(2013) Wittgenstein and Cultural Relativism

Alois Pichler


Paper in Sofia 2013, Oct. 31. My paper has two parts. In the first part I will start with a close reading of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (PI) §206 and related passages. In relating my reading to issues of Cultural Relativism, I will then try to show that the PI both questions and opposes Cultural Relativism. In the second part of the paper I use Wittgenstein’s Nachlass to further deepen my discussion. In short, the argument against Cultural Relativism, as I attribute it to the PI, is the following: Humans communicate with each other, no matter whether they belong to the same or to (radically) different cultures, on the basis of shared ways of acting (“Handlungsweisen”). Where no such shared ways of acting exist, there they can be developed. I will argue that Wittgenstein makes ontological claims about what human nature is, and, most importantly, that there is a common human nature.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; gemeinsame menschliche Handlungsweise; shared ways of acting; cultural relativism; human nature; intercultural communication; learning; prerational basis; practice; natural history; fact; understanding; interpreting; regularity; example

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