Gordon Baker's late interpretation of Wittgenstein

In Guy Kahane, Edward Kanterian & Oskari Kuusela (eds.), Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker. Blackwell. pp. 88--122 (2007)
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Gordon Baker and I had been colleagues at St John’s for almost ten years when we resolved, in 1976, to undertake the task of writing a commentary on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. We had been talking about Wittgenstein since 1969, and when we cooperated in writing a long critical notice on the Philosophical Grammar in 1975, we found that working together was mutually instructive, intellectually stimulating and great fun. We thought that we still had much to say about Wittgenstein’s philosophy, and it seemed to us that misinterpretations of passages in the Investigations were so extensive that it would be worth trying to write a detailed analytical commentary. It is difficult to recapture the excitement of those early days in being among the first to work on the microfilms and, subsequently, on the photocopies of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. We spent many hundreds of hours poring over the typescripts and the often only semi-legible manuscripts, fascinated and privileged to be able to try to follow the development of the thoughts of a great philosophical genius. We talked endlessly about what we had found in Wittgenstein’s manuscripts and typescripts, and debated how it should be understood. The first fruit of our labours was Wittgenstein – Understanding and Meaning. Its guiding idea was to draw attention to the manner in which Wittgenstein linked the concepts of meaning, understanding and explanation, and so to bypass the connections between meaning, truth and truth-conditions that so fascinated philosophers of the 1970s, and to abandon the red-herring of assertion-conditions and anti-realism. After a hiatus of four years, during which time we wrote a controversial book entitled Frege – Logical Excavations and a polemical book on contemporary philosophy of language – Language, Sense.



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P. M. S. Hacker
Oxford University

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