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Philosophical Method in Wittgenstein‘s On Certainty

Philosophical Method in Wittgenstein‘s On Certainty

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Philosophical Method in Wittgenstein‘s On Certainty DISSERTATION submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in Philosophy by Brian Bruce Rogers

Dissertation Committee: Distinguished Professor Penelope Maddy, Chair Professor David G. Stern, University of Iowa Professor Emeritus Alan Nelson Assistant Professor Jeremy Heis


UMI Number: 3460827

All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent on the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion.

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Images in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 © 2000 Oxford University Press, University of Bergen, and the Wittgenstein Trustees All other materials © 2011 Brian Bruce Rogers

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF FIGURES LIST OF TABLES LIST OF SYMBOLS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS CURRICULUM VITAE ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1: The Right Frame of Mind for Doing Philosophy CHAPTER 2: The Final Manuscripts Source Manuscripts for Wittgenstein‘s Final Publications Selected Pages from the Final Manuscripts CHAPTER 3: On Certainty and Wittgenstein's 'Works' CHAPTER 4: Therapeutic Readings CHAPTER 5: Theory and Therapy in On Certainty CHAPTER 6: The Reception of On Certainty BIBLIOGRAPHY iv v vi vii viii xi 1 19 46 76 77 82 94 125 162 179 iii .

19v Figure 9: MS 176. p. p. p. 79 Figure 6: MS 176. 24r Figure 10: MS 176. p. Front Cover Figure 4: MS 173. 46v 47 48 53 63 77 78 79 80 81 85 iv . 81r Figure 2: MS 169. p. 22r Figure 7: MS 175. p. p. 34v Figure 8: MS 176. p.LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1: MS 169. 31v Figure 5: MS 175. 78r Figure 3: MS 171. p.

LIST OF TABLES Page Table 1: Source Manuscripts for Wittgenstein's Final Publications 76 v .

Oxford. Blackwell.. von Wright & Nyman. II. Hacker & Schulte. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. University of California Press. TS 213. Oxford. ed. Remarks on Colour.LIST OF SYMBOLS The following abbreviations for Wittgenstein‘s philosophical publications are used in this work: BT LWPP2 OC PI RoC The Big Typescript. vol. eds. 2005. Oxford. Blackwell. On Certainty. Anscombe. Berkeley. eds. eds. vi . Blackwell. 1969. Luckhardt & Aue. 1992. 2009. Oxford. eds. Philosophical Investigations. Anscombe & von Wright. Blackwell. 1977. 4th Ed.

Alois Pichler at the Wittgenstein archives at the University of Bergen. encouragement. and Josef Rothhaupt. the University of Bergen. vii . Cambridge. Joseph Wang at the Brenner Archive at the University of Innsbruck. Irvine.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My thinking on Wittgenstein‘s philosophy has benefitted from discussions with Pen Maddy. The work of David and Josef has served as an ideal toward which I have strived. and the Wren Library at Trinity College. Alan Nelson. I‘m especially grateful for Pen‘s support. and Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California. and Johannes Brandl at the University of Salzburg. Financial support was provided by the Graduate Division. I would like to recognize the assistance provided during this time by Jonathan Smith at the Wren Library in Trinity College. Jeremy Heis. Work on the first three chapters of this dissertation was carried out in Europe while participating in an exchange program with the University of Salzburg. Kai Wehmeier. Cambridge for permission to include selected images from the Bergen Electronic Edition of Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass in my dissertation. I thank Oxford University Press. School of Social Sciences. David Stern. and keen criticism over the years.

Puhl. David Stern (Iowa). Wittgenstein AREAS OF COMPETENCE Logic (through Incompleteness). viii .). Easton (ed. Alan Nelson (North Carolina. Philosophy.Brian Rogers Curriculum Vitae University of California. & J. Chapel Hill) ARTICLES Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Methods in On Certainty Language and World. 2011 M.. Wang (eds. P. 360-362. U.A.). University of Northern Iowa. University of California. Philosophy of Logic. 2004 AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION History of Analytic Philosophy. pp. of Toronto Press (forthcoming). University of California. Jeremy Heis. Philosophy of Science DISSERTATION Theory and Therapy in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty Committee: Penelope Maddy (chair). Munz. Early Modern Philosophy. V. Philosophy of Language. Kirchberg am Wechsel 2009: Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society. Irvine. Philosophy.A. Descartes’ Logic and the Paradox of Deduction (with co-author Alan Nelson) Gods and Giants in Early Modern Philosophy. Irvine Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science EDUCATION Ph. 2009 B. Irvine. Epistemology.D. K.. Philosophy (minor in Religion) (Summa cum Laude).

October 2010 ‗Wittgenstein‘s Philosophical Methods in On Certainty‘ 32nd International Wittgenstein Symposium. CA. Kirchberg. June 2009 ‗Cognition and Inference in Descartes‘ (presented by second author Alan Nelson) Yale University History of Philosophy Series. Cambridge 1930-1933. April 2011 ‗Tractarian First-Order Logic: Identity and the N-Operator‘ (with co-author Kai Wehmeier) Southern California History & Philosophy of Logic & Mathematics Group. Department of Philosophy. Moore (with co-editors David Stern and Gabriel Citron) Cambridge University Press (forthcoming) WORKS UNDER REVIEW Tractarian First-Order Logic: Identity and the N-Operator (with coauthor Kai Wehmeier) PRESENTATIONS ‗Propositional Functions and Expressive Completeness of Tractarian Logic‘ American Philosophical Association/Association for Symbolic Logic. of Logic & Philosophy of Science. from the Notes of G. Irvine. April 2009 ix . San Diego. April 2011 ‗Propositional Functions and the N-Operator‘ University of California. Austria. August 2009 ‗Wittgenstein‘s N-Operator and the Question of Expressive Completeness‘ University of Salzburg.BOOKS Wittgenstein’s Lectures. Dept.E.

2006) Social Science Merit Fellowship for graduate study. University of Cambridge. 2007. Norway. (2004-2009) x .RESEARCH ACTIVITIES August 2009 Research on Wittgenstein‘s correspondence at the Brenner Archiv in Innsbruck. Moore archive at the Cambridge University Library. (Fall 2010) Social Science Pre-Dissertation Fellowship for dissertation research. AWARDS Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship for dissertation research. Trinity College. (2010. (Spring 2011) Social Science Associate Dean’s Fellowship for research. 2008-2009 UC Irvine/Salzburg University exchange program participant. (Spring 2007) Logic and Philosophy of Science Summer Fellowship for research. February 2009 Research at the G. February 2009 Research at the Wittgenstein archive at the Wren Library. 2008. February 2009 Visitor at the Wittgenstein Archives in Bergen.E. University of Cambridge. Austria.

Chair In Philosophical Investigations. The implementation of this new methodology distinguishes the late Wittgenstein from the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus. Wittgenstein continued to write philosophical remarks. including those published in On Certainty. His goal is to enact this ‗therapy‘ without advancing controversial philosophical theories himself. After completing work on the Investigations. until xi . Irvine. Wittgenstein aims to demotivate philosophical theorizing by examining the conditions under which philosophical puzzlement arises.ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION Philosophical Method in Wittgenstein‘s On Certainty by Brian Bruce Rogers Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy University of California. 2011 Distinguished Professor Penelope Maddy.

during which Wittgenstein purportedly lost interest in the therapeutic goals of his second phase and adopted a systematic approach to classical epistemological problems. Recently. Yet in the spring of 1951. These fluctuations in Wittgenstein‘s assessment of his writing correspond to the dates he underwent cancer treatments that affected his cognitive abilities. Wittgenstein reported that he had regained his philosophical capacities and was doing his best work in years. less dogmatic method in his treatment of Moore. some interpreters have called for the recognition of a third phase of Wittgenstein‘s career associated with On Certainty. The results of philological investigation show that the first half of On Certainty was written during Wittgenstein‘s self-critical phase.E. By exploring the ways that Moore‘s philosophical xii . just weeks before his death. Later in the book Wittgenstein implements a more therapeutic. A survey of Wittgenstein‘s correspondence reveals that he consistently criticized the quality of his writing throughout the year 1950. while the second half was written during his final weeks of satisfactory work. In this dissertation I challenge the idea of a ‗third Wittgenstein‘ by arguing that Wittgenstein retained his therapeutic aims in On Certainty – although he was not always successful in fulfilling his methodological goals. The early remarks of the book contain a response to G.his death in 1951. Moore‘s attempt to refute skepticism that is based on a theory of ‗hinge propositions‘.

I argue that Wittgenstein was satisfied by this latter response to Moore because it fulfilled the therapeutic and anti-theoretical aims of his later philosophy. Wittgenstein wishes to lead us to question whether we fully understand what Moore is trying to say. xiii .assertions can be used in everyday contexts.

Thanks for sending me the book Kon-tiki. while I was ill. Apart from a certain weakness which has constant ups & downs I'm feeling very well these days. I was responsible for the bad one's being bad. One very bad one. all the more as the weather is pretty rotten & very cold. Miss Anscombe sends her good wishes. 1 .4. – Of course. Dear Norman. 1 1 Letter written by Wittgenstein to Norman Malcolm on April 16. I like to think of her. My room here is much more agreable than the one in Oxford. I've often heard of it & it's bound to be interesting. The spelling and grammatical errors occasionally encountered in these letters have been reproduced without correction in the quotations.Introduction 76 Storeys Way Cambridge 16. Thanks for your letter. – I saw Moore twice recently & had discussions with him. It's the first time after more than 2 years that the curtain in my brain has gone up. but it bucks me up a lot now. – I want to go to Oxford before long to visit Smythies & Bouwsma if all goes well with me. Affectionately Ludwig Remember me to Dr Mooney. the other fairly good. 1951. too. Give my love to everybody. All quotations from Wittgenstein‘s correspondence in this work are from (Wittgenstein 2004). & I was very happy there. I had been absolutely certain that I'd never again be able to do it. An extraordinary thing has happened to me. so far I've only worked for about 5 weeks & it may be all over by tomorrow. About a month ago I suddenly found myself in the right frame of mind for doing philosophy. but I can go out for short strolls. But now that I'm up the whole day I prefer it here. I'm indoors most of the time.51. Not that anyone could possibly be kinder to me than Miss Anscombe was.

Remarks on Colour. ―Here is one hand…and here is another‖ (Moore 1939. and On Certainty. in March of 1951 something ―extraordinary‖ happened to him. Selections from this material were published posthumously in Culture and Value. but this is not the case. 2 . Moore‘s famous attempt to prove the existence of the external world by remarking. he had completely lost his ability to do philosophy. He had suddenly found himself in the finest mental condition for engaging in philosophy that he had been in for two years. Vol. One might naturally assume from this letter that Wittgenstein had completely abandoned philosophical activity for some time. p. II. 166). The prognosis was now dire. The remarks published as On Certainty begin by addressing G. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. During that time he had remained convinced that. given his age and state of ill health. Wittgenstein had recently moved into the home of his personal doctor in Cambridge to receive constant medical attention. Over the previous eighteen months Wittgenstein had composed a significant number of philosophical remarks. Just over a year earlier he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Wittgenstein was told he only had a few weeks left to live.This is the final known letter of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein then goes on to consider the epistemological concepts of doubt. He wrote it just two weeks before his death.E. As Wittgenstein reports in his letter to Norman Malcolm.

certainty, and knowledge, as well as the variety of uses that the terms for these concepts are put to. Since its publication in 1969, themes from On Certainty have received a good amount of attention from Wittgenstein scholars in numerous articles and a handful of book-length treatments. A new surge of interest in the book over the last decade is largely due to Danièle Moyal-Sharrock. She has advocated for assigning On Certainty a special place in the Wittgenstein corpus, arguing that it marks a final phase in his career that should be distinguished from the phase associated with Philosophical Investigations. When this book was published shortly after his death, the thematic and methodological differences between the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations were so striking to readers that it became commonplace to figuratively speak of two Wittgensteins: the early Wittgenstein, whose work finished with the publication of the Tractatus and a move to rural Austria to become a schoolteacher, and the late Wittgenstein, whose career began in the early thirties in Cambridge and culminated in the publication of Philosophical Investigations.2 Work on the typescript for Part II of the Investigations was completed in 1949, but as mentioned above, after this point Wittgenstein continued to produce new


The appropriateness of sharply dividing Wittgenstein‘s career into these two phases has in recent decades become the subject of scholarly debate, though the terminology of ‗early‘ and ‗late‘ remains entrenched. See (Stern 2005) for a survey of this literature.


philosophical writing until his death in 1951. The phase consisting of these final writings has thus come to be known as the third Wittgenstein:3 the development in Wittgenstein‘s thought is such as to warrant the distinction of a post-Investigations, a third Wittgenstein, from the indiscriminate assemblage of what is referred to as the second or the later Wittgenstein. This demarcation would…indicate not only a new phase in Wittgenstein‘s thinking, but also that Wittgenstein was the author of three, not two, philosophical masterpieces. (Moyal-Sharrock 2004, p. 1) The introduction of this distinction in Wittgenstein‘s career has been lauded and adopted by several interpreters, most notably Avrum Stroll, who describes the recognition of a third Wittgenstein as a deep and original insight…I am in agreement with MoyalSharrock that we should divide Wittgenstein‘s career into three phases: the First Wittgenstein of the Tractatus, the Second of the Investigations, and the Third of On Certainty.4 (2004, p. 22)


In the present work I adopt the following terminology for the phases of Wittgenstein‘s career. ‗The second Wittgenstein‘ will refer to the phase beginning with a return to Cambridge in 1929 and finishing with the construction of the typescript now known as Part II of Philosophical Investigations in 1949. (For simplification, I include what some have called Wittgenstein‘s ‗middle‘ or ‗transitional‘ period – approximately 1929-1933 – in the ‗second‘ Wittgenstein.) I designate the notebooks composed between 1949 and 1951 as the ‗final‘ writings. I mention the ‗third‘ Wittgenstein when referring to the particular interpretation of Wittgenstein‘s project in the final writings espoused by Moyal-Sharrock et al. Finally, I associate the ‗later‘ Wittgenstein with all of the writings after 1929. The ‗later‘ phase thus includes both the ‗second‘ and ‗final‘ phases. 4 Moyal-Sharrock demarcates the ‗third Wittgenstein‘ corpus as ―essentially [the] post-1949 (post-PI) work; for the most part, notes that have been divided into what we know as: Remarks on Colour, the second volume of Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology and On Certainty‖ (Moyal-Sharrock 2002, p. 294 fn. 2). In a later characterization of the third Wittgenstein (Moyal-Sharrock 2004, 2), the demarcation is expanded to include all of the writings from 1946 onward. In addition to the publications previously mentioned, this expansion also includes remarks published as Part II of the Philosophical Investigations, most of the remarks in Zettel, both volumes of Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, volume 1 of Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, and a selection of remarks from Culture and Value. In this dissertation I focus on the earlier, narrower characterization of the third Wittgenstein as comprised only of the 1949-1951 notebooks. (See the beginning of chapter 3 for the justification of this choice.) For an account of Wittgenstein‘s writings from 1946 to 1949, see (Schulte 1993).


The case for distinguishing a post-Investigations phase of Wittgenstein‘s career rests on three major claims. 1) The philosophical importance and quality of On Certainty is of comparable stature to the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations; indeed, ―Wittgenstein was the author of three, not two great works: On Certainty is Wittgenstein‘s third masterpiece‖ (Moyal-Sharrock and Brenner 2005, p. 1). 2) After 1949 Wittgenstein‘s thought moves in new directions: ―On Certainty is a highly original work, in many ways quite different from the Investigations‖ (Stroll 1994, p. 7). The philosophical issues in On Certainty are confronted by Wittgenstein for the first time, for ―the theme of this work [is] different from anything that Wittgenstein produced earlier‖ (Stroll 2004, p. 22). 3) Wittgenstein‘s post-Investigations writing reveals a shift in philosophical method. One of the most salient differences between the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations concerns the apparent methods applied in the texts. While in the Tractatus Wittgenstein is primarily concerned to answer fundamental questions of metaphysics and philosophical logic5, in Philosophical Investigations he adopts a new


This is at least Wittgenstein‘s aim according to standard readings of the Tractatus. Such readings have in recent decades come under attack by interpreters who argue that Wittgenstein employs a therapeutic methodology in this book as well. In the present work I will not enter into this debate about the Tractatus, for my argument relies merely on an understanding of Wittgenstein as being driven by deflationary and therapeutic intentions in


deflationary, therapeutic method that seeks to make ―philosophical problems completely disappear‖ (PI 133) and ―not advance any kind of theory‖ (PI 109). The transition from Wittgenstein‘s second career phase to his third is also characterized by a methodological break, for ―the third Wittgenstein…somehow lost interest in the therapeutic enterprise in his last years‖ (Moyal-Sharrock 2004, p. 5).6 Wittgenstein abandoned his therapeutic goals in his final years, instead attempting to answer traditional epistemological questions in a theoretical and systematic manner: the highly therapeutic thrust of the Investigations is much diminished in On Certainty. Wittgenstein is himself caught up in relatively straightforward, classical philosophical concerns about the nature of certainty and its relationship to human knowledge. (Stroll 1994, p. 7) The goal of this dissertation is to present what could be called a ‗therapeutic reading‘ of On Certainty. In using this terminology I am not, however, claiming to give an interpretation that is analogous to recent therapeutic readings of the Tractatus.7 Such a reading would require an understanding of On Certainty as a carefully planned and executed text that consistently works towards a therapeutic goal. On the contrary, I will argue that Wittgenstein did not consistently satisfy his therapeutic ideals in his

Philosophical Investigations, and such a position is well established in the secondary literature. 6 A similar opinion is held by Frongia and McGuinness, who suggest that there is ―a pronounced change in Wittgenstein‘s attitude towards constructive and systematic ways of doing philosophy. Certainly there seems to be a loss of interest in the ‗therapeutic‘ aim of removing ‗mental cramps‘‖ (1990, p. 35). 7 Thus I will provide an interpretation that differs from what Moyal-Sharrock and Brenner identify as ―the ‗therapeutic reading‘ approach[ing] On Certainty in the spirit of ‗New Wittgenstein‘ commentators‖ (2005, p. 3).


lectures. has also undermined the second pillar concerning the supposed uniqueness and separability of On Certainty with respect to the rest of Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass. Those remarks that some readers take to indicate a change in Wittgenstein‘s later methodology should instead be understood as indicating periods during which Wittgenstein was not successful in satisfying his metaphilosophical goals. namely the claim that ideas attributed to Wittgenstein by certain readers are of high philosophical value. But this does not mean that he abandoned the methodological goals of the Investigations in his final years. I will not contest this evaluation. Wittgenstein was most satisfied with work during this time when it succeeded in meeting these ideals. and discussions from the thirties and forties. tracing the development of themes addressed in On Certainty in writings. as I will show. The recent work of Kim van Gennip. 8 (van Gennip 2008) 7 . for. My interpretation directly challenges the third claim made by the authors above.8 This leaves only the first pillar. The case for recognizing a third phase in Wittgenstein‘s career is severely destabilized when its third pillar – the claim that Wittgenstein changed his philosophical methodology in On Certainty – is removed. In his final years Wittgenstein did not adopt a new philosophical method. but rather argue that it is not sufficient to warrant the recognition of a distinct phase in Wittgenstein‘s philosophical development.final writings.

consist of a carefully planned structure. ―which he apparently took up at four separate periods during this eighteen months‖. In particular. 8 . particularly by advocates of the recognition of a third Wittgenstein. I will argue that the conception of On Certainty as one of Wittgenstein‘s works is unwarranted.A fundamental assumption held by most interpreters who advocate for the recognition of a third phase of Wittgenstein‘s career is that On Certainty is one of Wittgenstein‘s works. The question of whether this title is appropriately assigned to a piece of historical writing is of real importance to interpreters. for the notion of a ‗work‘ is bound together with a number of suppositions concerning the writing‘s internal structure and the author‘s attitudes about this writing. who in their preface claimed that it ―constitutes a single sustained treatment of the topic‖ of Moore‘s attempted proof. The satisfaction of these conditions is what legitimates common interpretive techniques in the history of philosophy such as rational reconstruction. The conception of On Certainty as a self-standing work was enabled by its editors. to reconstruct the purported underlying epistemological theory not explicitly stated in the text of On Certainty. a ‗work‘ is generally taken to systematically develop a theme. This assumption makes it possible for them to afford the book a status similar to that of Philosophical Investigations and the Tractatus – the two publications widely agreed to be works of Wittgenstein. including the attempt. and be conceived by the author to form a cohesive unit.

Yet a preliminary defense of this extended investigation of historical circumstances may be called for. indeed. For the editors to call the book a ―sustained treatment‖ invites the reader to assume that Wittgenstein had already worked out its fundamental ideas before beginning composition. This will result in a more accurate understanding of the nature of the book.These claims have had a real effect on how commentators have come to understand the nature of these final notes. and that his eighteen-month process of composition was one of continually developing a single theme. advocates for the recognition of a third Wittgenstein have cited these very editorial claims as evidence that On Certainty is one of Wittgenstein‘s works. I believe that an interpretation of On Certainty can benefit from being informed by details relating to the conditions under which it was composed. Such an investigation might be considered by some to be merely of historical interest and irrelevant to a strictly philosophical interpretation of a historical text: a philosophical historian of philosophy … [is] someone who postpones until the very last moment the abandonment of belief in the reasonableness of the views of the philosophers she studies. and the degree to which its structure is a result of editorial construction. by carefully investigating the biographical and philological details of the composition of On Certainty. a piece of philosophical history of philosophy is an 9 . the relation of its source manuscripts to contemporaneous items in Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass. In the first two chapters of this dissertation I will show that these editorial claims are very misleading.

the revised understanding I provide of the status of On Certainty in the Wittgenstein corpus will serve as the foundation for my account of the methodologies applied in those remarks. and family members. p. the legitimacy of submitting a historical text to the technique of argumentative reconstruction depends on very basic assumptions about the nature of that text and the author‘s relation to it.attempt to reconstruct the justification for a philosophical view. the evidence I will provide shows that they are unfounded with respect to On Certainty. colleagues. Thus. A non-philosophical intellectual historian. particularly the treatment he underwent for 10 . will be happy to appeal to non-justificatory explanatory factors at a much earlier stage in her account of a view. 9) As declared earlier. a historical investigation into the composition of a text can in some cases serve as preparation for better philosophical interpretations which account for what kind of text the book actually is. Chapter 1 of this dissertation constructs an account of Wittgenstein‘s philosophical activities during the final two years of his life from extant letters written to friends. Special emphasis is placed on Wittgenstein‘s own assessment of the quality of his work during this time. as well as the relation of his philosophical productivity to the major events of his final years. (Morris 2008. by contrast. Indeed. or of a change of view. While such assumptions are satisfied in the large majority of cases. This means that an investigation into the very nature of the text itself is necessary to inform an appropriate reading of the book.

and these letters show that Wittgenstein was consistently critical of his work throughout 1950 and the beginning of 1951. and suggests that a better reading should characterize On Certainty as composed of multiple parts. After returning home he maintained a correspondence with Malcolm. Wittgenstein was prompted to consider the topics discussed in On Certainty during a visit to his former student Norman Malcolm in the fall of 1949.prostate cancer. when this change happened to Wittgenstein. working until April 27. and he succeeded in penning the remarks that constitute the final half of the book. However. for it coincides with the commencement and cessation of hormone treatments for prostate cancer. for they show that he judged the final remarks in On Certainty to be of higher quality than those at the beginning of the publication. Since Wittgenstein was more 11 . a state he had not achieved for the past two years. or systematic work less attractive. This change in Wittgenstein‘s attitude should not be written off or ignored by biographers. By March of 1951. he had already composed the remarks that make up roughly the first half of On Certainty. This makes interpretations which characterize On Certainty as a cohesive. well-developed. Wittgenstein subsequently reported that he was finally mentally capable of doing satisfactory work in philosophy. They should also be acknowledged and accounted for by Wittgenstein‘s interpreters. as seen in his final letter to Malcolm quoted above. In the six weeks following this event his pace of work greatly accelerated. two days before he died of complications due to his illness.

Some estimates of composition dates can now be 12 . though these estimates were not always accurate or precise. in order to understand how his various phases of self-assessment relate to the entirety of his final writings. a reading of the text should account for this by showing what properties are to be found in the final sections of On Certainty that are missing from the initial remarks. For these manuscripts. interspersed with other remarks concerning mostly color concepts and philosophical psychology. by delving into the large Nachlass of notebooks. manuscripts. The first step in providing such a reading. Chapter 2 takes on the task of determining which individual remarks in On Certainty are associated with Wittgenstein‘s optimistic phase.satisfied with some of these parts than others. Wittgenstein‘s early literary executors attempted to date these materials. This task is simple for the few notebooks that were dated by Wittgenstein himself. is to determine exactly which remarks were composed during Wittgenstein‘s period of optimism and which were penned earlier. The remarks that make up On Certainty are spread out among a series of notebooks composed during the last two years of his life. philological and biographical research can be utilized to estimate their dates of composition. The goal of this chapter is to describe and date all of the items in Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass from the last two years of his life. but most were not dated. of course. and typescripts that were left behind after his death. and which are associated with his pessimistic phase.

however. The investigative results of these two chapters allow for an informed consideration of whether the posthumous publications culled from Wittgenstein‘s final writings should be considered to count among his works. respectively – by which the status of a piece of writing may be evaluated.narrowed (at least to the degree that the evidence allows). the reader. a revision of material on the topic of color. a manuscript containing the first 65 remarks of On Certainty was deemed by the executors to have been composed during Wittgenstein‘s pessimistic phase. before Wittgenstein began to consistently pan the quality of his work. The previous biographical and philological investigations are shown to refute a number of claims made by Wittgenstein‘s editors – and advocates for the recognition of a third 13 . and a few corrections can be made to the executors‘ initial attempts at dating Wittgenstein‘s final notebooks. First. printed as part 1 of Remarks on Colour. Two significant corrections deserve mention here. but evidence from letters and memoirs suggests that these remarks were in fact penned in America during his visit to Malcolm. In chapter 3 I argue that Joachim Schulte provides a good framework for approaching this question. providing three independent scales – concerning the author. was originally thought to have been composed during Wittgenstein‘s optimistic phase. evidence from letters and notebooks is presented that indicate this material was actually written during the pessimistic phase. Second. and the text.

