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What Does It Look Like?

Wittgenstein’s Philosophy in the Light of His Conception of Language Description: Part I

Sebastiaan A. Verschuren

This book is the first part of a comprehensive study of Wittgenstein’s conception of language description. Describing language was no pastime occupation for the philosopher. It was hard work and it meant struggle. It made for a philosophy that required Wittgenstein’s full attention and half his life. His approach had always been working on himself, on how he saw things. The central claim of this book is that nothing will come of our exegetical efforts to see what Wittgenstein's later philosophy amounts to if his work on describing language is not given the place and concern it deserves. The book shows what his philosophy might begin to look like in the light of critical questions around his interest to see the end of the day with descriptions, and these things only.

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6. A big gap in Wittgenstein’s thinking

Extract

295 6. A big gap in Wittgenstein’s thinking I should like to finish the first part of this study with some considerations on Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. Indeed, having regularly referred to §501—‘Am I not getting closer and closer to saying that in the end logic cannot be described? You must look at the practice of language, then you will see it’—it would be rather odd to leave the context in which these words arise and loom so large for what it is. Up to the present day Wittgenstein’s fascinating words have met with a pro- found lack of interest on the part of his commentators, which is all the more remarkable given the despair that Wittgenstein evinces over a central concern in his philosophical thinking, namely giving description of language, its logic. As for myself, I think that this lack of interest is of a piece with the general lack of interest on the part of his commentators for what philosophy can do in the end, namely giving descriptions of language, its logic. This general lack of interest is quite puzzling—if only in the light of On Certainty §501. But, of course, why be so negative, if not outright cynical? If commentators are prone to be completely absorbed in all aspects of Wittgenstein’s philosophy with the exception of his fi- nal concern, why not suppose that it is all for the benefit of future commentators who will be able to devote themselves entirely to this final concern...

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