Wittgenstein and Classical Pragmatism



My paper compares Wittgenstein to the three classical pragmatist, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James , and John Dewey . It is well known that Frank Ramsey read and cited Peirce, although we can only conjecture what, if anything, he may have communicated of Peirce to Wittgenstein or if Wittgenstein ever read him for himself. Through Ramsey, we will explore some of the similarities between Wittgenstein and Peirce, including the typically pragmatist emphasis on intelligent action and its relation to doubt. One important difference is Peirce and pragmatism’s emphasis on embodied habits. We will also examine the well-documented influence of James on Wittgenstein. Many of Wittgenstein’s criticisms of psychology can most likely be traced to errors he initially found in James. However, there are many likely sources of positive influence on Wittgenstein as well including perhaps the notion of an inherited world picture, his unique theory of universals along with his holism, historicism, and anti-foundationalism . While Wittgenstein has many positive things to say about James , he is entirely negative in his remarks about Dewey. Ironically, we will find that Dewey is the pragmatist with whom most commentators have identified thematic resonances to Wittgenstein.


Pragmatism Peirce James Dewey Wittgenstein 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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