Rhees, Wittgenstein, and the Swansea School

Mario von der Ruhr


In his book Philosophical Analysis, which chronicles the development of analytic philosophy between the two World Wars, J. O. Urmson rightly notes that ‘the division of philosophers into schools is always a somewhat artificial matter, since every philosopher worthy of the name will say what he thinks, whether it agrees with the thoughts of his colleagues or no’. In regard to logical positivism, he admits, the term ‘movement’ may not have been entirely misguided, since its advocates did share a set of basic tenets about the nature of philosophy, the conditions of meaningful speech, the futility of metaphysics, etc. The analytic philosophers of his own time, on the other hand, ‘fight shy of the sort of general philosophical pronounce-ments which could count as basic tenets’, their views and methods reveal-ing at best a certain kind of ‘family resemblance’. Urmson’s observations also hold for the group of philosophers known as the ‘Swansea School’. Unlike, for example, the Vienna Circle, the Marburg School, or the Frank-furt School, whose inquiries were largely focused on scientific method and critical Marxism, the philosophical activities of the Swansea School neither revolved around a particular branch of philosophy, nor were they intended to yield a shared doctrine or commonly accepted ‘solutions’ to particular philosophical issues or puzzles.


20th century philosophy; Rhees Rush; Swansea school; Swansea school Wittgensteinians; Wittgenstein Ludwig; correspondence; philosophy

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