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Paperback | $38.00 Short | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780262540742 | 412 pp. | 6 x 9 in | March 1995

The Realistic Spirit

Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind


The realistic spirit, a nonmetaphysical approach to philosophical thought concerned with the character of philosophy itself, informs all of the discussions in these important essays by philosopher Cora Diamond. Diamond explains Wittgenstein's notoriously elusive later writings, including his criticism of the Tractatus, explores the background to his thought in the work of Frege, and discusses ethics in a way that reflects his influence. Diamond's new reading of Wittgenstein challenges currently accepted interpretations and shows what it means to look without mythology at the coherence, commitments, and connections that are distinctive of the mind.

Diamond's essays express a particular view of how Wittgenstein's philosophical writings hang together. She shows the development of Wittgenstein's thought in relation to the central question about what constitutes a philosophical treatment of the mind. The idea that Wittgenstein progressed from philosophical realism to antirealism is examined and criticized in several essays; and an alternative account is developed, emphasizing his criticisms of metaphysics and of traditional philosophies which mislead by laying down requirements of argument that subsequently distort what we say and do. While the nature of rationality—the relation between mind and reality—occupies a central place in Diamond's essays, she also develops a view of ethics that is distinct from current views such as utilitarianism, Kantian ethical theories, and virtue theories. Written in a realistic spirit, Diamond's essays on ethics reveal how Wittgenstein's radically different sort of philosophy can affect our thinking about our own lives.

Representation and Mind series

About the Author

Cora Diamond is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia.


"This is the most important book on Wittgenstein in over a decade, but it is also much more than that. These essays range widely over issues in the philosophy of language, ethics, and literature and they illuminate everything they touch. They show the full range and power of one of the best philosophical minds I know."
Hillary Putnam, Harvard University

"To my mind, Diamond, more than any other commentator, conveys an accurate sense of Wittgenstein's methods and goals in philosophy. Her essays illuminating the complicated subtle relationships between the earlier and later works are the best in the field."
Thomas Ricketts, University of Pennsylvania