Plato, Wittgenstein and the definition of games

In Luigi Perissinotto & Begoña Ramón Cámara (eds.), Wittgenstein and Plato: connections, comparisons and contrasts. Palgrave. pp. 196-219 (2013)

Authors
Catherine Joanna Rowett
University of East Anglia
Abstract
In this paper I argue, controversially, that Plato's Meno anticipates Wittgenstein's critique of essentialism. Plato is usually read as an essentialist of the very kind that Wittgenstein was challenging, and the Meno in particular is usually taken as evidence that Plato thought that to know something you must be able to define it, and that if you can't define it you can't investigate any other questions on the topic. I suggest instead that Plato shows Socrates proposing such a position (much as Wittgenstein's imaginary interlocutor might do), only to have it knocked down by what happens in the dialogue. Plato shows that one knows a concept when one can apply it in practice, or, for virtue, when one typically chooses to act in certain ways, passes certain judgements and so on. It turns out, then, that one who claims to "know what virtue is" need not give necessary and sufficient conditions for it.
Keywords Wittgenstein  Essentialism  Family resemblances  Definition
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