In This Paper, I Identify a Problem, which the project that I will refer to as the ‘Being and Time Project’ (or ‘BTP’ for short) aimed to solve; this is the project within which Heidegger reinterpreted his early thought—and which he unsuccessfully attempted to bring to fruition—in, roughly speaking, the years 1925–28. The problem in question presents several faces: viewed from one angle, it concerns the unity of the concept of “Being in general,” from another, the integrity of the notion (...) of “Dasein,” and from another, the possibility of the perspective from which the philosopher does her work. The solution that the BTP would have offered turns on the claim that time is “the possible horizon for any understanding .. (shrink)
The work of Hubert Dreyfus interweaves productively ideas from, among others, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. A central element in Dreyfus' hugely influential interpretation of the former is the proposal that, if we are to—in some sense—'make sense' of intentionality, then we must recognize what Dreyfus calls the 'background'. Though Dreyfus has, over the years, put the notion of the 'background' to a variety of philosophical uses,1 considerations familiar from the literature inspired by Wittgenstein's reflections on rule-following have played an important role (...) in motivating the case for believing that we need to recognize the 'background' and thus also in identifying precisely what it is about the intentional that supposedly needs to be 'made sense of'. Dreyfus argues that what he calls 'representationalism' will land us with an unstoppable 'regress of rules'. In this paper, I first argue that there are actually two different arguments that Dreyfus invokes; I then go on to evaluate quite how, in the light of the problems that those arguments reveal, our position might be thought to be improved by our recognizing the 'background'. Given that various philosophical positions designed to deal with these problems have emerged within the Wittgensteinian literature, an obvious question to ask is whether the position that Dreyfus would have us adopt is essentially one of those positions. If it isn't, then how does it differ? There is surely a variety of ways in which such a comparison might be carried out and what I offer is only one. I argue that if, through a recognition of the 'background', we are thought to have acquired solutions to those problems, then it's not at all clear that the supposed solutions that emerge work. So I explore instead the possibility that that recognition forms part of an attempt to 'dissolve' those problems. In order to bring some clarity to that possibility I consider a number of different ways in which Dreyfus' proposals might be interpreted by drawing on ideas set out by John McDowell (and I suggest that his view of one of the 'regress' arguments is anticipated by Heidegger himself). I then identify and assess some of the consequences of adopting such McDowellian readings. My sense is that Dreyfus is on the side of the angels, so to speak. But if what is right in his proposals is to become clear, and if he is to be spared some obvious objections that those proposals may elicit, we need to be clear about just what kind of contribution those proposals are meant to make. In pursuing that clarity, I am attempting to follow through on the comparison of Wittgensteinian and Heideggerian ideas that Dreyfus and his supporters have initiated: what has yet to be clarified is how and why recognizing the 'background' will allow us to 'cope better' with the puzzles in the rule-following literature that they have cited in making a case for the need to recognize the 'background'. Ultimately, I will argue that assessing this matter may require a yet broader comparison of Wittgensteinian and Heideggerian themes, one which raises questions about what we take 'doing ontology' and 'doing phenomenology' to be. (shrink)
The Enchantment of Words is a study of Wittgenstein's early masterpiece, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Recent years have seen a great revival of interest in the Tractatus. McManus's study of the work offers novel readings of all its major themes and sheds light on issues in metaphysics, ethics and the philosophies of mind, language, and logic.
Denis McManus presents a novel account of Martin Heidegger's early vision of our subjectivity and the world we inhabit. He explores key elements of Heidegger's philosophy, and argues that Heidegger's central claims identify genuine demands that must be met if we are to achieve the feat of thinking determinate thoughts about the world around us.
