Wittgenstein and the Concept of Essence

Oskari Kuusela


In this talk I argue for a methodological interpretation of Wittgenstein's conception of essence in contrast to a constructivist interpretation represented by Baker and Hacker. Whereas according to the constructivist reading Wittgenstein holds the view that essences are a creation of our linguistic practices ("a shadow cast by grammar on reality"), according to the methodological interpretation Wittgenstein is merely concerned to clarify what it means to talk about essences, i.e. how questions concerning essences are to be addressed. By adopting the methodological reading we can avoid attributing to Wittgenstein a thesis about the construction of reality (or its essential features) through grammar, which the constructivist interpretation seems committed to. Thus the methodological reading seems to fit better Wittgenstein's remarks according to which he has no philosophical theses.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; essence; method; grammar; language; clarification; metaphilosophy; thesis

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