Wittgenstein in Exile

Wittgenstein in Exile

By James C. Klagge

A new way of looking at Wittgenstein: as an exile from an earlier cultural era.





A new way of looking at Wittgenstein: as an exile from an earlier cultural era.

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) and Philosophical Investigations (1953) are among the most influential philosophical books of the twentieth century, and also among the most perplexing. Wittgenstein warned again and again that he was not and would not be understood. Moreover, Wittgenstein's work seems to have little relevance to the way philosophy is done today. In Wittgenstein in Exile, James Klagge proposes a new way of looking at Wittgenstein—as an exile—that helps make sense of this. Wittgenstein's exile was not, despite his wanderings from Vienna to Cambridge to Norway to Ireland, strictly geographical; rather, Klagge argues, Wittgenstein was never at home in the twentieth century. He was in exile from an earlier era—Oswald Spengler's culture of the early nineteenth century.

Klagge draws on the full range of evidence, including Wittgenstein's published work, the complete Nachlaß, correspondence, lectures, and conversations. He places Wittgenstein's work in a broad context, along a trajectory of thought that includes Job, Goethe, and Dostoyevsky. Yet Klagge also writes from an analytic philosophical perspective, discussing such topics as essentialism, private experience, relativism, causation, and eliminativism. Once we see Wittgenstein's exile, Klagge argues, we will gain a better appreciation of the difficulty of understanding Wittgenstein and his work.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262015349 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 figure


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262525909 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 figure


  • [A]fter more than half a century of scholarly effort, Wittgenstein is still not properly understood contends James Klagge in this impressive, fresh work. Combining rigorous historical scholarship, creative philosophical work and insightful cultural critique, Wittgenstein in Exile will be of lively interest to readers of Wittgenstein on all levels.

    Philosophy in Review

  • Wittgenstein in Exile is a thought-provoking book...Professor Klagge possesses the ability to formulate—with greater clarity than I myself have been able to muster—thoughts that I have nevertheless frequently had; it is in this regard that I most commend his book.

    British Wittgenstein Society


  • Klagge's discussions are always clear, thoughtful, and intelligent...Klagge does not enter the house of Wittgenstein by the front door but writes for those who, having tried that approach unsuccessfully, want to look around the side to see if there is a way in there. For people in that position this is an excellent resource.

    The Philosopher's Magazine

  • An important contribution to research on the philosophy of Wittgenstein...Klagge illuminates numerous themes and passages in Wittgenstein...provocative and stimulating.

    Trenton A. Jerde

    Cognitive Critique

  • Professor Klagge's detailed knowledge both of the minutest details of Wittgenstein's biography and the whole range of his posthumous philosophical papers lends the study depth...[Klagge] has written a book that is as intelligible as it is humane, which will certainly be immensely useful in helping beginners to appreciate the difficulties but also to enjoy the rewards of learning to philosophize with Wittgenstein.

    Allan Janik

    Humanities and Social Sciences Online

  • Surprisingly enjoyable...highly engaging. Klagge writes extremely well and shows an unusually high level of scholarship...thoughtfully and often convincingly presented and discussed.


  • Rich and varied in content...a stimulating read...Klagge makes fruitful use of less-known Wittgenstein material, such as notes from his lectures...[and] has important things to say on all the issues he raises.

    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

  • Another and more important reason is the fact that the questions raised by the book will stimulate readers to think about aspects of Wittgenstein and his work that are too often neglected. It is an additional virtue of Klagge's work that the material put at our disposal is rich enough to allow readers to assess a great number of arguments that could be adduced for very different, and perhaps incompatible, readings of Wittgenstein.

    Joachim Schulte


  • I mentioned Wittgenstein's approach to philosophy, and would like to recommend an enthralling and scholarly account of him that I've just read: James Klagge's Wittgenstein in Exile. Among other things, this book is a good companion to thinking about the nature of philosophy.

    Anthony Gottlieb

    3:AM Magazine


  • A subtle and fascinating study of Wittgenstein as outsider, with respect to both the world in which he lived and the intellectual consensus in philosophy and the mind sciences with which his views were (and are) so dramatically at odds. Klagge addresses the intriguing questions of why Wittgenstein felt he would not be understood, and why we, increasingly, may fail to understand him.

    Louis Sass

    author of The Paradoxes of Delusion: Wittgenstein, Schreber, and the Schizophrenic Mind

  • Fascinating and convincing. This book makes a central contribution to Wittgenstein studies.

    Marjorie Perloff

    Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities, Stanford University, and author, Wittgenstein's Ladder

  • James Klagge's portrayal of Wittgenstein as an exile is original, engaging, and persuasive. In a crowded field, it is a genuinely useful addition to the secondary literature and should be read by all those interested in understanding both Wittgenstein himself and his philosophy.

    Ray Monk

    author of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius