In this provocative new study, Richard Eldridge presents a highly original and compelling account of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, one of the most enduring yet enigmatic works of the twentieth century. He does so by reading the text as a dramatization of what is perhaps life's central motivating struggle—the inescapable human need to pursue an ideal of expressive freedom within the difficult terms set by culture.
Eldridge sees Wittgenstein as a Romantic protagonist, engaged in an ongoing internal dialogue over the nature of intentional consciousness, ranging over ethics, aesthetics, and philosophy of mind. The picture of the human mind that emerges through this dialogue unsettles behaviorism, cognitivism, and all other scientifically oriented orthodoxies. Leading a human life becomes a creative act, akin to writing a poem, of continuously seeking to overcome both complacency and skepticism. Eldridge's careful reconstruction of the central motive of Wittgenstein's work will influence all subsequent scholarship on it.
In contrast to those who see the later Wittgenstein's work as "unprofessional, or unreasoned, or grandiose," or as demonstrating the end of the need to ask ultimate questions, Eldridge (philosophy, Swarthmore) sees in it a profound drama that attempts to provide a philosophical understanding of the essence of human life. This drama unfolds, Eldridge argues, in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, where he tries to understand conceptual consciousness and give a unified account of meaning and understanding. This is a penetrating and insightful interpretation of Wittgenstein's thoughtone that goes well beyond the usually straight-forward analytical treatments (although it is that, too) to encompass the broader questions of the nature of culture and human existence. For academic collections and readers highly conversant with contemporary philosophy.Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, D.C.