Christina Lafont has argued that the early Heidegger's reflections on truth and understanding are incompatible with ‘the supposition of a single objective world’. This paper presents her argument, reviews some responses that the existing Heidegger literature suggests, and offers what I argue is a superior response. Building on a deeper exploration of just what the above ‘supposition’ demands, I argue that a crucial assumption that Lafont and Haugeland both accept must be rejected, namely, that different ‘understandings of Being’ can be (...) viewed as offering ‘rival perspectives’ on a common subject-matter. I develop this case by drawing on an alternative account of what a Heideggerian ‘understanding of Being’ might be like. (shrink)
Wittgenstein is arguably the greatest philosopher of the last hundred years and scepticism is one of the central problems that modern philosophy faces. This collection is the first to be devoted to an examination of how that great philosopher's work bears on this fundamental philosophical problem. Wittgenstein's reaction to scepticism is complex, articulating both a sense that sceptical problems are ultimately unreal and a sense that scepticism teaches us something about the fundamental character of the human predicament. The essays, specially (...) written for this collection by distinguished philosophers and commentators on Wittgenstein, explore that reaction, addressing, in particular, scepticism about the existence of the external world and of other minds. In doing so, it explores issues not only in theory of knowledge but also in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, language, perception and literature, as well as raising questions about the nature of philosophy itself. Several of the papers address the work of Stanley Cavell, perhaps the most influential commentator on the work of Wittgenstein, and Cavell replies in the final pieces to four of those papers. This collection is essential reading for students and scholars of Wittgenstein and anyone interested in the debate surrounding scepticism. (shrink)
This essay describes similarities between the conception of intentionality expressed in Heidegger’s early writings and the conception of propositional attitude psychology expressed in the recent work of William Bechtel and A. A. Abrahamsen. In different ways, these two approaches emphasise the “worldly” character of the intentional subject. There was a time when identifying similarities in view or argument between representatives of the “Analytic” and “Continental” camp was of intrinsic value because few in either camp believed such similarities existed. Fortunately, that (...) time is past and such comparisons will now prove their worth only by being productive, by allowing us to cross-fertilise the views that were thought to be so alien. On the basis of more obvious points of similarity, we can use one model as indicating where the other model might be developed or where it might face unrecognized problems. This paper attempts such an exercise. (shrink)
(2013). Heidegger, Wittgenstein and St Paul on the Last Judgement: On the Roots and Significance of ‘The Theoretical Attitude’. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 143-164. doi: 10.1080/09608788.2012.686980.
This paper explores two models using which we might understand Heidegger's notion of ‘Eigentlichkeit’. Although typically translated as ‘authenticity’, a more literal construal of this term would be ‘ownness’ or ‘ownedness’; and in addition to the paper's exegetical value, it also develops two interestingly different understandings of what it is to have a judgment of one's own. The first model understands Heideggerian authenticity as the owning of what I call a ‘standpoint’. Although this model provides an understanding of a number (...) of key features of authenticity, it also invites an important objection—which I call ‘the closure objection’—that can be found in, for example, the work of Steven Galt Crowell and Tony Fisher. Although I argue that this objection can be met, the response for which it calls reveals that the feat of authenticity as understood through the standpoint model rests upon a further feat, and one which may itself have a stronger claim to be identified with Heideggerian authenticity. I develop this thought, introducing what I call the ‘all-things-considered judgment model’ of authenticity, the basis of which lies in, among other sources, Heidegger's appropriation of themes from Aristotle's discussion of phronesis. I explain the exegetical benefits of adopting this model and consider some objections that it invites, before closing with a discussion of how the two models understand the notion of ‘a judgment of one's own’. (shrink)
Phenomena such as our “understanding in a flash” and our immediate knowledge of the meaning of our own utterances seem to point to problems that call for philosophical explanation. Even though the meaning of an utterance appears to depend on where and when we use it, on what we use it for and on what we expect in response, we do not examine such circumstances when asked what we mean. Instead we simply say what we mean. Similarly, our having grasped (...) a rule is something shown by how we perform certain tasks and respond to certain requests. But we frequently declare that we have indeed grasped a rule without paying any attention to those overt performances and, despite this, we are normally correct. These facts seem puzzling and impel us towards a certain philosophical picture of meaning and understanding. This picture identifies the meaning of a subject’s utterances, and his understanding of the rules that he follows, with some kind of structure of which he has immediate knowledge. By virtue of their connection with these private, meaning-constituting phenomena, the public manifestations of meaning and understanding are invaluable as clues to the meaning of an utterance or a subject’s understanding of a rule. But the latter are, nevertheless, ultimately fixed by the inner structures to which only the subject in question has immediate access and upon which he or she therefore has authority. This picture prompts a host of perplexing questions. “What are these immediately-knowable structures?” “What does it mean to say that we have immediate acquaintance with them?” “How are these private structures connected with those public performances?” These questions are notoriously difficult to answer. (shrink)