Wittgenstein compares his philosophical method to psychotherapy and denies that he intends to advance any kind of theory. the editorial decision to publish these text-fragments together in a single volume was not a mistake. concerning the reader‘s impressions of a text. 14 . This leaves the second criterion. I conclude that even though On Certainty fails a number of tests for counting as a work. In a number of wellknown passages. the result of his editors splicing together segments of text from various sources. A central component of my reading of On Certainty is the claim that Wittgenstein‘s final optimistic writing phase is characterized by a therapeutic approach. Though some readers feel that On Certainty is an ‗intense‘ and ‗sustained‘ effort – and for this reason ought to be considered one of his works – I counter that these impressions are only possible because On Certainty is a constructed artifact not of Wittgenstein‘s making. In preparation for that conclusion I present a characterization of the late Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project in chapter 4.Wittgenstein – concerning the composition of On Certainty and Wittgenstein‘s attitudes towards it. For provided that readers are given an accurate account of the manuscript sources of On Certainty and their relation to contemporaneous notes on other topics. thereby leading to the conclusion that this piece of writing fails to be a work according to the first and third criteria. the book can provide them with an insight into one facet of Wittgenstein‘s thought in his final years.

it is then possible to take Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist without thereby sacrificing grounds for legitimate critique. Wittgenstein‘s most sympathetic readers sometimes appear to use his stated desire not to advance any kind of theory as a means for deflecting any principled criticism of his philosophy. Instead. yet still leave open for evaluation the degree to which he succeeded in meeting these goals. even some of those who give a central place to the remarks on therapy. I argue that if we take Wittgenstein‘s remarks on therapy at face value as descriptions of his metaphilosophical goals. Despite the familiarity of Wittgenstein‘s metaphilosophical remarks. this person‘s task is to monitor. describe. That perspective should be distinguished from what I call the 15 . One reason for a reluctance to take Wittgenstein‘s antitheoretical claims seriously may be his frequent use of multiple voices in dialogue. Such a critique is made from a perspective which I call the observer. many of his readers tend to attribute philosophical theses to him in their textual interpretations. On the other hand. Wittgenstein tends to see philosophical bewilderment itself as a problem which stands in need of treatment.This shows that Wittgenstein does not subscribe to a traditional conception of the aims and methods of philosophy. many of which do indeed appear to advance philosophical theses. which are usually taken to include the construction of theories in the service of answering philosophical questions. and evaluate Wittgenstein‘s methods.

patient - someone who attempts to personally undergo Wittgensteinian therapy. This distinction helps to ease a current debate in the Wittgenstein literature over whether interpreters should read the Philosophical Investigations in a ―text-immanent‖ manner, limiting themselves only to the remarks printed in the book, or whether they should approach the book in a ―contextual‖ manner, helping themselves to Wittgenstein‘s earlier drafts, lecture notes, correspondence, and other outside material that could shed light on the text. The results of chapters 1-4 are put to use in chapter 5, where I present a therapeutic reading of On Certainty that is informed by my account of the book‘s structure. I follow the strategy of taking Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist outlined in Chapter 4 by distinguishing between Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic goals and the degree to which he succeeded in satisfying them. My thesis is that the final half of On Certainty, written when Wittgenstein expressed satisfaction with his work, exhibits the qualities that Wittgenstein desires in a therapeutic philosophy to a greater extent than the book‘s earlier remarks, which he consistently panned as unsatisfactory. This contrast can most clearly be seen by comparing Wittgenstein‘s reactions to G.E. Moore in the two halves of the book. In the earlier remarks, Wittgenstein tends to react to Moore‘s assertions of having basic items of knowledge, e.g. ―I know this is a hand‖ or ―I know this is a tree,‖ by saying that these assertions are inappropriate because they lack sense. The 16

notion of having ‗sense‘ is given what appears to be a theoretical foundation in these early sections, based on the characterization of what have come to be known as ‗hinge propositions.‘ In what at points reads like a theoretical treatise, Moore‘s statements are deemed meaningless for failing to satisfy these criteria for sensical utterances. However, in the later sections of On Certainty, Wittgenstein personally engages with G.E. Moore, thereby shifting his focus from solving a philosophical problem to resolving a particular case of philosophical bewilderment. Rather than declare Moore‘s claims meaningless at the outset, Wittgenstein imagines a series of situations in which it might be natural to make one of those claims, situations in which they would indeed ―make sense‖ (where this phrase is given an everyday meaning rather than a theoretically loaded one). These are opportunities for Moore to give his statements a determinate everyday sense, but if he continually rejects these options as not truly capturing the elevated philosophical sense he intends to convey, at some point he may question whether he really does have a determinate meaning in mind, and thus decide to cease making these statements. This can be understood as an administration of Wittgensteinian therapy, which proceeds not by advancing arguments, but rather seeks to allow the patient to once again function in the linguistic community through the dissolution of the grip that a philosophical problem formerly had over him.


In the later sections of On Certainty Wittgenstein also submits his earlier pronouncements about hinge propositions to critical scrutiny. These statements are now criticized as being ‗suspicious‘ and ‗too general‘, as well as for apparently having different meanings when uttered in an everyday context rather than a philosophical one. Here Wittgenstein appears to realize that his earlier hinge-theoretical response to Moore‘s utterances involves the same kind of peculiar philosophical uses of language committed by Moore. Thus, the later sections of the book exhibit both therapeutic and antitheoretical elements, as required by Wittgenstein‘s metaphilosophy. I discuss the main trends of On Certainty interpretation in Chapter 6, pointing out that most readings do not account for the book‘s internal structure or explain how its remarks might serve a therapeutic end. Both of these considerations are central to my interpretation of the book. After identifying a number of competing pieces in the secondary literature in which these two considerations are also addressed, I conclude by specifying some advantages my interpretation has over these rivals.


Chapter 1 The Right Frame of Mind for Doing Philosophy

In the fall of 1946, when he was 57 years old, Wittgenstein began to seriously consider retiring from his position at Cambridge, expressing doubt to colleagues about the effectiveness of his teaching and frustration over not being able to focus on completing Philosophical Investigations, which he had worked on for over a decade (Malcolm 1984, p. 53). By the summer of 1947 he was nearly resolved not to return the next year: I am almost certain that I shall resign my professorship in Autumn....I'ld like to be alone somewhere & try to write & to make at least one part of my book publishable. I'll never be able to do it while I'm teaching at Cambridge. (August 27, 1947; letter to Malcolm) Wittgenstein did indeed submit his resignation of his chair before the Michaelmas Term of 1947, but was told that he still had an available term to take for sabbatical. He did so, and during the fall of 1947 dictated a typescript of material he had worked on for the past few years. This typescript was published posthumously as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1 (Monk 1990, p. 518).1 After completing his sabbatical term and officially resigning his chair in December of 1947, he moved to Ireland, hoping to find a peaceful place to work in solitude:


In this chapter I mention some uncontroversial dates of composition for manuscripts in order to orient the reader. In the next chapter I investigate the dating of Wittgenstein‘s final manuscripts in detail.


521). Wittgenstein found himself once again in a good state for working. 535). 528).I can't. While he suffered from bouts of physical ill health. Wittgenstein then decided to move into an empty cottage in Rosro. he stopped off in Cambridge to have a typescript made of his work over the past year. when he left to visit his dying sister Hermine in Vienna. so far. I could never have got this work done while I was in Cambridge. say anything about my work . This is now published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology. (Drury 1981. pp. out on one of his regular walks with notebook in hand. ―sitting in a ditch. Around Easter his work stopped for a few weeks due to insomnia. Wish me luck! (December 9. There he was able to find solitude and once again do some work (ibid. Vol. Wittgenstein reported the good news: Sometimes my ideas come so quickly that I feel as if my pen was being guided.. an even more secluded location on the west coast of Ireland. When his friend Drury came from Dublin to visit. Upon returning. 1947. for a few months he was able to do satisfactory work.. Rather than risk the harsh winter at the 20 . p.. He stayed there until August. p. writing furiously. I now see clearly that it was the right thing for me to give up the professorship. oblivious of anything going on around him‖ (Monk 1990. letter to Rhees) He soon found a small farmhouse where he could stay as a guest.. p. Upon returning to Dublin in October. II (ibid. 153-154) At times the inspiration came so intensely that a neighbor is reported to have seen Wittgenstein.

He appeared to be making progress towards finishing the book.. despite some occasional physical illness. when I went up to his room he was nearly always working and would continue to do so for some time before we went out‖ (Drury 1981. lately he had preferred ―Philosophical Remarks‖ (ibid.S. letter to Rhees) I am well & working pretty hard. The conditions for writing were excellent. and he would sometimes talk about what he was currently writing. he decided to stay in Dublin: I arrived here about 3 weeks ago after staying in Cambridge a fortnight & dictating some M. p. 1948. letter to Moore) 21 . Over the winter Drury had frequent discussions with Wittgenstein. on the whole makes me feel well. Drury reports that he ―seemed..cottage where he had been the previous summer. For the next four months Wittgenstein reported to various colleagues that. (December 12. his work was going pretty well. & as I'm anxious to make hay during the very short period when the sun shines in my brain I've decided not to go to Rosro this winter but to stay here where I've got a warm & quiet room. 156). for he was now considering what title to use. (December 16. I.to be writing copiously.2 This fruitful period came to 2 As seen in the following: I can still work moderately well & that. (November 6. Some of these writings have since been published in Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology.S. When I came here I found to my surprise that I could work again. 160). letter to Malcolm) Wittgenstein found a room in Ross‘s Hotel and was able to visit with his friend Drury nearly every day. p.. 1948.. Vol. 1948.

I was too ill to work for only 4 or 5 days. (December 31. 6 weeks ago. God being willing. am working a fair amount & still moderately well. I had to interrupt it completely for a week & after that it just crawled along. Auch meiner Arbeit geht es nicht schlecht. & also that a number of things are really worrying me. Ich war einige Zeit krank mit einer Darminfektion. Perhaps a holiday of a couple of months would make me fit again. when weakness exhausted both his physical and mental strength: My work went fairly well. I‘ll get some work done. letter to Malcolm) 22 . letter to Koder) My work is still going fairly well.―) (February 17. 1948. either. say. but about a fortnight ago I almost suddenly became exhausted. after all. I wish my luck could hold for another 6 months. p. which gradually helped him improve physically (Monk 1990. but I can't write. The letters leading up to March 1949 thus confirm part of Wittgenstein‘s claim in his final letter to Malcolm in April of 1951 (quoted in full in the introduction): for several extended periods after his retirement from Cambridge. & sometimes even very well. God knows if I'll ever be able to work again. (December 31. 1949. of course. 1949. but I feel that I'll certainly not be able to work soon. 1949. too. the ‗curtain in his brain‘ had been up. (Translation of: ―Mir geht es gut. was why I resigned my professorship. That‘s partly due to the fact that I‘ve been a bit ill. for by then I could get a good chunk of work done. (January 28. 1948. though not as well as. or so. During that time. but I fell ill with some sort of infection of the intestines about 3 weeks ago & it hasn‘t yet cleared up. my ideas petered out. – Money is not one of them.. letter to Malcolm) I am doing well.an end in March.Of course it hasn‘t done my work any good. He was prescribed iron and liver extract. (March 16. these days. allowing him to do I. spending rather a lot. I think. This doesnt necessarily mean that I couldn't discuss philosophy. & that. 1949. in all this time. I am. letter to Rhees) The cause for Wittgenstein‘s exhaustion was later diagnosed as anemia by a Dublin doctor. I was ill for a while with an intestinal infection. letter to Malcolm) I can still work fairly well though not as I did a month ago. letter to Moore) I had a pretty good turn of work in the last 3 months. 542). as I do when I take a walk. & now I'm completely incapable of thinking about philosophy. aber sie ist vorüber & ich werde wieder kräftig. but it is over and I‘m getting strong again. (February 18.. but I‘ll have enough for another 2 years. My work isn‘t going badly.

―the reason I am doing this is so there will be at least one person who will understand 23 . but this nevertheless shows how much confidence Wittgenstein placed in Malcolm to comprehend his writings. As mentioned in the above letter to Rhees. After a time these discussions began to move away from the text of the typescript. The personal and professional friendship was further strengthened when Malcolm visited Cambridge during the 1946-1947 academic year. As we will now see. As Wittgenstein explained to Malcolm. He already had a particular vacation in mind. and while there he attended Wittgenstein‘s lectures. namely that during this time he was unable to do any particularly satisfactory philosophical work and despaired that this situation would not change before his death. he was considering a trip to America to visit Norman Malcolm. he was excited about and satisfied with. In addition to sitting in on Wittgenstein‘s final year of lectures on the philosophy of psychology. Over the next two years Wittgenstein‘s reports to colleagues about the state of his work were consistently negative. Malcolm also met with him once a week to discuss the latest version of Philosophical Investigations.work that. The two got along very well and began a correspondence after Malcolm took a position at Princeton in 1940. Malcolm had come to Cambridge to study under Moore in 1938. Wittgenstein‘s correspondence between March 1949 and his final letter to Malcolm also confirms his other claim in that letter. Wittgenstein thought that a holiday might help him get back to working. on the whole.

letter to Malcolm) Some of the things worrying him included the health of his eldest sister.. I haven't been able to work for over three months. hoping to cure his anemia. but if I'm getting better at all it's a very slow process. (April 1. I'd been feeling lousy for a long time before they made a blood test & found what was the matter. p. I think because I'm a bit exhausted. who he came to Vienna to visit in April. What he especially hoped for was to be able to participate in philosophical discussions with Malcolm by the time he arrived 24 . but alone I can't concentrate on it. My mind is tired & stale. partly because lots of things worry me terribly just now. After some initial reluctance.my book when it is published‖ (Malcolm 1984. partly. 1949. The prescribed medications slowly had a positive effect on his physical health. 44). I think I could still discuss philosophy if I had someone here to discuss it with.I haven't been doing any work at all for the last 2-3 weeks. Wittgenstein finally committed to the visit and booked a ticket for July on a transatlantic ocean liner.. After returning to Dublin in May. 1949. (June 8. He hoped that visiting his old friend might spur him back to doing philosophical work: I have booked a passage to New York on the Queen Mary for July 21. Wittgenstein made frequent visits to his doctor. That only happened 3 weeks ago. letter to Fouracre) Wittgenstein nevertheless was optimistic that his health and mental capacities would improve. though he still was in no shape to do philosophical work: I'm taking iron & liverextrat. Malcolm now had a position at Cornell and had invited Wittgenstein to come to Ithaca for an extended stay.

the medications had succeeded in alleviating many of his physical ailments: My anaemia is as good as cured. On July 21. the Queen Mary set sail for New York. and thus planned to have a typescript of this work made up before he departed: At present I am quite unable to do any philosophy & I don't think I'd be strong enough to have even a moderately decent discussion. This was eventually published as Philosophical Investigations.in America. letter to Malcolm) Wittgenstein then went to Cambridge for a short time to prepare his typescript. En route to New York. 1949. He was striding down the ramp with a pack on his back. letter to Koder) Indeed. upon his arrival in America Wittgenstein was vigorous and energetic. Part II.3 (July 24. letter to Malcolm) Fortunately. but unfortunately I'm still not the same I was before I got ill. (June 4. That will show me where I stand & I'll let you know the result. I intend to go to Cambridge in about 2 weeks & to dictate some stuff if I feel strong enough.‖ 25 . In fact at present I'm sure I couldn't do it. (July 8. Wittgenstein hoped to show Malcolm the fruits of his labors the past winter. 3 Translation of: ―Die Überfahrt ist sehr glatt & es geht mir körperlich ganz gut. he reported to his friend Koder The passage is very smooth and physically I‘m doing quite well. The trip seemed to provide just the refreshment that Wittgenstein was seeking. 1949. by the time he was about to leave for Cambridge and then proceed on to Ithaca. But of course it's possible that by the end of July I may have recovered sufficiently for my brain to work again. 1949. as Malcolm saw when he picked up Wittgenstein at the dock: When I first saw him I was surprised at his apparent physical vigour.

thereby failing to serve the purpose of defending common sense. p.a heavy suitcase in one hand. (Malcolm 1984. Moore agreed that he had used these words in circumstances in 4 (Malcolm 1949) 26 . who then composed a critique of the paper and defense of his own position. As Wittgenstein had brought along copies of both typescripts now known as parts I and II of Philosophical Investigations. Malcolm had sent an offprint of the article to Moore.4 It was Malcolm‘s contention that Moore had not used these words in their ordinary sense. My chief recollection of the long train ride home is that we talked about music and that he whistled for me. One set of discussions was of particular importance for Wittgenstein. some parts of Beethoven‘s 7th Symphony. including Frege‘s essay ―On Sense and Reference‖ and the Tractatus. He was in very good spirits and not at all exhausted and he would not allow me to help him with his luggage. Wittgenstein‘s health remained stable. This allowed him to actively participate in a number of philosophical discussions with faculty members and graduate students at Cornell. Malcolm had recently published an article in Philosophical Review criticizing Moore‘s use of ―I know‖ in his papers ―A Defence of Common Sense‖ and ―Proof of the External World‖. and thus that they constituted a misuse of language. 68) For the first six weeks of his stay. cane in the other. for they stimulated thoughts that would eventually be published in On Certainty. with striking accuracy and expressiveness. though again these soon fell through. A range of topics were covered. he attempted once more to explain his book to Malcolm in private sessions.

presumably in the hope of making additional entries while on vacation.of the way he worked. He worked in spurts.. He had. 168). There is evidence to suggest that Wittgenstein may have composed some philosophical remarks during his visit to America.. Malcolm sent a long reply to Moore. brought along a selection of his recent notebooks (Drury 1981. but that he had given them his own slant. claiming that most of the ideas were due to Wittgenstein. Bouwsma‘s recounting of a discussion from August 5 suggests that Wittgenstein had recently attempted to start writing again: . he further argued that his use of the words ―I know‖ was the very same as their ordinary sense. but it is clear from the notes he wrote in the margins of Malcolm‘s letter that he was not convinced... p. These took place in August. p. but disagreed that this constituted a misuse of the words. If Moore composed a response it has not been preserved.he spoke. There were times when he was so dull that he could scarcely believe he 27 . after all. 30). This reply Moore sent off to Malcolm on July 21. On September 2. because their truth-conditions are identical.which they are not usually uttered. and. more generally. the concepts of knowledge and certainty. the same day that Wittgenstein‘s ship set sail for New York. Bouwsma was also in attendance at a discussion that began with consideration of Moore‘s ―I know that this is a hand‖ on August 20 (Bouwsma 1986. This prompted a series of discussions on Moore‘s papers. Malcolm was eager to hear Wittgenstein‘s take on Moore‘s reply.

after the discussions on Moore had taken place. but my work's no good. p. ‗When a person has only one thing in the world – namely. a certain talent – what is he to do when he begins to lose that talent?‘ he asked. (August 31. since by ―doing some philosophy‖ he might have only been referring to his philosophical discussions. I have discussions with Malcolm & some other people. 76) This was typical of the pessimism about his prospects of doing good work again that he would repeatedly express over the next eighteen months in letters to colleagues. letter to Rhees) This letter does not definitively prove that Wittgenstein was writing new remarks.had written what he had written. 10) By the end of August. & sometimes they (the discussions) aren't too bad. Mooney (mentioned in the letter in the introduction). aside from the many discussions he was taking part in while in Ithaca. Wittgenstein said to me that it was a problem for him as to what to do with the remainder of his life. where he was seen by a Dr. During the latter part of Wittgenstein‘s trip he became ill once again. Wittgenstein was not satisfied with the results. And he had been ill since March. Despite this attempt to get back to writing. Malcolm arranged for him to have a brief stay in the hospital. he was beginning to do something. But his mention of ―my work‖ strongly suggests that he was also attempting to do some of his own philosophical work. p. with 28 . as he often mentioned to Malcolm: More than once. and now for the first time since. (Bouwsma 1986. Wittgenstein reported: I'm doing some philosophy. 1949. (Malcolm 1984.

Dr. Wittgenstein was not overly pleased about prolonging the inevitable: The doctors have now made their diagnosis. as had been his intention before going to America: My health is bad and I must lie down for a large part of the day and can‘t work. Bevan was able to make a diagnosis: Wittgenstein was suffering from prostate cancer. much worse than it is. but I can't imagine that. and immediately fell ill with the flu. I have cancer of the prostate. as I'm told.5 (November 25. But I cou[l]dn't have my wish. who did not want to undergo treatment in America. in a way. Edward Bevan. No diagnosis of his condition was able to be made. I am treated with great kindness by 5 Translation of: ―Meine Gesundheit ist schlecht & ich muß einen großen Teil des Tages liegen & kann nicht arbeiten. I was in no way shocked when I heard I had cancer. aleviate the symptoms of the disease. which was actually a relief to Wittgenstein. This prevented him from doing any philosophical work. for there is a drug (actually some hormones) which can. 1949: letter to Koder) Wittgenstein instead stayed for several weeks in Cambridge with his former student Georg Henrik von Wright. He returned to England at the end of October.‖ 29 . and also from returning to Dublin. because I had no wish to live on. so that he could undergo several examinations by Dr. His condition was terminal but it would be possible to prolong his life for a few years with hormone therapy. but I was when I heard that one could do something about it. But this sounds. who was a friend of Drury‘s and also happened to be von Wright‘s family physician. so that I can live on for years.whom Wittgenstein got along quite well. The doctor even tells me that I may be able to work again.

I think of going to Vienna for some time as soon as possible. and spend time with his ailing sister.I‘m taking a medication which the doctor says will help me. He wrote to his sister Helene: I‘m considering the idea of coming to Vienna not long from now. ca.. Though he 6 Translation of: ―Ich überlege den Gedanken.. 1949. mir helfen wird. letter to Rhees) On December 24th he flew to Vienna and spent the holiday season with his family. (undated.). November 28. There I'll just do nothing & let the hormones do their work. 1949. lest his family learn of his cancer. Over the next two years he repeatedly implored his friends and acquaintances in correspondence not to reveal his diagnosis to members of his family. For the next two months Wittgenstein was able to relax. Wittgenstein decided to make an extended trip to visit his family in Vienna. (December 2. My health is quite bad and thus I can‘t work. wie der Arzt sagt.6 (November 28.Ich nehme ein Mittel. Even though his sister Hermine was suffering from cancer herself. play music with his old friend Koder.. Meine Gesundheit ist recht schlecht & ich kann daher nicht arbeiten. 1949. in nicht langer Zeit nach Wien zu kommen. letter to Malcolm) Knowing that his days were numbered. welches.‖ 30 .. letter to Salzer) Wittgenstein did not want to give the details of this medication.. He stayed in Cambridge another month. (Though I can't imagine that I'll ever work again. Wittgenstein vowed to keep the real extent of his ill health a secret from his family. not succeeding in getting any work done.every one & I have an immensely kind doctor who isn't a fool either.. but optimistic that this might change after the treatments were given some time to have an effect: I am getting slowly better & the doctor tells me that after some months I may be well enough to work.

I have been reading again parts of Goethes "Farbenlehre" which attracts & repels me. in February his sister Hermine finally succumbed to the cancer and passed away. though he was far from satisfied with the results: My brain is mudled & sluggish but I can't say I mind. e.If we could meet you'd find me pretty slow & stupid. (January 16. At the end of March he returned to Cambridge to visit Dr.had not been writing any new remarks. letter to Malcolm) A week later he reported that he had finally attempted to begin writing again. letter to Rhees) These remarks now form the first part of the posthumous publication Remarks on Colour.. I'm reading various odds & ends.g. 1949. (January 22. and found he had received an invitation from Ryle to give the John Locke lectures in Oxford. After having been sick for some time. Goethes Theory of colour which. Despite the fact that his physical health had somewhat improved.. I've only got very few 'lucid moments'. It's certainly philosophically interesting.. and he was able to do some more writing. has very interesting points & stimulates me to think. Bevan again. 1950. I'm not writing at all because my thoughts never sufficiently crystallize. with all its absurdities. & I've been thinking about it & even written down some weak remarks. Over the next month Wittgenstein‘s health slowly improved.My brain works very sluggishly these days but I can't say I mind. he did report some intellectual stimulation coming from an attempt to read Goethe: I am very well indeed now & am anything but depressed. he decided to turn down the offer: 31 . as well as participate in discussions with Anscombe (who was in Vienna working to improve her German skills) and Feyeraband..

There are to be lectures of that sort every year by people outside Oxford. (April 17. that I'd have to expect a large audience. Wittgenstein received an offer from the Rockefeller Foundation for a research grant. 1950. d) My health is in a somewhat labile state owing to a constant slight anaemia which inclines me to catch infections. I haven't yet given them any definite answer but I think I'll reply in the negative. though not quite as good as I did in Vienna. which he explained in detail: The truth is this. Malcolm had contacted their director in the hope of securing funds for his mentor to focus on his work. letter to Malcolm) A week later. b) Even before that date I could not work well for more than 6 or 7 months a year..I had a letter from Oxford the other day. say. & there mustn't be any discussion during the lectures. e) Though it's impossible for me to make any definite predictions. Wittgenstein thought hard about the offer.. 1950. This further diminishes the chance of my doing really good work. & I'm very dull & stupid. f) I cannot promise to publish anything during my lifetime. 14 months ago.My health at present is pretty good. it seems to me likely that my mind will never again work as vigorously as it did. however. over 200 students. I don't think I can give formal lectures to a large audience that would be any good. letter to Malcolm) 32 . The lectures are called John Locke lectures & I'd get £ 200 for them. I was told. (April 5.. – I feel fairly well. I'm doing some work but I get stuck over simple things & almost all I write is pretty dull. but decided that he could not in good faith accept the grant unless the Foundation understood his current state of his health and philosophical work. inviting me to give 6 lectures on philosophy..a) I have not been able to do any sustained good work since the beginning of March 1949. c) As I'm getting older my thoughts become markedly less forceful & crystallize more rarely & I get tired very much more easily.

– I'm moderately well. Dr Bevan in Cambridge wrote to a London specialist about me. and Wittgenstein soon became depressed with the thought of continuing on with such an unfulfilling state of being: I'm working a bit but my work's no good. & you can imagine what under these circumstances the stuff is like I'm writing down. he was never satisfied with the results. He soon moved into the home of Anscombe in Oxford. though as just seen. Wittgenstein spent the summer trying his best to continue his work. sometimes more. Ich denke viel weniger scharf & klar als früher. Vol. (Translation of: ―Ich arbeite.. he consistently reported dissatisfaction with what he was producing.I'm just not in the right frame of mind. 1950. manchmal mehr. letter to Rhees) During this time Wittgenstein continued working on the remarks on color concepts that he had begun in Vienna earlier that spring. sometimes less. aber nicht wirklich gut. His work continued to be disappointing. I think much less sharply and clearly than I used to. manchmal weniger. giving him the history of my case up to the present time & the expert replied that I might easily live for five more years.7 Later in the summer he hoped 7 As shown by the following: I‘m working. Despite his efforts.‖) (May 22. (May 7. but not really well. 1950. but he had not been able to regain his mental vigor or philosophical ability that had last left him over a year ago. II. as well as some passages that would eventually appear in Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. my work only mildly interests me.. Nice prospect! Another year of this half-life would have been ample. The medications were keeping him in relatively stable health. letter to Koder) 33 .Wittgenstein continued to attempt to work. where he would stay for the next five months.

That‘s no complaint. Die erschwert das ganze übrige Leben. letter to Malcolm) By the end of the summer whatever ability Wittgenstein had to work was slowly draining: My health is good. That makes the rest of life more difficult. (June 23. but I don't want to. letter to Koder) 8 Translation of: ―Meine Gesundheit ist gut. letter to Hänsel) A couple weeks later he had all but abandoned more attempts to continue working: I did some work. 1950. but various things are troubling me. though not good work. but my work is getting more and more worthless. besonders meine schrecklich geringe Arbeitsfähigkeit. 1950. especially my terribly small ability to work.. Even now when I bump my head on anything it sounds like a kettledrum.. (Translation of: ―Mir geht es körperlich ganz gut. (July 30. außer daß ich langsam & schlecht arbeite. but this was delayed for a few months. for quite a time. In the intervening time Wittgenstein revisited the epistemological topics he had discussed one year ago with Malcolm. I could see students if I wanted. (Translation of: ―Es geht mir recht gut. & anyhow my Physically I‘m quite well. letter to Hänsel) I'm well & getting more & more stupid every day.‖) (July 13. 1950. & das wird sich auch wahrscheinlich nicht mehr ändern. He does not seem to have been any more enthusiastic about these writings than the ones on color he had produced earlier in the summer: I'm pretty well.to spend some time in Norway with his friend Richards. but I've hardly done anything for the last 3 weeks. I get tired soon.8 (August 26. except that I‘m working slowly and poorly. Das ist keine Klage. I've got all sorts of unclear thoughts in my old head which perhaps will remain there for ever in this unsatisfactory state.‖) (May 29. I think there must be a leak somewhere in my head & my brain is slowly running out. 1950. aber meine Arbeit wird mehr & mehr wertlos.. 1950. 1950.‖ 34 . & I'm working but not particularly well. aber verschiedenes bedrückt mich.I have hardly any philosophical discussions. letter to Fouracre) I‘m working poorly & that will probably no longer change. letter to Hänsel) I‘m doing quite well.‖) (June 23. (Translation of: „Ich arbeite schlecht.

