Wittgenstein, Empiricism, and Language

Wittgenstein, Empiricism, and Language

Wittgenstein, Empiricism, and Language

Wittgenstein, Empiricism, and Language

Synopsis

This provocative study exposes the ways in which Wittgenstein's philosophical views have been misunderstood, including the failure to recognize the reductionist character of Wittgenstein's work. Author John Cook provides well-documented proof that Wittgenstein did not hold views commonly attributed to him, arguing that Wittgenstein's later work was mistakenly seen as a development of G. E. Moore's philosophy--which Wittgenstein in fact vigorously attacked. He also points to an underestimation of Russell's influence on Wittgenstein's thinking. Cook goes on to show how these misunderstandings have had grave consequences for philosophy at large, and proposes that a more subtle appreciation of linguistic philosophy can yield valuable results.

Excerpt

This book could be thought of as a sequel to my Wittgenstein's Metaphysics (1994), in which I argued that Wittgenstein undertook to solve a number of philosophical problems by resorting to reductionist solutions, such as phenomenalism and behaviorism. That book roused such hostility and misunderstanding in some readers that I was forced to think long and hard about the source of their reaction. I knew of course that I was stepping firmly on the toes of philosophers who had built careers by endorsing Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and their reaction to my unwelcome interpretation could have been expected. Most of the reactions, however, were philosophical in nature and appear to arise from several sources. One is a failure to understand what reductionism is, resulting in a failure to recognize even glaring instances of it. Another is the assumption that empiricism, far from being a weird view of things, reflects the ways in which we commonly think and talk about ourselves and the world. (One critic, noting my lack of sympathy for empiricism, decided I must be a rationalist!) Finally, there is a tendency to look at Wittgenstein's later work as a continuation or development of G. E. Moore's philosophy, and this has led some philosophers to interpret Wittgenstein's aphoristic remarks in a way that might have been congenial to Moore. But this tendency places Wittgenstein in entirely the wrong tradition, thereby obscuring his philosophical aims and the meaning of much that he said.

The present book is my attempt to deal with all of this in a way that goes beyond Wittgenstein's Metaphysics. It can, I believe, be read perfectly well by those unfamiliar with the earlier book, but I must warn such readers that they may think I haven't said enough in this book to substantiate certain of my claims, both about Wittgenstein and about various philosophical issues. They are advised, then, to turn to the earlier book where they will, I trust, find their requirements satisfied. On the other hand, those who have read the earlier book and were not convinced by it will, I believe, find that I have now addressed their concerns.

Chapter 11 is a slightly revised version of "Moore and Skepticism," which was my contribution to the Festschrift honoring Norman Malcolm, Knowledge and Mind . . .

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