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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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James Conant: A prolegomenon to the reading of later Wittgenstein 93


James Conant A prolegomenon to the reading of later Wittgenstein I might say: if the place I want to get to could only be reached by way of a ladder, I would give up trying to get there. for the place I really have to get to is a place I must already be at now. .... Now that my ladder's gone, I must lie down where all the ladders start, In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart. Wittgenstein 1 W. B. Yeats2 My aim in this paper will be to highlight some continultles in Wittgenstein's philosophy that I believe have not been sufficiently appreciated. My aim in doing so is not to suggest that there are no significant differences between the philoso- phies of the early and the later Wittgenstein, but only that we will not be in a position to appreciate what is genuinely new and original in Wittgenstein's later philosophy until we are first in a better position to appreciate what is not. Most commentators approach Wittgenstein's early work with deeply rooted assumptions about the sorts of doctrines that are to be found in it. The guiding exegetical presupposition on the part of most commentators is that the central views of Wittgenstein's Tractatus are precisely the ones which Wittgenstein is most concerned to criticize in Philosophical Investigations. 3 Commentators, accordingly, approach the early work determined to find the relevant (especially, mentalistic) doctrines espoused somewhere within its pages, for the shape of tht:ir narrative of Wittgenstein 's...

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