The trip was fraught with difficulties. letter to Malcolm) Wittgenstein booked a ticket to return to Norway at the end of the month. (September 6. Bevan‘s home. letter to von Wright) Wittgenstein‘s writing ceased on September 23. it's the only place I know where I can have real quiet. 35 .My health is not too bad but I am very dull & stupid indeed (as this letter shows). Richards. after which he prepared for what was hoped to be a relaxing and refreshing vacation in Norway. He was again staying with Anscombe in Oxford. Still. 1950. because the host he had intended to stay with had notified him that space would in fact not be available. but it's certainly worth while finding out if I am or not. (December 1. Of course it's possible that I'm no longer able to do any decent research.ability for philosophical work seems to have practically vanished. Wittgenstein fell ill once again and had to spend Christmas at Dr. Since he spent a good deal of time caring for Richards he was not able to do any of his own work... 1950. for Wittgenstein‘s travel partner. Around the same time. who called Bouwsma on the 10 th to tell him that Wittgenstein had fallen ill. fell ill with bronchitis twice and had to spend time in the hospital. the peaceful surroundings of Norway made Wittgenstein optimistic that he could work again during a future visit: I had intended to do some work but I didn't do any. The plan unfortunately fell through. Bouwsma was visiting Oxford to give the very John Locke lectures that Wittgenstein had declined several months earlier. determined to give an attempt to resume working his best shot. His health rapidly deteriorated in January. I may possibly go back to Norway before long & try to work.

On the 16th Bouwsma again visited Wittgenstein. telling the director that . who had offered Wittgenstein a grant in the spring of the previous year.. during which he had regularly complained of the low quality of his work. I write one sentence. ―But see.in my present state of health & intellectual dullness I couldn't accept a grant. And which shall stand?‖ (Bouwsma 1986. against all probability & hope. 9 But Wittgenstein did not feel that much of it was worth publishing. responding. I should one day find that I could again do worthwhile work in philosophy. Russell!‖ (ibid. The same day Bouwsma heard Wittgenstein say ―something about the rot people publish. 36 . published posthumously side by side with other notes that Wittgenstein considered to be of higher quality (as we will see was the case with On Certainty). nevertheless. They don‘t know when to quit. the Rockefeller Foundation provided funding for his literary executors to catalog his papers and publish selections from them. 73). letter to Malcolm) It was suggested that if Wittgenstein was not capable of working right now. going on writing after they‘ve stopped thinking. Wittgenstein refused a second time. This suggests that Wittgenstein was uncomfortable with the thought of publishing the remarks that he had written in the past year. These remarks were. but I said that if.).. (January 12. I'd write to him. and then I write another – just the opposite. who was now in severe pain and hardly eating. that the money might be used to publish some of his papers. visited to once again offer research funds.The next day the director of the Rockefeller Foundation. 1951. p. and at times 9 After Wittgenstein‘s death.

At the beginning of February Wittgenstein moved into the Cambridge home of Dr.). During this time Wittgenstein had to travel frequently to Cambridge to see Dr.. Bevan. But in the middle of February Wittgenstein was still holding out hope that his lodging situation would only be temporary. which added further hardship to his already poor condition. February 8.I wish I could have a talk again with you. I've had a pretty bad time at Oxford but am feeling much better now (for reasons no one knows).. and Dr. I have very little pain & discomfort. but I don‘t feel unhappy about that. Bevan so that he could be under constant supervision and undergo frequent radiation treatments at the hospital. I also saw a speciallist here & I'm to have deep X-ray treatment again.. approx. But even if I could be with you you'd find that my head was empty.. Doney & Nelson.. if only I don't live too long! I'm not depressed though. & it doesn't matter.I can't even think of work at present. I'm staying with my doctor who is an extremely kind man & an excellent doctor. this time for my spine.) (undated. – I haven‘t been working any for months. I‘m now living 37 . but Wittgenstein still was not able to do any philosophical work: As you see I'm in Cambridge. if his health would improve: I‘m being treated with X-rays now and it is possible that this will bring about a quick improvement.appeared to be welcoming the prospect of approaching death (ibid. letter to Malcolm) Wittgenstein had a year earlier expressed a desire not to die in an English hospital. These changes had a positive effect. Bevan had said that Wittgenstein could spend his final days at the doctor‘s home. (It was half empty already when I was in Ithaca. 1951..

the other seemed to contain articles by Wisdom. Ryle & other charlatans.‖ 38 . by the way. I hardly think that I'll be on this earth when you come to Cambridge in Autumn '52. Wittgenstein‘s mood and mental clarity improved. fühle mich aber darüber nicht unglücklich.. who come to my classes while you were in Cambridge. he was able to take strolls around Cambridge and visit friends. A few weeks after the cessation Wittgenstein wrote to Malcolm about his condition and mentioned something troubling that he had read recently: I'm feeling much better now than I did a month ago. in March. Waismann.. – Ich habe schon seit Monaten nichts mehr gearbeitet. I have hardly any pain. one doesn't know.I am of course very weak & there seems no doubt that this isn't going to change for the better as time goes on.. But it was no good because I was far too dull & hazy.I am not depressed in the least. 1951. When I'm alone I am sometimes a bit brighter. letter to Koder) At the end of February Dr. Still. I'd like to see a review some day 10 Translation of: ―Ich werde jetzt mit Röntgenstrahlen behandelt & es ist möglich.here in my doctor‘s house for a while. The review I read particularly praised one remark of Waismann's which came straight out of my lectures.10 (February 19. One was by a man Toulmin. daß das eine rasche Besserung bewirken wird. The improvement is probably due to the deep xray treatment I took for a few weeks. When he was told that he would not live for more than a few more months. soon after the cancer treatments had come to an end. though he continued to be quite weak physically... Still. 577). it ―came as an enormous relief to him‖ (Monk 1990. I think.I saw Moore yesterday & we talked philosophy.. Bevan concluded that the hormone and X-ray therapies were no longer going to be of help and thus should be terminated. – The other day I saw a laudatory review of two philosophical books in the "New Statesman".. p. Remarkably. Ich wohne jetzt für einige Zeit im Haus meines Arztes hier..

on the same day Wittgenstein began writing a series of notes which now appear as the second half of On Certainty.. but if he sins. 476-7). This book review was published on March 10. & it is indeed better than what they can think up themselves.which debunks these people. 34v-35r) 11 Wittgenstein sent a letter to Rhees criticizing the same article on March 14. /This doesn‘t excuse the theft by those who have adorned their publications with my unpublished ideas for years. What is especially interesting about this episode. pp. is that it apparently served as a goad for Wittgenstein to begin writing again for the first time in over five months. however. then he will perish.This is no way excuses the theft from my ideas that is being committed today by some university professors.11 (March 19.. letter to Malcolm) The review article in question handed out praise to certain ―linguistic philosophers‖ such as Waismann for ―illustrating the influence of language on our thoughts‖ (McGuinness 2008. his reaction is not particularly deserving of prolonged consideration. they themselves consider it valuable. 1951. immediately before proceeding on to what now appears as remark 300: Suppose a poet said: ―If this character in my tragedy lives a pious and good life. The editors of that book chose not to publish the very first passage that Wittgenstein wrote that day./ 12 (MS 175 pp. Since Wittgenstein was throughout his career known to be hyper-sensitive to anyone making use of ideas he considered to be his own.‖ . For even though I attach little value to what they are able to take away. he will prosper. 39 .

mainly because I could not help noticing that the results of my work (which I had conveyed in lectures.13 In his final letter to Malcolm on April 16. This stung my vanity. were in circulation. wenn ich auch. and thereby managed to feel plagiarized and mischaracterized at the same time. was sie davontragen können. der von manchem Universitätslehrer heute an meinen Einfällen begangen wird. so wird er unkommen. as well as the dependence of the content of the second sentence on that of the first. & es ist auch besser.― . the preface to Philosophical Investigations: ―Until recently I had really given up the idea of publishing my work in my lifetime. Cf. The last few weeks of his life stand in contrast to the eighteen months before them. After his cancer diagnosis. wird er sich aber versündigen.. so wird es ihm gut gehen.Wittgenstein apparently was upset that his former students and colleagues were receiving praise for advancing what he considered to be watered-down and poorly-understood versions of ideas that he had first arrived at during his lectures. frequently misunderstood and more or less watered down or mangled. 13 This was actually not the first time that Wittgenstein was motivated to write after feeling that his ideas were being mishandled by members of the philosophical community. Wittgenstein was often in relatively stable physical condition.. but the consistent ink color before and after the date (see Figure 7 in Chapter 2). durchaus nicht entschuldigt. typescripts and discussions). Wittgenstein says that he regained his ability to work about five weeks earlier.Damit ist der Diebstahl. so halten sie selbst es doch für wertvoll. it was revived from time to time.51‘ actually occurs after the first sentence. it is very likely that these lines were composed together.‖ 40 .3. The date ‗10. which indeed coincides very closely with the time that he read this book review and began composing new remarks. Denn. als was sie selbst erdenken können.― /Damit ist der Diebstahl derer nicht entschuldigt die seit Jahren ihre Publikationen mit meinen unveröffentlichten Einfällen schmücken. All the same./‘ The final sentence surrounded by slash-marks is one of several variants in the text for the second quoted sentence. the sense of injury that Wittgenstein felt from this incident is apparently what sparked him to final put pen to paper once again. and I had difficulty in quieting it. After many month of producing no writing whatsoever. but almost never was he 12 Translation of: ‗Denke. ein Dichter sagte: ―Wenn dieser Charakter in meiner Tragödie fromm und gut leben wird. gering achte.

p. rather weak of course. Vol. over the next six weeks Wittgenstein wrote enough remarks to fill over half of On Certainty. Bevan. 80-81) Indeed. and developing a friendship with Mrs. in face of his surely approaching death: 41 . This thought of carrying on this ―half-life‖ with a dead mind but a body that continued to survive was depressing.satisfied with his mental state. as well as a short set of remarks included in a section of Last Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology. At the time when ‗the curtain went up‘ he said to Mrs. 1951. letter to Rhees) Wittgenstein enjoyed the next few weeks and took advantage of his newfound mental vigor. When his friend Drury came to visit in mid-April. on the whole. 577). visiting Moore for philosophical discussions. & occasionally having very mild pain. but always took great pleasure in trying to covertly pour out his beer into a plant (Monk 1990. pp. pretty well. he committed to completing as much work as possible: Wittgenstein was feeling extremely well and working furiously. Now that he was in the right frame of mind for doing philosophy. even while his body was deteriorating: I am. he was still committed to working. The two would walk to the pub each evening. II. I have no cause to grumble! (March 30. shopping for his favorite recordings of Bach to send off to his sister. Yet in his final six weeks he was energetic and optimistic. Bevan: ‗I am going to work now as I have never worked before!‘ (Malcolm 1984. where Wittgenstein never drank.

and his burial the next day was also attended by Moore and von Wright. Mrs. All my interest is still on this life and the writing I am still able to do. The final remark of On Certainty was composed on April 27. The report that Wittgenstein gave to Malcolm about his mental health over his final two years is thus borne out by an investigation of his correspondence over this period. Wittgenstein‘s energetic spirit and philosophical capacities were restored. He passed away on April 29. I never find myself thinking about a ‗future life‘. Bevan phoned Anscombe. Between November 1949 and March 1951 he was never able to ‗lift the curtain in his brain‘. Richards. After March of 1949 he did not have another satisfactory productive working phase for two years. allowing him to work fruitfully and produce writing that was to his satisfaction. on the contrary. Later that night. However. 169) This is surely how he had hoped to live out his last days: spirited and lively. (Drury 1981. and Smythies to stand by his bedside. Wittgenstein fell very ill. 42 . Even though he managed to write some remarks during this period. p. at no time did he express any satisfaction with them to colleagues.Isn‘t it curious that. rather than vegetative and depressed. he continually criticized these writings for their low quality. By the next day it was clear that the end was near. he consistently complained that his mind was not functioning well and he worried that this situation would never change. although I know I have not long to live. Drury. from March 1951 until his death at the end of April.

both of which are symptoms associated with the use of estrogen therapy in prostate cancer patients. recalls ―her story of how unable to think Wittgenstein had been under the influence of his anti-cancer drugs‖ (Paul 2007. the curtain began to lift. even as he was nearing death? It is likely that this change was in part due to the termination of the hormone treatments by Dr. (Monk 1990. 297). and he regained many of the capacities that had surely been dampened by the hormones. a friend of Elizabeth Anscombe. The biographer Ray Monk claims that Wittgenstein also believed that the hormones were having an effect on his mental capacities: He attributed his ‗intellectual dullness‘ in part to the oestrogens that he was taking to alleviate the symptoms of his cancer.A reader of this correspondence might naturally be incredulous that such a dramatic change at the end of Wittgenstein‘s life could be possible.14 Soon after Wittgenstein stopped taking these medications. Between November 1949 and March 1951 he appeared to constantly suffer from clouded cognition and possibly even depression. While taking them he found the intense concentration required to write philosophy difficult to achieve. as well as Wittgenstein himself. p. Denis Paul. and thus be inclined not to assign particular significance to the final letter to Malcolm. 2004). 43 . Bevan. This explanatory hypothesis gains further support from the fact that two of his closest friends appear to have held it to be true. How could Wittgenstein‘s capacities to work suddenly improve. 566) 14 See (Chen and Petrylak 2005) and (Salminen et al.

Thus the status of On Certainty as one of Wittgenstein‘s works. confirmed it. are undermined. or in its editors‘ words. but events that are relevant to an exegesis of On Certainty and need to be accounted for by its readers. p. Wittgenstein did not reappraise his previous judgment that his earlier work was of low quality. roughly. shifts in Wittgenstein‘s philosophical capacities could even be possible. (Rhees 1984. and the interpretive assumptions that go along with such a status.Rush Rhees concurs. then it is difficult to construe On Certainty as being a unified. a ―single sustained treatment‖ (OC Preface). the end of February 1951. ‗letting the hormones do their work‘. further adding that the change in philosophical ability was due to the cessation of the estrogen treatment: From the end of November 1949 to. and thus that Wittgenstein‘s criticism should not be taken at face value. Whether or not this explanation is convincing remains independent of the significant amount of evidence provided in this chapter that such a dramatic change indeed took place. The text should be 15 It might be suggested that the pessimism about his work during the hormone treatments can be written off as a symptom of depression. while the second half was composed ―in the right frame of mind‖. he was. but rather. with the ‗curtain lifted from his brain‘. For if Wittgenstein believed that the first half of the text was ―mostly dull‖. and perhaps initially unbelievable. 44 . and more often than not he felt that he could not write anything worth putting down. But this suggestion is not persuasive.15 The clear shifts in Wittgenstein‘s evaluation of his work are not merely biographical curiosities. 225) It should be noted that this hypothesis is only meant to explain how such dramatic. as he wrote to me. coherent text. because even in April of 1951. He recovered his power of mind when he left off the hormones.

this is a significant philological task. Since Wittgenstein often did not date the remarks that he composed in his notebooks. The forthcoming interpretation identifies characteristics that are to be found in the final half of On Certainty that are lacking in the earlier material. II were penned at the same time. all of Wittgenstein‘s writings from the last two years of his life.understood as a collection of parts rather than a unified. 45 . The first step in such a project is simply identifying when the remarks of On Certainty were written. Vol. and then explain why Wittgenstein would consider the later work to be of higher quality. and interpreters should give some account of the unequal status of these parts. It is also necessary to determine when Wittgenstein‘s other late writings which were not selected for inclusion in On Certainty were composed. The next chapter takes up this task. in order to identify what characteristics the later material possesses that the earlier material lacks. these differences should also be seen in comparing these additional remarks written after March of 1951 to those written before that time. It is then necessary to date. for remarks that now appear in Remarks on Colour and Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. Thus. The following chapters carry out a project of comparing the remarks in On Certainty written during Wittgenstein‘s final fruitful period in spring of 1951 with those written earlier. consistently developed treatise. as precisely as possible.

Vol.H. Wittgenstein did not consider all of the writings from the last two years of his life to be of equal value.Chapter 2 The Final Manuscripts As shown in the previous chapter. von Wright greatly facilitated research into Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass by cataloging its contents (von Wright 1982. Remarks on Colour. G. for as we will see. and Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. 46 . The three publications named above are each the result of Wittgenstein‘s editors splicing together selections from his final notebooks. pp. which are now published as On Certainty. is that these notebooks were not actually completed in a simple linear sequence. but most of these entries are undated. though. Wittgenstein would sometimes write new remarks in notebooks next to others written significantly earlier. II. in which remarks go back and forth between various subjects. This naturally suggests an investigation to determine exactly which parts of those writings. He gave the source manuscripts for these final publications the labels MS 169 through MS 177. 3562). A further complication of this investigation.1 were considered to be of high quality and which were not. in what he took to be their sequential order. and he may have even written in multiple 1 A small selection of remarks from MSS 169-171 was also included in Culture & Value. Such an investigation would be straightforward if Wittgenstein had dated all of his notebook entries during this time. There is also a handful of remarks from the final notebooks that have not been published.

It was purchased in Dublin. which they conjecture was written during Wittgenstein‘s time in Dublin. as indicated by a sticker inside the back cover: Figure 1: MS 169. arguing that part one of MS 169 was composed between November 1948 and February 1949 since its 47 . Rothhaupt (1996.manuscripts simultaneously. von Wright and Nyman conclude that it likely constitutes a preliminary study for MSS 137 and 138. In the preface to LWPP2. vol. The precise dating of this notebook is controversial. p. contains a number of remarks that have similar counterparts in MSS 137 and 138. 81r Wittgenstein must have purchased this notebook during his stay at Ross‘s Hotel in Dublin from November 1948 to April of 1949. published posthumously as Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. I. p. Due to the terse and abbreviated style of the remarks occurring in the first part of MS 169. von Wright and Nyman describe the notebook as having two parts. which appears in its entirety as the first part of LWPP2. The first. This makes the task of dating Wittgenstein‘s final manuscripts a considerable undertaking. 369) agrees with this conclusion. MS 169 is a small pocket notebook.

p. 1949. 130) cites the same evidence in support of her claim that the notebook was composed after the summer of 1949. 138 fn. p. p. 117) and Nedo (1995. In support of this contention Pichler points out that several remarks in MS 169 appear to be excerpts or summaries of their counterparts in MSS 137 and 138. 78r 48 . A note written in the penultimate page of the book provides further dating information: Figure 2: MS 169. and February 27. p. 1948.counterparts in MSS 137 and 138 appear in dated entries between December 1. Van Gennip (2004. In contrast. They thus take part one to be a further extension of the remarks in MSS 137 and 138. 46) date the composition of the entire notebook to late 1949 in Cambridge. rather than a preparation for them. Pichler (1994.

―2nd end May‖ and ―£5‖ at the top of the crossed-out section.If I booked a 3rd class passage right away I couldn‘t get a birth before the middle of July. The dating of part two of MS 169 is equally challenging but more relevant to our concerns here. Nedo. Stronger confidence in this tentative conclusion would need to be supported by a thorough investigation of the series of manuscripts leading up to Wittgenstein‘s dictation of part II of Philosophical Investigations in the summer of 1949.. (March 19. I thus suggest that part one of MS 169 was completed by the spring of 1949. Wittgenstein must have made this entry in the back of an empty notebook and then waited several more months to enter the first philosophical remark in its pages.. According to the dating hypotheses of Pichler. which is much more expensive. 1949. and van Gennip.. it is more developed stylistically and closely related in content to the other 49 . if I booked 2nd class. since according to von Wright and Nyman. or end of May. These are surely notes taken by Wittgenstein while visiting a travel agency to look into the cost of traveling to New York to visit Malcolm: I went to a travel agency to enquire about going to America. I could travel towards the middle. letter to Malcolm) Wittgenstein thus had this notebook in his possession while in Dublin at the end of March 1949. A more plausible supposition is that Wittgenstein wrote these lines in the back of MS 169 because it was the notebook in which he was currently working in March of 1949.Notice the lines ―3rd middle July‖..I‘m not allowed to take with me more that £5. a task that is beyond the scope of the present work.

3) identifies two possible locations that may be construed as indicating breaks in the text. because of similarities between this material and some of the remarks concerning color concepts from the spring of 1950. suggesting that even the final remarks of MS 169 may have been composed 2 The fact that von Wright and Nyman are unable to determine a precise demarcation point between the two parts complicates matters. pp. p. there does not seem to be a discernable difference between the pencil used in the March 19 note and the surrounding remarks. which means that the remarks at the end of MS 169 were written after March 19. 130) argues that these entries must have been composed either during or shortly after Wittgenstein‘s trip to America. Since a philosophical remark begins at the bottom of the left-hand page opposite this note. Rothhaupt (1996. mid-sentence. Similarly.. Wittgenstein‘s March 19 notes from the travel agency bear on this investigation as well. However.remarks published in LWPP2. p. due to thematic similarities between some of the remarks in the latter part of MS 169 and topics that were discussed between Wittgenstein and Malcolm in Ithaca (see Malcolm 1984).2 Even small sections of remarks thematically related to those occurring in On Certainty and Remarks on Colour appear in the final pages of the notebook. Indeed. and is continued. van Gennip (2004. written mostly in pencil. were actually composed one year later in Vienna. and may count as evidence against the appropriateness of dividing MS 169 into different sections. 369 fn. 370-372) argues that the final 30 pages.. Rothhaupt (1996.‖ above). 50 . after Wittgenstein‘s return from America. Wittgenstein probably made this entry before either of these pages contained any other remarks. immediately below the note (see ―das Physikalische.

the available evidence is insufficient to precisely determine when. color. Von Wright dates it to early 1949. Some pieces of evidence speak in favor of this hypothesis: the binding. They are now published as part 2 of LWPP2. The relevance of one the remarks in MS 170 to the discussions of Moore in On Certainty prompts van Gennip to assign this notebook‘s date of composition to Wittgenstein‘s time in America or shortly thereafter. and certainty – are addressed in this handful of remarks. the rest are left blank. MS 170 does not include the same sticker inside the back cover 51 . On the other hand. Rothhaupt (ibid. and number of pages of MS 170 appear to be the same as MS 169. while Wittgenstein was in Dublin in the winter and spring of 1949. and thus presumably also used for composing remarks. part two was composed. size. The date of composition of these remarks is uncertain and controversial. This suggests that MS 170 may have also been purchased. between spring 1949 and spring 1950. p. 373-374) speculates that MS 170 may come from spring or summer of 1950. Only the first 10 of the 80 pages of MS 170 contain remarks. Rothhaupt (1996. contemporaneous with MS 169. All three of the major themes of Wittgenstein‘s last writings – psychology. 1950. for the final remarks in MS 169 appear again in revised form in MS 174 under this date.. Based on the relation of its content to certain remarks on color in MS 173. 372) does however show that the notebook was completed no later than April 24. which was purchased in Dublin. Thus. as no dates appear in the notebook.in the spring of 1949.

Of course. as none of the remarks are dated. like MSS 169 and 170. Its editors von Wright and Nyman claim that ―chronologically [it is] probably closely connected to MS 169 and [was] written in the year 1949‖ (LWPP2. It has a unique appearance. thus lowering somewhat the probably that the two notebooks were purchased together. which have a standard binding on the left side. MS 171. spiral-bound at the top. Von Wright‘s contention is further supported by the similarity between Wittgenstein‘s alternating use of pencil and dark black pen in MS 170 and the final pages of MS 169. A note on the front cover mentions that the design of the notebook is covered by a United States patent: 52 . establishing that MSS 169 and 170 are contemporaneous cannot serve to fix a precise date of composition for MS 170 when the dating of MS 169 remains uncertain. Von Wright dates the volume to either 1949 or 1950 in his catalog. and the same number of blank pages is also to be found at the end. while a note now attached to the notebook (by one of Wittgenstein‘s literary executors) indicates that the remarks are from ―early 1950‖. unlike Wittgenstein‘s other notebooks from this time. presents a challenge.that is found in MS 169. xi). The entirety of MS 171 appears as part 3 of LWPP2. MS 171 is a reporter‘s notebook. p. Only 14 pages contain remarks.

