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Wittgenstein on Thinking, Learning and Teaching

Patrick Quinn

Wittgenstein is not generally thought of as a philosopher of education, yet his views on how we think, learn and teach have the potential to contribute significantly to our contemporary understanding of pedagogy. Wittgenstein himself was a lifelong learner whose method consisted of thinking intensely about a wide range of topics, including not only the philosophy of language, logic and mathematics but also architecture, music, ethics, religion, culture and psychoanalysis. He then shared his observations and conclusions with his students as a way of teaching them how to think and learn for themselves, and his personification of the learner-teacher deeply impressed those who witnessed his pedagogical performances during his ‘lectures’. This study presents a detailed exploration of Wittgenstein’s legacy as an educationalist, now accessible to us through the extensive published collections of his thoughts on the subject.

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Chapter 2: The Role of the Language-Game in the Search for Clarity

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Chapter 2 The Role of the Language-Game in the Search for Clarity New ideas about language In the 1945 Preface to Philosophical Investigations (4e), Wittgenstein men- tions that until recently, he had given up any thought of publishing his ‘new ideas’ about language but adds that when he reflected about the work on which he had lectured and conducted discussions, he found that it had been misunderstood. ‘This stung my vanity, and I had difficulty in quiet- ing it’, he tells us in the Preface and this motivated him to publish these ‘new ideas’ (in Philosophical Investigations). However, he was also careful to acknowledge his earlier work in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and tells us that four years earlier, when he had re-read the latter, it occurred to him at the time to publish his ‘old ideas’ (in the Tractatus) alongside his new ones (in Philosophical Investigations) so that ‘the latter could be seen in the right light only by contrast with and against the background of my older way of thinking’. He also admits that in 1929 when he began to immerse himself more deeply in philosophy again he recognised ‘grave mistakes in what I had set out in that first book.’ In fact, he never got around to publishing a book which juxtaposed his old and new ideas on philosophy and language. Instead, he wrote Philosophical Investigations in 1945 with a view to publication1 and it is 1 This represented Part 1 of the Investigations. When the latter was published...

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