The Heirs to the Subject that used to be called Philosophy
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I have now carried through my plan to present a systematic account of the sociological and naturalistic themes in Wittgenstein’s work. I have also indicated how his ideas can be developed by an empirical approach to the questions that he addressed — despite his own reluctance to do this. What I have tried to convey is a sense of the numerous points of contact between Wittgenstein’s concerns and issues that are not only amenable to empirical study, but positively cry out for such an approach.1 If we forge our picture of the world in the context of social interaction — and no one has demonstrated this in more detail than Wittgenstein — then we should be able to see why different groups produce different pictures. This is why I insisted on reconstructing the idea of language-games within a comparative framework. This was why Wittgenstein’s cryptic references to ‘needs’ had to be filled out by giving them a social location and treating them as interests. With a theoretical framework to sharpen our vision we can see how his obscure talk of ‘spontaneity’ can be replaced by the thesis that the formation of language-games can be made law-like and intelligible. If I am right there are four main families of language-game that merit special attention. If this result is upheld it should help focus and simplify subsequent research.
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Notes and References
- 1.Consider the following passage in which Wittgenstein invites us to imagine a tribe who consulted oracles rather than basing their actions and beliefs on the findings of science: ‘Is it wrong for them to consult an oracle and be guided by it? — If we call this “wrong” aren’t we using our language-game as a base from which to combat theirs?’ (OC, 609). Cf. also OC, 610–12. How else could this idea of ‘combat’ be taken seriously except by appeal to factual data and case studies about the confrontation and conflict of social groups?Google Scholar
- 2.‘To repeat: don’t think, but look!’ (PI, I, 66).Google Scholar