further down the track. The rule-following passages in the Investigations and Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics in fact raise a number of distinct (though connected) issues about rules, meaning, objectivity, and reasons, whose conflation is encouraged by the standard caption, 'the Rule-following Considerations'.

Cockburn, David, ‘Wittgenstein: the end of metaphysics?’, in Dewi Z. Phillips and Mario von der Ruhr (eds), Religion and the End of Metaphysics, (Mohr Siebeck, 2008), pp. 53-70

Brief discussion
While it is often suggested that Wittgenstein’s work reveals the confusion of something called ‘metaphysics’, it is often less than entirely clear just what this thing is. The paper argues that a consideration of some of the few explicit references to 'metaphysics' in Wittgenstein’s work, along with certain ways his ideas have been developed by others, suggests that a range of rather different enterprises may be at issue and that it is premature to declare the end of all of them.

Keywords: metaphysics, Phillips, Diamond, absolutism, Hacker, criterion

Pichler, Alois, Wittgenstein's Philosophische Untersuchungen : zur Textgenese von PU §§1-4, Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen, 1997.
Series/Report no.: Working Papers from the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen 14

Abstract: Pichler's investigation of the textual genesis of the first four sections of the Philosophische Untersuchungen consists of two parts. The first (pp. 9-35) describes the various versions of the work as a whole ("early version", "intermediate version" etc.) in the context of the Nachlaß. It presents the accompanying forewords and distinguishes five phases in the genesis of the Untersuchungen (1929-44; revisions in hand up to 1950). The second part (pp. 36-99) discusses the versions of the four sections as they developed in Wittgenstein's manuscripts, typescripts and dictations (1931-50: von Wright's catalogue numbers 111, 114, 115, 140, 141, 142, 152; 211, 212, 213, 220, 239, 226, 227; 310, 311). The development is presented graphically in two appendices; in a further appendix Pichler attempts a critical reading of the four sections.

Ammereller, Erich & Eugen Fischer, Wittgenstein at Work. Method in the "Philosophical Investigations", Routledge, 2004.

Book Information:
Hardback: 304pp.
ISBN 0-415-31605-7
Contributors: E. Ammereller, C. Diamond, E. Fischer, H. Glock, P.M.S. Hacker, O. Hanfling, A. Kenny, S. Mulhall, E. von Savigny, S. Schroeder, J. Schulte, S. Shanker

Brief Discussion
This book is the first methodological companion to the Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach is the key to understanding his perplexing work. This volume assembles leading scholars to come to grips with its least well-understood aspect: the unfamiliar aims and method that shape Wittgenstein's approach. The book analyses how Wittgenstein proceeds in core parts of the Philosophical Investigations (sections 1-315), examines his most striking methodological remarks (including his repudiation of theory and non-trivial theses), and explains some core notions of his methodology: his notions of clarification, synoptic representation, nonsense, philosophical pictures, and philosophy as therapy.

Fischer, Eugen: A Cognitive Self-Therapy - Philosophical Investigations sections 138-97, in: E. Ammereller & E. Fischer (eds.): Wittgenstein at Work. Method in the "Philosophical Investigations", London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 86-126

Wittgenstein compared his treatment of philosophical questions to the cure of an illness, his philosophical methods to different therapies. This paper seeks to spell out the point of these comparisons. To this end, it analyses Wittgenstein's problems and proceeding in section 138-97 of his "Philosophical Investigations" with the help of some new concepts, in part adapted from clinical psychology, viz. A. Beck's cognitive therapy. They are used to conceptualise the problems at issue in such a way as to bring out why anything worth calling a 'therapy' is required, in the first place. Then, the paper employs the model of cognitive therapy to clarify what Wittgenstein is doing in response. The chapter thus identifies a little noted but highly important kind of predicament, and explains a straightforward approach to it that is, in many ways, revolutionary.