The content of the some of the remarks is also consistent with the hypothesis that this notebook was used for composition sometime during or after Wittgenstein‘s time in America. color. and certainty.Figure 3: MS 171. some passages from MS 171 are very similar to others appearing in MS 174 under the date April 24. 3 This was verified by an inspection of the documents at the Wren Library in Cambridge. Like some of the final remarks in MS 169 mentioned earlier. this is at least prima facie evidence that Wittgenstein purchased this volume during his trip to New York in early fall 1949. 1950 is written on pages ripped from this notebook. 1950. A letter to Malcolm from December 1.3 though we cannot conclude from this that Wittgenstein was still using MS 171 in December to pen new remarks. 374). indeed he may have been comfortable ripping these pages out of the notebook precisely because he was no longer using it. all of which are topics that he wrote on in 1950. 53 . suggesting that MS 171 was composed before then (Rothhaupt 1996. p. respectively. Front Cover While it is certainly possible that such a notebook might have been sold in Europe. for the last three remarks in the notebook concern inner/outer.

each of which are folded in half to produce four pages (somewhat misleadingly described in von Wright‘s 4 While it is uncertain exactly when these notebooks were composed between 1948 and 1950. It may be the case that these notebooks were not filled during relatively continuous writing sessions. it is clear that they were not composed during Wittgenstein‘s final fruitful phase beginning in March 1951. and thus cannot be definitively associated with a particular phase of the development of Wittgenstein‘s evaluation of his own work. it consists of six loose large format sheets of foolscap. an interpretation for these remarks will not be attempted in later chapters. which will be fully described later in the chapter. 54 . This undermines the common belief that these publications contain all of Wittgenstein‘s writings concerning the topics of certainty and color during his final years.We thus see that there is a lack of evidence available for precisely dating the composition of MSS 169-171. MS 172 is also a unique document. but were not included in those publications. and thus that he understood himself to be working on three self-standing works in his final years. Further. Like MS 171. Nevertheless.4 For this reason. the fact that remarks concerning various topics are mixed together and not clearly delineated in the manuscripts undermines the common impression that Wittgenstein consistently marked off these topics in his late notebooks. but rather were completed piecemeal over a span of a year of more. it is important to note that these manuscripts include a few remarks that clearly are related to the content of On Certainty and Remarks on Colour. since they lack the physical characteristics consistently exemplified in those final writings.

catalog thusly: ―Manuscript on loose sheets...24 pp.‖ (1982, p. 46)). Four of the pages contain writing on the subject of color; these now make up part 2 of the publication Remarks on Colour. The other 20 pages contain remarks on Moore and knowledge; these now form the first 65 remarks of On Certainty. Wittgenstein‘s literary executors did not know of the existence of these pages when they originally planned on publishing his remarks on epistemological concepts and terms. As reported by Paul (2007, p. 297), these were discovered in Anscombe‘s home ―shortly before...early in 1967‖, two years before the publication was to finally appear in print. Since MS 172 was found in Anscombe‘s home, this means that Wittgenstein did not bring it with him when he moved into Dr. Bevan‘s home in Cambridge at the beginning of February 1951, and thus that its remarks must have been composed before that date. It is unknown whether Wittgenstein intentionally left this manuscript at Anscombe‘s home. Since they weren‘t discovered until 16 years after his death, it is possible that Wittgenstein had already misplaced or forgotten about this manuscript before moving to Bevan‘s home. The pages of MS 172 are undated, but Anscombe speculates that they were written in early 1950: These [sheets] Wittgenstein left in his room in G.E.M. Anscombe‘s house in Oxford, where he lived (apart from a visit to Norway in the autumn) from April 1950 to February 1951. I (G.E.M.A.) am under the impression that he had written them in Vienna, where he stayed from the previous Christmas until 55

March; but I cannot now recall the basis of this impression. (OC Preface) Von Wright comes to the same conclusion in his catalog: These manuscript pages – dealing with the topics of colour and of certainty – were probably written by Wittgenstein during his last visit to Vienna in the early months of 1950. (1982, p. 54) Both of these descriptions invite the assumption that even though MS 172 addresses two different subjects, its parts were composed as a single document at one time. A note attached to MS 172 by one of the executors says that ―the first 4 pages are on colours,‖ further suggesting that the pages together constitute a single document. But the manuscript does not in fact have a first page, for none of the folio sheets are dated and they are not bound together to provide a definite sequence. Nevertheless, from inspection of the pages one can determine the page sequences for the individual sections on color and certainty (though see Rothhaupt 1996, p. 379 for an alternate sequence of the color pages). This still does not determine whether the color material comes before or after the remarks on certainty, because the remarks on color are isolated to the four pages produced by a single portfolio sheet, so no sheet contains remarks on both subjects, which would be helpful in determining a sequence. There is evidence from Wittgenstein‘s correspondence that appears to confirm Anscombe‘s impressions about the dating of MS 172, at least with respect to the portion on color. In fact, from his letters we can pinpoint almost the precise date that these remarks were composed. I will argue, 56

however, that further evidence suggests that the remarks from MS 172 on certainty were composed at a different time. Recall from the last chapter that after having spent 3 weeks with his family in Vienna, Wittgenstein reported that he was not doing any writing: I'm reading various odds & ends, e.g. Goethes Theory of colour...I'm not writing at all because my thoughts never sufficiently crystallize. (January 16, 1950; letter to Malcolm) Three days later he also mentioned to von Wright that he was reading Goethe‘s work on color, but did not make any mention of writing: The last two weeks I read a great deal in Goethe‘s ―Farbenlehre‖. It‘s partly boring and repelling, but in some ways also very instructive and philosophically interesting. (January 19, 1950; letter to von Wright) Another three days after that, Wittgenstein says that his reading of Goethe has prompted him to finally attempt some writing: I have been reading again parts of Goethes "Farbenlehre" which attracts & repels me. It's certainly philosophically interesting, & I've been thinking about it & even written down some weak remarks. (January 22, 1950; letter to Rhees) Thus Wittgenstein must have written these remarks sometime between January 19 and January 22. That‘s not much time to write, especially for someone who hasn‘t picked up a pen in months and claims that his ―brain is mudled & sluggish‖ (ibid.). The four pages of MS172 on color are about the length one might expect, and Goethe is indeed mentioned in these remarks. Thus I conclude that the section of MS 172 on color was composed at this time.


McGuinness argues in the most recent bound edition of Wittgenstein‘s Cambridge correspondence that his claim to have ―written down some weak remarks‖ in the above letter to Rhees ...is in slight contradiction to...the letter to Malcolm above: ―I‘m not writing at all.‖ That remark throws some doubt on the hypothesis that Part II of Remarks on Colour was composed in Vienna since the remarks in it are inserted in a longer set of reflections, mostly on themes to do with certainty. (2008, p. 458) I find it hardly a contradiction, but rather evidence for the precise dating of these remarks: on January 16, the date of the letter to Malcolm, Wittgenstein had not yet begun to write, but by January 22 he had completed these remarks. McGuinness‘ reasoning is based on the false belief (encouraged by misleading descriptions of MS 172 by various editors) that the color remarks are ―inserted‖ in the remarks on certainty. But even though these two sets of remarks are written on the same type of paper and were discovered together, the fact that they are written on separate sheets leaves open the possibility that they were not composed together and do not constitute a unified document. In fact, the information from Wittgenstein‘s correspondence above suggests just this, for he never mentioned that he was thinking about Moore or certainty – just Goethe and color, and the fact that he described what we had written in at most three days as ―some weak remarks‖ makes it unlikely that he was referring to all 24 pages of what now constitute MS 172.


making it unlikely that his thinking about color was interrupted by a period of writing on Moore and certainty. But this is also doubtful for two reasons: 1) Wittgenstein did not mention that he was thinking or writing about Moore or certainty in his letters during this time. rather than in February 1950 (as Wittgenstein‘s editors have claimed). One might then think that it was written in Vienna sometime after January 22. this means that Part 1 of On Certainty was written before the commencement of Wittgenstein‘s hormone treatments. 59 . Since these remarks were likely composed in autumn 1949. I read your letter to him and we have had a great many discussions of 5 This conclusion influences the interpretation of On Certainty presented in Chapter 5. Malcolm mentions in his memoir that he and Wittgenstein met several times to discuss Moore‘s papers. before he began to consistently criticize the quality of his work. then? Since on January 16 Wittgenstein said he was ―not writing at all‖ it could not have been written in Vienna before that date. Malcolm‘s recent criticism of these papers. 1950. 1949. Malcolm wrote: It was very fortunate for me that Wittgenstein is here. and 2) on March 24. It response to Moore.So when was the section of MS 172 on certainty written. the day after he returned to England from Vienna. he started composing additional dated entries on color. and thus. There is evidence to support the contention that the first 65 remarks of On Certainty were written during Wittgenstein‘s stay in America. and Moore‘s response contained in the letter he wrote on July 21.5 for they mention subjects that we know he had been discussing at the time.

. 1) Part of a discussion with Malcolm. letter from Moore to Malcolm) 6 Quotations from the Malcolm-Moore correspondence come from (Rothhaupt. p.. Moore‘s statement that ―here is one hand‖ is mentioned in the very first remark on On Certainty. letter from Malcolm to Moore)6 Bouwsma was also in attendance for one of these discussions. 72). p.g. 60 . 1948. Almost a year prior.. which he dates to August 20: ―The subject was Moore‘s: ‗I know that this is a hand. Further thematic connections between these remarks and topics discussed in Ithaca can be identified. this statement is mentioned at OC 10. 1949. now that I am writing on a piece of paper (perception). and McManus 2003). e. as well as the roles that mathematical propositions can play in language (ibid. and Max Black on August 4 concerned Moore‘s sentence ―I am here‖ (Bouwsma 1986. Malcolm recalls that in these discussions Wittgenstein investigated the relationship between claiming to know something and being able to make sure of it (Malcolm 1984. 2) The statement ―I know that this is a bit of paper‖ is mentioned at OC 60. 30).it and your philosophical papers. (November 20. (September 2.‘ And the background was Norman‘s article and Moore‘s letter‖ (Bouwsma 1986. Both of these subjects are also mentioned in the opening sections of On Certainty. Moore had used this sentence in correspondence: I do know in particular cases that I have conclusive evidence for so-and-so. p. p. 14). Seery. Bouwsma. and this sentence was of particular interest to Malcolm. 71).

p. How a man of such learning and culture could believe such things! Newman had a queer mind. W. But Newman was sincere.. 3) The first remark of On Certainty begins with Moore‘s statement ―here is one hand‖. as shown by Kienzler (2006.. It is thus likely that Malcolm mentioned this sentence in conversation with Wittgenstein. letter from Malcolm to Moore).an article which I have written about your philosophical practice of making assertions like ―I have conclusive evidence now that I am writing on a piece of paper‖ (which you said in your letter to me). He. had I read Newman? He was much impressed by Newman.‖ found in MS 117..Malcolm responded that this sentence was representative of the statements that he thought Moore was misusing. Malcolm later sent Moore an offprint of this article. 1949. is a reference to the Cambridge mathematician Max Newman. whose apologetic work Grammar of Assent had interested Wittgenstein over the past few years. Wittgenstein brought up Newman in conversation with Bouwsma: Later he asked me. a reference to Cardinal John Henry Newman. and that he would soon send Moore . This is the only mention of Newman in Nachlass. 118). Kingsley accused him of insincerity. (Bouwsma 1986. 61 .. p. and then ends with the parenthetical remark ―(On this a curious remark by H. whose contents he later discussed with Wittgenstein in Ithaca.7 On August 22. two days after the discussion prompted by consideration of Moore‘s ―here is a hand‖.. had read Grammar of Assent too. 34) 7 The only other mention of ―Newman. Newman)‖.‖ (January 18. That was puzzling.

I find it even more unlikely that they would have been composed after March 1950.‖ Thus it is likely that the first remark of On Certainty. and as argued above. Given the significant thematic overlap between these remarks and the discussions held in Ithaca. sometime between August and October of 1949. As mentioned in the previous chapter. After he returned to England he wrote to friends that he was not working. since it is doubtful that Wittgenstein would remember the content of his earlier discussions in such detail some eight months after the fact. and appears to have purchased a new notebook in Ithaca (MS 171).‖ wrote to Rhees that he was ―doing some philosophy‖ on August 31. there is some evidence that Wittgenstein was writing while in America: he said to Bouwsma on August 5 that he ―was beginning to do something.This shows that Wittgenstein was puzzled about Newman‘s ―curious‖ apologetic remarks right around the same time as he was also thinking about Moore‘s statement ―here is a hand. was composed around this time in late August 1949 when Wittgenstein was reflecting on both thinkers. constituting part 1 of MS 172. 62 . I conclude that the opening remarks of On Certainty. it is unlikely that the remarks in question were written in February or March of 1950 while in Vienna. were written during or shortly after Wittgenstein‘s discussions of Moore with Malcolm. which attempts to draw a connection between Moore and Newman. Thus.

color. The editors chose to split the material because of lines that Wittgenstein occasionally used in his final manuscripts: Figure 4: MS 173. This line from p. for all of the remarks preceding this line are crossed out with a vertical line (indicating that Wittgenstein had finished going through them for the purpose of revision).MS 173 is a large notebook completely filled with remarks on both sides of its 100 pages. 31v The writings from 1949-1951 focus primarily on three themes: certainty and knowledge. and the ‗inner‘ and the ‗outer‘ in psychology. 63 . 31v of MS 173 seems to indicate the end of material on the subject of color and the beginning of remarks on the philosophy of psychology. It contents appear split up in different posthumous publications. p. There is certainly good reason to think of this line as demarcating a border between different texts. while those after the line are not.

They were written between March 24 and April 12.e. plus pp. the material between the two horizontal lines). Section 3 of MS 173 clearly starts out with remarks on color. no indication was made that Part 4 is actually the result of splicing together two texts separated by 80 pages in the notebooks. so this editorial claim requires further scrutiny. The first and third sections (i.Because of lines like these in the manuscripts. The editors thus decided to publish section 2 of MS 173 (i. the editors of On Certainty claimed that the book ―is not a selection. 47v there is another line. but near the end of the notebook some of the remarks also seem to be relevant to the philosophy of psychology. not all of the places where the editors made breaks in the manuscripts were marked off by Wittgenstein with a horizontal line. On p. Again. nor were all of Wittgenstein‘s horizontal lines interpreted as manuscript breaks. and consist of remarks on the topic of color that Wittgenstein began working on the day after arriving back in England from his final visit to his family in Vienna. 87r-100r (a portion of section 3) as Part 4 of LWPP2.e. Wittgenstein marked it off in his notebooks as a separate topic‖ (OC Preface). after which the remarks move back to the topic of color. the material before the first line plus the material after the second one) appear as Part III of Remarks on Colour (the editors do not indicate that Part III is the result of splicing sections 1 and 3 together). The rest of the notebook does not 64 . As will be discussion in the next chapter. 1950. The entries in the first section are dated.

contain dates. Section 1 of MS 173. von Wright dates the entire notebook to 1950 in his catalog. In MS 174. and then decided to mark off the remarks in MS 173 with a horizontal line so that he could continue his work on the philosophy of psychology in a new 65 . A plausible story about the relationship between the two sections from MSS 173 and 174 on the philosophy of psychology can be constructed from this date. Only one date occurs in this notebook. in the first section. Since Wittgenstein‘s correspondence indicates that he did no writing between September 1950 and March 1951. is dated and ends on April 12. because the material on color appears in revised form in MS 176. just a few pages from the beginning – April 24. 1950. The first 28 pages constitute section 1 and deal with the philosophy of psychology. which was composed no later than March 1951. After a horizontal line comes section 2 on the philosophy of psychology. along with the revision found in MS 176). It contains two sections. section 1. only 32 pages. has April 24 as its first date. on color. also on the philosophy of psychology. marked off by a horizontal line. These remarks now appear as Part 5 of LWPP2. Wittgenstein may have thus composed section 2 of MS 173 between April 12 and April 24. MS 174 is a large notebook. which is surely correct. so MS 173 must have been completed before then. only the first 40 of its 88 sheets contain remarks. It is not particularly long. MS 173 must have been completed by September 1950 at the latest (though in the sequel I argue that it was probably completed even before September.

Only one date appears in the section – September 23. This section is now published as OC 66192. It consists of two sections (not divided by a line. von Wright dates the entire volume from 1950 in his catalog. It is uncertain when section 2 was composed. i. one natural hypothesis is that this is the sequence in which they were written.notebook. MS 175 is a small pocket notebook with 80 sheets. but definitely distinguishable). since he traveled to Norway in October and didn‘t do any more writing until the spring of 1951. namely MS 174. The relationship between the remarks in section 1 of MS 175 and those in section 2 of MS 174 is unclear. 1950 – a few pages from the end. all filled with remarks on certainty. Section 2 of MS 174 contains remarks on certainty. especially when considered in relation to the next manuscript. so this section was composed before that date. Since the editors of On Certainty placed the remarks from section 1 of MS 175 after those of section 2 of MS 174 in the book. though not all composed together. likely the first time Wittgenstein revisited this topic since MS 172 (dated to autumn 1949 earlier in the chapter). The material from the first 68 pages now appears as remarks 193-299 of On Certainty. This contention is at least supported by the few occurrences of dates in these notebooks: section 2 of 66 . that MS 175 was begun after MS 174. These appear then to be Wittgenstein‘s final writings of 1950. It is also unclear why nearly half of the volume is left blank. on April 24.e. and then later continue his work on color in MS 173.

Wittgenstein was known to bring a pocket notebook along with him on strolls. This would at least explain why. They start on March 10. and continue with remarks on certainty until the pages of the notebook are exhausted on March 21. while section 1 of MS 175 lists September 23 as the final date of composition. Unlike 67 . But this hypothesis cannot account for why the second half of MS 174 is blank. so that he could immediately write down remarks when he found inspiration. It may be that Wittgenstein was writing remarks on certainty in both volumes concurrently. though the section preceding it begins with April 24. while the latter is quite small and can fit in one‘s pocket. in late September.MS 174 has no dates. MS 174 and MS 175 are different types of notebooks: the former is fairly large and would have likely been kept in Wittgenstein‘s room. with Wittgenstein switching from MS 174 to MS 175 at some point during this span. Section 2 of MS 175 consists of the first remarks written after the improvement of Wittgenstein‘s mental faculties in March of 1951. An alternative hypothesis that may account for the blank pages in MS 174 is that these two sections were not written sequentially. with Wittgenstein‘s paranoid comment about the theft of his ideas (quoted in the previous chapter). both volumes were only half-filled. Wittgenstein did not switch from MS 174 to MS 175 because he had filled all of the pages in the first volume and needed to move on to a new one. Thus one may suspect that the two sections were written sometime between April 24 and September 23.

except for a short group of remarks on the philosophy of psychology that are marked off with horizontal lines. 81. These remarks on certainty continue until the end of MS 176. these remarks are all consistently dated throughout the remainder of the notebook and entries are included almost daily. The first fills pp. These were composed between April 14 and 15. after which Wittgenstein returned immediately back to his remarks on certainty. 68 . in which only sporadic dates appear in the manuscripts.in 1949 and 1950. The larger sized MS 176 consists of 4 sections. not alerting the reader that they are interrupted by a short set of remarks on the philosophy of psychology. concern certainty. 1r-22r and is a revision of the sections on color from MS 173. All of the remarks from p. the editors seamlessly splice together the remarks separated from sections 2 and 4 of MS 176. 22r to p. The dating of this section will be addressed shortly. all of the entries from March 10 to the end of Wittgenstein‘s life are dated. The material between these dividing lines – section 3 of MS 176 – is now printed as Part 6 of LWPP2. Like in other cases. The entries in section 2 of MS 175 now constitute remarks 300-425 of On Certainty. the final page of the notebook. since remarks are composed nearly every day during this time. and they show that he indeed had an intense and fruitful stretch of work. Section 2 is a direct continuation of the remarks on certainty that ended on March 21 at the end of MS 175. Like those at the end of MS 175. The remarks on either side of this brief interruption together form remarks 426-637 of On Certainty.

That evening Wittgenstein became very ill. the final 39 remarks of the book. so it is important for my reading of On Certainty that that section 1 of MS 176 was not written during Wittgenstein‘s final weeks. then they are part of the writings that he considered to be of low quality. It is thus important to determine when section 1 of MS 176 was composed. is a challenge.the final date to appear is April 24.e. was written on April 27. and MS 176 also includes remarks 8 I will argue that this section was actually written during Wittgenstein‘s pessimistic phase in 1950. In the preface to Remarks on Colour Anscombe claims that it was ―written in Cambridge in March 1951. But if they were composed before this time. presented in Chapter 5. on April 29. that the writings of Wittgenstein‘s final phase are characterized by their therapeutic character. and not during his final optimistic phase in 1951. in order to know what opinion Wittgenstein held of it. and in the Wittgenstein Nachlass. The dating of the revision of the remarks on color. as claimed by Anscombe. i. The final remark in the notebook. In his remarks on color. as it contains no dates. For three days he continues to write and fill the first 21 pages with remarks. the first section of MS 176. he passed away two days later. Wittgenstein immediately continues these remarks at the beginning of MS 177 on April 25. Wittgenstein appears to be engaged in the theoretical task of providing philosophical analyses of color concepts.8 Anscombe‘s belief that the revision of the color remarks was written in March of 1951 may stem from its location in the manuscript sequence: MS 175 ends with remarks in March of 1951. when he claimed that he was doing his best work in years. MS 177 is published as remarks 638-676 of On Certainty.‖ If true this would mean that the final remarks on color were written after Wittgenstein had regained his faculties for doing philosophy. This conclusion is crucial for my contention. 69 .

47). Evidence from the notebooks undermines the veracity of this hypothesis.from March. The very same day. and starting MS 176 around 21 March‖ (Nedo 1995. which means that they must have already been completed no later than March 21. In his final letter to Malcolm of April 16 he says that he has been working for about 5 weeks. it would have to be the case that Wittgenstein wrote the revision of the color remarks in MS 176 while he was at the same time writing new remarks on certainty in the end of MS 175. claimed by Nedo: ―On February 8 Wittgenstein is back in Cambridge. since the final section of MS 175 contains dated entries from March 10 to March 21. with Dr. If the hypothesis that the revision of the color remarks was completed during this final phase is true. 22r (Figure 6). Bevan. p. for example. this makes it very likely that the beginning of his last fruitful phase began on March 10. the day that new remarks on certainty began to be entered in MS 175 (see Figure 7). 70 . That leaves a small window of time for the revision to have been completed during Wittgenstein‘s final productive phase. Wittgenstein continued his remarks on certainty in MS 176 on p. Assuming it were true. after the revision of the remarks on color. it must have been composed between March 10 and March 21. But the characters of these two texts – section 1 of MS 176 and section 2 of MS 175 – are quite different. The certainty remarks from MS 9 As. continuing his work on MS 175.9 The last remark of MS 175 was written on March 21 (see Figure 5 below). But it cannot be the case that MS 176 was begun after MS 175 was completed.

6. It is also remarkable that the notes on certainty in MS 176 from March 21 begin immediately after the revision of the color remarks. 7. and 9). only to then cut off the possibility of extending the revision of the color remarks on March 21 by writing new remarks on certainty immediately after them in MS 176. i. while the revision of the color remarks is written in a variety of inks – some remarks are in blue. on the other hand. while the remarks on certainty from 1951 are written somewhat sloppily and hastily (cf. Also noteworthy is the difference in handwriting between the revision of the color remarks and the dated material from March and April 1951. along with all the other certainty remarks from March and April. does not contain any dates. Figures 8 and 9). all of the dated material from March and April is written in a blue pen (see Figures 5. Further. rather than on a new page or even in a new notebook. including dates and using a consistent blue ink in one but no dates and a variety of inks in the other. Anscombe‘s hypothesis would then require that for 11 days Wittgenstein simultaneously wrote material he thought to be of high quality in two notebooks. 6.e. The revision is written with a generally steady hand. 3. others are light black. and others are dark black (see Figures 6 and 8). Figures 5. and 4 of MS 176 and all of 177 (cf. and thus during the period in 71 . A more likely hypothesis is that the revision in MS 176 had already been completed sometime prior to March 10. as well as the remarks on the philosophy of psychology from April 14 and 15. Section 1 of MS 176. and 7). sections 2.175 are all dated.

This would make the differences in ink and dates more plausible. for if the revision had already been completed during Wittgenstein‘s unsuccessful writing phase. then when was it written? One possibility might be that it was written sometime between February 8 and March 10. based on his letters from this time. and thus had no qualms about cutting off the revision with the introduction of new remarks. If the revision of the color remarks was not written during Wittgenstein‘s fruitful phase. This all suggests that the revision of the color remarks was already completed before he moved into Dr. while he was staying at Dr. ―I can‘t even think of work at present‖. ―I‘m very weak physically and mentally‖. Bevan‘s house. the end of September 1950. because Wittgenstein did not do any work from 72 . and didn‘t mention any developments in his work. This too seems doubtful. It also can help explain why the certainty remarks on March 21 were put immediately after the remarks on color in MS 176. Bevan‘s home he wrote to Malcolm. he may have had no intention of continuing it further.which Wittgenstein thought his work to be of low quality. and on March 9. Bevan‘s house but before the hormone treatments had been terminated and Wittgenstein had found himself in the right frame of mind for doing philosophy. the day before reading a book review would prompt him to begin writing again. he wrote to Rhees. at the very latest. Thus it must have been completed by. Soon after arriving at Dr. About ten days later on February 19th. he wrote to Koder that he hadn‘t done work in months.

it of course must have been begun after their completion. This excursion into dating the final manuscripts has led to the following conclusions: the writings from Wittgenstein‘s last fruitful phase consist of remarks 300-676 of On Certainty and the short section of remarks included as Part 6 of LWPP2. But since it is a revision of the remarks on color in MS 173. he thought it an appropriate place to stop writing new remarks and begin a revision of the material on color in MS 173 in the fresh volume MS 176. since the remarks on the philosophy of psychology in section 2 of MS 173 stop abruptly and appear to be continued at the beginning of MS 174. Thus I suggest that section 1 of MS 176 was composed in the summer of 1950. so we do not know exactly when it was completed. However. and everything included in Remarks on Colour were all composed during the time when Wittgenstein was undergoing hormone treatments and consistently declared the quality of his work to be subpar.the time of his trip to Norway in October 1950 until his stay at Dr. Parts 4 and 5 of LWPP2. it is plausible that the color remarks in section 3 began around this date. Bevan‘s home. which is dated April 24. The last section of MS 173 is not dated. It is noteworthy that the remarks on color in section 3 of MS 173 go until the end of the notebook but are not continued further in another volume. In his letter to 73 . One hypothesis that may explain this would be that after Wittgenstein reached the end of MS 173. and may have been completed within a month or two. Remarks 66-299 of On Certainty.

in which Wittgenstein claims to not have done any ―sustained‖ good work. There is thus a period of interest. ―my head [is] empty‖. Wittgenstein likely composed the first 65 remarks of On Certainty. The remarks forming the first two parts of LWPP2 are undated but appear to have been written before this date. 11 It remains unclear whether MS 171 was composed before the start of hormone treatments or afterward. although ―it was half empty already when I was in Ithaca‖ in the fall of 1949.10 During this time. 1951. he reports. 74 . when he began undergoing hormone treatments. but was dissatisfied to a lesser extent than during his hormone treatments.11 These conclusions are summarized in the table below. with which Wittgenstein was somewhat dissatisfied. 1951 lends support to associating this period with moderate dissatisfaction: he can‘t participate in philosophical discussions right now because. Our results further support the conclusion of Chapter 1. and during which he did not speak well of the quality of the work he was doing. 1950 he says that he has ―not been able to do any sustained good work since the beginning of March 1949‖.Malcolm of April 16. namely that On Certainty should not be thought of as a unified work. Wittgenstein says that the curtain in his brain has not gone up for over two years. though clearly it was not written after their cessation. This research suggest that On Certainty be conceived of as consisting of three parts: 1) remarks 1-65. though not as intensely as he criticized the quality of his work after November 1949. and in his letter of April 17. 2) 10 Wittgenstein‘s letter to Malcolm of February 8. I have argued. between March 1949 and November 1949. This may be considered a period in which Wittgenstein was not satisfied with the quality of his work.

which he considered to be of better quality than other writings he had produced over the past two years. 75 . with which he was very dissatisfied.remarks 66-299. and Chapter 6 will show that most readers of the book do not appreciate that Wittgenstein did not consider all of its remarks to be of equal value. Chapter 5 will present a reading of On Certainty that is informed by its division into multiple parts with very different characters. This division of On Certainty into parts will be utilized in the sequel. and 3) 300-676.

