Wittgenstein, history and hermeneutics

Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (3):281-295 (2003)
Wittgenstein's `language-games' constitute a forceful post-Cartesian, anti-foundationalist account of linguistic activity with meaning sustained across a network of customary practices or forms of life. This is a fertile picture of language but it depends upon a rigid, synchronic notion of linguistic rules and fails to account for the developmental and transformative dimensions to language. I suggest that Wittgenstein is unable to connect past to present language-games. Despite an obvious proximity of Gadamer to Wittgenstein I argue that Gadamer's work on tradition, with its hermeneutical understanding of the indeterminacy of linguistic rules, exposes Wittgenstein's apparent blindness to the historical aspect of language
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