Improvisation and Imagination in Wittgenstein's Investigations

Beth Savickey


Acts of imagination play a central role in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Invitations such as ‘Let us imagine...’ occur throughout his writings, and they are neither occasional asides invoking quirky examples, nor the casual introduction of illustrative or theoretical material. Rather, they are genuine calls to imagine the uses of language that follow, and they require a participatory response. Rooted in the cultural and pedagogical movements of turn-of-the-century Vienna (with their emphasis on grammatical investigation) these imaginative acts take the form of grammatical improvisation. Improvisational exercises occur throughout Wittgenstein’s manuscripts, typescripts, and lectures from the mid-1920s until the early 1950s. They are presented in detail in the Investigations (as well as other posthumous publications). The challenges inherent in playing out Wittgenstein’s improvisational exercises not only demonstrate the queer resemblance between philosophical and aesthetic investigations, but suggest that Wittgenstein’s investigations are themselves both philosophical and aesthetic (CV 25e).


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; Nestroy Johann; Kraus Karl; imagination; improvisation; aesthetics; method; meaning; grammar; pleasure; play

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