Recently the attempt has been made to demonstrate Heidegger's relevance to the concerns of analytic philosophers. A focus for this effort has been the criticism in his early work of Cartesian ontology. While a number of important works have mapped out this area of Heidegger's thought, a crucial task has not been carried out, namely that of assessing how Heidegger can accommodate those phenomena which motivate the Cartesian to adopt his highly counter-intuitive ontology. As long as we fail to examine (...) how Heidegger's early ontology copes with the possibilities of error and of hallucination, the suspicion will remain that Heidegger is simply insensitive to those phenomena on which the Cartesian focuses. Neither Heidegger nor the Cartesian have been done any favours by commentators showing little inclination to bring the opponents into closer combat. This paper attempts to correct that omission. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The paper presents an interpretation of the thinking behind the early Wittgenstein's "general form of the proposition." It argues that a central role is played by the assumption that all domains of discourse are governed by the same laws of logic. The interpretation is presented partly through a comparison with ideas presented recently by Michael Potter and Peter Sullivan; the paper argues that the above assumption explains more of the key characteristics of the "general form of the proposition" than Potter (...) and Sullivan suppose, including, in particular, its claim that the bases from which all other propositions are derived must be elementary propositions. (shrink)
This paper attempts to explain the abiding appeal of the suspicion that Wittgenstein is a conservative thinker. Among Wittgensteinians, there is a growing orthodoxy which takes the notion of 'Wittgenstein's conservatism' to be 'nutty' (Diamond 1991 p34). One justification for this opinion is that the charge of conservatism has typically been defended on the basis of highly implausible interpretations of Wittgenstein. However, the critical core of the conservatism charge has been mislocated by Wittgenstein's supporters and by most of his critics. (...) No conservative theses are defended in his work. But in challenging the conceptual tools so often used in justifying criticism of our practices, Wittgenstein appears to abandon us to a conservatism by default. To understand this charge, we must broaden the context within which Wittgenstein's work is normally discussed. Odd as it may sound, what Wittgenstein actually says may only be one (and perhaps not the most important) consideration that we must bear in mind in assessing whether he is a conservative thinker. (shrink)
This paper explores the place of realist and idealist themes in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. It takes as its starting point Adrian Moore’s denial that transcendental idealism is present in that text only as an “enemy”—to be “diagnosed and dispelled,” as Peter Sullivan puts it. I question whether reflection on TI can perform the positive task which Moore’s reading assigns to it—in particular, whether coming to recognize its ultimate incoherence leads us to a recognition of “the forces that give this nonsense the (...) appearance of sense in the first place.” On the basis of an understanding of those forces that is present in Moore’s own work, I argue that reflection on the quasi-realist themes manifest in Wittgenstein’s remarks on picturing perform that task more successfully. In this way, I question the special status that Moore assigns to TI in the Tractatus, his claiming—“with... myriad qualifications”—that “Wittgenstein is a transcendental idealist.”. (shrink)
This paper identifies a problem that Aristotle revealed and that Heidegger’s own insights, into the diverse forms that the Being of entities takes, exacerbated: the problem is whether there is sense to the idea of ‘Being in general’—‘Being as a whole’—and this is a problem because there not being such sense threatens the very possibility of the discipline of ontology. The paper proposes that Heidegger envisaged the project which a completed Being and Time would have carried out as an attempt (...) to solve this problem. The project considers what the subject who intends ‘Being as a whole’ would have to be like; crucially this requires reflection on what it would be for that subject itself to be a whole; and we find such reflection in Heidegger’s discussion of authenticity. By looking in particular at his notions of ‘guilt’ and ‘Being-towards-death’, and the role that they play in identifying an ‘ecstatic’ form of temporality, we can identify a ‘horizon’ against which the authentic can be seen as ‘being-a-whole’ and as living in the light of an understanding of what might indeed be called ‘Being as a whole’. (shrink)
'Conditions of Possibility and Impossibility': Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Derrida Derrida’s writings expose ways in which philosophical texts presuppose distinctions that they are also determined to ignore. Such a dependency might be thought to undermine those texts, replacing what they take to be fundamental with deeper, unacknowledged foundations. Yet Derrida maintains that there is no simple undermining in the offing and that the structures he identifies are not to be understood as ‘supra-transcendentals’ to philosophy's ‘transcendentals’. This paper identifies a context within (...) which Derrida might be seen as operating and, on that basis, articulates two possible readings of his work. The first takes Derrida to be engaging in a powerfully tempting line of thought whose roots lie in Heidegger and of which the work of Wittgenstein provides a critique. The second takes Derrida to be engaging instead in a form of reflection akin to that of Wittgenstein, revealing confused analogies that provide philosophical texts with the illusion of content and their distinctive pseudo-logic. I take as an illustrative case Derrida‘s early discussion of Aristotle on time; I compare Derrida’s analysis of how Aristotle comes to formulate what appears to be an essential truth about time with the early Wittgenstein’s reflections on how superficial analogies between different forms of discourse suggest that we have a grasp of what we come to see as ‘ontological categories’. The strengths and weaknesses of the two readings are evaluated. (shrink)
The paper presents an interpretation of the thinking behind the early Wittgenstein's “general form of the proposition.” It argues that a central role is played by the assumption that all domains of discourse are governed by the same laws of logic. The interpretation is presented partly through a comparison with ideas presented recently by Michael Potter and Peter Sullivan; the paper argues that the above assumption explains more of the key characteristics of the “general form of the proposition” than Potter (...) and Sullivan suppose, including, in particular, its claim that the bases from which all other propositions are derived must be elementary propositions. (shrink)