The Failure of Wittgensteinian Therapy and the Philosophical Law of Truth

Jacques Poulain


Wittgenstein wanted to cure us, as philosophers, from our unilateral and para-scientific cramps that arise when we strive for certainty in the face of conceptual confusions (begriffliche Verwirrungen). These confusions are produced by misunderstandings, by social contradictions, and by the failure of our communication with others. Our solution is to seek security by coming to agreement with ourselves, by reducing the subject-matter of our troubles to a problem of coherence within ourselves. Thus our problem is reduced to a psychological one or to a problem of agreement with our partners which could be produced by argumentation; in other words philosophically. In Wittgenstein's diagnosis this means that we try to find a theoretical solution for a practical problem. The urge for certainty by theoretical means cannot but strengthen our conceptual confusions. Therefore, we have to look in another direction, to another context for our problems: These problems must be solved within language-games and by the language-games themselves without the intervention of our chronic reflection and cramps. Only then can we recognize that our social contradictions and our disagreement arise from the fact of not being able to apply our words to our situation in order to be aware of what we have to perceive, to know, to desire, and to do. When we look for a theoretical solution to these problems, we forget the way language-games work and become forms of life. It would be enough to remind us of the multiple ways language-games work in order to be able to dissolve these theoretical cramps and to stop idle thought. The sign that we have succeeded in curing ourselves would be that we become able to stop this chronic use of thinking when we want to do so. Against this diagnostic and this wishful thinking, I wish to affirm the following theses: The Wittgensteinian way of describing the use of language is the only one which dooms us to be what he wanted to prevent us from being. If we believe it, we are obliged to privatize our language-game in such a way that it cannot be cured anymore. It is the only way which obliges us to let the language-games go idle. The reason is that we try to do what we are unable to before we submit ourselves to this therapy.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; truth; therapy; confusion; language game; harmony; reality; hiatus; sense; meaning

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