Wittgenstein’s Later Criticism of the Tractatus

James Conant


The paper represents an effort to advance the debate between those whoadvocate resolute readings of Wittgenstein and those who deplore them. Itseeks to do so by, on the one hand, attempting to correct certain misunderstandingsof such readings (explaining, in effect, why they amount to caricatures)while, on the other, seeking to discourage advocates of such readingsfrom accepting the terms of the debate as defined by the critics (thereby, ineffect, embracing the caricature and seeking to defend it). The paper seeks aform of equilibrium in reading Wittgenstein that has hitherto proven elusiveto commentary on his work. The difficulty has two sides which must bebalanced against each other, without permitting either to assume an undueshare of the burden. The first half of the difficulty is to do full justice to theprofound discontinuity in Wittgenstein’s thinking without neglecting (asthose who are called “standard readers” do) the extent to which it is foldedwithin a fundamental continuity in his philosophy. The second half of thedifficulty is to do full justice to the profound continuity in his thinkingwithout minimizing (as those who are called “zealous mono-Wittgensteinians”do) the extent to which it is folded within a fundamental discontinuityin his philosophy. The aim of this paper will be twofold: (1) to argue that afull acknowledgement of the moment of continuity requires a reasonablyheterodox degree of mono-Wittgensteinianism, and (2) that an equally fullacknowledgement of the complementary moment of discontinuity requiresthat the degree of this heterodoxy remain reasonably mild.


20th century philosophy; Philosophical Investigations; Tractatus logico-philosophicus; Wittgenstein Ludwig; philosophy; reading of Wittgenstein; resolute reading

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