This is Bertrand Russell on Wittgenstein’s book Philosophical Investigations which had a profound influence on 20th century philosophy: (emphasis mine)
“Its positive doctrines seem to me trivial and its negative doctrines unfounded. I have not found in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations anything that seemed to me interesting and I do not understand why a whole school finds important wisdom in its pages. Psychologically this is surprising. The earlier Wittgenstein, whom I knew intimately, was a man addicted to passionately intense thinking, profoundly aware of difficult problems of which I, like him, felt the importance, and possessed (or at least so I thought) of true philosophical genius. The later Wittgenstein, on the contrary, seems to have grown tired of serious thinking and to have invented a doctrine which would make such an activity unnecessary. I do not for one moment believe that the doctrine which has these lazy consequences is true.” — Bertrand Russell
I completely endorse this view, and would go further to say that Wittgenstein’s influence on philosophy has been horrendous. From Logical Positivism to Analytic Philosophy, the slow denigration of philosophy from a field of genuine importance in the world to a field of complete worthlessness can’t be understated — and much of this comes down to the near God-like status given to Wittgenstein.
Wittgenstein’s influence has been a disgusting dogma from which we are only now coming up for air.
(Don’t get me wrong and take this as a kind of tacit endorsement for 20th century “continental” philosophy, which was even worse. At the very least, Analytic Philosophy understood the essential centrality of science, mathematics, and logic, and was far less prone to Freudianism, Marxism, and the other dogmatic ‘isms that plagued 20th century thought in the humanities and social sciences.)
All of this said, there were a few rays of light contrasting this nonsense on both sides of the Atlantic in the last century: Russell, Popper, and Quine to name the obvious ones. And there are those like Daniel Dennett doing a great job at making Philosophy relevant again in our own century. I hope this continues.
Philosophy is only valuable in so far as it acts as a generator for new solutions to serious problems. The best of these will be picked up in their respective fields: science, politics, etc. It can’t be discounted how often the best ideas of humanity began as REAL “philosophical investigations”… not philosophical trivia.
Keep your conjectures bold and your refutations brutal. 😉
Now go think about something heavy,