A Problem and a Plan

  • David Bloor
Part of the Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences book series


Ludwig Wittgenstein was born in Vienna in 1889. He trained to be an engineer but his life’s work lay in philosophy. After completing his scientific education at Berlin he came to England to do research. His interests turned to mathematics and then to logic, and in 1911 he became a pupil of Bertrand Russell at Cambridge. Returning to Austria with the outbreak of war in 1914 he set about writing his first book. This became known as the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and was completed in the final stages of the conflict.1 After the war, in which he had served with distinction, he became a schoolteacher in the villages of lower Austria. In 1929 he returned to Cambridge, cast aside the doctrines of the Tractatus and the influence of Russell, and set about tackling the problems of philosophy afresh.2 It is this late, or mature philosophy, and this alone, which will be my concern.3


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico — Philosophicus, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1922. (First published in German in 1921.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For biographical details, see N. Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein, A. Memoir, London, Oxford University Press, 1958.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Useful comparisons and contrasts between the early and late work can be found in, for example: D. Pears, Wittgenstein, London, Fontana/Collins, 1971Google Scholar
  4. P. Hacker, Insight and Illusion, London, Oxford University Press, 1972Google Scholar
  5. A. Kenny, Wittgenstein, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1973.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Two excellent treatments are to be found in: E. Specht, The Foundations of Wittgenstein s Late Philosophy, trans. D. E. Walford, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1969Google Scholar
  7. and V. Klenk, Wittgensteins Philosophy of Mathematics, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. A useful collection of articles discussing the late philosophy is to be found in: G. Pitcher (ed.), Wittgenstein: The ‘Philosophical Investigations’, London, Macmillan, 1968.Google Scholar
  9. As a measure of the intensity of Wittgensteinean scholarship there are now line-by-line analyses of much of the later philosophy, e.g. G. Hallett, A Companion to Wittgenstein s ‘Philosophical Investigations’, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1977Google Scholar
  10. G. Baker and P. Hacker, Wittgenstein: Understanding and Meaning, An Analytical Commentary on the ‘Philosophical Investigations’, vol. 1, Oxford, Blackwell, 1980.Google Scholar
  11. 5.
    See, for example, P. Engelmann, Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein with a Memoir, trans. L. Furtmüller, Oxford, Blackwell, 1967Google Scholar
  12. A. Janik and S. Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973Google Scholar
  13. W. W. Bartley, Wittgenstein, London, Quartet Books, 1974. The cultural roots of Wittgenstein’s work will be touched upon in Chapter 8.Google Scholar
  14. 6.
    Pears, for example, draws attention to what he calls Wittgenstein’s ‘linguistic naturalism’ and to the ‘anthropocentric’ character of his later work; cf. Pears, Wittgenstein, pp. 172, 184 and 140, 153, 168, 170. Strawson’s review of PI emphasised the role given by Wittgenstein to ‘customary practice’ in rule-following, and Malcolm’s review likewise drew attention to Wittgenstein’s stress on the facts of ‘human nature’ and our natural propensity to extrapolate our training. Both reviews are reprinted in G. Pitcher (ed.), Wittgenstein: The Philosophical Investigations, Macmillan, London, 1968, cf. pp. 37 and 71.Google Scholar
  15. One of the most explicit statements is P. Jones, ‘Strains in Hume and Wittgenstein’, in D. Livingston and J. King (eds), Hume: A Re-evaluation, New York, Fordham University Press, 1976, pp. 191–209.Google Scholar
  16. The ‘fundamental fact that man is a social animal’, says Jones, ‘is prominent in the later work of Wittgenstein’ (p. 191). Jones argues, I think correctly, that a reassessment of the later philosophy is called for if we are to do justice to Wittgenstein’s insistence on these social and naturalistic themes, (p. 209). A recent, closely argued analysis of Wittgenstein’s work which culminates in a clear acknowledgement of its social and naturalistic basis is S. Kripke, ‘Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Languages’, in I. Block (ed.), Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein, Oxford, Blackwell, 1981, pp. 238–312.Google Scholar
  17. My own, earlier, arguments to this effect can be found in D. Bloor, ‘Wittgenstein and Mannheim on the Sociology of Mathematics’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, vol.4, no. 2, 1973, pp. 173–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 7.
    See, for example, E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. J. W. Swain, New York, Collier, 1961 (first French ed. 1912) (the introduction and conclusion are particularly important)Google Scholar
  19. E. Durkheim, Sociology and Philosophy, trans. D. Pocock, New York, The Free Press, 1974 (this contains the important essay on ‘Individual and Collective Representations’ first published in 1898)Google Scholar
  20. E. Durkheim, Essays on Sociology and Philosophy, ed. K. Wolff, New York, Harper & Row, 1960 (this contains Durkheim’s criticisms of pragmatism and his theory of the social origins of the dualism of human nature: both works date from 1914)Google Scholar
  21. E. Durkheim and M. Mauss, Primitive Classification, trans. R. Needham, London, Cohen & West, 1963 (first French ed. 1903).Google Scholar
  22. The closeness of Wittgenstein to Durkheim may be measured by the fact that some authorities treat Wittgenstein as someone who did little more than rediscover Durkheim’s insights. See, for example, S. Lukes, Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work, London, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1973, p. 437Google Scholar
  23. and E. Gellner, ‘Concepts and Society’, in Cause and Meaning in the Social Sciences, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, ch.2, fn 3, 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 8.
    See, for example, pp. 486 and 493 of the Elementary Forms.Google Scholar
  25. 9.
    Hacker, for example, refers to the’ snippet-box method of composition of the later work’, and calls for a ‘comprehensive and systematic account’ of topics that Wittgenstein ‘delineated unsystematically and obscurely’ (Hacker, Insight and Illusion, pp. 141, 309). R. J. Fogelin, Wittgenstein, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976, complains in his preface about Wittgenstein’s obscurity and lack of explicit argument. Malcolm in his review (Ludwig Wittgenstein) insists that beneath the puzzling collections of reflections there lies a true unity, but one that ‘cannot be perceived without strenuous exertion’, (p. 65).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 10.
    In what follows I shall use the word ‘positivism’ to refer to the methodological stance in the social sciences in which it is assumed, as Habermas puts it, that ‘we can no longer understand science as one form of possible knowledge, but rather must identify knowledge with science’: J. Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interests, trans. J. Shapiro, London, Heinemann, 1972, p. 4.Google Scholar
  27. A useful survey of the relation of Wittgensteinean work to these various anti-positivist movements is to be found in R. Bernstein, The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory, Oxford, Blackwell, 1976.Google Scholar
  28. 11.
    P. Winch, The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Bloor 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Bloor
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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