‘Grasping the Difficulty in its Depth’: Wittgenstein and Globally Engaged Philosophy

Sophia 60 (1):1-18 (2021)
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In recent years, philosophers have used expressions of Wittgenstein’s (e.g. “language-games,” “form of life,” and “family resemblance”) in attempts to conceive of the discipline of philosophy in a broad, open, and perhaps global way. These Wittgenstein-inspired approaches indicate an awareness of the importance of cultural and historical diversity for approaching philosophical questions. While some philosophers have taken inspiration from Wittgenstein in embracing contextualism in philosophical hermeneutics, Wittgenstein himself was more instrumental than contextual in his treatment of other philosophers; his focus in his writings was on his own philosophical problems. Does this mean that Wittgensteinian philosophy is a poor resource after all for comparative, cross-cultural, or globally-engaged philosophy (i.e. if it is properly Wittgensteinian)? In this article, I examine the relevance of Wittgenstein to contextually-sensitive philosophy through studies of his conceptions of history and culture, his interest in Spengler’s philosophy of history, and recent scholarship by Hans-Johann Glock and Hans Sluga on the place of contextualism in Wittgenstein’s analysis of philosophical problems. Ultimately, this article advances the view that there are strong resources in Wittgenstein’s philosophy for those seeking a more globally-engaged approach to the field.

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Thomas D. Carroll
Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen)

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