About this topic
Summary The topic of rule-following covers a cluster of issues pertaining to rules, our grasp of them, and the way they figure into how we act. These issues are important because many philosophers think that concept possession, inference, and linguistic meaning are intimately bound with rules. A rule is something that determines that certain actions have the status of being permissible/required in certain conditions. For example, there is a traffic rule in New York City to the effect that it is impermissible to make a right turn at a red light. Now, one could be driving in New York and act in accordance with this rule by accident. However, most drivers in New York do grasp the rule and this plays a role in how they act in preventing them from making right turns at red lights. Accordingly, one interesting question is what is it to grasp a particular rule rather than some other one. Here, there are influential arguments presented by Wittgenstein, Kripke, and others to the effect that this can't be analyzed in terms of having given oneself explicit instructions or being disposed to act in a certain way. A lot of work is focused on whether they are right. Another interesting question is what is it to follow a particular rule on an occasion. 
Key works Wittgenstein's discussion of rule-following can be found mainly in his Philosophical Investigations and Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Important commentaries which largely started the contemporary discussion are Wright 1980 and Kripke 1982. Further work includes McDowell 1984 which comments on both Wright's and Kripke's interpretations while defending his own, Pettit 1990 which defends the reality of rule-following and Ch. 1 of Brandom 1994 which provides a very clear statement of the basic issues. A lot of work from this period is collected in Miller & Wright 2002. Recent work includes Wright 2007, Boghossian 2008, Panjvani 2008, Yamada 2010, and Ginsborg 2011.
Introductions Although there are no strictly introductory articles available as of yet, one can get a grip on the basic issues by reading Boghossian 1989, and Pettit 1990.
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  1. D. F. Ackermann (1983). Wittgenstein, Rules and Origin - Privacy. Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 1:63-69.
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  2. M. I. Afaqui (1994). Wittgenstein's Epistemology of Rule Following: Understanding and Evaluation. Pakistan Philosophical Journal 31:35.
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  3. Erich Ammereller (2004). Puzzles About Rule-Following : Pi 185-242. In Erich Ammereller & Eugen Fisher (eds.), Wittgenstein at Work: Method in the Philosophical Investigations. Routledge 127.
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  4. Robert L. Arrington (2001). Following a Rule. In Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Wittgenstein: A Critical Reader. Blackwell Publishers 119--137.
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  5. A. J. Ayer (1954). Can There Be a Private Language? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 28:63-94.
  6. Jody Azzouni (2010). The Rule-Following Paradox and the Impossibility of Private Rule-Following. The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 5 (1).
    Kripke’s version of Wittgenstein’s rule-following paradox has been influential. My concern is with how it—and Wittgenstein’s views more generally—have been perceived as undercutting the individualistic picture of mathematical practice: the view that individuals—Robinson Crusoes—can, entirely independently of a community, engage in cogent mathematics, and indeed have “private languages.” What has been denied is that phrases like “correctly counting” can be applied to such individuals because these normative notions can only be applied cogently in a context involving community standards. I attempt (...)
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  7. Gordon P. Baker & P. M. S. Hacker (1990). Malcolm on Language and Rules. Philosophy 65 (252):167-179.
    In ‘Wittgenstein on Language and Rules’, Professor N. Malcolm took us to task for misinterpreting Wittgenstein's arguments on the relationship between the concept of following a rule and the concept of community agreement on what counts as following a given rule. Not that we denied that there are any grammatical connections between these concepts. On the contrary, we emphasized that a rule and an act in accord with it make contact in language. Moreover we argued that agreement in judgments and (...)
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  8. Gordon P. Baker & P. M. S. Hacker (1985). Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar and Necessity. Blackwell.
  9. Gordon P. Baker & P. M. S. Hacker (1984). Scepticism, Rules and Language. Blackwell.
  10. Dorit Bar-On (1992). On the Possibility of a Solitary Language. Noûs 26 (1):27-46.
  11. Jeffrey A. Barrett (forthcoming). Rule-Following and the Evolution of Basic Concepts. .
    This article concerns how rule-following behavior might evolve, how an old evolved rule might come to be appropriated to a new context, and how simple concepts might coevolve with rule-following behavior. In particular, we consider how the transitive inferential rule-following behavior exhibited by pinyon and scrub jays might evolve in the context of a variety of the Skyrms-Lewis signaling game, then how such a rule might come to be appropriated to carry out inferences regarding stimuli different from those involved in (...)
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  12. Donald K. Barry (1996). Forms of Life and Following Rules: A Wittgensteinian Defence of Relativism. E.J. Brill.
    This book provides a defence of epistemological relativism against its most powerful opponents.