1950 RoC 2 rem. 66-192 (prob. 51-53 171 1-14 undated. 1-130 undated.April 12 1950 RoC 3 rem. Summer 1950 RoC 1 rem.? (prob.March 21. Summer 1950 RoC 1 rem. prob.April 12 1950 RoC 3 rem. prob. 66-192 175 1 1r-34v (prob. 92-95 April 15 . 1949 LWPPv2 2 pp. prob.September 23.) Summer . 300-425 undated. 55-59 173 2 31v-47v undated. 81-90 undated. 1-20 March 24 .March 21. 638-676 76 . late 1948 . autumn 1949 OC 1 rem. 193-299 March 10 . 1950 RoC 3 rem. 1950 RoC 2 rem. Late Spring 1950) LWPPv2 5 pp. 61-71 undated. prob.early 1949 LWPPv2 1 pp. 524-637 177 1r-11 April 25 . 300-425 176 2 22r-46v March 21 .April 24. 1951 OC 3 rem. 1951 OC 3 rem. 1951 OC 3 rem.April 27. prob. 2-49 undated. 1950 LWPPv2 4 pp.Table 1: Source Manuscripts for Wittgenstein's Final Publications MS Part MS Pages 169 ii-81r 170 1r-5v 171 1-14 172 1 1-20 2 21-24 173 1 ii-31v 2 31v-47v 3 47v-100r 87r-100r 174 1 1r-14v 2 14v-40 175 1 1r-34v 2 34v-79 176 1 1r-22r 2 22r-46v 3 46v-51v 4 51v-81 177 1r-11 MS Dates Publication Section Remarks/Pages undated. 426-523 4 51v-81 April 15 . prob Summer 1950 OC 2 rem. 131-350 On Certainty MS Part MS Pages MS Dates Publication Section Remarks/Pages 172 1 1-20 undated. 1-65 undated. 71-79 174 1 1r-14v April 24 . Feb. prob.April 27. 1950 LWPPv2 4 pp. 71-79 April 24 . 1949 LWPPv2 3 pp. 1-130 undated. 92-95 MS Part MS Pages 176 1 1r-22r 172 2 21-24 173 1 ii-31v 3 47v-100r Remarks on Colour MS Dates Publication Section Remarks/Pages undated. 1950 LWPPv2 4 pp.early 1949 LWPPv2 1 pp. 1950 OC 2 rem. 193-299 2 34v-79 March 10 . 524-637 April 25 . prob. prob. late 1949 or early 1950 LWPPv2 3 pp. prob. Feb. 1-20 March 24 . 1-65 174 2 14v-40 undated. 51-53 undated.April 14. prob. 2 MS Part MS Pages MS Dates Publication Section Remarks/Pages 169 ii-81r undated. 1951 OC 3 rem.) Summer . prob Summer 1950 OC 2 rem. 1949 LWPPv2 2 pp. prob. prob. 61-71 3 87r-100r undated. late 1948 . 1950 RoC 3 rem.? (prob. 1950 OC 2 rem. 1950 LWPPv2 4 pp.September 23. 638-676 Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. 81-90 176 3 46v-51v April 14 . 131-350 undated. 1951 OC 3 rem. prob. Late Spring 1950) LWPPv2 5 pp. prob. 2-49 170 1r-5v undated. prob. 1951 OC 3 rem. 426-523 April 14 . 1951 OC 3 rem. prob.April 24.April 14. 1951 LWPPv2 6 pp. 1-88 undated. 1951 LWPPv2 6 pp. prob.April 15.April 15. 55-59 undated. vol. 1-88 March 21 . 1951 OC 3 rem. autumn 1949 OC 1 rem. prob.

79 (the last page of MS 175. p.Selected Pages from the Final Manuscripts Figure 5: MS 175. written March 21) 77 .

22r (end of color revision and continuation of certainty remarks) 78 .Figure 6: MS 176. p.

Figure 7: MS 175. 34v (Wittgenstein‘s initial remarks after reading the book review. p. written on March 10 in blue ink) 79 .

19v (steady and clean handwriting from the color revision in a variety of inks) 80 . p.Figure 8: MS 176.

24r (page from the final certainty notes.Figure 9: MS 176. written in consistent blue ink with unsteady handwriting) 81 . p.

Chapter 3 On Certainty and Wittgenstein‘s ‗Works‘

The investigations carried out in the previous two chapters now enable us to effectively assess whether On Certainty qualifies as one of Wittgenstein‘s works. The claim that it does, as we have seen, is central to the case for recognizing a third Wittgenstein, which is claimed to be definitively characterized by On Certainty in just the way that the first and second phases of Wittgenstein‘s career achieve their definitive expression in the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations.1 In response to the possible objection that On Certainty shouldn‘t count as a work because its remarks were not revised, Moyal-Sharrock offers a defense for applying this term to the book. While recognizing that the criteria for what counts as a work is debatable, she notes the use of the term by Wittgenstein‘s own editors,


As Stroll argues, ―we should divide Wittgenstein‘s career into three phases: the First Wittgenstein of the Tractatus, the Second of the Investigations, and the Third of On Certainty‖ (2004, p. 22). The central place given to On Certainty in the third Wittgenstein is why I consider only Moyal-Sharrock‘s initial characterization of this phase as made up of the 1949-1951 writings (cf. footnote 4 of the introduction). For while most of the early material from the first Wittgenstein can be seen as developing towards the Tractatus, and similarly for the writings of the second Wittgenstein in relation to Philosophical Investigations (though there are good reasons for recognizing a middle Wittgenstein), the work on philosophical psychology from 1946-49 does not have this relation to On Certainty. Thus, On Certainty cannot be definitive of the years 1946-1951 in a way that is analogous to how the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations relate to their associated phases of Wittgenstein‘s career.


Anscombe and von Wright, and cites their descriptions of the notes as evidence of their unique status.2 In the preface to On Certainty, after telling how Wittgenstein began to think about the issue of Moore‘s controversial statements when he visited Malcolm in fall of 1949, Anscombe and von Wright state that ―this book contains the whole of what Wittgenstein wrote on this topic from that time until his death.‖ They go on to justify their decision to publish the notes as a single volume: It seemed appropriate to publish this work by itself. It is not a selection; Wittgenstein marked it off in his notebooks as a separate topic, which he apparently took up at four separate periods during this eighteen months. It constitutes a single sustained treatment of the topic. In a subsequent essay, also quoted by Moyal-Sharrock as evidence of On Certainty‘s status as a work, von Wright claims that ―during the last year and a half of his life Wittgenstein wrote almost exclusively about knowledge and certainty‖ and refers to the book as a ―treatise‖ (von Wright 1982, p. 165). On the basis of these editorial statements, advocates for recognizing a third Wittgenstein have claimed that On Certainty is an ―autonomous collection‖ (Stroll 1994, p. 9) and ―not…a compilation effected by someone other than Wittgenstein‖ (Moyal-Sharrock 2005, p. 2), representing ―an astonishingly intense treatment of a topic over a period of 18 months‖ (ibid., p. 3). They have thus concluded that On Certainty, as well as the other two


(Moyal-Sharrock 2002, p. 294 fn. 3)


publications culled from contemporaneous notes – Remarks on Colour and LWPP2 – are ―wholly self-standing works‖ (Moyal-Sharrock 2004, p. 2). These editorial claims deserve close scrutiny, because they have been heavily influential in how interpreters have come to conceive of the notes comprising On Certainty. They are revealed to be misleading when we consult Wittgenstein‘s correspondence and Nachlass. When told that the discussion of Moore and certainty was marked off as a separate topic, one naturally suspects that Wittgenstein utilized a notation in his notebook identifying whether a remark belonged to his investigations of certainty, color, or psychology. This then gives rise to the notion that he saw himself as concurrently composing three books, and that the editors were following Wittgenstein‘s own editorial directives when they cut and spliced his final notebooks to create the publications On Certainty, Remarks on Colour, and LWPP2. If this were the case then indeed it would be true that the responsibility for compiling the materials for On Certainty does not rely primarily with the editors. The claim that Wittgenstein ‗marked off‘ distinct investigations in his notebooks must surely be a reference to the horizontal lines3 that are occasionally used by Wittgenstein, such as this one from MS 176, p. 46v:


The following discussion of Wittgenstein‘s use of horizontal lines in the final manuscripts relies on a number of observations made in (van Gennip 2004) and (van Gennip 2008).


Figure 10: MS 176, p. 46v

These lines are not accompanied by any labels or instructions, though in many cases it is pretty clear that the line is intended to separate material on different topics. 10 pages after the line shown above, another line occurs on p. 51v, thereby marking off a section of remarks from its surrounding context. The editors took these lines to indicate that the marked-off section should be published separately, in LWPP2, from the surrounding remarks, which appeared in On Certainty.4 Inspection of the notebooks shows this to have been a reasonable decision by the editors, but it should still be noted that Wittgenstein nowhere explicitly indicates that the remarks above p. 46v and below p. 51v are part of the same investigation. A similar line occurs on p. 14v of MS 174, which the editors took to also mark a separation between LWPP2 and On Certainty. Lines just like the one above occur at several points in the final manuscripts where their purpose is not so clear, and in these cases the


No indication was given in the published text of On Certainty that this splice, which occurs between remarks 523 and 524, had occurred.


These pages include five horizontal lines. extended lengths of time between the composition of remarks. 53). since it was simply passed over without indication on the next page of Remarks on Colour between remarks 95 and 96. p. Van Gennip speculates that they may ―signify the importance Wittgenstein attached to each of these remarks. Rather than include this remark in On Certainty. since none of them were reproduced in sections 60-65 of On Certainty. none of which were taken by the editors to indicate a demarcation.5 It is not clear what Wittgenstein intended these lines in MS 172 to indicate. A striking case occurs on the last two pages of MS 172 included in On Certainty. For example. We now see that the horizontal lines in Wittgenstein‘s 5 Similarly. 21r of MS 173 a pair of lines occurs around a single remark. or alternatively.editors did not take them to indicate that distinct investigations were being marked off. the editors chose to publish it in its original context as Remarks on Colour section III. An identical line occurring on p. apparently separating this statement concerning the terms ‗know‘ and ‗believe‘ from the surrounding material on Goethe‘s reflections on color. replacing the horizontal lines with square brackets. ―it is equally probable that these lines have no particular purpose at all‖ (2008. Thus they clearly did not take these lines to demarcate separate investigations. the complete contents of MSS 171 and 169 appeared in LWPP2. #93. 86 . on p. yet the editors of that publication (including von Wright) did not reproduce any of the 6 horizontal lines occurring in the former manuscript or the nearly 20 lines occurring in the latter. Maybe they indicate the completion of work performed at one sitting. 22r of the same manuscript was not interpreted as specifying a demarcation.‖ though she concedes.

―not only are Wittgenstein‘s ‗marks‘ ambiguous. Wittgenstein does not explicitly distinguish between the remarks on color and those on certainty on p. 87 . 129). Wittgenstein‘s editors also separated a number of notebooks at points which were not characterized by the occurrence of a horizontal line. as van Gennip describes the situation. As seen in Figure 6 in the previous chapter. devoid of any indications that a splice has occurred. even though no such demarcation symbol occurs in the manuscript. 31v to produce what is published as part 4 of LWPP2. and thus that they cannot simply be taken for granted as marking off a separate topic without further interpretation. but the editors applied their own demarcations in the notebooks as well‖ (2004. It is thus clear now that the horizontal lines do not by themselves serve to clearly demarcate separate investigations and that the editors in most cases did not in fact take them to serve such a function.late manuscripts do not all serve a clear and consistent purpose. which the editors splice together with the line at p. 22r of MS 176. The break between remarks from 1950 and those from 1951 are represented by a horizontal line in the published text of On Certainty below section 299. Indeed. Nor does any line occur on p. Nothing separates the remarks on color and those on certainty in MS 172 apart from the fact that they occur on distinct loose sheets. 87r of MS 173. reproduced as Figure 7 in the previous chapter. p.

While many editorial statements used by Moyal-Sharrock and Stroll to argue for On Certainty‘s status as a work have been challenged. 88 . pp. 54-58). as well as others from over a decade earlier. so Wittgenstein was clearly not committing his undivided attention to Moore‘s remarks for 18 straight months. The notion that the composition of these remarks was an intense and sustained task must also be corrected. and the extent to which they are satisfied by On Certainty. The remarks on certainty are interspersed with extended discussions of color and psychology. we still need to consider what criteria for a work are most appropriately applied to Wittgenstein‘s writings.It is clear from these considerations that On Certainty is a compilation of texts selected not by Wittgenstein himself but by his editors. which bear upon the themes addressed in the book but were not selected by the editors for inclusion. Joachim Schulte provides possibly the most extended discussion 6 The characterization of On Certainty as a ‗single sustained treatment‘ is also challenged by van Gennip (2008. who draws attention to remarks from MSS 169-171.6 This description would perhaps only be appropriately applied to the final six weeks of Wittgenstein‘s life in which he expressed satisfaction with the state of his work. and even reported that he was unable to work at all for stretches of several months. His philosophical activities in 1950 then cannot be accurately described as ‗sustained‘. since the strings of remarks comprising this book were neither consistently marked off from other discussions nor expressly indicated to count as a single investigation. From Wittgenstein‘s correspondence we also see that he repeatedly complained of his inability to produce good work in 1950.

for Schulte also suggests that a text can be considered a work to the extent that Wittgenstein himself deemed it to count as an organic whole. After filling notebooks with first-draft remarks. supplemented by examples. 83). Wittgenstein would often identify a selection of these remarks. reasons. p. 89 . but rather are three fairly independent scales concerning the author‘s attitudes. 7 See (Schulte 1992). Schulte suggests that one consideration we should take into account is where a text is situated within a range of texts that are revised to different degrees. the reader‘s perceptions. as well as the extent to which we the readers can discern a line of thought. These do not together form a set of conditions that must all be satisfied. rearrange them. and then edit them individually in an attempt to product an organic text. This revision process was performed to greater or lesser degrees on a number of texts. and so on (Schulte 2005. objections. Rather than lay down a number of necessary conditions that must be fully satisfied for a piece of writing to count as a work. p.7 He points out that the standards one applies in evaluating this question should be shaped by an understanding of Wittgenstein‘s writing process. (Schulte 1999). 361). and the form of the text itself that ―must be weighed against each other because they may (but need not) conflict‖ (Schulte 1999. This is not the sole criterion to be considered. and (Schulte 2005).in the secondary literature of the notion of a work in Wittgenstein.

With respect to the criterion of Wittgenstein‘s satisfaction with the form of his writing.Schulte shows how these criteria may be used by applying them to three sections of Philosophical Investigations. even if it does not fulfill all the criteria to the fullest possible extent. which ―survived several stages of revision in nearly unchanged form‖ (ibid. p. 362). makes it certainly rank much lower on the reader scale than section 2 (containing the discussions of rulefollowing and private language). 189-421. in which many readers have found a welldiscernable train of thought. the remarks from spring 1949 to spring 1951 (including the revision of the color remarks) clearly rank very low. save possibly for the remarks on color in MS 176 that underwent a first stage of revision. But section 2 may satisfy the author criterion to a lesser degree than section 1. indicating that Wittgenstein was probably satisfied with the organization and presentation of this material. Surely these remarks rank very low on the textual scale since they underwent no rearrangement or significant revision. All three sections rank high on the textual scale by having undergone significant revisions. viz.). however. The relative obscurity of the third section. and 422-693 (Schulte 2005. All the writings form 1949-1951 have a similar status. that text surely deserves the title of ‗work‘. We should now evaluate the text of On Certainty with respect to these criteria. remarks 1-188. Since no other text from the Nachlass satisfies the three criteria in a comparable way to Philosophical Investigations. since their quality was 90 .

p. appears to be the fundamental consideration driving MoyalSharrock‘s claims about the status of the book: I believe that On Certainty should be recognized as one of Wittgenstein‘s three great works – if only because it gives us the key to one of philosophy‘s most intractable problems: the problem of skepticism about the external world. though they still constitute first-draft material that surely would have satisfied him to a greater extent if they had been able to undergo revision. 363). I do want to suggest that a text certainly does not need to qualify as a work in order to contain important philosophical ideas. 91 . 164) While I am not concerned to contest the value of the philosophical solution that is attributed to Wittgenstein. the criteria just considered ―are clearly not satisfied at all. p. (2005.‖ though he points out that the criterion concerning the reader‘s ability to trace a line of thought in the text ―may lead us to think very highly of this book‖ (Schulte 2005. Perhaps the remarks from the final half of On Certainty rank somewhat higher on this scale since Wittgenstein indicates some satisfaction with them.consistently panned. Schulte agrees that with respect to On Certainty. we are still able to find value in these texts without thereby distorting our picture of his intellectual development. When we separate our evaluation of the ideas found in Wittgenstein‘s writings from the mostly historical task of determining whether it qualifies as one of his works. indeed. This.

8 This suggests that even if our evaluation of On Certainty‘s contents lead us to deem the book a work. even though I take it 8 Stern argues that ―there is a good case‖ for producing such a volume. p. but it surely would not count as one of his works. one might indeed produce a text that achieved a striking thematic homogeneity and concentration. 559) than Philosophical Investigations are possible precisely because the structure of the book is due to its editors. say. p. Such a text could very well serve to illuminate certain aspects of Wittgenstein‘s philosophy. or even as ―thematically more homogenous. if one were to collect all of the remarks from Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass concerning. since ―there is a sense in which the 1949-51 manuscripts form a relatively self-contained epilogue to the Wittgenstein papers‖ (1996. it should not be considered one of Wittgenstein’s works since those perceptions are very much dependent on a misleading picture of how and what Wittgenstein actually wrote.The reader‘s perceptions are nevertheless an important consideration in determining the status of a piece of Wittgenstein‘s writings. 92 . 447). Despite all of the considerations given here. concentrated and contiguous‖ (Moyal-Sharrock 2009. rather than split up by content into separate publications. As a comparison. I do not believe that the editors‘ choice to publish On Certainty was a mistake. the concept of negation. the descriptions above would not apply to such a book. Had the final notebooks all been published sequentially as a single volume. but our historical investigations have made clear that perceptions of On Certainty as a ‗sustained‘ or ‗intense‘ effort.

When one reads through Wittgenstein‘s final notebooks. the remarks selected by the editors certainly appear to be thematically related. 170. and 173 that also strike one as related. p. It should thus be welcomed as a posthumous Wittgenstein publication. The writings from Wittgenstein‘s Nachlass that deserve to be published are not restricted to just his works. as long as readers are not led to believe that it offers a privileged or authoritative perspective on Wittgenstein‘s final thoughts by having been constructed according to editorial intentions clearly indicated in his notebooks. but one can understand the editors‘ reluctance to include these in On Certainty since they tend to be less distinguishable and detachable from their surrounding contexts. For I agree with van Gennip that ―surely the choices of the editors [were] not unreasonable or illogical‖ (van Gennip 2004.to be an editorial compilation that does not constitute one of Wittgenstein‘s works. so it is not incumbent on his editors to prove that the texts they produce achieve this special status.9 By isolating these remarks. 93 . and it is sometimes unclear where they fit in the sequence of remarks published in the book. 129). 9 There are a handful of remarks from MSS 169. even if Wittgenstein did not mark them off as a distinct or unified discussion. 171. On Certainty gives us an illuminating perspective on Wittgenstein‘s final thoughts.

the central text of the second Wittgenstein. Many of the selections from the Wittgenstein oeuvre that are most quoted and discussed in the literature involve descriptions of the goals and methods of his philosophical project. When we take Wittgenstein as seriously engaged in this therapeutic project. In these passages Wittgenstein denies an intention to advance theses or make controversial assertions and instead claims that his philosophical approach is comparable to a therapeutic procedure. Incorporating these metaphilosophical remarks in an interpretation of Wittgenstein‘s writing can prove difficult. for they seem to undercut the possibility of applying the usual methods of philosophical 94 . In this chapter I argue for a particular therapeutic reading of Philosophical Investigations. to lay the groundwork for my claim in the next chapter that Wittgenstein does not in fact abandon these therapeutic methodological goals in his final writings.Chapter 4 Therapeutic Readings A central component of the case for recognizing a third phase of Wittgenstein‘s career is the claim that his final writings are characterized by a shift from a therapeutic methodology to one that seeks systematic theoretical solutions to traditional philosophical problems. unfamiliar yet fascinating modes of criticism reveal themselves to be appropriate for evaluating his philosophy.

reasons. if Wittgenstein‘s talk of therapeutic 95 . Many interpreters have not found this option promising. A smaller group of ‗therapeutic‘ readers has argued that Wittgenstein‘s interpreters should take his methodological statements at face value and read his work as advancing no philosophical theories. First. despite insisting that Wittgenstein‘s work cannot be criticized for advancing faulty arguments (for it purportedly contains no arguments at all). then his writing offers nothing that can be subjected to philosophical critique. and solving philosophical problems. many interpretations from therapeutic readers nevertheless appear to involve a number of controversial philosophical theses. arguing with other philosophers. Thus. Construing Wittgenstein‘s work as advancing arguments then sets the groundwork for these readers to apply familiar forms of philosophical critique such as argumentative analysis. readers may reason that if Wittgenstein‘s work really does contain no arguments.critique. This can give the impression that either Wittgenstein‘s descriptions of therapy are an attempt to deflect legitimate criticism of his work. A significant number of interpreters of Wittgenstein‘s later philosophy discount the seriousness of these remarks by describing Wittgenstein as constructing theories. Second. presenting arguments. or controversial theses. for two main reasons. either by assuming these themselves or by attributing them to Wittgenstein. or that his readers are using his metaphilosophical statements to shield their own philosophical commitments from criticism.

A brief comparison with Freud suggests two perspectives that one might adopt in relation to Wittgenstein‘s therapy: the patient and the observer. on the other hand. I begin by giving a reading of Wittgenstein‘s methodological statements and then applying them to one set of remarks in the Investigations. In this chapter I offer a way to take Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist while still allowing his work to be subject to legitimate critique. For these reasons. Wittgenstein's metaphilosophical statements often don‘t influence how his readers interpret the rest of his philosophical work. and finally some of the observer‘s possible modes of critique are explored. I argue that new methods of critique are possible if we attempt to evaluate Wittgenstein‘s therapy on its own terms. if the methodological claims are true. then it serves merely as a roadblock to rational philosophical critique. then it appears that philosophical critique of his work is not even possible. Even though familiar modes of philosophical criticism are inappropriately applied when we take Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist. Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic methodology stems from his unique description of philosophical problems: A philosophical problem has the form: ‗I don‘t know my way about‘.methodology isn‘t really serious. as in the first case. The project of identifying multiple voices in Wittgenstein‘s writing is then presented as one of the observer‘s descriptive tasks. (PI 123) 96 .

1 The goal of his philosophical project. then. His own project characterizes philosophical problems as symptoms of a philosopher‘s state of confusion. Of course. ―I don‘t know my way about‖ is not what the philosopher actually says when discussing a philosophical problem. does this formulation characterize a particular person‘s situation. and responses to such problems typically come by way of philosophical theories or explanations of the notions in question. Yet Wittgenstein characterizes a philosophical problem as a statement which essentially expresses the speaker’s own confusion and disorientation. 97 . to attempt to cure the philosopher of the unease which reveals itself in the symptom of obsession over certain philosophical problems: 1 For detailed elaborations of the notions of ‗illness‘ most appropriate for Wittgenstein‘s project. rather than describe a logical or conceptual difficulty that anyone is free to reflect on? For that is the form that philosophical problems are ordinarily taken to have. Why. but rather to treat them. By focusing his attention on philosophers in the grip of a problem rather than the abstract characterizations of those problems themselves.This strikes one immediately as an unusual way of formulating a problem. i. but this is Wittgenstein‘s description of what a philosopher‘s concerns about a philosophical problem display about the philosopher himself.e. Wittgenstein is surely engaged in something quite unlike the traditional philosophical enterprise. is not to solve philosophical problems. see (Fischer 2004) and (Kuusela 2008). we might ask.

(PI 105) The more closely we examine actual language. (PI 107) 98 . we become dissatisfied with what are ordinarily called ―sentences‖. he claims. concepts and their logical interrelations are often taken to have an absolute fixed structure or ―crystalline purity‖ (PI 107) that admits of no vagueness or indeterminacy. the greater becomes the conflict between it and our requirement. in our actual language. instead he is prescribing how his unique philosophical project is to proceed. as it were. ―words‖. For example. The philosophical problems of concern to Wittgenstein often arise. the ideal. indeed it can put us on the road to wondering how our radically insufficient language could at all possibly succeed in serving the needs of communication and representation: When we believe that we have to find that order. (PI 255) Wittgenstein is not here offering a radical reinterpretation of what philosophers have been doing for thousands of years. we often attempt to resolve our difficulties by. revealing the true natures of these concepts through a process of analysis. from our making unreasonable demands upon our concepts and languages. And when struggling with conceptual problems in philosophy. This roadblock can lead to intense frustration with the crudeness of natural language. Yet we discover that the terms of our everyday language are ill-suited for this analytical task due to their indeterminacies.The philosopher‘s treatment of a question is like the treatment of an illness. ―signs‖.

then the ―difficulty of philosophy‖ is not that of changing our opinions. Yet surprisingly he claims that taking care of a philosophical problem is not a matter of pronouncing new truths about the subject of the investigation. Under a traditional conception of philosophical problems. 300). (PI 133) 99 . as it were. and one might think that Wittgenstein‘s resolution of these dilemmas would involve articulating a theory of language. but rather ―the difficulty of a change of attitude‖ (BT p. but in making it go away: Philosophical problems should completely disappear. Strikingly. not when it is doing work. one way of resolving these problems is to draw our attention to the details of how language manages to function in our everyday activities. 307) If the goal of Wittgenstein‘s project is not to try to convince a philosopher of the truth of particular propositions. and thereby ―bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use‖ (PI 116). success in this endeavor is not found in answering a question.We are particularly apt to run into these problems when we attempt to reflect on conceptual essences. (BT p. idling. the natural philosophical response to a problem will be an attempt to solve it by advancing new theories. (PI 132) So naturally. divorced from the contingencies of how their corresponding terms are put to use in particular circumstances: The confusions which occupy us arise when language is.

(Wittgenstein 1979.This result is to be achieved by ―marshalling recollections for a particular purpose‖ (PI 127). for they aim to eliminate the problems of philosophers. (Ambrose 1989. This technique is performed on a philosopher. 100 . rather than on a problem understood abstractly: Suppose someone said ‗My craving is to get a general comprehensive picture of the universe. drawing our attention to general facts about the functioning of our language that are obvious but not often reflected upon due to their mundaneness: One can be obsessed by a certain language form… A philosophical trouble is an obsession. not satisfy the craving. and not to solve philosophical problems. 97-8) Wittgenstein‘s project is thus successful to the extent that philosophical problems are dissolved away. Can you satisfy this craving?‘ I would say ‗No‘…Let us see whether doing such and such. or thinking such and such a way will. and not when he comes to achieve a certain insight – not even an insight about the nature of the previously captivating problem. Wittgenstein‘s person-specific therapeutic endeavor is thus most appropriately evaluated by the degree to which it succeeds in helping particular philosophers let go of particular philosophical obsessions. p. It seems trivial. but make you cease to have it. I claim then that Wittgenstein‘s philosophical goals truly are best characterized as therapeutic and anti-theoretical. which once removed it seems impossible that it should ever have had power over us. pp. 109) Thus a philosophical problem is solved when the philosopher is simply no longer captivated by it.

or ‗book‘. we notice that these names are also the kinds of words first learned by children in their native language. and so on. an ostensive definition can be variously interpreted in any case. i. one can ostensively define a person‘s name. he will suppose that ―two‖ is the name given to this group of nuts! —– He may suppose this.We can see Wittgenstein putting this method into practice in his discussion of ostensive definition in the early remarks of Philosophical Investigations. The definition of the number two. (PI 28) 101 . and thus ―that learning language consists in giving names to objects‖ (PI 26). as that of a colour. In teaching language to children we usually convey these names through pointing.e. ―That is called ‗two‘‖ – pointing to two nuts – is perfectly exact. We may then come to think that names are the fundamental components of any language. – But how can the number two be defined like that? The person one gives the definition to doesn‘t know what it is that one wants to call ―two‖. And he might equally well take a person‘s name. the name of a point of the compass. a number-word. but perhaps he does not. he might take it to be the name of a number. He might make the opposite mistake: when I want to assign a name to this group of nuts. ‗car‘. the name of a material. Upon reflection. When learning a foreign language the first words one tends to begin with are simple nouns such as ‗house‘. We may thereby come to believe that ostensive definition is the fundamental act on which the words of our language depend for their meaning. Yet reflection on the idea of ostension may lead us to worry that it is not sufficiently precise to securely fix the meanings of our terms: Now. the name of a colour. which I explain ostensively. or even of a point of the compass. That is to say. of a race. via ostension.

