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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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David Owen: Democracy, perfectionism and "undetermined messianic hope": Cavell, Derrida and the ethos of democracy-to-come 139


David Owen Democracy, perfectionism and "undetermined messianic hope" Cavell, Derrida and the ethos of democracy-to-come Our only task is to be just. That is, we must only point out and resolve the injustices of philosophy, and not posit new parties- and creeds. Ludwig Wittgenstein To speak of Wittgenstein 's legacy with respect to the field of political philosophy may still seem curious, even perverse, despite (or perhaps because ot) the exis- tence of literatures claiming Wittgenstein 's philosophy for the articulation of conservative or, more rarely, radical attitudes. Yet it is this legacy of which this essay will attempt to speak. It will do so by seeking to elucidate Wittgenstein's legacy via a consideration of the topics of justice, democracy and perfectionism in the work of Stanley Cavell, and to draw out some similarities between this position and that presented by Jacques Derrida. In 'The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy', Rorty offers a deflationary pragmatist endorsement of Rawls' political liberalism which argues both against the need for philosophical justifications of democracy: '[it] is not evident that [democratic institutions] are to be measured by anything more specific than the moral intuitions of the community that has created those institutions'' - and against the relevance of any connection between democracy and perfectionism: 'even if the typical character types of liberal democracies are bland, calculating, petty, and unheroic, the prevalence of such people may be a reasonable price to pay for political freedom. ' 2 By contrast, I will suggest that Derrida...

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