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  13. Lorenzo Bernasconi-Kohn (2006). How Not to Think About Rules and Rule Following: A Response to Stueber. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 36 (1):86-94.
    This article offers a critique of Karsten Stueber’s account of rule following as presented in his article "How to Think about Rules and Rule Following." The task Stueber sets himself is of defending the idea that human practices are bound and guided by rules (both causally and normatively) while avoiding the discredited "cognitive model of rule following." This article argues that Stueber’s proposal is unconvincing because it falls foul of the very problems it sets out to avoid. Stueber’s defense of (...)
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  14. Matteo Bianchin (2012). Bildung, Meaning, and Reasons. Verifiche: Rivista Trimestrale di Scienze Umane 41 (1-3):73-102.
    By endorsing that Bildung is a condition for thought, McDowell explicitly sets out to revive a theme in classical german philosophy. As long as the concept of Bildung is intended to play a role in McDowell’s theory of meaning and reasons, however, it is best understood in the light of its distinctive combination of neo-Fregeanism about content and Wittgensteinianism about rule-following. The Fregean part is there to warrant that reasons are objective, the Wittgensteinian move is to account for our grasping (...)
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  15. A. Bird & T. Handfield (2008). Dispositions, Rules and Finks. Philosophical Studies 140 (2):285-98.
    This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke-Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to repair dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes - interfering dispositions and conditions - to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, contrary dispositions of the agent, because in (...)
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  16. Simon Blackburn (1981). Reply : Rule-Following and Moral Realism. In S. Holtzman & Christopher M. Leich (eds.), Wittgenstein: To Follow a Rule. Routledge 163--87.
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  17. David Bloor (1997). Wittgenstein, Rules and Institutions. Routledge.
    David Bloor's challenging new evaluation of Wittgenstein's account of rules and rule-following brings together the rare combination of philosophical and sociological viewpoints. Wittgenstein enigmatically claimed that the way we follow rules is an "institution" without ever explaining what he meant by this term. Wittgenstein's contribution to the debate has since been subject to sharply opposed interpretations by "collectivist" and "individualist" readings by philosophers; in the light of this controversy, Bloor argues convincingly for a collectivist, sociological understanding of Wittgenstein's later work. (...)
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  18. Paul A. Boghossian (2012). Blind Rule-Following. In Crispin Wright & Annalisa Coliva (eds.), Mind, Meaning, and Knowledge: Themes From the Philosophy of Crispin Wright. Oxford University Press
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  19. Paul A. Boghossian (2008). Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers. OUP Oxford.
    This volume presents a series of influential essays by Paul Boghossian on the theory of content and on its relation to the phenomenon of a priori knowledge. The essays are organized under four headings: the nature of content; content and self-knowledge; knowledge, content, and the a priori; and colour concepts.
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  20. Paul A. Boghossian (1993). Sense, Reference and Rule-Following. [REVIEW] Philosophical Issues 4 (1):135-141.
    This is a critical discussion of Jerrold Katz's "The\nMetaphysics of Meaning". The essay raises some questions\nabout exactly how Katz's new intensionalism' is to be\nunderstood, and about its plausibility. It also questions\nthe views ability to solve the outstanding problems in the\nphilosophy of mind and language.
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  21. Paul A. Boghossian (1989). The Rule-Following Considerations. Mind 98 (392):507-49.
    I. Recent years have witnessed a great resurgence of interest in the writings of the later Wittgenstein, especially with those passages roughly, Philosophical Investigations p)I 38 — 242 and Remarks on the Foundations of mathematics, section VI that are concerned with the topic of rules. Much of the credit for all this excitement, unparalleled since the heyday of Wittgenstein scholarship in the early IIJ6os, must go to Saul Kripke's I4rittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. It is easy to explain why. (...)
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  22. Jason Bridges (2014). Rule-Following Skepticism, Properly So Called. In Andrea Kern & James Conant (eds.), Varieties of Skepticism: Essays After Kant, Wittgenstein, and Cavell. De Gruyter 249-288.
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  23. John Broome (2014). Normativity in Reasoning. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (4):622-633.
    Reasoning is a process through which premise-attitudes give rise to a conclusion-attitude. When you reason actively you operate on the propositions that are the contents of your premise-attitudes, following a rule, to derive a new proposition that is the content of your conclusion-attitude. It may seem that, when you follow a rule, you must, at least implicitly, have the normative belief that you ought to comply with the rule, which guides you to comply. But I argue that to follow a (...)
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  24. Malcolm Budd (1984). Wittgenstein on Meaning, Interpretation and Rules. Synthese 58 (March):303-324.
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  25. M. J. Cain (2006). Concept Nativism and the Rule Following Considerations. Acta Analytica 21 (38):77-101.