And we can prevent misunderstandings by saying ―This colour is called soand-so‖. That is to say. can be prevented by using either the phrase ‗this shape is round‘ or ‗this color is red‘. – The word ―number‖ in the definition does indeed indicate this place – the post at which we station the word. since it seems that any act of pointing can be misinterpreted. misunderstandings are sometimes averted in this way. then. we can make our meaning precise by indicating the category of thing being named. We may then come to think of this as how ostension truly works – the act of pointing accompanied by a name and a category-determination. ―two‖ can be ostensively defined only in this way: ―This number is called ‗two‘. ―This length is called so-and-so‖. in grammar. But does one have to take the words ―colour‖ and ―length‖ in just this way? – Well. Thus the potential confusion resulting from saying ‗round‘ while pointing to a balloon. and then saying ‗red‘ while pointing to the same object.‖ That is 102 . we assign to the word. Yet further reflection reveals that this added term may be just as ambiguous as the one it is being used to clarify: Perhaps someone will say.The possibility that this particular case of ostension might not succeed led us to question whether ostension is determinate at all. and so on. Suddenly ostension appears to be an extremely poor foundation for our language. and we may begin to think it miraculous that successful communication is even possible. by means of other words! And what about the last explanation in this chain? (Don‘t say: ―There isn‘t a ‗last‘ explanation.‖ For the word ―number‖ here shows what place in language. we‘ll just have to explain them. Explain. When pointing to an object and giving a name. But this means that the word ―number‖ must be explained before that ostensive definition can be understood. The clever philosopher will notice a way to eliminate the ambiguity of ostension.

And how he goes on to use the word I‘ve just taught him will show if he has 103 . And how he ‗takes‘ the explanation shows itself in how he uses the word explained. and on the person I give it to. but this too will likely leave us unsatisfied.‖) (PI 29) We thus appear to be forced into the head-spinning conclusion that our language may be entirely indeterminate since it rests on such feeble foundations. Right where we would expect Wittgenstein to solve this problem by proceeding with a thorough investigation of the foundational mechanisms that determine the meaning of our terms. Whether I need to clarify my attempt at ostension with a category-term of course depends on a number of mundane considerations such as the external circumstances surrounding the act and the other person‘s ability to understand me. what Wittgenstein says here is so obvious that one wouldn‘t usually think to even utter it. We may then valiantly try to save ostension by coupling it with some other process of determining meaning. a mental act like intention.just as if you were to say: ―There isn‘t a last house in this road. After all.g. we instead find the following reply: Whether the word ‗number‘ is necessary in an ostensive definition of ‗two‘ depends on whether without this word the other person takes the definition otherwise than I wish. e. one can always build an additional one. And that will depend on the circumstances under which it is given. (PI 29) The philosopher intensely caught up in this metaphysical problem might find such a response surprising.

This may be because Wittgenstein‘s readers 104 . e. then I will make further attempts to clarify my utterance. but rather tries to effect a change in attitude in the philosopher. Therapeutic readings like the one outlined above have encountered a certain amount of resistance. Wittgenstein thus does not attempt to solve this metaphysical problem by articulating a philosophy of language.g. if the therapy is successful. Wittgenstein‘s therapy will either work or it will not. but rather brought back to a healthy state of mind in which one does not even recognize the problem. That is. the philosopher will probably consider the problem to be so illconceived and uninteresting that it deserves no further attention. but if a number of further attempts are unsuccessful I may simply come to the conclusion that he isn‘t able to understand me. If he has misunderstood. The philosopher will thus not come to a stage of enlightenment after encountering some philosophical insight imparted on him by Wittgenstein. but it certainly won‘t make me question whether the words of my language have any determinate meaning whatsoever. This may lead me to have a low opinion of his intellect. no deductive argument. that compels the philosopher to abandon his interest in the metaphysical problem.understood correctly. then after being confronted with these mundane facts about how our language actually works. If the therapy is successful. and we will have to evaluate it according to its results. There is nothing in Wittgenstein‘s remarks.

as well as most of those that try to defend it against attack. (Baker 2004. To engage in these controversies is already to take Wittgenstein‘s philosophical investigations in the wrong spirit. There is literally nothing to attack – as being incorrect.. One certainly gets the impression of this possibility from certain passages in Gordon Baker‘s later work: …Wittgenstein was fully aware of the inclination among philosophers to dispute the correctness of ‗identifying‘ thinking with operating with signs.. 116) The fact that interpreting Wittgenstein as engaged in a therapeutic project can easily lead to shielding his work from all criticism (whether intentionally or not) makes such readings even more suspect when one considers that 105 . 169) . And nothing to defend – as being an accurate description of the grammar of our language..have been suspicious of his claims to not be advancing any controversial theses.most of the discussions that try to refute or rebut Wittgenstein‘s ‗theory‘. (ibid. 276) Peter Hacker finds such passages concerning. He made clear why he did not give way to these objections: having asserted nothing at all (even about how ‗think‘ is used). p. for they appear to prohibit any potential critical engagement with Wittgenstein‘s texts: If one reads Wittgenstein as Baker did in his last writings. are misconceived.his slogan [‗Belief is calculating with signs‘] (like his strategy) is logically immune to refutation. Such claims might be read as an attempt to place a set of philosophical commitments beyond dispute. p. (2007. p. he had nothing to surrender or withdraw…. the figure that emerges is indeed secure from criticism…His philosophical position is completely immune to counter argument.

2 106 . and Read and Hutchinson (2010) all attempt not just to explain and illuminate Wittgenstein‘s later method. That is. Such a stance is possible if we take Wittgenstein‘s metaphilosophical statements not to be true descriptions of how his project fares in all cases. Savickey (1999).2 This imbalance creates a conflict of interest by which therapeutic readers can make their descriptions of Wittgenstein‘s project. The observer will then have the latitude to criticize Wittgenstein in those instances when these ideals aren‘t met. At the same time. 56). It must be possible to take Wittgenstein seriously as engaging in therapy and still leave open the possibility for legitimate critique of his project. many readers who are critical of Wittgenstein tend to read him as advancing theses. Certainly some such instances should be able to be found. but also advocate a therapeutic conception of philosophy. they also subscribe to them. Fischer (2011). This dichotomy needs to be broken. Wittgenstein‘s description of his philosophical project as advancing no controversial theses and resulting in the complete disappearance of problems and cravings should not be read as describing what his efforts have in fact achieved. but rather as standards and goals that he hopes his best efforts will meet. And as Glock notes of one group of therapeutic readers of the Tractatus.most therapeutic readers are also advocates of Wittgenstein‘s project. ―the New Wittgensteinians not only ascribe [therapeutic] views to Wittgenstein. They endorse the austere conception of nonsense‖ (2007. exempt from critique. Peterman (1992). but instead as describing what he hopes they will be able to achieve. which often appear to include a number of controversial philosophical theses. p. for Wittgenstein once confessed to Rush Rhees that he was not meeting one of his philosophical ideals: ―In Indeed.

my book I say that I am able to leave off with a problem in philosophy when I want to. Wittgenstein sometimes suggests that this is simply due to the nature of the philosophical problems. (BT p. for indeed they do. the fact that his later writings are unsystematic in style does not mean that they are unsystematic in content. but its activity as complicated as the knots it unravels. 230). 311) Despite this remark.g. 3 4 See e.4 Such commentators assign themselves the job of locating the actual philosophical theses lurking beneath the roundabout language of the Philosophical Investigations: Wittgenstein‘s writings seem to me not only summarizable but in positive need of summary…it [is not] true that Wittgenstein‘s writings contain no systematically expressible theories.3 Other commentators have argued that Wittgenstein‘s claim to not be advancing theses is merely an attempt to avoid criticism. 69-70). which can be discerned. It is the difference between what Wittgenstein says and the way he says it which is relevant here. p. When reading Wittgenstein‘s writing one is often unsuccessful in trying to discern and follow a train of thought or an argument. pp. hence its result must be simple. 107 . I can‘t‖ (Hallett 1977. In both his ‗early‘ and ‗late‘ work Wittgenstein puts forward certain key theses. for the complicated confusions of philosophical obsession require complicated resolutions: Philosophy unravels the knots in our thinking. But that‘s a lie. (Glock 2007). with relations of logical dependence between them. many readers view the complicated structure of Wittgenstein‘s Investigations as a symptom of his failure to compose a philosophical treatise in the standard fashion. For example (Kripke 1982.

and thus misleading us about his project‘s real goals. pp. even if his aphoristic style and method of exposition was not linear. After studying Wittgenstein‘s works in this manner. or violating them unwillingly. If we take Wittgenstein as a systematic philosopher advancing theses in response to traditional philosophical questions. (Grayling 1988. since we are bound to find few or no arguments given in their support. 342) Such an approach to Wittgenstein‘s work is unsatisfactory. and therefore its crucial conceptions are left unclear and often unargued. p. are as transparently stated and as fully spelled out as they might be. and explained just as with any philosophical theory. But Wittgenstein claims that his goal is not to persuade others to adopt particular positions. since it is not officially meant to be there at all – it emerges in bits and pieces. The 108 . can give us a more plausible understanding of Wittgenstein‘s methods and intentions. even if neither. in contrast. and therefore being seriously deluded about the actual nature of his project. A therapeutic reading. 111). one commentator laments that ―Wittgenstein‘s later philosophy is not as it stands persuasive‖ (Grayling 1988. p.stated. p. we are likely to find some of his answers disappointing. for it requires that we characterize Wittgenstein as either systematically violating his metaphilosophical standards willingly. in their turn. v-vi) The theory has an identifiable structure and content. And a good deal of the difficulty with Wittgenstein‘s work is that this theory is not presented as such. 118) Wittgenstein was no less systematic than Kant. in an ad hoc way. (Grayling 1988. (Hacker 2001.

which also includes critiques of the therapeutic philosophies of Kant. 5 109 . in order to remind you of its use in our own language. Since this principle admonishes us to characterize the philosopher in question as For an example of how to take Wittgenstein‘s methodological statements seriously and still engage in legitimate and responsible critique of his therapeutic project. even when it appears that Wittgenstein is advancing theses: We are interested in language only insofar as it gives us trouble. then we must apply the interpretive principle of charity to the text in an unfamiliar manner. does not advance theses. and Austin. This therapy.purpose of Wittgenstein‘s project is to cure. (Wittgenstein 1979. Having just seen the results of applying familiar modes of philosophical critique to Wittgenstein‘s project.5 When we take Wittgenstein‘s descriptions of therapy seriously as criteria for the success of his philosophical project. nor would it make any difference if I could. p. he claims. Carnap. 97) Wittgenstein frequently states that he is not engaged in traditional theorydriven philosophy. Thus we may make use of the facts of natural history and describe the actual use of a word. Sometimes I have to lay down new rules because new rules are less liable to produce confusion or because we have perhaps not thought of looking at the language we have in this light. or I may make up a new game for the word which departs from its actual use. Sometimes I describe its use if you have forgotten it. I only describe the actual use of a word if this is necessary to remove some trouble we want to get rid of. I now suggest that we instead critique Wittgenstein by his own standards – that we evaluate the degree to which he succeeds in achieving his stated goals. The whole point is that I cannot tell you anything about the natural history of language. but rather in a form of therapy that attempts to rid us of certain philosophical inclinations. see (Maddy 2011). but aims to change the attitude of the patient.

for we would quite uncharitably characterize Wittgenstein as constantly failing in his attempt to abstain from advancing arguments.e. and 2) he is not characterized as being deluded. and must be.6 Peter Carruthers has argued that ―in interpreting Wittgenstein – as any great philosopher – the principle of charity is. i.having the strongest and most reasonable possible defense of his position. To take Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist is to apply the principle of charity in such a manner that 1) he is not characterized as being intentionally misleading. administering this policy with respect to a philosophical text usually involves reconstructing arguments that lack clarity and rectifying enthymematic reasoning. p.e. But this manner of applying the principle cannot be appropriate if we understand Wittgenstein‘s philosophical project as guided by therapeutic standards. 110 . Applying the principle of charity to a therapeutic reading of Wittgenstein‘s project does not. willfully using therapy as a smokescreen to protect his philosophical commitments from criticism. believing that his project is therapeutic when it is actually of a very different character. however. the fundamental principle of interpretation‖ and that following this principle leads to an ―obligation…to attempt to supply arguments that might explain why he says the things that he does‖ (Carruthers 1984. i. entail that his therapeutic endeavors must always be characterized as fully succeeding in achieving 6 Recall Morris‘ claim (quoted in the introduction) that to abandon this interpretive maxim is to forgo a philosophical history of philosophy. 477).

This is where the observer is able to find legitimate grounds to critique Wittgenstein‘s work. like different therapies. 9). 7 For example. 158 n. Wittgenstein suggests that his approach to philosophy can be thought of as something like psychotherapy: There is not a philosophical method. p. While Wittgenstein did write in the early 30s that ―we can only prove that someone made a mistake if he (really) acknowledges this expression as the correct expression of his feeling‖ (BT p. since Wittgenstein there claims not to offer any explanations or to request assent to any controversial statements.their desired goals or adhering to their ideal methodology. though the legitimate avenues of criticism sharply differ from that of traditional philosophical critique. 303). p. 21) and claiming ―Wittgenstein held that the same was true of philosophy‖ (Read and Hutchinson 2010. neither the psychoanalyst nor Wittgenstein intend to state opinions or assert theses in the process of their treatment. not by telling the patient what he thinks or should think: 7 Read and Hutchinson argue for a closer analogy between Wittgenstein‘s method and Freudian psychoanalysis than I do. There are several modes of evaluation open to the observer. This is not the critique of a positive philosophical system. though there are indeed methods. highlighting Wittgenstein‘s observance that ―a psychoanalysis is successful only if the patient agrees to the explanation offered by the analyst‖ (Moore 1955. I think that the above statement about Freud isn‘t exactly analogous to the procedure in Philosophical Investigations. aspects of his philosophical project can be illuminated through comparison with some of Freud‘s descriptions of the therapeutic process. The psychoanalyst treats the patient‘s neuroses by questioning the patient about how he feels and thinks. (PI 133) While Wittgenstein certainly didn‘t model his procedure on psychoanalysis. but rather the critique of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project as therapy. 111 .

(Freud 1920. And due to Wittgenstein‘s use of multiple voices in dialogue. and if I had. pp. (Wittgenstein 1979. for ―this sort of investigation is…very much against the grain of some of you‖ (Wittgenstein 1975. too. patients aren‘t always willing to be entirely forthcoming in the therapeutic process. Yet as Freud realized.Psycho-analysis follows the technique of getting the people under examination so far as possible themselves to produce the solution of their riddles. Thus Wittgenstein does not argue with the philosopher in his treatment. Some even come to resent the therapist and his methods: The work of interpreting dreams is carried out in the face of a resistance. p. 141-2) Wittgenstein. 103).).8 but instead provokes him. they are intended to serve as an instrument of therapy. his treatment involves probing the philosopher to reveal the nature of his own captivation with a philosophical problem. understands that philosophers will resist his technique. p. which opposes it and of which…critical objections are manifestations. indeed ―one could teach philosophy solely by asking questions‖ (ibid. Wittgenstein‘s treatment does not consist in suggesting an answer to the question that is puzzling the philosopher: On all questions we discuss I have no opinion. This issue is addressed later in the chapter. I would at once give it up for the sake of argument because it would be of no importance for our discussion. p. even when arguments are identified one cannot thereby automatically attribute them to Wittgenstein himself. 97) Rather. rather than a vehicle for convincing one to assent to a conclusion. 123) Likewise. and it disagreed with one of your opinions. 8 112 . While the presence of arguments can certainly be detected in the Investigations. (Freud 1920.

and Wittgenstein as the therapist. two perspectives open themselves for approaching Wittgenstein‘s work. The observer‘s task is to accurately describe Wittgenstein‘s project and methods. what therapeutic methods cause the patient to exhibit fewer symptoms. we can understand the target of Wittgenstein‘s philosophy as the patient. where Descartes‘ pedagogical procedures in the Meditations are described and evaluated.9 The perspectives of patient and observer are quite different.I contend that if we take Wittgenstein‘s philosophy to be therapeutic. these perspectives are quite different from our usual understanding of the philosophical commentator and critic. The patient is the intended reader of the Philosophical Investigations. The observer reports on what the therapist says and how the patient responds to these treatments. Her reports resemble what a therapist‘s superior might produce in an employment evaluation: she describes what the therapist takes to be illnesses. Her focus is on what techniques work. Applying the comparison between Wittgenstein‘s philosophy and Freud‘s therapy. his methods for diagnosing them. and his techniques for treating those illnesses. Another perspective is that of an outside observer of the dialogue between Wittgenstein and the patient. One adopts the perspective of the patient by directly engaging with the text of Philosophical Investigations.e. She also evaluates the effectiveness of his therapeutic method and provides suggestions for improvement. Due to the unusual nature of Wittgenstein‘s project. Wittgenstein‘s most developed attempt to make 9 An interesting related investigation is found in (Cunning 2010). 113 . i.

whose customary job is to explicate or reconstruct a philosopher‘s arguments.his work accessible to the public. This approach is developed extensively in (Baker and Hacker 2005) and subsequent volumes of the series. Neither of these perspectives resemble the stance of a traditional philosophical commentator. If Wittgenstein is truly a therapist. the patient is not particularly concerned to reconstruct Wittgenstein‘s thought or characterize its development. participate in a direct discussion with Wittgenstein by working carefully through his text. then one can only become acquainted with Wittgenstein‘s philosophy either by experiencing the therapy first-hand as a patient or by describing it as a neutral observer. then such an approach is not applicable to his work. as it were. If no theses are available for explication. ‗Contextual‘ readers often utilize outside sources in the interpretation of Wittgenstein‘s texts. for example. However. since he claims to ―not advance any kind of theory‖ (PI 109). they might trace the development of a particular passage through its earlier versions. but to.10 Defenders of a ‗text-immanent‘ method have argued that we should limit our sources only to the text itself. Unlike a historian of philosophy. one adopts the standpoint of the observer when one wishes to describe and evaluate Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project. 10 114 . or consult notes from Wittgenstein‘s lectures to better determine his intentions. This distinction between the patient and the observer may help to resolve a current debate in the Wittgenstein literature over what methods should be used in the interpretation of the Investigations.

(Glock 2007).12 Part of the observer‘s task is to describe Wittgenstein‘s techniques for dissolving various philosophical problems and explain how they work (or at least. One open project for the observer is to describe the apparent use of multiple voices in the Investigations and to explain how they are to contribute to Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project. since Wittgenstein‘s intentions. and not to learn new truths about Wittgenstein‘s project. While reading the text one often gets the sense that a change in voice has taken place. because he needs to have the therapy administered to him. but it is generally difficult to determine what characters these voices are to be associated with.13 This descriptive project is certainly not straightforward. goals. depending on one‘s reason for approaching the Investigations. not to give instruction on therapeutic method). the immanent approach is certainly the most appropriate. But the contextual approach is right for the observer. (Glock 1990).and thus that Wittgenstein‘s extra-textual intentions and the contexts of his writing are irrelevant to the interpretation of the Investigations. see (von Savigny 1990). For the patient. and variety of methods are the target of her investigation. for Wittgenstein only rarely announces what methods are being applied (for indeed he is usually attempting to administer therapy. Further discussion of the relative merits of contextual and text-immanent readings. how they are intended to work).11 Our distinction shows that both methods can be appropriate. 13 Recent works that have taken on this descriptive project include (Savickey 1999) and (Kuusela 2008). and (Pichler 2007). and particularly The most fully-developed example of this approach is (von Savigny 1994-1996). 11 12 115 .

23-4) On this reading the two voices are those of the patient and Wittgenstein themselves. Some readers suggest that two voices appear in the Investigations. this reading characterizes therapy as consisting of a direct dialogue between Wittgenstein and the patient. suggesting that the Investigations has three voices14.…while the therapeutic voice works against these inclinations by examining concrete examples as a means to achieving a new way of looking at things. thus. if any. p. At the very least. pp. David Stern has challenged the two-voice reading. 14 116 . (2004. and to identify Wittgenstein with the voice expressing dismissal of such theses: The interlocutor‘s voice…expresses our desire for explanation and succumbs to the traps that our language presents. Pichler (1997) argues for a ‗polyphonic‘ reading of the Investigations that identifies a large number of unique voices. a careful reader must be aware that These two approaches do not exhaust all the possibilities of locating voices in the Investigations. and that Wittgenstein‘s actual voice is rarely heard: Two different voices…are usually lumped together as ‗Wittgenstein‘s‘. (McGinn 1997.difficult to determine which voice. In one such reading the patient is thought to identify herself with the voice expressing philosophical theses. and so fail to take account of the overall character of the book. 5) Readers are too ready to identify the author‘s viewpoint with whatever conclusions the reader attributes to Wittgenstein‘s narrator. On the one hand we have the voice of Wittgenstein‘s narrator – who does argue for positive philosophical theses – and on the other hand we have Wittgenstein‘s commentator…who dismisses philosophical problems and compares his way of doing philosophy to therapy. is Wittgenstein‘s own.

which is not always clearly distinct from the narratorial voice. refuting. pp. a commentary consisting partly of objections to assumptions the debaters take for granted. with the result that they are unable to reconcile the trenchant and provocative theses advocated by the narrator and the commentator‘s rejection of all philosophical theses. but instead that the patient‘s experience of witnessing the various voices interacting is intended to somehow be therapeutic. and partly of platitudes about language and everyday life they have both overlooked. Stern‘s three-voice interpretation provides one way of resolving such a tension: This third voice. yet some of the voices of the Investigations certainly appear to be engaged in proposing. So the observer needs to account for the interesting fact that Wittgenstein intends to relieve the patient of his desire to philosophize by engaging him in something that looks very much like a philosophical discussion. 22-3) Perhaps Wittgenstein engages the reader in philosophical argument only to later bring her to see that this very discussion is in certain ways problematic. provides an ironic commentary on their exchanges. (Stern 2004. (ibid. This tension can be relieved by recalling that Wittgenstein claims to have no opinion on the judgments that he puts forth. Thus an open and interesting question for the observer is to explain how Wittgenstein utilizes voices in his therapeutic project. 117 . 186) Stern brings up an important problem that must be addressed: Wittgenstein claims to not be asserting philosophical theses.15 15 Another unexplored possibility might be that the patient isn‘t to identify with any of the voices in the text.. and adopting theses. not the therapist. The point is for the patient to take the claims as serious judgments.the author‘s use of certain arguments does not amount to an endorsement of them. Most readers treat both of these voices as expressions of ‗Wittgenstein‘s‘ view. p.

and found looking at tedious details to be philosophically irrelevant and unsatisfying. 51) This much we should expect. After suffering through Wittgenstein‘s confusing technique. One didn‘t see. interested in solving traditional philosophical problems. But eventually a transformation took place: At first one didn‘t see where all the talk was leading to. sometimes.e. One of Wittgenstein‘s former students recalled the following therapeutic experience: The considerable difficulty in following the lectures arose from the fact that it was hard to see where all this often rather repetitive concrete detailed talk was leading to – how the examples were interconnected and how all this bore on the problem which one was accustomed to put oneself in abstract terms. one did. was confused about where Wittgenstein‘s investigations were going. (Gasking and Jackson 1951. i. the solution to one‘s problem became clear and everything fell into place…The solution. The student. sometimes. or saw only very vaguely.. But if one tried to explain it to someone else who had not seen it one couldn‘t get it across without going through the whole long. suddenly. such an inevitable and simple key to unlock so many doors so long battered against in vain. long story. And then. p. seemed so simple and obvious. All at once. the point of the numerous examples.. are patients really cured from philosophical impulses after undergoing Wittgenstein‘s treatment? There is certainly evidence that his therapy has at times been successful. p. the student experienced an abrupt change in attitude 118 .One important question the observer must answer is: Does Wittgenstein‘s therapy work. 52) This experience appears to meet some of the standards that Wittgenstein sets for his therapeutic project. One wondered how one could possibly fail to see it. once seen. (ibid.

but that his therapy is less effective when performed in print. while in print he can‘t 119 . the student could have simply told his friends the answer.(notice that Wittgenstein did not convince the student to change his attitude – the student simply experienced the change). But he instead found himself needing to recount the entire experience. This might be seen as a natural result of the personspecific character of Wittgenstein‘s methods: in conversation Wittgenstein can address the specific concerns of his interlocutor. obvious. deep philosophical problem now seemed simple. abstract. What had once appeared to him as a complex. but the last half-century of the history of philosophy has shown that such experiences are uncommon. Perhaps this is evidence that Wittgenstein was sometimes a successful therapist in person. and superficial. To many Wittgenstein‘s text has seemed to only insist that one should not be concerned with particular philosophical problems. The student‘s resolution did not result from having received a philosophical answer to his question. This is a nice example of how Wittgenstein‘s therapy can work. rather than successfully effect such a change in attitude in the reader. for he was incapable of explaining his change in attitude to other philosophers. Relatively few philosophers have undergone the transformations that Wittgenstein sought to effect in his patients while reading the Investigations. If the result of the therapy had been a philosophical thesis.

the meaning of language is determined by social speech habits…and not by the things which 16 Savickey argues that in Wittgenstein‘s methodology. (Kazepides 1989. 392) As Wittgenstein taught us. So patients successfully coming out of therapy should hold fewer significant philosophical commitments than before the therapy began. but it should also leave our everyday practices as they are.. p. indeed all meaning activity. 119). 16 Wittgenstein states that his therapy involves no theses. p. ―emphasis is placed on the speaking of language as part of an activity or form of life‖ (1999.take the each patient‘s specific cravings into account and thus must deal with problems that not all readers suffer from. and thus that his therapeutic procedure is not well-suited for the medium of a printed book: ―Part of Wittgenstein‘s methodological difficulty. presupposes a social context in which common practices. A simple internet search reveals a trend among some thinkers who have engaged with Wittgenstein‘s writings: Wittgenstein taught us that all linguistic behavior. for example. and part of his struggle in writing a philosophical book. involves whether or not it is possible to do what he is attempting to do in words and in writing. p. (Arrington 1985. established intuitions. 120 . p. Is it possible. and consensual standards exist. to return language to its everyday context in a philosophy book? … Is it possible to de-textualize our understanding of language-use in a text? These questions and difficulties may help explain why Wittgenstein‘s later methods allow him to teach well but not to write a book‖ (ibid. and they certainly should not hold new philosophical commitments as a result. We can then evaluate whether Wittgenstein‘s therapy meets its own standards by observing whether his treatment results in patients asserting new philosophical theses. and that the result of his therapy should be the abandonment of certain philosophical attitudes. 489) As Wittgenstein taught us…being rational or reasonable is not merely a matter of thinking in a certain manner but also a matter of thinking certain things. 123).

