The Intellectual Honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein


“For the more general reader, Wittgenstein’s status in contemporary philosophy will be puzzling. The general view is that Wittgenstein is surely the very model of a great philosopher. The perception is that he is difficult, obscure and intense, severe and mystical, charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his charisma and difficulty bound up with his character and his life. Wittgenstein saw philosophy not just as a vocation, but as a way of life he had to lead. This is perhaps why writers and artists have found him an object of fascination and inspiration. He is the subject of novels, poetry, plays, painting, music, sculpture and films. In the arts and the culture generally, Wittgenstein seems to be what a philosopher ought to be.


In [the Philosophical Investigations], Wittgenstein thinks and writes with ruthless intellectual honesty. He pulls at every thread in his thought. To read it is to have the palpable sense of a thinker in the act of philosophical inquiry. And yet, at the same time, we cannot as readers be merely the passive audience for this drama. To read the Investigations as it should be read is to participate in a shared, essentially democratic endeavour in which we must find our own place among the myriad voices that enter, have their say, and exit, call out from off stage, return again in different garb with new parts. We are invited and must accept to be one of these players. We have to try to read it as honestly as it was written.”

— Ian Ground, Times Literary Supplement

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