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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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Stephen Mulhall: Deconstruction and the ordinary 75


Stephen Mulhall Deconstruction and the ordinary Why has Jacques Derrida never, in the course of his long, prolific and wide- ranging intellectual career, engaged in a detailed reading of Wittgenstein's Philo- sophical Investigations? Even if we acknowledge that that not even a writer of Derrida's legendary productivity can hope to address every text in the history of philosophy in which he might have an interest, my question remains pressing, because the highly distinctive prose of the Investigations appears to pose in an unusually powerful way at once an invitation and a challenge to what one might call deconstructive reading. I would hardly be inviting controversy to describe Wittgenstein's writing in this book as 'patient, open, aporetical, in constant trans- formation, often more fruitful in the acknowledgement of its impasses than its positions'; but in so describing it, I would be reciting words Derrida himself uses to characterize those aspects of the work of J.L.Austin which attracted him suf- ficiently to devote an essay to certain parts of it. 1 Hence, one way of thinking of my question is as an invitation to imagine a deconstructive reading of the Investi- gations as a way of continuing the exploration of what is often called ordinary language philosophy that Derrida began in the three essays collected in Limited Inc. Of course, Derrida himself might initially be inclined to find this way of casting my invitation the very reverse of appealing; the Afterword to Limited Inc makes it abundantly clear just how disturbing he...

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