Blind obedience: Paradox and learning in the later Wittgenstein * by Meredith Williams

Analysis 71 (2):389-391 (2011)
Abstract
Meredith Williams is unimpressed by ‘constructive/theoretical’ and ‘resolute/therapeutic’ approaches to the Philosophical Investigations . She takes Wittgenstein’s repudiation of speculation in philosophy seriously but resists interpreting him as engaged in a purely critical endeavour. There is, she holds, ‘a complex interweaving of the diagnostic and positive’ and ‘[a] consequence of the critical diagnostic work is a positive picture’ . Taking the Investigations to be ‘a highly structured argumentative text directed to pursuing a fundamental new problem in philosophy’ , Williams interprets Wittgenstein as resolving ‘the problem of normative similarity’ , i.e. the problem of how meaningful goings-on differ from brute physical happenings. She suggests that ‘Wittgenstein’s diagnostic method is tied to his use of two powerful arguments . By uncovering hidden contradictions and exposing grammatical errors, she argues, Wittgenstein shows that important philosophical theories of language and the mind are ‘self-defeating’ and ‘[i]n removing them, [his] “normative naturalism” can be seen’ . Williams begins by discussing ‘the structure and content of the Investigations . She then examines Wittgenstein’s remarks about word-object relations , rule-governed practice and self-knowledge and sensations . In her view, Wittgenstein recognizes and explains the irreducibility of the normative to the natural in each …
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