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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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Linda M. G. Zerilli: Wittgenstein: Between pragmatism and deconstruction 25


Linda M.G. Zerilli Wittgenstein Between pragmatism and deconstruction In his enjoyable little book on Wittgenstein, O.K. Bouwsma recounts a conversa- tion he had with the philosopher during his 1949 visit to the United States. On one of their many walks together, writes Bouwsma in his rather compressed style, he [ Wittgenstein] asked me: Had I ever read any Kierkegaard? I had. He had read some. Kiergkegaard is very serious. But he could not read him much. He got hints. He did not want another man's thought all chewed. A word or two was sometimes enough. But Kierkegaard struck him almost like a snob, too high. for him, not touching the details of common life .... On the way home he asked me whether I had ever read the letter of Fran~ois Fenelon to the French Academy, against purist rules. Admit other words, if only they are sweet. Sweet! How is sweetness judged? Later he spoke of a friend of his who was an Esperanto enthusiast. He couldn't stand it. A language without any feeling, with- out richness. Strange, he said. Like a man's being offended, repelled by another man's spittle .... This is a fine illustration of the richness of his [Wittgenstein's] mind. For all this came about through what? Through seeing a sign advertising ·'cheeseburgers." That offended him! He loathed it. That was no way to derive words. And what happens? Fe- nelon.1 Bouwsma has a point. The exchange he describes is classic Wittgenstein- but not only because it shows the...

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