Trying to keep philosophy honest

Lars Hertzberg


For Wittgenstein the struggle to maintain one’s honesty, rather than formulating certain complex ideas, was central to the difficulty of philosophy.Today many philosophers in the analytic tradition are eager to leave the influence of Wittgenstein behind. In this essay, an attempt is made to conveyan idea of the loss to philosophy that would involve. Wittgenstein’s attitudeto the problems of philosophy is captured in PI § 116: “What we do is tobring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use”; PI § 593:“A main cause of philosophical disease – a one-sided diet: one nourishesone’s thinking with only one kind of example”; and OC § 549: “Pretensionsare a mortgage which burdens a philosopher’s capacity to think”.These remarks suggest that the way out of philosophical bewilderment is to relinquish the ambition to formulate certain ideas that will provide a solutionto it. Rather, we should quicken our sense of the way words are used bypeople who say things because they have something to say. We should letourselves be taught by the examples rather than use examples as illustrationsof preconceived solutions. In doing so we must relinquish our control of theprocess of investigation. This is perhaps the hardest thing in philosophy.


20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; ethics; existential philosophy; meaning as use; philosophy; philosophy of language; reading of Wittgenstein

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