then by Wittgenstein‘s own lights his treatment has not succeeded. the meaning of a word is compounded out of its uses. and later explicitly 17 121 . and he unwittingly transmits these theses to the patient. The principle of charity dictates that we not attribute to Wittgenstein the intention to pass on these theses to his patients. p. rationality. (High 1981. But they might surface in more subtle ways during the therapeutic process. is suggested by Stroud: ―Wittgenstein from the very beginning of his work in the Tractatus was suspicious of. p. despite his desire to avoid them. The observer is then tasked with explaining how such theses manage to find their way into Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic procedure. reference.17 Another possibility may be that the The possibility that Wittgenstein may have unwittingly been committed to some philosophical theses. (Munz 1990. despite the therapist‘s intention not to use them to advance any theses.language can at best be made to refer to obliquely. and belief as a result of their interaction with Wittgenstein‘s work. Perhaps some of the arguments presented during therapy manage to be convincing to the patient. Or maybe Wittgenstein doesn‘t realize that some of his beliefs really are controversial philosophical theses. 262) Wittgenstein has taught us that meaning and use are not separate things. (Kavka 1974. for these thinkers all appear to hold new substantive philosophical theses about language meaning. 137) Wittgenstein has taught us that religious belief is indigenous to the religious community and can only be understood and seen as meaningful from inside that distinctive or isolated languagegame and/or form or life. p. 1472) If these thinkers have truly undergone Wittgensteinian therapy.

entire therapeutic project. and in reply try to describe its use. what they say about it. p. like those mentioned above.18 This remains an open question for the observer.. and how exactly it should be characterized (or indeed if such a distinction should be made at all) is a matter of philosophical controversy. 79). we do so only insofar as it seems helpful in getting rid of certain philosophical troubles. p. a means of giving a meaning which is just as good as definition. One could cite quotations. That alone does not mean that he managed to avoid them completely. That sounds as if I had invented a method. 96-7) Such thinkers might very well be misunderstanding Wittgenstein‘s intention in associating meaning and use. When we ask on what occasions people use a word. is itself underwritten by a number of controversial philosophical commitments. But this distinction is a philosophical one that is rarely drawn in everyday contexts. p. Kuusela argues that ―the roots of Wittgenstein‘s conception of philosophy might be said to lie in his emphasis on the difference between true or false factual statements and expressions of exceptionless necessity‖ (2008. This reading thus identifies a controversial philosophical commitment as the foundation of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project. 294). what they are right to substitute for it. implying that those who assert ―meaning is use‖ have misunderstood Wittgenstein‘s intention: The question has been raised how far my method is the same as what is called description of meaning by exemplification. pp. 122 . But patients who come away from therapy set against. 3) and that ―Wittgenstein characterizes the failure to distinguish between these two kinds of sentences as the central confusion and unclarity of philosophy‖ (ibid. while not intended to advance any theses in its application. the whole idea of a philosophical theory of a philosophical proposition. of course‖ (1982. One natural response to cases of patients leaving therapy with new philosophical commitments. might be to argue that these thinkers did not undergo Wittgenstein‘s therapy correctly. The point of examining the way a word is used is not at all to provide another method of giving its meaning. such as the following from Wittgenstein‘s lectures. (Wittgenstein 1979. 18 In a recent interpretation and defense of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project.

the patient can‘t and shouldn‘t be expected to know this or any other piece of information on how Wittgenstein intends for his method to function. Certainly Freud and his descendants of psychoanalysts have received plenty of legitimate Similarly. While Wittgenstein‘s above methodological justification for attending to word use is available to the observer. 19 123 . only observers could be successful patients. While Wittgenstein claims not to hold substantive theses. Hintikka (1996) argues that Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project is based on a controversial assumption that language cannot represent itself. it is clear that his method is based on a certain conception of what counts as a philosophical illness. the observer may legitimately criticize Wittgenstein for his views about therapy and his decision to be a therapist in the first place. For this reason Glock accuses Wittgenstein of succumbing to ―the myth of mere method…the illusion that one can fashion philosophical methods in a presuppositionless manner‖ (2007. Finally. But this conception is not up for critical evaluation. likewise. p. Such a criticism would confuse the independent perspectives of the patient and the observer. 59). it is assumed and not argued for. A psychotherapist does not preface the administration of her therapy with a lesson on psychological theory. knowledge about how Wittgenstein‘s procedure is supposed to function cannot be required for a successful application of the therapy.with this misunderstanding can‘t be faulted for coming to this belief. Otherwise.19 One might also legitimately employ a moral critique of Wittgenstein‘s choosing to adopt the role of a therapist in the first place.

or determine that any patient who displays ‗resistance‘ is in denial. To the extent that Wittgenstein‘s project has these characteristics. refuse to honestly give his opinion if the patient requests it. One final task of the observer we have not discussed is to suggest improvements on Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic methods. but rather to describe the methods of his therapy and evaluate their effectiveness. and the above concerns are legitimate. then our job as critics should not be to describe and evaluate a body of philosophical theses. We have identified a number of new and interesting modes of critique available to the observer of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic project. thus preventing the patient from being able to critically evaluate the therapeutic process. these philosophers might best serve his legacy by doing his work – and better. A therapist can diagnose the patient‘s illness and engage in therapy without keeping the patient informed about what he is doing. one might likewise criticize Wittgensteinian therapy. This might be a particularly fruitful task for those readers who identify themselves as ‗Wittgensteinians‘ and wish to carry on his legacy. some not – that can be learned from and improved upon. 124 . Rather than constructing defenses of Wittgenstein‘s work as actually practiced. If we take Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist. for one can then view Wittgenstein‘s work as a resource of attempted therapies – some successful.criticism over the years.

when Wittgenstein expressed renewed satisfaction with his work and optimism about its future development. 192. The composition of Part 2. though they still belong to the two years between the springs of 1949 and 1951. Anscombe 125 . and 299. a time when Wittgenstein repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the results of his attempts at philosophical writing. was dated to 1950. making up Part 3.Chapter 5 Theory and Therapy in On Certainty From our investigation in Chapter 1 of the fluctuations in both Wittgenstein‘s capacity for philosophical work in his final years and his evaluation of those attempts. According to the editors‘ preface to On Certainty. each associated with distinct phases of Wittgenstein‘s self-assessment. ―the material falls into four parts‖. Wittgenstein‘s writings from the fall of 1949 precede his cancer diagnosis and the subsequent decline in his work. during or shortly after Wittgenstein‘s visit to Norman Malcolm in Cornell. The first part. as well as the effort in Chapter 2 to date his writings with respect to these fluctuations. were all written in the spring of 1951. we were able to conclude that On Certainty divides itself into three parts. with divisions after remarks 65. comprised of remarks 1-65. deemed in hindsight to have been less successful than his final weeks. Remarks 300-676. comprised of remarks 66-299. was dated to the fall of 1949.

The structure of the book and its relation to Wittgenstein‘s phases of working is not merely a philosophical or biographical curiosity.1 Yet their divisions are not consistently determined by the distinct source manuscripts. Thus I believe that my consistent division of parts according to their association with distinct phases of composition has better support. because it lacks the cohesion. and only partially or unsatisfactorily exhibited in the Part 1 of the book. since they count material from MS 175 as comprising two different parts. I argued in Chapter 2 that it is also conceivable that Wittgenstein drafted remarks in these notebooks concurrently. and author‘s intention normally associated with this notion. I believe that a successful interpretation of On Certainty should point out what characteristics are lacking in Part 2. but a datum that calls for explanation by interpreters of Wittgenstein‘s writings. while the final part is comprised of four distinct blocks of continuous text drawn from three separate manuscripts. in this chapter I treat the book as a 1 While the editors‘ placement of the entirety of the MS 175 remarks in On Certainty after those from MS 174 gives one the impression that the latter remarks were composed after the former. as shown in Chapter 3. 126 . Consequently. exhibited in Part 3. That is. and thus that the temporal sequence of composition may be more complicated than initially thought. This cannot be accomplished if we read On Certainty as a work. MSS 174 and 175.and von Wright thus consider two parts to be included in what I have called ‗Part 2‘. consistent development. and then explain why Wittgenstein himself would be satisfied or disappointed with the respective exhibition or lack of these qualities in his work. This is because these remarks come from two separate notebook sources.

The considerations of all the preceding chapters bear upon the reading of On Certainty given here.collection of thematically related texts spanning a series of composition phases. and that Part 1 displays these qualities only to a limited extent. for Wittgenstein did not always succeed in fulfilling his methodological ideals. This contrast is seen particularly when comparing Wittgenstein‘s reactions to Moore‘s assertions of having basic items of knowledge such as ‗here is a hand‘ or ‗I know that that‘s a tree. Indeed. that Part 2 often fails to achieve these characteristics by providing what appears to be a theoretical response to the philosophical problems in question. Yet even when we attribute therapeutic goals to Wittgenstein. thereby providing a reading of On Certainty that accounts for the variety of its component parts. it is important to distinguish between his methodological ideals and his actual practice. In chapter 4 I argued that the metaphilosophical goals of the second Wittgenstein should be understood as therapeutic and anti-theoretical in character.‘ Although in Part 1 Wittgenstein announces his intentions to give a therapeutic response to Moore. My thesis is that many of the remarks in Part 3 of the book exhibit qualities that Wittgenstein desires in a therapeutic philosophy. he tends to argue in Part 2 that Moore‘s statements are 127 . this is the key to taking Wittgenstein seriously as a therapist while still leaving room to critically evaluate his project on its own terms.

according to the theory presented there. attempting to lead Moore to a frame of mind in which he does not feel compelled to make these philosophical assertions by exploring a number of ways in which his statements could be given an understandable non-philosophical use. a therapeutic response to a problem that succeeded in allowing one to relinquish prior obsessions without taking on new theoretical commitments was an achievement that was sought but not always fulfilled in actual practice.inappropriate because they are among a special class of propositions that. trying to determine what characteristics the later material has that the earlier material lacks. Many of the well-known declarations of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic intentions were first formulated in the early thirties. during the so-called ‗middle period‘ when he returned to Cambridge to begin philosophical work once again. For no matter what characteristics interpreters believe that Wittgenstein hoped his most polished writings would achieve (and there is a wide range of opinions on this subject). 128 . But I want to leave open the possibility of other readers using the structure of On Certainty to develop alternative interpretations of the book. and explaining why they believe Wittgenstein would think that the later work was of higher quality. In these latter remarks Wittgenstein also begins to call his own prior theoretical claims from Part 2 into question. I believe that their readings of On Certainty would benefit from comparing the remarks written in 1950 with those from 1951. wondering if – like Moore‘s statements – the too in fact lack the determinate senses provided by everyday contexts.2 For Wittgenstein. in Part 3 Wittgenstein personally engages with Moore. A number of these methodological statements persisted through the thirties and found their way into the text of Philosophical Investigations. even though some of the theories or proto2 This reading relies on my characterization of Wittgenstein as pursuing therapeutic methodological ideals. lack sense. However.

additional voices would be added to the text – often therapeutic voices attempting to undermine or deflate Wittgenstein‘s own earlier dogmatic statements. 129 .3 Philosophical Investigations thus did not become a therapeutic text because Wittgenstein planned from the very beginning for it to have the dialogical structure that it does. This description of the development of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic writings and his personal struggles with theory-avoidance may help to explain why he was disappointed with the remarks in Part 2 of On Certainty.theories adopted during this middle period were themselves submitted to therapeutic treatment in that text. see (Stern 1995) on Wittgenstein‘s adoption of an analogy between language and a system of rules. Since this voice finally makes an extended 3 E. therapeutic readings that portray the Tractatus as a book whose theories Wittgenstein had always intended to become destabilized by the end of the text do not in fact treat the book as having a structure comparable to Philosophical Investigations. Achieving a therapeutic resolution to a philosophical problem was often the result of working through theoretical considerations. he often found himself caught up in metaphysical theorizing. and his subsequent attempts to undermine this idea.g. prompted either by himself or by other philosophers who were to be subjected to treatment. During multiple stages of revision.4 Wittgenstein thus often became his own therapeutic patient. for despite his oft-stated goal of bringing words back to their everyday use. The muddled and sluggish cognition of which he complained after undergoing hormone treatments for his cancer may have contributed to his inability to move beyond his theoretical considerations in 1950 and find that therapeutic voice he constantly sought. 4 For this reason.

so we should not expect Wittgenstein‘s philosophical explorations to have either the thematic consistency or structured organization of a revised text. But according to my reading. The text of On Certainty begins with a direct challenge to one of G.E. as well as a new approach to Moore‘s knowledge-claims that is oriented around the speaker of those utterances rather than an abstract characterization of the peculiar class of propositions that they represent.e. It is certainly not the case that nothing of a therapeutic character can be found in Part 2 and that Part 3 is devoid of all theorizing. for Part 2 was not intentionally written to serve as a setup for Part 3. the remarks in Part 2 taken together lend themselves to a theoretical reading. Moore‘s most famous claims: If you do know that here is one hand. It is equally important not to treat the individual parts of On Certainty as if they were self-standing theoretical or therapeutic works.appearance in the final part of On Certainty. All of the remarks in the book constitute first-draft material. the interpretation presented here might be called a ‗therapeutic‘ reading of the book. But it is important to note that this is not a reading of On Certainty as an intentionally therapeutic ‗work‘. we‘ll grant you all the rest. while Part 3 is characterized by the emergence of questions that bring the stability of these theories into question. i. as having a structure that was planned an implemented. (OC 1) 130 .

had just recently published a unique criticism of not only the premise of Moore‘s proof also a number of other common sense propositions that he had claimed to know with certainty. constituted a refutation of external world skepticism. This.g. and was thus a misuse of language. concerning the existence of a particular external object. Most philosophers concerned with the problem of skepticism found Moore‘s solution to be entirely unsatisfactory. Wittgenstein‘s extensive consideration of this and similar claims was prompted by discussions with Norman Malcolm in the fall of 1949. 202). 7 (Moore 1925) 131 . p. charging him with begging the question by simply reasserting a premise already challenged by the skeptic and providing no additional proof of its truth. a former student of Moore‘s.5 By giving a statement. e.6 Malcolm. he thereby claimed to have established the existence of external objects and thus that of the external world. he contended. which Moore‘s utterances failed to satisfy.‘ 7 In this essay Malcolm charged that Moore‘s use of the expression ‗I know‘ in making these assertions was ―contrary to ordinary and correct use‖ (Malcolm 1949. 203): 5 6 (Moore 1939) It was not. See (van Gennip 2008) for a discussion of several philosophical encounters between Moore and Wittgenstein. ‗the earth had existed for many years before my body was born. p.This was the crucial premise of Moore‘s attempt to prove the existence of the external world. were identified by Malcolm (ibid. however. Three necessary conditions for the correct use of the expression ‗I know‘. that he claimed to know with certainty. the first time that Wittgenstein thought seriously about Moore‘s writings or attempted to form a response to them.

Therefore. who returned a critical response in a letter that arrived around the same time that Wittgenstein made his visit to Cornell. 265). Moore argued. p. I was using it in the sense in which it is ordinarily used – was using it to make the assertion which it is ordinarily used to make. Moore protested against Malcolm‘s charges: You wanted…to say that my use of that expression was a ―misuse‖ & ―incorrect‖ … But that I used it under circumstances under which it would not ordinarily be used is no reason at all for saying I misused it or used it incorrectly. is characterized by the necessary and sufficient conditions under which it is true (ibid. 3) The question at issue could be settled by carrying out some investigation. for it attempts to alter Moore‘s behavior by getting him to assent to the controversial thesis that sensible uses of language are determined by adherence to a number of precise rules. 266) The assertion made by a sentence. which Moore here identifies with its sense. Malcolm sent a copy of his article to Moore. (Rothhaupt. Malcolm‘s response can be characterized as a theoretical one. and participated in several discussions with Malcolm on their contents. Wittgenstein read the article and Moore‘s response. a consideration of the conditions in which a statement is uttered should be entirely distinct from a consideration of its sense. Under this understanding of senses as 132 . and McManus 2003. though this was so. if. Seery. p. and it also requires these rules to be systematically catalogued.1) There is a question at issue and a doubt to be removed. 2) The person asserting a knowledge claim is able to give supporting reasons.

and this is associated with Wittgenstein‘s retrospective moderate dissatisfaction with the content of Part 1. In these early remarks we see both theoretical and therapeutic elements at work. (OC 33) This objective of getting philosophers to abandon those propositions that entrance us and thereby prevent progress in our endeavors should certainly 133 . 266). not when it is doing work‖ (PI 132): The propositions which one comes back to again and again as if bewitched--these I should like to expunge from philosophical language.. as it were. (OC 31) Thus we expunge the sentences that don't get us any further. the meaning of a proposition is independent of the uses to which it may ordinarily. though not under ordinary circumstances‖ (ibid. the few constructive attempts he makes end up sharing some of the characteristics of Malcolm‘s theoretical response. or incorrectly be put.determined by truth-conditions. Moore was thus relying on an understanding of language that distinguishes meaning (or sense) from use. correctly. In these early remarks Wittgenstein states a goal that is consistent with his desire in Philosophical Investigations to eliminate ―confusions which occupy us arise when language is. By claiming of his utterance that he ―was using it in the ordinary sense. Wittgenstein wrote Part 1 of On Certainty with these discussions about Moore in mind. idling. While he declares his intentions here to provide a therapeutic treatment of the problems raised by Moore‘s statements.

be understood as a therapeutic one. while others become important. (OC 63)8 This non-theoretical technique of leading a philosopher to new perspectives and ways of using language is described but not put into practice in Part 1. but rather to expunge them. And they should be removed from philosophical language not because they display our ignorance of the structure of language games. the procedure laid out in Part II of Philosophical Investigations for making alternative conceptions intelligible: ―…if anyone believes that certain concepts are absolutely the correct ones. he is interested in certain propositions to the extent that they tend to bewitch philosophers. and that having different ones would mean not realizing something that we realize – then let him imagine certain very general facts of nature to be different from what we are used to. and the formation of concepts different from the usual ones will become intelligible to him‖ (PI Part II. for it is aimed at ―clearing up the ground of language‖ (PI 118) that houses many philosophical stumbling blocks. Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic statement of purpose to expunge 8 Cf. And in this way there is an alteration – a gradual one – in the use of the vocabulary of a language. certain language-games lose some of their importance. Wittgenstein does not claim to be interested in a class of propositions with a peculiar logical status. Notice that Wittgenstein‘s own characterizations of his goals don‘t conform to the standard accounts of On Certainty. 366). A therapeutic procedure for bringing about this change in philosophical language is also sketched in Part 1: If we imagine the facts otherwise than as they are. but simply because they aren‘t useful and don‘t get us any further in our investigations. 134 . He wishes not to characterize these propositions. Likewise.

but there is a further doubt behind that one. Nor will the idealist. is not doubting the existence of any particular object. But this idea is not fully developed until the later remarks. In these early remarks Wittgenstein briefly attempts to clarify the nature of external-world skepticism. for when Moore tries to refute this skepticism by holding up his hands. rather he will say that he was not dealing with the practical doubt which is being dismissed. If I claim to know that my hands or other ordinary objects exist. it appears that he does not fully appreciate just how radical his opponent‘s position really is.bewitching propositions is merely programmatic. (OC 19) 135 . such as one‘s hands: "Doubting the existence of the external world" does not mean for example doubting the existence of a planet. then a reasonable man will not doubt that I know. The beginning of a challenge to Moore‘s conception of an expression‘s sense as independent of the variety of ways that it might be employed is also articulated: ―…a meaning of a word is a kind of employment of it‖ (OC 61). This goal is not achieved in the brief set of remarks constituting Part 1 nor in Part 2. but only realized later in the remarks of Part 3. The skeptic (or ‗the idealist‘ as Wittgenstein calls him in Part I). where Wittgenstein highlights the influence of context and use on the meaning of an expression in particular circumstances. (OC 20) The skeptic‘s doubt is placed on a different level than ordinary doubt about the existence of certain objects. which later observations proved to exist. in wanting a proof of the external world.

a number of Wittgenstein‘s early remarks in On Certainty invite a theoretical reading and indeed appear to be comparable to the theoretical treatment of Moore‘s remarks in Malcolm‘s article. 136 . ―I am perfectly well aware that. – This possibility of satisfying 9 It is debatable whether Moore was actually ignorant of the radical nature of the skeptic‘s demands. he does not want particular knowledge claims to be demonstrated but demands a proof of how any knowledge at all is possible. Moore is even aware that ―what they really want is…something like a general statement as to how any propositions of this sort may be proved‖ (ibid.. For Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein attempts to explicitly articulate some of the necessary conditions for the proper use of this phrase: If e. many philosophers will still feel that I have not given any satisfactory proof of the point in question‖ (1939.9 Notwithstanding the expression of programmatic statements of therapeutic intentions in Part 1. for ―we just do not see how very specialized the use of ‗I know‘ is‖ (OC 11). too. he does. in spite of all that I have said.g. but wants to be shown how anything can exist. – For otherwise the expression ―I know‖ gets misused. (OC 6) This illegitimate employment of ‗I know‘ results from a misunderstanding of the rules regulating that expression. Like Malcolm. 149). p. I believe not. p. is inclined here to accuse Moore of using language incorrectly: Now. 148). someone says ―I don‘t know if there‘s a hand here‖ he might be told ―Look closer‖. can one enumerate what one knows (like Moore)? Straight off like that. after all conclude his proof by admitting.Wittgenstein wants to bring out into the open the demands of the skeptic – he does not want to know that a particular thing exists.

For even though he announces his intentions to develop a therapeutic response to Moore‘s unusual attempts at knowledge claims.. then. In a few passages from Part 2. as nevertheless a period when the ‗curtain in his brain‘ had not gone up. We can thus see from these initial remarks in On Certainty why Wittgenstein referred to the fall of 1949.. (OC 10) Finally.oneself is part of the language–game. that there is a sick man lying here? Neither the question nor the assertion makes sense . specific instances of hinge propositions are given and declared to have a special status: ―… ‗There are physical objects‘ is nonsense‖ (OC 35). which actually preceded the beginning of the hormone therapies associated with his regular reports of clouded cognition. and hence even where the expression of doubt would unintelligible. – So I don‘t know..‖ are always in place where there is no doubt. one thinks that the words ―I know that. I am looking attentively into his face. according to which both parties fail to make sense by claiming to either know or doubt so-called ‗hinge propositions‘. to which these propositional attitudes don‘t apply: I know that a sick man is lying here? Nonsense! I am sitting at his bedside.. Wittgenstein appears to continue Malcolm‘s project of identifying rules governing the correct use of the 137 . (OC 3) In these early remarks he also provides hints of the theoretical response to both Moore and the skeptic that is regularly associated with his work in Part 2. the product of these initial efforts is mostly theoretical and in fact reminiscent of Malcolm‘s own published critique of Moore. Is one of its essential features.

then.. The propositions. but rather on abstract philosophical problems surrounding the meaning of certain propositions. Like Malcolm. but cannot make meaningfully [sinnvoll]. this group of remarks has received particular emphasis by his interpreters to draw conclusions about the theoretical nature of his endeavors in On Certainty.. my aim must be to give the statements that one would like to make here. he accuses Moore of misusing language by violating these rules: The wrong use made by Moore of the proposition ―I know. does not interest us. (OC 137) The focus of Part 2.. (OC 178) But Wittgenstein makes it clear that he is not particularly concerned with Moore himself in these remarks. however. which Moore retails as examples of such known truths are indeed interesting. tends not to be on confusions specific to particular philosophers. but rather with the special status of the propositions that he tends to utter: Moore‘s assurance that he knows. (OC 76) 138 .‖ lies in his regarding it as an utterance as little subject to doubt as ―I am in pain‖..expression ‗I know‘: ―One says ‗I know‘ when one is ready to give compelling grounds‖ (OC 243). For these reasons many of Wittgenstein‘s remarks in this part lend themselves to be read as forming the basis of a theoretical response to both Moore and his skeptical opponent. Methodological remarks in this part lend credence to such a reading: Naturally. As we will see.

he is really enumerating a lot of empirical propositions which we affirm without special testing. Wittgenstein gives several metaphorical descriptions of these sorts of propositions: as the solid river-banks supporting our rivers of investigation (OC 99). He does this by delimiting a certain class of propositions and determining their semantic status. are in fact all members of a special class: When Moore says he knows such and such. to now wanting to show that Moore‘s knowledge claims are in fact nonsense. OC 110. as the propositions that 10 Cf. The various propositions that Moore asserts. but justification comes to an end‖ (OC 192). (OC 93) The propositions forming this class are thus distinguished by their justificatory roles and their status of nearly universal acceptance. As Wittgenstein reminds us. propositions.10 Moore‘s assertions are actually claims to know those propositions that we give at the end of such a series. and for which we can produce no further grounds.Here we see an apparent shift from Wittgenstein‘s stated intentions in Part 1. merely to eliminate troublesome expressions from philosophical language. that is. we are told. (OC 136) The propositions presenting what Moore ‗knows‘ are all of such a kind that it is difficult to imagine why anyone should believe the contrary. which have a peculiar logical role in the system of our empirical propositions. any series of justifying the grounds for our assertions by giving further grounds must come to an end at some point: ―to be sure there is justification. 139 .

This is not due to our disinterest in making such inquiries. that we can rely upon induction. Wittgenstein says that there are ―countless‖ such hinge propositions. We are certain that the world existed before our birth. By serving as the stoppingpoints of all justification. p. and 654). they ultimately determine what counts as evidence in our investigations and are constitutive of our contexts of giving reasons 11 Stroll (2004) brings attention to the variety of metaphors employed by Wittgenstein in On Certainty. but they differ from empirical propositions and acquire their special status by the fact that ―we don‘t … arrive at any of them as a result of investigation‖ (OC 138).―stand fast for me‖ by serving as an axis for rotation (OC 152). and as the ―hinges‖ around which our disputes turn (OC 341). ―general empirical propositions that count as certain for us‖ (OC 273). the members of this class have come to be known as ‗hinge propositions‘ in the secondary literature. (Morawetz 433) These statements have the appearance of being normal empirical propositions. but instead an essential feature of the role these propositions play in our system of judgments. that we know our own names. 343. 25). and that we cannot be mistaken about our hands being our own.11 Though the term ―hinge‖ only occurs three times in On Certainty (at remarks 341. and readers of On Certainty have gone on to clearly identify various examples: Our investigations rest upon many kinds of foundations. 140 . They cannot be given any grounding or justified by further evidence and thus ―must be regarded as…beyond question and beyond validation‖ (Strawson 1985.

12 So while hinge propositions may appear to be empirical. yet be available for evaluation in others. 141 . which was capable of functioning as an hypothesis. p. not yet false‖ (OC 205). we will soon see that it is brought into question in the later remarks of On Certainty. We are free in fact to form new contexts of evaluation by taking an empirical proposition and turning it into a hinge proposition. (OC 167) While this assertion is made repeatedly in Part 2. Wittgenstein makes such a claim multiple times in Part 2: Can‘t an assertoric sentence. As a result hinge propositions cannot be falsified or confirmed. 424). then the ground is not true. Certainties are neither true nor false. (OC 98) It is clear that our empirical propositions do not all have the same status. their constitutive properties make them function more like logical propositions or rules. 12 Yet in the next remark Wittgenstein admits that ―if someone asked us ‗but is that true?‘ we might say ‗yes‘ to him‖ (OC 206). also be used as a foundation for research and action? (OC 87) …the same proposition may get treated at one time as something to test by experience. at another as a rule of testing. 13 Kober explicates remark 205 by describing the status of hinges in the latter way: ―Certainties are like the rules of games and belong to the constitutive rules of a (discursive) language-game. since one can lay down such a proposition and turn it from an empirical proposition into a norm of description.and evidence. rather they define truth with regards to the epistemological aspects of a language-game‖ (1996.13 Some propositions might serve a foundational role in one context. in fact the concepts of truth and falsity do not apply to them at all: ―if the true is what is grounded.

