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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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Ludwig Nagl: "How hard I find it to see what is right in front of me": Wittgenstein's quest for "simplicity and ordinariness" 157

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Ludwig Nagl "How hard I find it to see what is right in front of me" 1 Wittgenstein's quest for "simplicity and ordinariness"2 Is Wittgenstein's search for "Einfachheit" an attempt to return to "commonsense": to a trustful relationship with reality that allows us to overcome skepticism "pragmatically"? Is his method to achieve this - his struggle against the bewitchments of language- "deconstructive" (in a Derridaian sense)? I) Pragmatism? In spite of the fact that there are significant similarities between, f.i., William James's subversions of the "copy theory of truth" by means of a pragmatic plu- ralism and Wittgenstein's analyses of the "multiplicity of language games" (Phi 23), in spite of the fact that Wittgenstein was an admirer of James's Varieties of Religious Experience - and even in spite of the "emphasis on the primacy of practice" that Wittgenstein, Peirce and James have in common3, we have clear indications that Wittgenstein was not at all in sympathy with any full-blown version of pragmatism, and especially not with a pragmatism of the Deweyan type. Hilary Putnam shows that the structural resemblances between Wittgen- stein's and James's arguments are, at least in part, due to a shared intellectual background: "Wittgenstein's reflections flow from and continue some of Kant's reflections [ ... ] and parallel [thus] a certain strain in pragmatism". (WWP 27). This, however, does not imply that Wittgenstein is in favor of any explicit prag- matic method. Stanley Cavell makes us aware of this in his paper "What is the use of calling Emerson...

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