Wittgenstein's On Certainty: Insight and Method

Springer (2022)
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Abstract

In On Certainty, the important, but to many readers obscure, twentieth century Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, provides not only a brilliant solution to a previously intractable philosophical problem, but also the elements of an entirely new way of approaching this and similar longstanding, apparently un-resolvable, problems. In these notes he re-conceives the problem of radical skepticism–the claim that we can never really be certain of anything except the contents of our own minds–as a kind of philosophical “disease” of thought. His approach to the problem, which I will emphasize is similar to the treatment of disease, has two main goals: (1) bring about an awareness in the philosopher that this kind of extreme skepticism is not a methodological approach to be taken seriously, and, with this awareness, (2) an attempt to replace this radical skepticism with a practical, Common Sense framework. Implicit in Wittgenstein’s approach are a number of strategies found in a contemporary approach to psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These strategies, along with philosophical methods and scientific practices rooted in the Scottish School of Common Sense, seek to diagnose and treat irrational thoughts and beliefs that often emerge (and re-emerge) in the discipline of philosophy. The aim is to provide the philosopher with tools necessary to adjust and reshape these irrational, self-defeating thoughts and beliefs into something new, something healthy.

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Robert Greenleaf Brice
Northern Kentucky University

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