How many Wittgensteins?

David G. Stern


The paper maps out some of the main areas of disagreement over the nature of Wittgenstein's philosophy: (1) Between defenders of a "two Wittgensteins" reading (which draws a sharp distinction between early and late Wittgenstein) and the opposing "one Wittgenstein" interpretation. (2) Among two Wittgenstein interpreters as to when the later philosophy emerged, and over the central difference between early and late Wittgenstein. (3) Between those who hold that Wittgenstein ends traditional philosophy in order to do philosophy better and those who hold that Wittgenstein aimed to bring an end to philosophy and teach us to get by without a replacement. Each of these debates depends on some deeply un-Wittgensteinian assumptions about what form the answer to such a question could take: we are presented with polarized alternatives, and told that they exhaust the possible approaches. But these are restrictive and constricting alternatives; a better approach would be to acknowledge that there are both continuities and discontinuities in Wittgenstein's thought. Why should we have to argue over whether there is "something in common to all that we call" (PI, §65) Wittgenstein's philosophy (early, late, or all of it)? We would be better off saying that his writings "are related to one another in many different ways" (PI, §65) and turning to the more worthwhile task of investigating those relations in greater detail.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; early Wittgenstein; middle Wittgenstein; late Wittgenstein; Pyrrhonism; two-Wittgenstein view; one-Wittgenstein view

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