In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ludwig Wittgenstein: Later Works

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Philosophical Investigations
  • Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Psychology
  • Wittgenstein and Social Theory
  • Remarks On Colour
  • Theory or Therapy?

Philosophy Ludwig Wittgenstein: Later Works
Annalisa Coliva, Danièle Moyal-Sharrock
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0127


The work of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) continues to influence philosophers working in fields such as language, morality, religion, and culture. Biographers often separate his work into periods, and the early period is epitomized by the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Wittgenstein’s later works are Philosophical Investigations, the various writings, Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Remarks on Colour, and On Certainty. Philosophical Investigations in particular, published posthumously, serves as a critique of both traditional philosophy and of Wittgenstein’s earlier work in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This entry addresses these works both nominally and thematically.

Introductory Works

Of the introductions that give a general picture of Wittgenstein’s later works, Kenny 2006 and Pears 1971 are both penetrating and accessible and should be read first. Hacker 1989 is a masterpiece of exposition and clarification of the later corpus, with the exception of On Certainty. The focus of Fogelin 1995 on the later work usefully includes a discussion of Wittgenstein on skepticism, and Pears 1988 relates the later to the early work. While not as comprehensive, Hacker 1996 has the added virtue of situating some of the later work in 20th-century thought.

  • Fogelin, Robert J. Wittgenstein. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 1995.

    Admired for its great clarity, this is a classic introduction to Wittgenstein’s work. The later philosophy is the object of part 2, with authoritative and critical emphasis on the private-language argument, rule following, and skepticism.

  • Hacker, P. M. S. Insight and Illusion: Themes in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Corrected ed. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes, 1989.

    This contains an outstanding account of the development and meaning of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, whose goal is the insight and understanding gained from a perspicuous surview of our conceptual schemes. Rightly regarded as the best single-volume study of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Not to be confused with the first edition of 1972.

  • Hacker, P. M. S. Wittgenstein’s Place in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

    In this sober evaluation of Wittgenstein’s legacy to philosophy, redefined as the pursuit not of knowledge but of understanding, a chapter is devoted to placing the Investigations in 20th-century analytic philosophy.

  • Kenny, Anthony. Wittgenstein. Rev. ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

    Revised from the 1973 edition, this is still one of the best introductions to Wittgenstein’s core philosophical concepts and concerns. An excellent new introduction ponders the increasingly questioned assumption of a no-theory Wittgenstein.

  • Pears, David. Wittgenstein. London: Fontana/Collins, 1971.

    This is a perspicuous rendering of Wittgenstein’s philosophical passage from the Tractatus to the Investigations, with crystal-clear exposition of the main motivations, tasks, and methods of both periods.

  • Pears, David. The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy. Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

    Based on the premise that a full understanding of Wittgenstein’s later thought can hardly be achieved in isolation from his earlier thought, this second volume of Pears’s masterful study focuses on the later Wittgenstein’s treatment of the ego, the private-language argument, and rule following, with particular attention to his “phenomenalism.”

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