Insurrection and Commonwealth
Chapter 4. The “Linguistic Turn” and Anti-Foundationalism
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THE “LINGUISTIC TURN” AND ANTI-FOUNDATIONALISM
1. Wittgenstein’s Evasion of Philosophy
The ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Friedrich Nietzsche stand at the threshold of the contemporary language and logic of postmodernism. Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (PI) taught the postmoderns1 how to challenge objectivist theories of knowledge by deconstructing “metaphysics” into language, and how to debunk reflexivity and grand narration in speech in favor of a relativist epistemology and a banal functionalist analysis. This linguistic “turn” in social theory holds that the critical theory of society must first of all recognize that we use speech as a tool to get work done, and that our linguistic behavior primarily has a game-like character. Wittgenstein tells us we are to “look on the language-game as the primary thing” (PI 656). “Our ← 73 | 74 →mistake [has been] to look for an explanation where we ought…to have said: this language-game is being played” (PI 654).
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