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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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Allan Janik: Wittgenstein's critical hermeneutics: from physics to aesthetics 63


Allan Janik Wittgenstein's critical hermeneutics: from physics to aesthetics I. "The common behavior of mankind is the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown language." PU, I 206. ·· ... the meaning of a word is its use in the language." PU, I 43. II. "All that philosophy can do is to destroy idols." Big Typescript (=MS 213), 413. Ill. "Our clear and simple language games are not preparatory studies for a future regu- larization of language - as it were first approximations, ignoring friction and air- resistance. The language-games arc rather set up as objects of comparison which are meant to throw light on the facts of our language by way not only of similarities, but also of dissimilarities. PU, l, 130. Although there are certainly pragmatist and deconstructive moments in Wittgen- stein's mature philosophy, as the first three texts cited clearly indicate, that phi- losophy is neither pragmatist nor deconstructive, but a peculiar sort of entirely unorthodox hermeneutics as the third implies. With that in mind we should re- mind ourselves I) of the points of contact between Wittgenstein and these ap- proaches to philosophy, 2) of the differences between them and 3) explore his concept of philosophy with a view to laying bare what we have termed his "criti- cal hermeneutics". It is frequently overlooked that we find pragmatist moments already in the Tractatus. The pragmatic aspect of what it means for pseudo-propositions to "show" that they are tautologies or contradictions, namely, the fact that...

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