Major Works: Selected Philosophical Writings

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Major Works is the finest single-volume anthology of influential philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's important writings. Featuring the complete texts of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, The Blue and Brown Books: Studies for 'Philosophical Investigations,' and On Certainty, this new collection selects from the early, middle, and later career of this revolutionary thinker, widely recognized as one of the most profound minds of all time.

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Major Works is the finest single-volume anthology of influential philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's important writings. Featuring the complete texts of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, The Blue and Brown Books: Studies for 'Philosophical Investigations,' and On Certainty, this new collection selects from the early, middle, and later career of this revolutionary thinker, widely recognized as one of the most profound minds of all time.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“The greatest philosopher of the 20th century.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061550249
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/10/2009
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 585,110
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was born in Austria and studied at Cambridge under Bertrand Russell. He volunteered to serve in the Austrian army at the outbreak of World War I, and in 1918 was captured and sent to a prison camp in Italy, where he finished his masterpiece, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the most important philosophical works of all time. After the war Wittgenstein eventually returned to Cambridge to teach.

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Major Works

Selected Philosophical Writings

By Ludwig Wittgenstein
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2009

Ludwig Wittgenstein
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061550249

Chapter One

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

The world is everything that is the case.

The world is the totality of facts, not of things.

The world is determined by the facts, and by these being all the facts.

For the totality of facts determines both what is the case, and also all that is not the case.

The facts in logical space are the world.

The world divides into facts.

Anyone can either be the case or not be the case, and everything else remain the same.

What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts.

An atomic fact is a combination of objects (entities, things).

It is essential to a thing that it can be a constituent part of an atomic fact.

In logic nothing is accidental: if a thing can occur in an atomic fact the possibility of that atomic fact must already be prejudged in the thing.

It would, so to speak, appear as an accident, when to a thing that could exist alone on its own account, subsequently a state of affairs could be made to fit.

If things can occur in atomic facts, this possibility must already lie in them.

(Alogical entity cannot be merely possible. Logic treats of every possibility, and all possibilities are its facts.)

Just as we cannot think of spatial objects at all apart from space, or temporal objects apart from time, so we cannot think of any object apart from the possibility of its connexion with other things.

If I can think of an object in the context of an atomic fact, I cannot think of it apart from the possibility of this context.

The thing is independent, in so far as it can occur in all possible circumstances, but this form of independence is a form of connexion with the atomic fact, a form of dependence. (It is impossible for words to occur in two different ways, alone and in the proposition.)

If I know an object, then I also know all the possibilities of its occurrence in atomic facts.

(Every such possibility must lie in the nature of the object.)

A new possibility cannot subsequently be found.

In order to know an object, I must know not its external but all its internal qualities.

If all objects are given, then thereby are all possible atomic facts also given.

Everything is, as it were, in a space of possible atomic facts. I can think of this space as empty, but not of the thing without the space.

A spatial object must lie in infinite space. (A point in space is a place for an argument.)

A speck in a visual field need not be red, but it must have a colour; it has, so to speak, a colour space round it. A tone must have a pitch, the object of the sense of touch a hardness, etc.

Objects contain the possibility of all states of affairs.

The possibility of its occurrence in atomic facts is the form of the object.

The object is simple.

Every statement about complexes can be analysed into a statement about their constituent parts, and into those propositions which completely describe the complexes.

Objects form the substance of the world. Therefore they cannot be compound.

If the world had no substance, then whether a proposition had sense would depend on whether another proposition was true.

It would then be impossible to form a picture of the world (true or false).

It is clear that however different from the real one an imagined world may be, it must have something—a form—in common with the real world.

This fixed form consists of the objects.

The substance of the world can only determine a form and not any material properties. For these are first presented by the propositions—first formed by the configuration of the objects.

Roughly speaking: objects are colourless.

Two objects of the same logical form are—apart from their external properties—only differentiated from one another in that they are different.

Either a thing has properties which no other has, and then one can distinguish it straight away from the others by a description and refer to it; or, on the other hand, there are several things which have the totality of their properties in common, and then it is quite impossible to point to any one of them.

For if a thing is not distinguished by anything, I cannot distinguish it—for otherwise it would be distinguished.

Substance is what exists independently of what is the case.

It is form and content.

Space, time and colour (colouredness) are forms of objects.

Only if there are objects can there be a fixed form of the world.

The fixed, the existent and the object are one.

The object is the fixed, the existent; the configuration is the changing, the variable.

The configuration of the objects forms the atomic fact.

In the atomic fact objects hang one in another, like the members of a chain.

In the atomic fact the objects are combined in a definite way.

The way in which objects hang together in the atomic fact is the structure of the atomic fact.

The form is the possibility of the structure.

The structure of the fact consists of the structures of the atomic facts.

The totality of existent atomic facts is the world.

The totality of existent atomic facts also determines which atomic facts do not exist.

The existence and nonexistence of atomic facts is the reality. (The existence of atomic facts we also call a positive fact, their nonexistence a negative fact.)

Atomic facts are independent of one another.


Excerpted from Major Works by Ludwig Wittgenstein Copyright © 2009 by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Good selection, bad editing

    Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus in German. There are several translations, and there are no indications in this book to tell one which was employed, or why. It is called "Selected Philosophical Writings," but there is no explanation of the choices made; On Certainty is surely important (was it too composed in German? I think so), maybe more than the Blue and Brown Books, but there are other possibilities, e.g. Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics and Philosophical Observations. Irresponsible to publish a big book in a way that makes it hard to use by the main audience. Phil O'Mara

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 7, 2010

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    Posted May 14, 2009

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    Posted November 26, 2009

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