Wittgenstein and the Linguistic Turn

Richard Rorty


There are profound differences of opinion among contemporary philosophersboth about whether Wittgenstein is worth reading and about whatone can learn from him. They parallel disagreements about whether, and in what sense, philosophical problems are problems of language. In this paper, I shall describe three views of Wittgenstein, corresponding to threeways of thinking about the so-called “linguistic turn in philosophy”. Doingso will help me defend two claims for which I have argued in the past. First: there is no interesting sense in which philosophical problems areproblems of language. Second: the linguistic turn was useful nevertheless,for it turned philosophers’ attention from the topic of experience towards that of linguistic behavior. That shift helped break the hold of empiricism—and, more broadly, of representationalism.

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