Trying to keep philosophy honest: Wittgenstein's view on philosophy

Lars Hertzberg


Wittgenstein came to see how the struggle to maintain one's honesty, rather than the attempt to formulate certain complex ideas, was internal to the difficulty of philosophy. Today there are numerous signs that philosophers in the analytic tradition are eager to leave the influence of Wittgenstein behind, regarding it as a concluded phase in the history of philosophy. In this talk, I wish to convey some idea of the kind of loss to philosophy that would involve. Two of the central remarks capturing Wittgenstein's attitude to the problems of philosophy are PI § 593: "A main cause of philosophical disease - a one-sided diet: one nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example"", and § 116: ""What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use."" What these remarks suggest, I believe, is that the only way out of philosophical bewilderment is to relinquish the ambition to formulate certain ideas that will provide a solution to the puzzles we face. Rather, we should try to quicken our sense of the way words are actually used by people who say things because they have something to say. Putting this differently, it is a matter of letting ourselves be taught by the examples, rather than using examples as illustrations of our preconceived solutions. In a sense, we must relinquish our control of the process of investigation. This is perhaps the hardest thing in philosophy."


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; metaphilosophy; example; metaphysics; therapy

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