Elements of a Wittgensteinian philosophy of the human sciences

Synthese 87 (2):311 - 329 (1991)
Abstract
In this paper, a Wittgensteinian account of the human sciences is constructed around the notions of the surface of human life and of surface phenomena as expressions. I begin by explaining Wittgenstein's idea that the goal of interpretive social science is to make actions and practices seem natural. I then explicate his notions of the surface of life and of surface phenomena as expressions by reviewing his analysis of mental state language. Finally, I critically examine three ideas: (a) that the goal of interpretive inquiry is realized through a descriptive, context-constructing method that enables investigators to grasp the instincts, mental states, and experiences (Geist) expressed in surface phenomena; (b) that uncovering rules plays a minor role in this enterprise; and (c) that surface phenomena not only can be made natural but also have causes and are subject to causal explanation.
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