Wittgenstein distinguished: A response to Pieranna Garavaso

Philosophical Investigations 23 (1):54–69 (2000)
I take issue with Pieranna Garavaso’s contention - lodged in a rapprochement between Wittgenstein and Quine - that for Wittgenstein, there is no sharp categorial distinction between logical and empirical propositions, but only one of degree. I argue that Garavaso’s conclusion results from a misunderstanding of the river-bed analogy in On Certainty (96-99). When Wittgenstein maintains there is not a sharp boundary between propositions of logic and empirical propositions, he does not imply that there is not a sharp categorial difference between them, but that the boundary is permeable. The consequent changeability of status of logical and empirical propositions does not entail the collapse, or even a partial blurring, of their respective categories. I then address Wittgenstein’s puzzlement, in On Certainty, about the logical status of some apparently empirical propositions, and show that he resolves this not, as is often thought, by concluding that some empirical propositions are necessary, but by recognizing the ‘empiricality’ of these propositions as merely apparent. A line is thereby drawn between empirical propositions and framework propositions that only have the form of empirical propositions (OC 401). I conclude that, unlike Quine, Wittgenstein held a foundational view of our system of beliefs, making a categorial distinction between the foundation-walls and the house, and regarding part of these foundations as immovable.
Keywords basic beliefs  certainty  Wittgenstein  Quine
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9205.00112
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