Full Text

family resemblance

Subject Philosophy

People Wittgenstein, Ludwig

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631185376.1996.x


( Familienahnlichkeit ) The term occurs in Nietzsche ( Beyond Good and Evil §20 ). Another possible source is Nicod's discussion of various types of resemblances ( Geometry in the Sensible World 55ff.). Wittgenstein first uses it in ‘Big Typescript’ §58, which reprimands Spengler for sorting cultural epochs dogmatically into families ( Gattungen ) rather than acknowledging that these epochs can be classified variously according to different family resemblances. In this capacity, the notion is part of Wittgenstein's general resistance to dogmatism (BT 259–60; EPB 158), and linked to the idea that an overview constructs connecting links between the phenomena it describes. It also occurs briefly in his discussion of aspect-perception: to recognize a family resemblance between different faces is the dawning of an aspect (PI II 193, 210; RPP II §§551–6; LW I §692). The notion is crucial to Wittgenstein's attack on essentialism, the view that there must be something common to all instances of a concept that explains why they fall under it (PG 74–5), and that the only adequate or legitimate explanation of a word is an analytic definition which lays down necessary and sufficient conditions for its application, entailing that, for example, explanations by reference to examples are inadequate. Wittgenstein condemns this ‘contemptuous attitude towards the particular case’ as based on a misguided ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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