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The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein by…
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The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein

by Hans D. Sluga, David G. Stern (Editor)

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After reading On Certainty, I wanted to quickly gather an overview of Wittgenstein without reading all of his works. Why? I like to cheat. On homework, I mean on homework. Like…well…can my high-school diploma be revoked if I tell a story about cheating in high school? Just to play it safe, I’m going to call this a fiction. I’ll change my own name to keep it on the QT. (Don’t tell anyone.) For the remainder of this review, I shall refer to myself as Raymondo.

So, Raymondo was a straight-A student. In fact, he was practically a straight-A-plus student. His GPA was 11.6333 out of 12 (12=A , 11=A, 10=A-, etc.) But even so, in his senior year, it was a tight race for Valedictorian. Raymondo’s sometime friend (whom we’ll call Belvedere) had somewhere around an 11.7 GPA. Last semester of “Senior Year,” Raymondo rather suicidally decided to take four advanced placement classes (Physics, Math, English and Chemistry) and all were pretty easy…except Chemistry. Oooh, AP Chemistry was taught by…we’ll call her Mrs. Tangerine. Mrs. Tangerine was just about the meanest, toughest teacher in the school. (Suddenly, this is a Hardy Boys novel). And Raymondo didn’t much like Chemistry.

The situation, my friends, was grim. But then, out of nowhere, a caper that would have been worthy of the Pink Panther himself fell into Raymondo’s lap. It seems that one evening when Raymondo was prepping for the Chemistry final exam with his best friend “Craig” they got a call from this jerk-face-popular-kid we’ll call “Béchamel.” Béchamel, turns out, might know how to acquire a key to the High School. Yes, for Béchamel’s uncle happened to be a janitor at said High School, and he had a master. (To be honest—or dishonest, as the case may be--“Craig” and Raymondo probably would have done just fine on the exam. Béchamel is the one who would’ve crapped out. But given the opportunity to pull a fast one and get an edge on Belvedere, Raymondo had no desire to resist.)

Quickly, “Craig” and Raymondo formulated a plan.* They knew that Mrs. Tangerine always kept the exams in her left hand top drawer because they had always seen her removing each exam from that drawer. (A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of the easily duped.) And they also knew that she made the exact number of copies as there were students in the class. So an exam could not go missing without her notice, either. And we’re talking about a 20 page complex-organic-molecule-type exam that you couldn’t just scribble down.

To the point: “Craig” (who later in life apparently did learn enough chemistry because he became a nuclear engineer) and Raymondo (who later in life took a lot of drugs, so he apparently also learned enough chemistry) drove to the school in the dark of night. 2am-on-a-school-night dark. “Craig” pulled all the way in behind the school and hid the car as best as he could. He would be designated as the getaway driver, keeping the car running. Raymondo took the key and sure enough, was able to enter the school. He let his eyes adjust to the darkness and--with judicious use of a flashlight--made his way to Mrs. Tangerine’s classroom. Lo and behold, the key also worked on that room. Heart in mouth, he checked the drawer and there was a very neat short stack of exams. At this point he heard a sound. Freaking out, he crouched down, fearing the worst. Eventually, he peeped out into the hallway. No sign of anyone. He quickly exited the building with the exam. He jumped in the car and “Craig” drove them to a 24-hour Kinko’s. They carefully removed the staple by bending it open and then pulling it delicately through the holes. They copied each page and replaced the staple so that the exam appeared good as new.

They drove back to the school. Raymondo returned to the classroom, replaced the exam and CRASSSHHHH!--on his way out knocked over a desk. He set it back upright and ran like fucking hell. Made it to the car, and they were gone. Free with no retribution whatsoever and a perfect copy of the exam.

In the end, Raymondo was Salutatorian instead of Valedictorian anyway so the moral of this story is that doing stupid things in High School is a lot more interesting than getting a good grade on an exam. And that’s what I thought of The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein.

*Formulated…get it? ( )
  David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hans D. Slugaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stern, David G.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0521465915, Paperback)

Visiting his student Ludwig Wittgenstein one night only to find him in the throes of despair, Bertrand Russell facetiously asked whether it was logic or his sins that was troubling him. "Both," Wittgenstein gravely replied. Is it any wonder that Wittgenstein the man, as well as his elusive but profound philosophical work, continue to fascinate? "Any attempt at a definitive exposition of his ideas would be doomed to failure," according to editor Hans Sluga; therefore, the Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein is intended mainly "to alert readers to some of the most important and most interesting issues raised in Wittgenstein's philosophical writings." For the most part, the 14 essays succeed.

With the exception of Thomas Ricketts's discussion of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the focus of the essays is on Wittgenstein's later work, particularly the Philosophical Investigations. His conception of philosophy is approached from various angles by Robert J. Fogelin, Newton Garver, and Stanley Cavell. The format of Cavell's essay--which consists of his lecture notes from the 1960s and 1970s interspersed with afterthoughts from the 1990s--is somewhat irritating, but the depth of his insight makes up for it. Other essays deal with Wittgenstein's ideas about the philosophy of mathematics, ethics, necessity and normativity, the self, and epistemology. Especially worthy of attention is Donna M. Summerfield's "Fitting and Tracking: Wittgenstein on Representation." In explaining the development of Wittgenstein's thought about representation, Summerfield also manages to sketch the philosophical problem of representation in careful and perspicacious detail. All in all, The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein is recommended to anyone grappling with its enigmatic subject. --Glenn Branch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:00 -0400)

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) is one of the most important, influential, and often-cited philosophers of the twentieth century, yet he remains one of its most elusive and least accessible. The essays in this volume address central themes in Wittgenstein's writings on the philosophy of mind, language, logic, and mathematics. They chart the development of his work and clarify the connections between its different stages. The contributors illuminate the character of the whole body of work by keeping a tight focus on some key topics: the style of the philosophy, the conception of grammar contained in it, rule-following, convention, logical necessity, the self, and what Wittgenstein called, in a famous phrase, 'forms of life'.… (more)

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