A Special Supplement: The Development of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy

Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus

by G.E.M. Anscombe
Hillary House, 179 pp., $4.00

Companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus

by Max Black
Cornell, 451 pp., $9.75

Philosophische Bemerkungen

by Ludwig Wittgenstein
Barnes & Noble, 348 pp., $6.00

Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein with a Memoir by Paul Engelmann

translated by L. Furtmüller
Horizon, 150 pp., $5.00

Wittgenstein: The Philosophical Investigations: A Collection of Critical Essays

edited by George Pitcher
Doubleday, 496 pp., $1.95 paperback (paper)

Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics

by Ludwig Wittgenstein, translated by E. Anscombe
MIT, 432 pp., $3.45

Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief [including the Conversations on Freud]

by Ludwig Wittgenstein
California, 124 pp., $6.95
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein; drawing by David Levine

I

In the history of western philosophy, at least since the time of Descartes, it is possible to discern a definite pattern which is often repeated. First there is a period of expansion, and then follows a period of criticism and contraction. In the period of expansion a certain set of ideas will have won general acceptance, and they will be developed and applied to the whole range of human thought and experience. At such times philosophy is likely to encroach on other disciplines—on the physical sciences in the seventeenth century, more recently on psychology, and most recently on linguistics—and the central ideas will probably go too long unexamined. It is especially likely that the competence and credentials of philosophy itself will be left unquestioned. How, for example, should philosophical truths be classified? Do they belong to the realm of contingency, because they state things that might have been otherwise—such as the fact that Eisenhower was President? Or do they belong to the realm of necessity, because what they state could not have been otherwise? Eisenhower might not have been President, but it is necessarily true that he was younger than his mother, and that 7+5=12. To put the same question linguistically—are philosophical truths expressed in factual propositions or in a priori propositions?

When such questions are asked, a period of criticism begins. The vague persuasiveness of philosophy is analyzed, and there is a demand for a precise specification of the kind of statement which philosophers may legitimately make, and of the grounds on which they should be accepted. When philosophy criticizes itself in this way, the result is usually a certain contraction. If it has grown into some other discipline, such as psychology, and has become intertwined with it, those branches will be cut back, and a definite limit will be set to its competence. There are various ways in which this self-criticism may develop, but since the Renaissance the most important step has always been to inquire whether philosophy is a factual discipline, like the sciences, and, if not, how far removed from them it is. One method of arriving at an answer to this question would be to take factual discourse first and to try to determine its limits, and then to ask whether philosophy falls within those limits. This would be an indirect approach to the question what philosophy ought to be.

About the turn of the last century, philosophy in England, largely under the influence of the work of Moore and Russell in Cambridge, began to move into a phase of criticism and contraction. Looking back on it now we can see that they started the most important movement of this kind since Kant. There is, of course, a difference between their view of what philosophy ought to be and Kant’s view. They believed that the correct procedure would be the detailed analysis of the meanings of…


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