Fischer, Eugen, "Philosophical Pictures", Synthese, vol. 148 (no.2), 2006, pp. 469-501

The paper develops a novel account of the nature and genesis of some philosophical problems, which motivates an unfamiliar form of philosophical criticism that was pioneered by the later Wittgenstein. To develop the account, the paper analyses two thematically linked sets of problems, namely problems about linguistic understanding: a set of problems Wittgenstein discusses in a core part of his Philosophical Investigations, and the ‘problem of linguistic creativity’ that is central to current philosophy of language. The paper argues that these problems are generated by tacit and unwarranted presuppositions at odds with warranted beliefs the philosophers raising the problems reflectively hold at the same time. For a rigorous conceptualisation of this phenomenon, the paper develops the notion of a ‘philosophical picture’ first proposed by Wittgenstein, and specifies the particular class of philosophical problems that may be raised due to adherence to such pictures. The results motivate a new form of philosophical criticism: the systematic exposure of relevant philosophical pictures, and efforts to overcome their tacit influence on philosophical reflection.

Keywords: Philosophical Pictures, Philosophical Method, Understanding, Linguistic Creativity

Fischer, Eugen, "Therapie statt Theorie. Das Big Typescript als Schlüssel zu Wittgensteins später Philosophieauffassung", in: Stefan Majetschak (ed.), Wittgensteins 'große Maschinenschrift', Frankfurt/Main: Lang, 2006, pp. 31-59

The paper clarifies therapeutic ideas about philosophical method which Wittgenstein puts forward in his "Big Typescript". It does so by analysing how Wittgenstein treats the question 'What is meaning?', in that part of the same work from which the opening sections of his "Philosophical Investigations" derive. On this basis, the paper explains why Wittgenstein set himself a therapeutic goal, why this is reasonable, and how he sought to attain that goal without 'pronouncing new truths about the subject of the investigation', viz. meaning.

Keywords: Big Typescript, Philosophical Therapy, Meaning, Analogies

Beyer, Lawrence Adam, “‘Don't Think, But Look!’: Wittgenstein (& James) on Method,” in Paul Weingartner, Gerhard Schurz, & Georg Dorn, eds., The Role of Pragmatics in Contemporary Philosophy, vol. 1 (Kirchberg am Wechsel: The Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society, 1997), pp. 53-59.

Wittgenstein, in the Investigations, exhorts his readers to replace “thinking” with “looking.” This paper proposes a clarifying construal of these two contrasting Wittgensteinian categories, drawing upon parallel concerns articulated by William James.

Lugg, Andrew, Wittgenstein's Investigations 1-133: a guide and an interpretation, Routledge, 2000 (hardback), 2004 (paperback)

Book Information
ISBN 0-415-23245-7 (CASED)
ISBN 0-415-34902-8 (LIMP)
214 + xiii pp.

This book is written in the spirit of Wittgenstein with an eye to clearing away misleading ways of interpreting the Investigations. It goes through the first fifth of the Investigations section by section and examines in detail Wittgenstein's remarks on topics fundamental to his later philosophy, in particular language, metaphysics and the nature of philosophy. The object of the commentary is to explain clearly what Wittgenstein is saying and why he is saying it, the object of the interludes interspersed between groups of sections to clarify the philosophical significance of the remarks and to place them in a wider context. It is the author's contention that Wittgenstein's aims are very different from those most often attributed to him and a line-by-line reading of the text is essential for understanding what Wittgenstein is trying to get over. Grappling with the material is not one option among many, still less a first step towards a philosophically more sophisticated account of Wittgenstein's remarks. It is the only way to grasp what is being conveyed. While written to be accessible to non-specialists, Wittgenstein's Investigations also aims to convince the experts of the radically critical character of Wittgenstein's philosophy. It is unusual in that it takes Wittgenstein's text to epitomize his philosophical outlook and applies Wittgenstein's philosophical strategy to his own words. The upshot of the discussion is that the form of the Investigations is integral to its message and there is no alternative to following in Wittgenstein's footsteps and letting him speak for himself. What Wittgenstein is saying cannot be summarized; it has to be worked through.

Baker, Lynne, "On the Very Idea of a Form of Life", Inquiry 27 (1984), pages 277-289. There is a pdf of the article on Baker's website (

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