    In this paper I argue that the most prominent and familiar features of Wittgenstein’s rule following considerations generate a powerful argument for the thesis that most of our concepts are innate, an argument that echoes a Chomskyan poverty of the stimulus argument. This argument has a significance over and above what it tells us about Wittgenstein’s implicit commitments. For, it puts considerable pressure on widely held contemporary views of concept learning, such as the view that we learn concepts by constructing (...)
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  26. Peter Carruthers (1985). Ruling-Out Realism. Philosophia 15 (1-2):61-78.
    The case for anti-realism in the theory of meaning, as presented by Dummen and Wright, 1 is only partly convincing. There is, I shall suggest, a crucial lacuna in the argument, that can only be filled by the later Wittgenstein's following-a-rule considerations. So it is the latter that provides the strongest argument for the rejection of semantic realism.
    By 'realism', throughout, I should be taken as referring to any conception of meaning that leaves open the possibility that a sentence may have (...)
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  27. Peter Carruthers (1984). Baker and Hacker's Wittgenstein. [REVIEW] Synthese 58 (3):451-79.
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  28. Rodrigo Jungmann de Castro (2008). 'Kripke's Near Miss' and Some Other Considerations On Rule Following. Princípios 15 (23):135-151.
    In his 1982 book Wittgenstein On Rules and Private Language, Saul Kripke maintains that Wittgenstein´s rule following considerations land us with a skeptical argument about meaning. This essay contains a short exposition of Kripke´s argument. In addition, I hold, both on textual grounds and by an appeal to some select secondary literature, that Wittgenstein offered no such skeptical argument in the Philosophical Investigations . Although Wittgenstein certainly repudiates a view of meaning based on temporally located mental states, it does not (...)
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  29. T. Stephen Champlin (1992). Solitary Rule-Following. Philosophy 67 (261):285-306.
    Can a rule be followed by one person who has lived all his life in as complete isolation from other human beings as is consistent with his mere physical survival? This question divides philosophers as sharply today as it did over thirty years ago when, prompted by their reading of Wittgenstein, they first asked it. My aim here is to suggest a way of reconciling the two opposing sides in the current debate. I also hope to explain why it was (...)
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  30. Kai-Yuan Cheng (2011). A New Look at the Problem of Rule-Following: A Generic Perspective. Philosophical Studies 155 (1):1 - 21.
    The purpose of this paper is to look at the problem of rule-following—notably discussed by Kripke (Wittgenstein on rules and private language, 1982) and Wittgenstein (Philosophical investigations, 1953)—from the perspective of the study of generics. Generics are sentences that express generalizations that tolerate exceptions. I first suggest that meaning ascriptions be viewed as habitual sentences, which are a sub-set of generics. I then seek a proper semantic analysis for habitually construed meaning sentences. The quantificational approach is rejected, due to its (...)
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  31. Cesare Cozzo (2004). Rule-Following and the Objectivity of Proof. In Annalisa Coliva & Eva Picardi (eds.), Wittgenstein Today. Il Poligrafo 185--200.
    Ideas on meaning, rules and mathematical proofs abound in Wittgenstein’s writings. The undeniable fact that they are present together, sometimes intertwined in the same passage of Philosophical Investigations or Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, does not show, however, that the connection between these ideas is necessary or inextricable. The possibility remains, and ought to be checked, that they can be plausibly and consistently separated. I am going to examine two views detectable in Wittgenstein’s works: one about proofs, the other (...)
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  32. Edward Craig (1997). Meaning and Privacy. In Bob Hale & C. Wright (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Blackwell 541-564.
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  33. Adam M. Croom (2012). Aesthetic Concepts, Perceptual Learning, and Linguistic Enculturation: Considerations From Wittgenstein, Language, and Music. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 46:90-117.
    Aesthetic non-cognitivists deny that aesthetic statements express genuinely aesthetic beliefs and instead hold that they work primarily to express something non-cognitive, such as attitudes of approval or disapproval, or desire. Non-cognitivists deny that aesthetic statements express aesthetic beliefs because they deny that there are aesthetic features in the world for aesthetic beliefs to represent. Their assumption, shared by scientists and theorists of mind alike, was that language-users possess cognitive mechanisms with which to objectively grasp abstract rules fixed independently of human (...)
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  34. Adam M. Croom (2010). Thick Concepts, Non-Cognitivism, and Wittgenstein's Rule Following Considerations. South African Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):286-309.
