Wittgenstein's Transcendentalism

Dissertation, University of Notre Dame (1992)

Victor J. Krebs
Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Wittgenstein's later philosophy is usually characterized as pragmatist, his account of linguistic meaning as conventionalist, and his methodology as naturalistic. Wittgenstein is said to have renounced in the later work his early concern with the Unsayable, and to have relocated philosophy within the realm of discourse. I argue against that picture of Wittgenstein's later philosophy in this dissertation. ;The central insight of Wittgenstein's discussion of rules and language in the Investigations is that meaning is not the result of a cognitive achievement, but that it is grounded in precognitive natural reactions common to all human beings. I show that the appeal to the precognitive is transcendental, for it involves reference to a synthesis that is prior to discursive articulation and presupposed as a necessary condition of meaning. ;I argue against the conventionalist reading of Wittgenstein that the transcendental appeal to precognitive reactions in the discussion of rules is distinct from the appeal to a social context in the Private Language Argument, and that the relation between those two discussions is analogous to that between Kant's Transcendental Deduction and the Refutation of Idealism. ;The parallel with Kant helps to show how the failure to distinguish the empirical and transcendental levels in Wittgenstein's discussion leads to the conventionalist readings of his account of language . . It also shows that Wittgenstein is not subject to the charge of relativism commonly levelled against him . ;The distinction between empirical and transcendental levels, as it appears in the pivotal notion of Form of Life, reveals that Wittgenstein's methodology is not naturalistic but instead depends on a non-discursive mode of awareness. . I argue on this basis that Wittgenstein is closer to intuitive-realists than to pragmatists . ;Wittgenstein's Transcendentalism thus shows a deep continuity between the motivations behind his early and his later thought. In fact, the Unsayable plays a central role in the later work, for it is through non-discursive insight into the Unsayable that philosophy fulfills the therapeutic task that Wittgenstein assigns to it in the Investigations
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