Wittgenstein's New Kind of Foundationalism

Dissertation, Michigan State University (2004)

Robert Greenleaf Brice
Northern Kentucky University
In On Certainty Wittgenstein presents an argument against both G. E. Moore and the Cartesian skeptic, exposing both positions as flawed. His main contention is that what "stands fast" for us-certainty-is not subject to doubt, truth, or falsehood. Whatever is subject to these ascriptions is propositional in form and belongs to our language-games. But certitude is not so subject; certitude is principally non-propositional and therefore stands outside the language-game. Action is the locus of certainty, the things about which we are certain constitute the "foundation" upon which all our knowledge turn. What Moore had once called our "obvious truisms" are, under Wittgenstein's direction, recognized first as inherent in our human natural history, and second, as grounded or based in human societies, cultures, forms of life. It is this human-centered kind of foundationalism that distinguishes Wittgenstein from what Moyal-Sharrock characterizes as the super-human kind of traditional, Cartesian foundationalism. Due to the human emphasis, Wittgenstein's new kind of foundationalism is quite different than the traditional Cartesian variety; it makes no guarantees of absoluteness or universality. Instead, Wittgenstein identifies a common groundwork, a "footing" on which our language-games rest. This new kind of foundationalism shows the way our language-games are anchored to the world. Therefore, in On Certainty, I argue that Wittgenstein presents a new kind of foundationalism.
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