Although Ludwig Wittgenstein is often described as the most important and interesting philosopher of the 20th century, it is also said that our fascination with him is a function of our bewilderment over who he really was and what his work stands for. There are many reasons for this, one of which is the widespread tendency to ignore Wittgenstein’s historical roots and place him in the company of philosophers, such as G. E. Moore and John Austin, whose views he found entirely uncongenial. Another reason is the fact that his works have been translated, at crucial points, in ways that suggest that he held views contrary to those he actually held.
For these and other reasons, Wittgenstein has remained a misunderstood figure. As a result, the philosophical community is sharply divided between those who misrepresent Wittgenstein but adore their false image of him and those who accept the false image and then regard Wittgenstein with contempt.
The aim of this work is to uncover and bring into focus, through a more careful reading of his works, the real Wittgenstein. Philosopher John W. Cook traces Wittgenstein’s ideas and especially his vocabulary to their roots in his early writings and lectures, thereby providing a historical approach to his work that has been lacking in other commentators. This approach removes much of the mystery that has surrounded Wittgenstein’s philosophy. What emerges is a philosopher who was both more interesting and more resourceful than either his defenders or his critics have realized.