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

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

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
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph197225459
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 45,662
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Wittgenstein’s Doctrine of the Tyranny of Language.Maria Wolf - 1973 - Philosophical Studies 22:274-275.
Wittgenstein's Doctrine of the Tyranny of Language.Antony Flew - 1973 - Philosophical Books 14 (1):14-15.
Schlick and Wittgenstein: Language and Experience.Aldo Gargani - 1982 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 16 (1):347-363.
Wittgenstein's Concept of Showing.David Pears - 1992 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 42 (1):91-105.
Wittgenstein and Phenomenology Or.Antonia Soulez - 1989 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 33 (1):157-183.
Wittgenstein's Doctrine of Use.Bruce B. Wavell - 1983 - Synthese 56 (3):253 - 264.
Wittgenstein's Doctrine of Silence.Richard McDonough - 1992 - The Thomist 56 (4):695-699.
Wittgenstein. Playing on the Edges of Language.Francesco Valagussa - 2013 - Aisthesis: Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi Dell’Estetico 6 (1):291-305.
The Possibility of Language: Internal Tensions in Wittgenstein's Tractatus.María Cerezo - 2005 - Center for the Study of Language and Information.


Added to PP index

Total views
25 ( #365,446 of 2,280,770 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
9 ( #103,921 of 2,280,770 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature