Chapter 3: Belief and Proof
← 52 | 53 → CHAPTER 3
Some of the most significant contributions which Wittgenstein made to epistemology1 in general and to learning and teaching in particular are contained in his last book, On Certainty, which was completed just two days before his death on 29 April 1951. In the Preface by Elizabeth Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, two of his close friends, we are told that when Wittgenstein visited Norman Malcolm2 in the United States in 1949, Malcolm stimulated Wittgenstein’s interest once again in Professor Moore’s defence of common sense which involved arguing for the obvious by Moore holding up his hands and saying ‘Here is one hand and here is another.’3 While such a statement might seem silly if not bizarre to those unfamiliar with philosophical arguments, Moore’s statement was important philosophically speaking in justifying our certainty about the obvious.4 Although he had been interested in Moore’s position for quite some time, Malcolm’s reminder led Wittgenstein to study more vigorously the common sense position that Moore represented, all of which led to the impressive investigation of certainty, belief and doubt that was posthumously published as On Certainty. The importance of the book with its emphasis on the essential and fundamental role of belief in the acquisition of knowledge ← 53 | 54 → echoes the Platonic Socrates’ claim in Plato’s dialogue, Theaetetus, where knowledge is said to occur when one’s belief is correct. We are talking here about belief in general and not religious belief in particular although the two are related, at least for Wittgenstein, as...
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