Philosophy 85 (2):273-289 (2010)

Wittgenstein wrote ‘While thinking philosophically we see problems in places where there are none. It is for philosophy to show that there are no problems’. He meant that the ‘problems’ philosophers grapple with are of their own making. In a related remark he said: ‘This is the essence of a philosophical problem. The question itself is the result of a muddle. And when the question is removed, this is not by answering it’. Even more explicitly he said: ‘All that philosophy can do is to destroy idols’. As he understood his job, it was not to produce or construct something; his job was entirely destructive. This is how Wittgenstein thought of philosophy when he thought about it in the abstract, and I share this view of philosophy. I believe that when we see how to dispose of all philosophical categories, our job is finished. For example, in epistemology our job is not to argue that it is possible to know such-and-such because so-and-so ; rather, we undermine all those ideas that make it seem as though we could not know such-and-such. Undermining philosophical ideas takes the form: When we philosophise, we are tempted to think so-and-so, but if we consider that idea, and do so while remaining free of all philosophical jargon, we find that we cannot make sense of it.
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819110000021
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