Wittgenstein's Doctrine of the Tyranny of Language [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 25 (4):750-750 (1972)

Abstract
In the preface to this book Stephen Toulmin recalls how Wittgenstein's later work appeared to his English students "as unique and extraordinary as the Tractatus had appeared to Moore." "Meanwhile," he recalls, "for our own part, we struck Wittgenstein as intolerably stupid, and he was sometimes in despair about getting us to grasp what he was talking about." Toulmin suggests that this "mutual incomprehension" was due to a "culture clash: the clash between a Viennese thinker whose whole mind had been formed in a post-Kantian environment, and an audience of students who came to him with attitudes and preoccupations shaped by the neo-Humean empiricism of Moore, Russell and their associates." Engel's book is meant primarily to show that Wittgenstein's thought grows out of the Kantian philosophy, but not that it is simply derived from Kant. Rather, according to Engel, Wittgenstein was the first to see the full value of the insights of Kant and Schopenhauer. Engel bases his argument on the Blue Book. According to Engel the argument of the Blue Book comprehends two divergent theories of the origin of metaphysics. These two theories are represented in Engel's book by Ayer and Lazerowitz. For Ayer metaphysics is grounded in the inherently deceptive character of language; and the way to overcome metaphysics is but to be attentive to language. Lazerowitz, on the other hand, attempts to explain why it is that language is deceptive. Lazerowitz's argument as presented by Engel requires as a premise the proposition that the deceptions of language are not that intrinsically difficult to see through, or that metaphysical arguments are obviously "innovations." And therefore the origin of metaphysics must be sought outside of the structure of language. Lazerowitz locates the root of metaphysics in the passions, specifically, in fear--in the fear of change which is ultimately the fear of death. Engel sees each of these positions as in its way legitimate but essentially partial. Wittgenstein's thought is thus more profound than that which is derived from it. It is precisely this awareness of the necessity for both kinds of explanation that Wittgenstein, according to Engel, inherited from the tradition of Kantian metaphysics: in the first Critique's seeking both to account for the impossibility of metaphysics while, at the same time, arguing for the necessity of metaphysics as a natural disposition or arguing for the necessity of a "will to metaphysics." While Engel's argument is not as clear or thorough as it ought to be, his thesis, that Wittgenstein's work is not simply a "repudiation of our philosophical tradition, but rather is its proper twentieth-century continuation," is--in the main--convincing. The book is worth reading.--J. W. S.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph197225459
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