Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

Excerpt

Wittgenstein wrote cryptically, and to make sense of his prose is always a challenge. One method of coping with this problem that I have found useful is that of working out my own way of handling a problem with which he was dealing. Sometimes when I have come, largely on my own, to see a way through his difficulty, I found I had a vantage point from which for the first time I could make some clear sense of various remarks of his that had baffled me. That is by no means a fast route to understanding Wittgenstein. One may sometimes make a half a dozen attempts before the pieces begin to fall into place, and there are all too many of his themes on which it has not yet worked for me at all. But with luck and patience, often enough it is rewarding; and when it is, I am confronted with the question whether to present the conclusions I have reached as my own views, or as interpretations of Wittgenstein. In an earlier volume, Essays after Wittgenstein (Toronto, 1973), I followed the former course: I presented what I had to say as philosophy, rather than as Wittgenstein scholarship; but I confessed my belief that on many points I either had a correct interpretation of Wittgenstein, or at least an interesting suggestion about how some of his deliberations might be understood.

The studies in the present volume do, or do more of, what I scarcely attempted in the earlier essays. They vary considerably in this respect, but they gravitate towards the scholar's task of focusing closely on particular passages and themes, bringing out in some detail the difficulties there are in understanding them, projecting possible lines of interpretation, and comparatively evaluating these in the light of whatever textual evidence appears relevant.

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