Grammar, Method, Meaning, and Use: Workshop on Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy

Friday, 21 September 2012, Sydnesplassen 12/13, Room 210.

The speakers will present intermediate results of their ongoing research on central aspects of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Issues will include: Wittgenstein’s declared abstinence from theses in philosophy and the idea of philosophical therapy; the question whether “meaning is use” lends argumentative support to the method of asking for the actual use of words; the notion of grammar and its relevance for the relation between language and world. Each talk will last about 30 minutes, and will be followed by an open discussion session.

  • 14.15 Sebastian Greve (Birkbeck College, University of London): "If only we avoid misunderstandings in any particular case!" - Wittgenstein: Philosophy as an Activity

    How are we to understand Wittgenstein’s intention not to put forward any theses in philosophy?——After all, to some this might seem to involve a paradox. For, what can he mean by saying this if this utterance is not a thesis itself? Or, in order to escape the paradox, is it perhaps a meta-philosophical thesis rather than a thesis within philosophy? But what is meta-philosophy if not philosophy? I do not know the answer to any of these questions. However, I know how not even to let myself be troubled by such questions. This, I think, is what Wittgenstein tried to teach us in the form of his later method. In my paper, I present what I take to be a central, though often neglected, characteristic of this method, which, roughly, consists in: taking the philosophically troubled person seriously.

  • 15.30 Stefan Giesewetter (Universität Potsdam): "Meaning is Use" and Wittgenstein’s Method

    In Investigations §43, Wittgenstein famously wrote: “The meaning of a word is its use in the language”. In that work, Wittgenstein also declared: “What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use”. The question is: What is the relation between Wittgenstein’s method of dissolving philosophical problems by reminding us of the actual use of words, and “meaning is use”? “Therapeutic” readings of Later Wittgenstein have insisted that “meaning is use” should not be taken as a substantial account of how linguistic meaning comes about, but rather as a mere grammatical remark on how we use the word “meaning”. In my talk, I will deal with an assumption which can be found in many therapeutic readings: that although “meaning is use” is a mere fact of grammar, it still stands in some sort of special connection to the method of asking for the actual use of words. What I wish to show is that taking seriously the grammatical status of “meaning is use” should ultimately lead us to question this seemingly straightforward assumption.

  • 16.30 Sarah Anna Szeltner (Universität Kassel / University of Bergen): What is Grammar?

    The question what Wittgenstein means when he speaks about grammar seems to be of crucial importance for understanding his philosophical approach. Wittgenstein himself calls his investigation a grammatical one and uses the term “grammar” and its derivates abundantly throughout the whole Nachlass. Moreover, the notion of grammar is pivotal when we turn to the question about the relation between language and the world in his later writings. In my talk I will address the question what grammar is, not by offering a concluding answer, but by pointing to further questions and problems that arise when trying to find an answer.