In the preface to his Philosophical Investigations Ludwig Wittgenstein expresses pessimism about the culture of his time and doubts as to whether his ideas would be understood in such a time: 'I make them public with doubtful feelings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another - but, of course, it is not likely'. In this book William James DeAngelis develops a deeper understanding of Wittgenstein's remark and argues that it is an expression of a significant cultural component in Wittgenstein's later thought which, while latent, is very much intended. DeAngelis focuses on the fascinating connection between Wittgenstein and Oswald Spengler and in particular the acknowledged influence of Spengler's Decline of the West. His book shows in meticulous detail how Spengler's dark conception of an ongoing cultural decline resonated deeply for Wittgenstein and influenced his later work. In so doing, the work takes into account discussions of these matters by major commentators such as Malcolm, Von Wright, Cavell, Winch, and Clack among others. A noteworthy feature of this book is its attempt to link Wittgenstein's cultural concerns with his views on religion and religious language. DeAngelis offers a fresh and original interpretation of the latter.
William J. DeAngelis is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.
’William James DeAngelis has produced a work that is careful and scholarly while at the same time very original. It guides the reader clearly and methodically to the conclusion that there are new and important questions to be asked about Wittgenstein's philosophical intentions. Having done this, he proposes resolutions to those questions. Some of these are unconventional, but all of them are plausible, interesting and very well argued. It is the first book-length discussion of a dimension of Wittgenstein's thought that has been neglected.’ John V. Canfield, University of Toronto, Canada ’DeAngelis gives us a highly spiritual, if dispirited Wittgenstein, one who expected faith to find no home in his times, but who nonetheless sought to steer us, if not in the right way, at least away from paths that only enervate and confuse.’ Heythrop Journal