About Pictures which Held Us Captive – Richard Rorty Reads Wittgenstein

Sebastian Kletzl


In this paper I discuss Rorty’s thesis that the later Wittgenstein should be
interpreted as arguing against a certain metaphysical picture and as a satirist
with respect to metaphysical concepts. In the first part I sketch the picture
which Rorty wants us to abandon. I also explore if Wittgenstein could be seen as
arguing against this picture. I will argue that Wittgenstein does really give
good arguments against large parts of this picture but that Rorty’s reading of
Wittgenstein is one-sided and therefore problematic. I shall outline Rorty’s
picture of Wittgenstein and its shortcomings in the second part. I argue that
Rorty’s reading of Wittgenstein as a “philosophical satirist” is wrong and stems
from his improper exclusion of large parts of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.
Therefore Wittgenstein is better to be seen as an “ironic propagandist” of a new
style of thinking.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; neo-pragmatism; epistemology; ethics; irony; Cartesian picture

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