Philosophical Topics 42 (2):161-199 (2014)

Denis McManus
University of Southampton
This paper explores difficulties that resolute readers of the early Wittgenstein face, arising out of what I call the ‘sheer lack’ interpretation of their ‘austere’ conception of nonsense, and the intelligibility of philosophical confusion—there being a sense in which we rightly talk of a ‘grasp’ of philosophical nonsense and indeed of its ‘logic’. Such readers depict philosophical and ‘plain’ nonsense as distinct psychological kinds; but I argue that the ‘intelligibility’ of philosophical confusion remains invisible to the kind of psychology that the ‘sheer lack’ interpretation would make available to Wittgenstein. These concerns relate to well-established worries concerning whether the Tractatus’s ‘ladder’ can be climbed by thinking through arguments—or indeed by thinking full stop—if it is austerely nonsensical. Though I argue that these worries can be met, doing so requires another interpretation of ‘austerity’, which I call the ‘equivocation’ interpretation, and reveals the difference between resolute and non-resolute readings to be less clear cut than has been thought. Key here is the failure of some hard-and-fast distinctions that inform the literature—distinctions shaped by intuitions about mind, meaning, inference, logic, and nonsense—to serve us well.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0276-2080
DOI 10.5840/philtopics201442223
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A “Resolute” Later Wittgenstein?Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2010 - Metaphilosophy 41 (5):649-668.
Ineffability and Nonsense.Peter Sullivan - 2003 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 77 (1):195–223.

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