The New Wittgenstein

The New Wittgenstein

The New Wittgenstein

The New Wittgenstein

Synopsis

The New Wittgenstein offers a major re-evaluation of Wittgenstein's thinking. This book is a stellar collection of essays that presents a significantly different portrait of Wittgenstein. The essays clarify Wittgenstein's modes of philosophical criticism and shed light on the relation between his thought and different philosophical traditions and areas of human concern. With essays by Stanley Cavell, James Conant, Cora Diamond, Peter Winch and Hilary Putnam, we see the emergence of a new way of understanding Wittgenstein's thought.

Excerpt

This volume contains papers on Wittgenstein which (with one exception which I will mention below) share certain fundamental and—with respect to received views about Wittgenstein’s thought—quite unorthodox assumptions about his conception of the aim of philosophy. This is not to say that the papers form a homogeneous body of work. They are concerned with different periods and regions of his thought, and they diverge from each other to various extents in their emphases and styles, and in the views they attribute to him. Nevertheless, without regard to the period (or periods) of his work with which they are concerned, they agree in suggesting that Wittgenstein’s primary aim in philosophy is—to use a word he himself employs in characterizing his later philosophical procedures—a therapeutic one. These papers have in common an understanding of Wittgenstein as aspiring, not to advance meta-physical theories, but rather to help us work ourselves out of confusions we become entangled in when philosophizing. More specifically, they agree in representing him as tracing the sources of our philosophical confusions to our tendency, in the midst of philosophizing, to think that we need to survey language from an external point of view. They invite us to understand him as wishing to get us to see that our need to grasp the essence of thought and language will be met—not, as we are inclined to think in philosophy, by metaphysical theories expounded from such a point of view, but—by attention to our everyday forms of expression and to the world those forms of expression serve to reveal.

This description of what unites the papers in this volume may seem to fall short of a description of an unorthodoxy about both Wittgenstein’s early and later thought. It is extremely irregular to speak of a therapeutic aim in connection with the Tractatus. But some of the most widely accepted interpretations of Wittgenstein’s later thought characterize his main philosophical aspiration, in roughly the terms used above, as a therapeutic one. If these familiar characterizations are taken at face-value, it will seem as though accounts of Wittgenstein’s later thought as having a therapeutic aim, of the sort developed in some of the papers in this volume, are anything but unorthodox. And, further, it will seem as though a volume like this one which represents his thought as having a therapeutic aim both early and late is groundbreaking only in its suggestion that the Tractatus anticipates his later thought in more significant ways than is ordinarily assumed.

It would not be wrong to say that what is most striking about the papers in this volume has to do with their suggestion of significant continuity in Wittgenstein’s thought. These papers criticize more standard interpretations of his work in so far

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