(2012) Wittgenstein and Cultural Relativism

Anat Biletzki


Lecture in Bergen 2012, Nov. 22. The later Wittgenstein is often labeled a relativist. In this talk I narrow the relativism field to cultural relativism and address the issue of Wittgenstein’s views as conducive to such an interpretation. Wittgenstein’s own idiosyncratic remarks, in, for example, his “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough,” or “Lectures on Religious Belief,” and the general anti-dogmatic stance of the later philosophy have served to ground this reading. Using Peter Winch and Ernest Gellner as such readers of Wittgenstein, but going beyond them, I elaborate on a more nuanced view, which interweaves his critical comments on any type of positivism with a universalistic view of the human form of life. Stanley Cavell and Clifford Geertz then supply the arguments for tolerance and pluralism that, nevertheless, do not lead Wittgenstein to cultural relativism.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; relativism; cultural relativism; anthropology; form of life; Geertz Clifford; Winch Peter; Gellner Ernest

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