Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Wittgenstein and On Certainty: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Wittgenstein and On Certainty

1st Edition

By Andy Hamilton


340 pages

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Paperback: 9780415450768
pub: 2014-10-23
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pub: 2014-11-25
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Ludwig Wittgenstein is arguably the most important philosopher of the twentieth century. In On Certainty he discusses central issues in epistemology, including the nature of knowledge and scepticism. The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Wittgenstein and On Certainty introduces and assesses:

  • Wittgenstein's career and the background to his later philosophy
  • the central ideas and text of On Certainty, including its responses to G.E. Moore and discussion of fundamental issues in the theory of knowledge
  • Wittgenstein's continuing importance in contemporary philosophy.

This GuideBook is essential reading for all students of Wittgenstein, and for those studying epistemology and philosophy of language. On Certainty, Wittgenstein's final work, addresses a category of "world-picture" propositions discovered by G.E. Moore. These challenge Wittgenstein's enduring commitment to a well-defined category of empirical propositions, and help to generate a critique of scepticism. Developing Wittgenstein's view that scepticism is self-undermining, the Guidebook offers a combative yet therapeutic interpretation that locates On Certainty between the standpoints of Kant and Hume.


'This unique and highly readable introduction sets Wittgenstein’s late text in its historical context and emphasises enduring themes running through his later philosophy. Using recent work on On Certainty, Hamilton provides his reader with a clear exposition of the work’s major themes, facilitating further engagement.' – Bernhard Weiss, University of Cape Town, South Africa

'Wittgenstein wrote, "Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity… [of] clarification". He shows us paths from metaphysical abstraction to the more habitable, yet largely unrecognised, world of our everyday lives. But how does this therapeutic conception infuse the enigmatic epistemological writings known as On Certainty? As a guide, Hamilton is precisely the sort of reader Wittgenstein would have wanted, one fully engaged in thinking with, and against, the text. Hamilton’s Wittgenstein is a humanist who rejects the current orthodoxy that models philosophy on the natural sciences. By demonstrating the power of the text to stimulate his own thoughts, Hamilton encourages us to think with the text ourselves.' - David Macarthur, Sydney University, Australia

Table of Contents

1. Wittgenstein's philosophical development 2. Enduring Wittgensteinian motifs in On Certainty 3. Reading On Certainty: text and work 4. Synopsis of On Certainty 5. Moorean common sense 6. Wittgenstein's account of Moorean propositions 7. Wittgenstein's idea of a "world-picture" 8. On Certainty in the context of 20th century epistemology 9. Moore's "proof of an external world" 10. Responses to scepticism: arguments against moore 11. Responses to scepticism: arguments against the sceptic 12. Interpreting On Certainty 13. Wittgensteinian Kantianism versus Wittgensteinan naturalism 14. Influence and implications. Index

About the Author

Andy Hamilton teaches Philosophy at Durham University, UK. His books include Aesthetics and Music (2007), Lee Konitz (2007) and The Self in Question: Memory, the Body and Self-Consciousness (2013). He also teaches aesthetics and history of jazz at Durham, and contributes to The Wire magazine.

About the Series

Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks

Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks painlessly introduce students to the classic works of philosophy. Each GuideBook considers a major philosopher and a key area of their philosophy by focusing upon an important text – situating the philosopher and the work in a historical context, considering the text in question and assessing the philosopher’s contribution to contemporary thought.

Edited by Tim Crane, University of Cambridge and Jonathan Wolff, University College London

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Epistemology
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Modern