Wittgenstein, Learning and the Expressive Formation of Emotions

  • Steinar Bøyum


The topic of this chapter is Wittgenstein’s view on the learning of emotional concepts. The concept of learning, however, covers a motley of processes, and we should resist the impulse to force them all into a single mold or two. Hence, the modest aim here is to explore only some of the characteristic ways in which we learn emotions . It is not meant to be complete, nor to provide much depth or detail, but seeks to introduce at least some of the elements in a perspicuous representation of the logical grammar of emotion learning. On many readings of Wittgenstein , his philosophy has most to teach us about practical learning, since he is centrally concerned with knowing-how, tacit knowledge, and practical mastery. Here, however, we emphasize Wittgenstein’s comparison between learning how to recognize emotional patterns and learning how to distinguish styles of music . The leading idea will be that the education of the self is constituted by an interplay between taking a first person perspective and a third person perspective on oneself.


Wittgenstein Learning Emotion Expression First person authority 


  1. Bradmetz, J., & Schneider, R. (1999). Is Little Red Riding Hood afraid of her grandmother? Cognitive vs. emotional response to a false belief. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 17(4), 501–514. doi: 10.1348/026151099165438 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bøyum, S. (2007). Philosophy and language learning. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 26(1), 43–56. doi: 10.1007/s11217-006-9013-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bøyum, S. (2008). The concept of philosophical experience. Metaphilosophy, 39(3), 265–281. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2008.00542.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bøyum, S. (2013). Wittgenstein, social views and intransitive learning. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 47(3), 491–506. doi: 10.1111/1467-9752.12036 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cavell, S. (1976). Must we mean what we say? Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cavell, S. (1999). The claim of reason: Wittgenstein, skepticism, morality, and tragedy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. De Sousa, R. (1990). The rationality of emotion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Finkelstein, D. H. (2003). Expression and the inner. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Frankfurt, H. G. (2005). On bullshit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gao, X., & Maurer, D. (2009). Influence of intensity on children’s sensitivity to happy, sad, and fearful facial expressions. Error, 102(4), 1–19. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2008.11.002 Google Scholar
  11. Hacker, P. M. S. (2013). Prologue: Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology as a critical instrument for the psychological sciences. In A Wittgensteinian perspective on the use of conceptual analysis in psychology (pp. 10–27). UK: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1057/9781137384287_2
  12. Haddon, M. (2004). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. New York: Vintage Contemporaries.Google Scholar
  13. Harris, P. L. (2010). Children’s understanding of emotion. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones, & L. Feldman Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 320–331). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  14. Heidegger, M. (1996). Being and time (J. Stambaugh, Trans.). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hertzberg, L. (2014). Very general facts of nature. In M. McGinn & O. Kuusela (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of Wittgenstein (pp. 351–374). Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA.Google Scholar
  16. Kuusela, O. (2013). Wittgenstein’s method of conceptual investigation and concept formation in psychology. In T. P. Racine & K. L. Slaney (Eds.), A Wittgensteinian perspective on the use of conceptual analysis in psychology (pp. 51–71). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McKinlay, M. (2005). Churchill’s black dog? The history of the ‘black dog’ as a metaphor for depression. Accessed January 13, 2016.
  18. Monk, R. (1990). Ludwig Wittgenstein: The duty of genius. New York: Free Press, Maxwell Macmillan International.Google Scholar
  19. Musil, R. (2001). The confusions of Young Törless. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  20. Plath, S. (2000). The unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  21. Rembert, A. (1975). Wittgenstein on learning the names of inner states. The Philosophical Review, 84(2), 236–248. doi: 10.2307/2183969 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schulte, J. (2009). Wittgenstein on emotion. In Y. Gustafsson, C. Kronqvist, & M. McEachrane (Eds.), Emotions and understanding (pp. 27–42). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stroud, B. (2011). Feelings and the ascription of feelings. Teorema: Revista Internacional De Filosofía, 30(3), 25–34.Google Scholar
  24. Styron, W. (1990). Darkness visible: A memoir of madness. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  25. Virgil. (1999). Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1–6. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Williams, M. (1994). The significance of learning in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 24(2), 173–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wittgenstein, L., Schlick, M., & McGuinness, B. (1979). Wittgenstein and the Vienna circle: Conversations. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.Google Scholar
  28. Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical investigations (G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell (PI).Google Scholar
  29. Wittgenstein, L. (1956). Remarks on the foundations of mathematics (G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell (RFM).Google Scholar
  30. Wittgenstein, L. (1958). The blue and brown books. Oxford: Blackwell (BB).Google Scholar
  31. Wittgenstein, L. (1966). Lectures and conversations on aesthetics, psychology and religious belief. In C. Barrett (Ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press (LC).Google Scholar
  32. Wittgenstein, L. (1967). Zettel (G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell (Z).Google Scholar
  33. Wittgenstein, L. (1976). Lectures on the foundations of mathematics. In C. Diamond (Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (LFM).Google Scholar
  34. Wittgenstein, L. (1980). Remarks on the philosophy of psychology (Vol. I, G. E. M. Anscombe & G. H. Von Wright, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell (RPP).Google Scholar
  35. Wittgenstein, L. (1982). Last writings on the philosophy of psychology (Vol. I, C. G. Luckhardt & M. A. E. Aue, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell (LW1).Google Scholar
  36. Wittgenstein, L. (1992). Last writings on the philosophy of psychology (Vol. II, C. G. Luckhardt & M. A. E. Aue, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell (LW2).Google Scholar
  37. Wright, C. (1998). Self-knowledge: The Wittgensteinian legacy. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 43, 101–122. doi: 10.1017/S135824610000432X CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

Personalised recommendations