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Subject Philosophy

People Wittgenstein, Ludwig

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631185376.1996.x


Although the Tractatus drew a sharp contrast between philosophy and empirical science (NL 106; TLP 4.11 Iff.), it can be seen as providing quasi-scientific explanations. Just as science explains the behaviour of macroscopic objects by reference to their microscopic structure, so the Tractatus explains the ability of ordinary language to depict reality by reference to its hidden logical syntax. This fact lies behind Wittgenstein's later exhortations that philosophical explanations be replaced by descriptions of grammatical rules (PI ยงยง109, 126, 496). Attempts to explain the intentional relation between language and reality by reference to logico-metaphysical or mental mechanisms are spurious. Genuine causal explanations are of course legitimate, but their place is in the hypothetico-deductive sciences. Wittgenstein's philosophy aims at a kind of understanding, yet one which does not require discovering new evidence or hidden causal processes, but is achieved by an overview which organizes familiar phenomena in a new way. One kind of explanation Wittgenstein provides pinpoints the sources of philosophical confusions, but he intimates that unlike the diagnostic explanations of medicine, such explanations are not causal. He detected various similarities between his philosophical therapy and psychoanalysis: (a) both try to bring out a patient's repressed worries; (b) the ultimate standard ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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