    Non-cognitivists claim that thick concepts can be disentangled into distinct descriptive and evaluative components and that since thick concepts have descriptive shape they can be mastered independently of evaluation. In Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following, John McDowell uses Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations to show that such a non-cognitivist view is untenable. In this paper I do several things. I describe the non-cognitivist position in its various forms and explain its driving motivations. I then explain McDowell’s argument against non-cognitivism and the Wittgensteinian considerations upon (...)
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  35. Adam M. Croom (2010). Wittgenstein, Kripke, and the Rule Following Paradox. Dialogue 52 (3):103-109.
    In ?201 of Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein puts forward his famous ?rule-following paradox.? The paradox is how can one follow in accord with a rule ? the applications of which are potentially infinite ? when the instances from which one learns the rule and the instances in which one displays that one has learned the rule are only finite? How can one be certain of rule-following at all? In Wittgenstein: On Rules and Private Language, Saul Kripke concedes the skeptical position (...)
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  36. Donald Davidson (1992). The Second Person. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 17 (1):255-267.
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  37. Florian Demont-Biaggi (2014). Rules and Dispositions in Language Use. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Human language is not arbitrary. But how is its use constrained? Are there rules or general human dispositions that govern it? Rules and Dispositions in Language Use explains how correct language use is indeed governed by both rules and general human dispositions. It does so by bringing together themes from Ludwig Wittgenstein and Noam Chomsky, which for many years have been thought to be incompatible. -/- Opening with a fresh discussion of Saul Kripke's work on rule-following and meaning, the question (...)
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  38. Cora Diamond (1989). Rules: Looking in the Right Place. In Dayton Z. Phillips & Peter G. Winch (eds.), Wittgenstein.
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  39. Daniel Dohrn, Following Rules of Nature, Not the Pedestrian Muse: Reply to Yamada.
    I criticize Yamada's account of rule-following. Yamada's conditions are not necessary. And he misses the deepest level of the rule-following considerations: how meaning rules come about.
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  40. Peter Drahos & Stephen Parker (1992). Rule Following, Rule Scepticism and Indeterminacy in Law: A Conventional Account. Ratio Juris 5 (1):109-119.
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  41. Keith Dromm (2000). Rule-Following and Scepticism. Southwest Philosophy Review 17 (1):153-158.
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  42. Philip Dwyer (1989). Freedom and Rule-Following in Wittgenstein and Sartre. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (September):49-68.
  43. Gary Ebbs (1997). Rule-Following and Realism. Harvard University Press.
    Through detailed and trenchant criticism of standard interpretations of some of the key arguments in analytical philosophy over the last sixty years, this book ...
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  44. Richard T. Eldridge (1986). The Normal and the Normative: Wittgenstein's Legacy, Kripke, and Cavell. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (June):555-575.
  45. Michael Esfeld, Rule-Following and the Ontology of the Mind.
    Rule-following has become a focus of philosophical interest since Kripke’s interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. The case which Kripke makes is an argument against reducing the description of the beliefs of a person to a description in naturalistic terms. However, it has also implications for the metaphysics of mind. I claim that, contrary to what one might except, Kripke’s case contains an argument in favour of materialism in ontology.
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  46. David H. Finkelstein (2000). Wittgenstein on Rules and Platonism. In Alice Crary & Rupert Read (eds.), The New Wittgenstein. Routledge 83-100.
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  47. Philip Gerrans, Tacit Knowledge, Rule Following and Pierre Bourdieu's Philosophy of Social Science.
    Pierre Bourdieu has developed a philosophy of social science, grounded in the phenomenological tradition, which treats knowledge as a practical ability embodied in skilful behaviour, rather than an intellectual capacity for the representation and manipulation of propositional knowledge. He invokes Wittgenstein’s remarks on rule-following as one way of explicating the idea that knowledge is a skill. Bourdieu’s conception of tacit knowledge is a dispositional one, adopted to avoid a perceived dilemma for methodological individualism. That dilemma requires either the explanation of (...)
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  48. Philip Gerrans (1998). How to Be a Conformist, Part II. Simulation and Rule Following. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76 (4):566 – 586.
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  49. Grant R. Gillett (1995). Humpty Dumpty and the Night of the Triffids: Individualism and Rule-Following. Synthese 105 (2):191-206.
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  50. Carl Ginet (1992). The Dispositionalist Solution to Wittgenstein's Problem About Understanding a Rule: Answering Kripke's Objection. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 17 (1):53-73.
    The paper explicates a version of dispositionalism and defends it against Kripke's objections (in his "Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language") that 1) it leaves out the normative aspect of a rule, 2) it cannot account for the directness of the knowledge one has of what one meant, and 3) regarding rules for computable functions of numbers, a) there are numbers beyond one's capacity to consider and b) there are people who are disposed to make systematic mistakes in computing values (...)
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