Wittgenstein’s 1913 Objections To Russell’s Theory of Belief

The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 32:14-18 (1998)
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In what follows, I give a dialectical reading of his dismissal of metaphysics and of Wittgenstein's objections to Russell in 1913. I argue that Wittgenstein must be read as advocating no particular theory or doctrine — that is, philosophy is an activity and not a body of truths. Furthermore, this insistence is thoroughgoing. Put differently, a dialectical reading must be applied to one's own thought and talk. Characteristically, this sort of dialectical philosophy begins with the question, Is there any definiteness to what I am doing in my own thinking and speaking? Such a question undercuts the easy assumption that what we are doing may be expressed in a body of meaningful statements. In particular, I argue that Wittgenstein does not advocate any particular theory of language. A common reading of Wittgenstein is that he aims to prevent us from misusing language. This view assumes that, for Wittgenstein, the notion of a correct, acceptable or meaningful use of language may be taken for granted. In my view, Wittgenstein does not take the notions of use of language and grammar and its misuse for granted. For Wittgenstein grammar underdetermines what it is to use or misuse language. I argue that an ethical critique is implicit in Wittgenstein's objections to any attempt to speak a priori about language and thought.



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Rosalind Carey
Lehman College (CUNY)

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