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The Legacy of Wittgenstein: Pragmatism or Deconstruction

Edited By Ludwig Nagl and Chantal Mouffe

What is striking in the current reception of Wittgenstein is just how wide-ranging his influence has become among those who are trying to elaborate an alternative to the rationalistic framework dominant today. Pragmatists and deconstructionists are at the forefront of such a movement, of course, and it comes as no surprise that several of them have turned to Wittgenstein and have opened up new perspectives on his work. This joint interest has created a very welcome bridge between post-analytic and continental philosophy which have all but ignored each other for far too long. A promising dialogue is now developing, one to which the contributions to this volume can testify. They were originally presented at a conference organized in November 1999 at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London, sponsored by the Austrian Cultural Institute.


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Hilary Putnam: Rules, attunement, and "applying words to the world": The struggle to understand Wittgenstein's vision of language 9


Hilary Putnam Rules, attunement, and "applying words to the world" The struggle to understand Wittgenstein's vision oflanguage Wittgenstein 's writing produces two sorts of controversy: on the one hand, there are controversies between those who, like myself, think that Wittgenstein was very likely the greatest philosopher of the century and those who think him the most overrated philosopher of the century. (Saul Kripke represents an interesting middle position: Wittgenstein was great but misguided, if his reading is correct.) These are not the controversies I wish to discuss today. The second sort of controversy is a controversy among philosophers of the first kind. Such controversies are a familiar phenomenon in the history of phi- losophy. They arise because different "lines of thought" can arguably be sup- ported by various statements and arguments in the text of a great philosopher. On the surface, the question as to which of these lines of thought best represents what the great philosopher meant to teach us may seem to be a purely "textual" one, but it almost never is. Since interpreters quite properly apply the Principle of Charity, each side attributes the line of thought that it finds strongest in its own right. I believe that that is what was going on in a wonderful exchange between Steven Affeldt and Stephen Mulhall in the pages of The European Journal of Philosophy. 1 And it is proper that it should be, for the important question raised by these papers is whether one or another view of...

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