Wittgenstein's conception of philosophy

Fan, Kuang Tih
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Wittgenstein's master concern in both Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations has been the study of the nature, tasks and methods of philosophy. No doubt, the 'revolution' in modern philosophy is largely due to Wittgenstein's perceptions into the nature of the philosophical activity itself. If traditional philosophy is characterized as different attempts at answering certain philosophical questions then Wittgenstein's philosophy may be characterized as a systematic questioning of the questions themselves. It is our aim. to seek a clear understanding of Wittgenstein' s conception of the nature of philosophy. For this purpose we compare and contrast the Tractatus with the Investigations because, as Wittgenstein advised, "the latter could be seen in the right light only by contrast with and against the background of my old way of thinking." The relationship between the early and the later 'Wittgenstein is a matter of open controversy. One school asserts that the Investigations, as a whole, is a 'development' of the Tractatus. while another contends that there is no unbroken line leading from one book to another; they are 'negations' of each other. Our position is that while Wittgenstein:: s later method is indeed the negation of the earlier, his later conception of philosophy is best seen as a development of his earlier conception. In Part I, a brief exposition of Wittgenstein's earlier theory of language (as a synthesis of the truth-functional theory of complex propositions and the picture theory of elementary propositions) is given. The doctrine of "what cannot be said" and the conception of philosophy as an activity of elucidation is seen as the logical consequences of this theory of language. The method employed in the Tractatus is that of 'logical analysis' which involves theoretic construction by means of purely formal concepts such as "object," "name," "atomic fact," "elementary proposition," etc. However, unlike traditional philosophers who constructed mansions (or systems), Wittgenstein built a "ladder" to be abandoned after one has climbed up beyond it. Part II brings out sharply Wittgenstein's vigorous opposition to theory construction and the method of logical analysis. The later Wittgenstein employs what can best be described as the method of dialectical distinction. Instead of pronouncing truths about the essences of proposition, language and the world, he now asks questions, makes distinctions, invents language-games, pokes fun at philosophers, and asks more questions ,--always with the pragmatic view of changing the reader's attitude. There is no theory in the Investigations, although Wittgenstein repeatedly reminds us of the pragmatic and social nature of language in the process of criticizing his own earlier theory. The conception of philosophy arrived at in the Tractatus continued to serve as the leading thread in the Investigations. The fundamental continuity is most clear in his negative views: i. e. philosophy is no science, philosophical problems arise from misunderstanding the logic of language. On the positive side, Wittgenstein's conception of philosophy as an activity of elucidation, clarification and questioning the questions, runs through both periods. The standard interpretation of both the Tractatus and the Investigations as anti-metaphysical and self-defeating is shown to be mistaken. Other criticisms of the later Wittgenstein are examined and are shown to be based on a misunderstanding of what Wittgenstein is doing in the Investigations. It is suggested that the Investigations is best regarded as a book of confession, case histories, and persuasion or propaganda.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii, 1967.
Bibliography: leaves [123]-126.
ix, 126 l
Wittgenstein, Ludwig
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii (Honolulu)). Philosophy; no. 147
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