The continuity of Wittgenstein's philosophy: why worry about the Tractatus?

James Conant


The paper is about how to begin to think about the possible continuities and discontinuities in Wittgenstein's philosophy -- about where many commentators on Wittgenstein's work think the continuities are to be sought and about where else one might look for them. It attempts to lay bare some of the central exegetical assumptions common to certain standard readings of Wittgenstein's writings at three different stages of his career -- the Tractatus, the private language sections of Philosophical Investigations, and On Certainty -- and to indicate why there is reason to think that the philosophical assumptions thus standardly attributed to Wittgenstein are already under indictment in the Tractatus, and how that indictment remains in force in Philosophical Investigations and in On Certainty. I hope thereby to offer a brief overview of an alternative picture of where the continuity in Wittgenstein's philosophy might be thought to lie -- one which locates it in the opposite place from where we have been taught to look for it by much of the commentary on Wittgenstein's work.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; Tractatus logico-philosophicus; Philosophical Investigations; On Certainty; nonsense; grammar; meaning

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