He stresses that this system serves a foundational role by providing evidential support for empirical inquiries. The extent to which these claims rely on remarks in Part 2 is striking. For example. (OC 88)15 The scope of hinge propositions is immense. they condition and are constitutive of a number of human practices: All testing. as the element in which arguments have their life. they also apparently lie at the very foundation of all our 14 Many readers take the foundational role of this system to be one of the central theses of On Certainty. Like with his vivid descriptions of hinge propositions. all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system.The entire collection of hinge propositions forms a system that is internally structured (OC 102). after quoting eight remarks – all from Part 2 – Buchanan concludes: ―It is clear from these remarks that Wittgenstein envisions Moore type propositions as forming a ‗system‘ which plays a foundational role in determining the course of all enquiry and assertion about how things are in the world‖ (2000. are responsible for the very possibility of that activity. As Wittgenstein frequently emphasizes. by serving as the ultimate foundation of our reasoning. 142 . (OC 105) It may be for example that all enquiry on our part is set so as to exempt certain propositions from doubt. They lie apart from the route travelled by enquiry.14 Hinge propositions. ―the scaffolding of our thoughts‖ (OC 211). The system is not so much the point of departure. Not only do they condition empirical enquiry. it belongs to the essence of what we call an argument. 216) 15 See also OC 103 and 253. if they were ever formulated. and ―the whole picture which forms the starting-point of belief‖ (OC 209). Wittgenstein alternatively describes this system as ―our frame of reference‖ (OC 83). And this system is not a more or less arbitrary and doubtful point of departure for all our arguments: no. p.

in an evaluation of the truth of particular hinge 16 See also OC 150. for the act of doubting itself (just like the act of believing) is constituted by a framework of hinge propositions. it is actually impossible to simultaneously bring every proposition into doubt. or at least attempting to engage.16 Wittgenstein‘s account of hinge propositions and the constitutive roles they play in our practices of expressing belief and doubt provide the means for convicting both Moore and the skeptic of ―overstepping the boundaries of sense‖ (Buchanan 2000.e.linguistic practices by fixing the meanings of our words: ―if you are not certain of any fact. for bringing them into question would topple my very system of judgments. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false. you cannot be certain of the meaning of your words either‖ (OC 114). i. hinges are not adopted because they are believed to be correct. (OC 94) These propositions are then not available for me to doubt. p. 214). This makes the skeptic‘s attempt to doubt absolutely everything self-undermining. Since ―the game of doubting itself presupposes certainty‖ (OC 115). 143 . Our systems of hinge propositions is not the result of inquiry. Rather. nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. they serve as the standards of truth: But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness. Both parties attempt to engage in practices that aren‘t licensed by our conceptual system by engaging.

Wittgenstein insists that he is not interested in advancing philosophical theories. They suffer from the ―misunderstanding‖ that language games. p. because it aims at ultimately changing the behavior of both the participants. Both parties in the dispute between Moore and the skeptic engage in nonsense because of their ignorance of the true structure of our linguistic activities.e. Wittgenstein‘s philosophical explorations in Part 2 thus allow for one of the great philosophical debates between skeptics and realists to be dissolved. But the skeptic undercuts the very ground that makes doubting possible by trying to doubt hinge propositions. One might be inclined to characterize Wittgenstein‘s treatment of this dispute as a therapeutic one. Wittgensteinian therapy does not aim 144 . 124). ―and the criteria of relevant evidence implicit in them. But it is important to see that this response to skepticism does not satisfy Wittgenstein‘s conditions for a successful therapy. ought to be grounded in reality in the way true propositions are grounded in the facts corresponding to them‖ (Brenner 2005. and Moore cannot possibly have any grounds for his claim to know them because they form the foundation of our practice of giving reasons. i. Crucially. at getting both of them to lose interest in defending their respective positions. but the account of hinge propositions sketched here is certainly comparable to a number of grand metaphysical schemes encountered in the history of philosophy (and commentators have been quick to point this out).propositions.

sentences couched in quotation marks or set off by dashes in order to indicate that multiple characters or voices are interacting with one another.to get the patient to achieve an insight into the essential nature of things.g. Wittgenstein‘s response to Moore‘s knowledge claims in Part 2 of On Certainty must be classified as theoretical. i. These latter remarks are particularly characterized by the frequent introduction of voices. Wittgenstein is telling himself) to imagine that a speaker utters a certain sentence in specific circumstances. afterwards Wittgenstein either attempts to respond to this hypothetical speaker. where the reader is generally only asked to consider the truth of the statements asserted and the cogency of the reasoning used by the author. Thus. formulates what he might want to say in such a situation. how the speaker is standing in relation to the circumstances of his utterance. When reading a Wittgenstein text involving multiple voices. or makes some general observations on what is taking place. The experience of reading such a text differs from that of reading a philosophical treatise. and this new style is more conducive for achieving the qualities that Wittgenstein desires in a therapeutic philosophy. The remarks in Part 3 exhibit a shift in style from Part 2. e. Yet the treatment in Part 2 requires the participants in the skeptical debate to realize that their positions are nonsensical by first being convinced of the truth of a theory specifying the conditions under which propositions make sense. For example we are often told (or rather.e. the demands are 145 .

Moore represents a 146 . unusual cultures. The impersonal and abstract character of this investigation makes the realization of Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic goals unlikely. as well as other familiar techniques of Wittgensteinian philosophical investigation. In Part 2 Wittgenstein articulated the basis for a theory of hinge propositions that could be put towards questioning the sense of both radical skepticism and the attempt to refute it.in some ways greater on the reader. particularly the reader‘s own identity and that of Wittgenstein. not the resolution of a problem considered in isolation. since they call for the treatment of a philosopher in the grip of a problem. The use of multiple characters and voices. Yet in Part 3 he almost entirely ignores the skeptic and focuses his attention on Moore. The need to encounter and adopt new standpoints can facilitate the change in perspective that Wittgenstein‘s therapy strives for. and unfamiliar uses of language. are encountered to a considerably lesser extent in the earlier parts of On Certainty. for while in fact practically no one actually is a radical skeptic. There the focus tends to be more on characterizing the essential features of language games by identifying the distinctive characteristics of hinge propositions. who is constantly trying to determine what identities or characters should be assigned to the voices encountered. such as the consideration of imaginary scenarios. So Wittgenstein is returning to the project of treating the philosopher‘s condition.

This is what Wittgenstein does in the later remarks of On Certainty by considering a number of everyday uses of ‗I know‘.significant number of philosophers who devote considerable energy to developing a satisfactory refutation of the imaginary skeptic‘s position. to just those cases in which the expression has an established use in ordinary speech (i. In Philosophical Investigations. one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language in which it is at home? – What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use. by the word "know". ―name‖ – and try to grasp the essence of the thing. At the outset of On Certainty Wittgenstein stated the desired outcome of his notes about Moore‘s unusual claims: to expunge from philosophical language those bewitching propositions that don‘t get us anywhere. as one might possibly assume. ―object‖. ―proposition/sentence‖. For example.e. ―I‖. a procedure is spelled out for dealing with cases when philosophers are captivated by certain language forms: When philosophers use a word – ―knowledge‖. ‗Everyday uses‘ are not restricted. (PI 116) The procedure for dealing with a philosopher intending to speak metaphysically is thus to consider the use of the expression in question. (OC 435) Wittgenstein apparently thus believes that Moore has been ‗bewitched‘ by this word. the cases typically 147 . and that this is shown in his insistence on using it in very peculiar ways. Now in Part 3 Wittgenstein has a particular phrase in mind: One is often bewitched by a word. ―being‖.

i. By confronting a series of examples like this. (If. We can imagine then that Moore would not expect that the consideration of various uses of an expression could in any way resolve confusions surrounding its meaning. Wittgenstein realizes that an interlocutor with this dubious picture of meaning might insist that one of his peculiar uses of an expression ‗made sense‘ simply by considering the proposition and not its employment: I am told: ―You understand this expression. Moore takes the meaning of an expression to be fixed independently of the various uses to which it might be put in linguistic interaction. cases in which it is actually used (or could conceivably be used) towards a practical end. don‘t you? Well then – I‘m using it with the meaning you‘re familiar with. There it does make sense. then he should ask himself in what special circumstances this sentence is actually used.‖ As if the meaning were an aura the word brings along with it and retains in every kind of use. it is hoped that the philosopher will lose his grip on the idea that he understands the expression in isolation.e. someone says that the sentence ―This is here‖ (saying which he points to an object in front of him) makes sense to him. and thus lose interest in attempting to use it in curious 148 . even ones that are completely contrived. As we saw in his response to Malcolm‘s critical article. but rather include any situation in which the expression could conceivably be put toward some practical end.) (PI 117) The treatment Wittgenstein offers to such a philosopher is just to consider special circumstances in which the expression makes sense.studied by ordinary language philosophers). for example.

Wittgenstein‘s attempts to ―bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use‖ (PI 116) even involve the attempt to deflate his own apparently metaphysical locutions about hinge propositions and their constitutive roles in our linguistic and epistemic practices. Wittgenstein then considers what practical consequences actually follow when one utters these philosophical claims in everyday situations.e. By bringing them into normal contexts. that his own attempt to make sense may not be successful. After recognizing that he sometimes wishes to respond to Moore with a theory of language games (as he did frequently in Part 2).philosophical contexts. as he did with hinge propositions in Part 2. i. presenting him with a series of examples in which the propositions he wishes to assert make sense. hopefully leading Moore to the consideration that his own use of this expression does not fit naturally in this class. So in Part 3. Rather than focus on general characterizations of an entire class of propositions. in Part 3 we also see Wittgenstein in the beginning stages of applying this same treatment to his own urges to speak metaphysically. Malcolm describes the context behind this real-life example: 149 . Interestingly. Wittgenstein deflates much of the theoretical punch from these propositions. in the later remarks Wittgenstein engages in a lengthy consideration of a particular knowledge claim by made by Moore: ―I know that that‘s a tree‖. This is in fact the procedure that Wittgenstein follows with Moore in Part 3.

We are only doing philosophy. since it plays such a prominent role in the notes that Wittgenstein was composing at the time.18 This personal interaction with Moore may have contributed to the conversational style of Part 3. (Malcolm 1984. or that the external world exists. one suddenly understands those who think that that has by no means been settled. 18 The tone of some remarks in On Certainty also strongly suggest that Wittgenstein was not simply considering the possibility of Moore making such a claim. for the earlier remarks tend 17 The occurrence of at least three such meetings can be inferred from these two philosophers‘ letters to Malcolm. (OC 467) When one hears Moore say "I know that that's a tree‖. arguing over the concepts of knowledge and certainty. he says again and again "I know that that's a tree". and I would dispute this claim. but rather that he was reporting on his actually having witnessed such an event: I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden. It is as if Moore had put it in the wrong light. in support of his attempts to prove either that there are some things we can know with certainty. wanting to give an example of something he knew for certain. would point to a tree a few feet away. in discussion with fellow philosophers. Someone else arrives and hears this.17 It is very likely that their discussions involved Moore‘s utterance of this very assertion. Moore mentions a meeting on April 14 (in his letter of April 30). Moore. 217218) This was then a real assertion that Moore would make.When we sat in the back-garden of his home on Chesterton Road. Wittgenstein was able to make several visits to Moore‘s home and participate in philosophical discussions. Wittgenstein mentions a meeting on March 18 (in his letter of March 19). ―I know that that’s a tree‖. pointing to a tree that is near us. and on April 16 Wittgenstein mentions two recent meetings. pp. (OC 481) 150 . and I tell him: "This fellow isn't insane. and say. with emphasis. He would claim that he had made an assertion that was perfectly meaningful (as well as true). in person. one of which surely was the one on April 14 reported by Moore. While writing the remarks constituting Part 3 of On Certainty in Cambridge in the spring of 1951. The matter strikes one all at once as being unclear and blurred.

Wittgenstein‘s reaction to Moore‘s assertions was to categorize their status. that Wittgenstein is making here is that something isn‘t a hammer simply by having certain internal properties. In prior remarks. He is sincerely puzzled. Wittgenstein no longer presumes to know what Moore is intending to do with this statement (nor what he is actually doing with it). This response stems from his conception of the meaning of an expression as being fixed despite its various possible uses." Why does it strike me as if I did not understand the sentence? though it is after all an extremely simple sentence of the most ordinary kind? It is as if I could not focus my mind on any meaning. say. but rather that 151 . Now he responds quite differently: "I know that that's a tree. Moore likely responded to Wittgenstein‘s confusion in the same way as he did to Malcolm – namely by insisting that he was using the expression in its normal sense. for example. it‘s a hammer. based on Moore‘s articles and letters. Here his reaction in the face of unusual uses of ‗know‘ is now confusion. a far cry from his previous philosophical response about the proper conditions for using the word.to read like a response to Malcolm‘s impression of Moore.‖ But what if the thing that any of us would take for a hammer were somewhere else a missile. (OC 351) The suggestion. I take it. a hammer? I say ―Yes. Wittgenstein brings this picture into question: Isn‘t the question ―have these words a meaning?‖ similar to ―Is that a tool?‖ asked as one produces. or a conductor‘s baton? Now make the application yourself. (OC 347) Wittgenstein starts anew with a fresh response to Moore‘s statement.

what an expression means cannot be entirely divorced from the way that it is used in our linguistic interactions. Why one would actually say such a thing in those circumstances is not clear: If someone says. we would not just say that they were using language abnormally. Suddenly I say: ―I knew all along that you were so– and– so. ―I know that that‘s a tree‖ I may answer: ―Yes. An English sentence. Likewise. Wittgenstein wants to challenge whether we can really understand what is actually going on when Moore makes such an assertion. (OC 464) Wittgenstein would be more likely to consider this a meaningless utterance than merely something superfluous if it were not possible to discern the speaker‘s purpose in saying it. And what is it supposed to be doing?‖ Suppose he replies: ―I just wanted to remind myself that I know thing like that‖? – (OC 352) If someone was constantly making knowledge claims like these for no apparent reason. remark? I feel as if these words were like ―Good morning‖ said to someone in the middle of a conversation. though true.‖ Is that really just a superfluous.it can become a hammer if we put it to such a use. that is a sentence. but possibly that they hadn‘t really mastered the technique of using language at all: My difficulty can also be shown like this: I am sitting talking to a friend. 152 . While Moore claimed that he was using his expression in its normal sense but admittedly in unusual circumstances.

yet stands in need of such determination. Wittgenstein points out that a proposition with no clear meaning can suddenly become meaningful to him if its place in a larger context is clarified: In the middle of a conversation. however. but because their meaning is not determined by the situation. 153 . (OC 348) Wittgenstein is inviting Moore to clarify how the meaning of his assertion is made determinate by some particular conditions in which it is stated. As Wittgenstein notices. And now they do not strike me as meaningless any more. it is quite possible for ‗I know that that‘s a tree‘ to be given a determinate sense. (OC 469) The problem is not simply that Moore‘s claim to know that that‘s a tree is superfluous or obvious. Even superfluous utterances have a role in our language. So Moore is not being set to an impossible task. its meaning becomes clear and ordinary‖ (OC 347). whenever he tries to ―think of an everyday use of the sentence instead of a philosophical one. – and not because they are superfluous. and not when I say them to someone who is sitting in front of me and sees me clearly.Moore‘s statements aren‘t declared to be essentially nonsensical. though this is achieved most readily by giving it a non-philosophical use. What is at issue is that nothing in the surrounding context of the utterance has been called upon to help fix a precise meaning of this statement at all: Just as the words ―I am here‖ have a meaning only in certain contexts. but later I realize that these words connect up with his thoughts about me. he will thereby make his meaning clear.‖ I am astonished. someone says to me out of the blue: ―I wish you luck. If he does so.

– etc. and I add ―I mean these words as I did five minutes ago‖.etc. he is demonstrating for Moore how one can make an utterance clear: by connecting its purpose with the surrounding circumstances of its utterance. I repeat it while looking at the tree. By doing so. The meaning of a proposition is left indeterminate without a surrounding context. I say it is a tree. But what when we express ourselves more precisely? For example: ―I know that that thing there is a tree. For how a sentence is meant can be expressed by an expansion of it and may therefore be made part of it.etc. Each time the ‗that‘ which I declare to be a tree is of a different kind.e. Wittgenstein imagines even far-fetched possible uses of this statement that. Someone wants to test my eyes etc.Wittgenstein imagines a variety of understandable ways that this sentence could be used. and one can make sense of a previously unclear statement by expanding it. One doesn‘t make sense merely by uttering a sentence associated with determinate truth conditions under any circumstances whatsoever. – We see something in the mist which one of us takes for a man. i. for example. If I added. that I had been thinking of my bad eyes again and it was a kind of sigh. I can see it quite clearly. by giving further information related to why we are using it. then there would be nothing puzzling about the remark.‖ – Let us even suppose I had made this remark in the context of a conversation (so that it was relevant when I made it). and the other says ―I know that that‘s a tree‖. and now. He says ―that‘s a shrub‖. out of all context. (OC 349) This is then a demonstration to Moore of how to – literally – make sense. ―I know that that‘s a tree‖ – this may mean all sorts of things: I look at a plant that I take for a young beech and that someone else thinks is a black–currant. though 154 .

could nevertheless be made meaningful by attendant circumstances: This is certainly true. without qualification. when no one could doubt it. (OC 463) The possible ways that this sentence can make sense are thus countless and unforeseeable. resulting in confusion when one hears the utterance. might be a kind of joke and as such have meaning. (OC 387) As yet. by adding additional information that helps clarify its purpose. if he meant something quite particular by it. That phrase has a variety of legitimate uses as well as many potential ones that are as yet unconceived.unusual and certainly not established in common practice. the meaning of Moore‘s statement is not fully determined. This distinguishes Wittgenstein‘s response to Moore from that of Malcolm. Wittgenstein is not specifying a list of conditions that must be satisfied for ‗I know‘ to be used correctly. that the information "That is a tree". Wittgenstein freely admits that it has the possibility of becoming completely meaningful: I want to say: it made sense for Moore to say ―I know that that is a tree‖. 155 . But it is entirely possible to give this statement a clear a determinate meaning. Here in Part 3. and thereby to clear up the confusion. There Moore was accused. A joke of this kind was in fact made once by Renan. Moore‘s statement is not being assigned a final semantic status. The response here also differs from that provided by Wittgenstein‘s earlier account of hinge propositions. of using language in ways that produced outright nonsense.

But even that might be given a sense. The treatment of Moore‘s statement in Part 3 succeeds in fulfilling the antitheoretical goals of Wittgenstein‘s metaphilosophy much more than the theory of hinge propositions advanced in Part 2. and Moore‘s assertion is an example of such a sentence. it no longer produces the philosophical conclusions that he was seeking to establish with it: Every one of us often uses such a sentence. (OC 622) 156 . and for that reason choose to stop making them. and there is no question but that it makes sense. I do not know what ―I know that I am a human being‖ means. and by that it loses everything that is philosophically astonishing.The response in Part 3 to Moore‘s claim. at least in particular circumstances. There Wittgenstein stated his wish to expunge from philosophical language the propositions that bewitch us and prevent us from making progress. He is in fact being presented with multiple examples of how his utterance can be given sense. ‗I know that that‘s a tree. realize that his statements are nonsensical under this theory. What will hopefully become apparent to Moore is that every time his utterance is given a determinate sense. Moore is not here being urged to adopt a philosophical theory of meaning.‘ is intended to serve the therapeutic end laid down at the beginning of On Certainty. (Indeed. But does that mean it yields any philosophical conclusion? (OC 388) But now it is also correct to use ―I know‖ in the contexts which Moore mentioned. and urged to engage in this attempt himself.) For each one of these sentences I can imagine circumstances that turn it into a move in one of our language-games.

The method of PI 116 is thereby applied to some of the central tenets of his 157 . to simply give up his attempt to make such an utterance. but for the first time. especially when he feels compelled to repeat the theoretical conclusions of his investigation on hinge propositions in Part 2. Moore may come to have the same observation as Wittgenstein. namely that this sentence seems to only become clear once it is given a practical. yet only producing sentences that are philosophically impotent. non-metaphysical use. The therapeutic method of Part 3 is not only applied to Moore. it will have succeeded in causing a shift in a philosopher‘s point of view without having done so by advancing any controversial philosophical theories. in these later sections. but sometimes to Wittgenstein himself. Wittgenstein is certainly not free of the urge to speak metaphysically in Part 3. not because he has been definitively convinced that his utterance is nonsense. ultimately. But if he does. the success of this therapeutic response will depend on whether Moore in fact reacts in this way to repeated failure to make sense. but because he has lost all confidence that he really means anything definite at all by it. This may lead Moore to then question if he really does mean anything definite with his use of this statement. Recurrent failure in producing a statement with the metaphysical strength that he seeks may lead him.After repeatedly giving various definite senses to his utterance. Of course. he follows these philosophical claims by immediately questioning their sense.

but what does ―theoretically‖ mean here? It sounds all too reminiscent of the Tractatus. because they are too theoretical for his sensibilities: Isn‘t what I am saying: any empirical proposition can be transformed into a postulate – and then becomes a norm of description.. 158 .. One almost wants to say ―any empirical proposition can. But I am suspicious even of this.theory of hinge propositions. Recall that in Part 2 Wittgenstein repeatedly claimed that an empirical proposition can always be treated as uncontestable and thus become a hinge proposition. At the beginning of Part 3 he is apt to repeat these claims again: Is it that rule and empirical proposition merge into one another? (OC 309) But wouldn‘t one have to say then. theoretically. (OC 321)19 So Wittgenstein is now shying away from some of his previous remarks that have the appearance of philosophical theories. The sentence is too general. he realizes that they too don‘t have the philosophical strength that he intends them to have. 19 Wittgenstein had already compared his thinking in Part 2 to the Tractatus at OC 203. that there is no sharp boundary between propositions of logic and empirical propositions? The lack of sharpness is that of the boundary between rule and empirical proposition. be transformed. in keeping with his stated intention not to produce any new truths. And when he does this.‖. for after stating these metaphysical doctrines in Part 3. (OC 319) Yet immediately after formulating these statements he expresses his dissatisfaction with them. he often questions what practical uses those propositions can be put to.

And only in its everyday use it is justified. But we may question whether it is then to be taken in a perfectly rigorous sense. This may lead him to question the sense of his original utterance. He was earlier making this statement in a philosophical context. or is rather a kind of exaggeration which perhaps is used only with a view to persuasion. which serves to give the certainty–value of a statement. Wittgenstein realizes that he too. (OC 638) He now begins to consider the practical uses and consequences of this sentence that he was earlier prone to give a metaphysical emphasis: What practical consequences has it if I give a piece of information and add that I can‘t be making a mistake about it? (OC 668) The sentence ―I can‘t be making a mistake‖ is certainly used in practice. rather than the strictly metaphysical proposition that he intended to utter in Part 2. In these later sections. it really tends only to be a kind of exaggeration aimed at persuading someone.Another important feature of hinge propositions that Wittgenstein had previously wanted to emphasize was that one cannot be mistaken when uttering them. rather than consider the ways in which it can be used: There is always the danger of wanting to find an expression‘s meaning by contemplating the expression itself. like Moore. but now it is implied that such a use was questionable: ―I can‘t be making a mistake‖ is an ordinary sentence. (OC 669) When this expression in used in practice. may at times be susceptible to the urge to want to think of the meaning of an expression as something fixed. he sees. and the frame 159 .

He therefore holds to the position that no experience can possibly force us to revise these foundational beliefs. he immediately replies by considering the use of the phrase in question: I am inclined to say: ―That cannot be false. Wittgenstein calls this statement into question soon after formulating it: But might it not be possible for something to happen that threw me entirely off the rails? Evidence that made the most certain thing unacceptable to me? Or at any rate made me throw over 160 . instead of always thinking of the practice. (OC 601) Noticing himself wanting to speak metaphysically.‖ That is interesting. Wittgenstein described hinge propositions as being constitutive of our epistemic practices. and thus not even eligible for doubt. which is a practice that takes place only within a system. In his critique of Moore and the skeptic in Part 2. and quickly move to an investigation of use. for that would show that they weren‘t really serving as the foundation of our inquiry: Isn‘t the question this: ―What if you had to change your opinion even on these most fundamental things?‖ And to that the answer seems to me to be: ―You don‘t have to change it. but here in Part 3 we see him succeeding in resisting that urge more successfully than in Part 2.of mind in which one uses it.‖ (OC 512) Once again. The urge to speak metaphysically was something that Wittgenstein continually struggled against. But what consequences has it? (OC 437) He is now starting to more promptly catch himself after making metaphysical statements. That is just what their being ‗fundamental‘ is.

For the theoretical characterization of hinge propositions and language games in Part 2.my most fundamental judgements? (Whether rightly or wrongly is beside the point. and if it were. may have itself been subjected to a therapeutic treatment. Had he lived longer. then he probably is no longer comfortable with the strong theoretical account of language games seen in the earlier remarks. Yet an important part of the treatment in Part 2 is that hinge propositions provide the foundation that makes all judgment possible. 161 . which has attracted the most attention from Wittgenstein‘s interpreters. we may have been presented with a book with a much different structure than the one published posthumously by his literary executors. and been able to revise them with a view to publication. We thus see Wittgenstein at the beginning stages of submitting his own metaphysical utterances to a therapeutic treatment in Part 3 of On Certainty.) (OC 517) Wittgenstein does not come to a definite conclusion on whether it would be possible for our most fundamental judgments to be overturned by new experience. If Wittgenstein no longer knows how to respond to these questions in Part 3. how we would react to such an experience. continued to work on these remarks.

and (von Wright 1982). Chapter-length treatments can be found in (Ayer 1985). Accounts of Wittgenstein‘s treatment of skepticism are the most common. (Moyal-Sharrock 2002). (Orr 1989). (Kober 1994). (Löffler & Weingartner 2004). (Williams 2004b). (Bogen 1974). (Buchanan 2000). and (Moyal-Sharrock 2004). Some readers focus on the semantic status of hinge propositions. (Wright 2004a). (Conant 1998). (Fronda 2004).g. 3 (Ashdown 2001). (Glock 2004). (de Pierres 1996). (McManus 2004). If they are neither true nor false. (Orr 1989). (Moyal-Sharrock & Brenner 2005) is a unique collection. then it must be nonsense to utter them. (Moyal-Sharrock 2003). 2 See e. 162 . (Fielding 2004). (Rhees 2003). (Malcolm 1988).1 This is surely a result of the perception that Wittgenstein addresses a variety of topics of contemporary philosophical interest in the work. (Fogelin 1987). (Fogelin 1981).Chapter 6 The Reception of On Certainty On Certainty has received a significant amount of attention in the recent philosophical literature. (Williams 2004a).3 Such discussions focus on whether hinge propositions are true or whether they instead lack a truth value altogether. (Rudd 2005). (Kenny 2006). (Williams 2004b). Interpreters of On Certainty have found various projects within its pages. aiming to showcase the wide variety of readings currently available for consideration.2 Standard interpretations see Wittgenstein as condemning both the skeptic and Moore for not realizing that certain hinge propositions are exempt from doubt because they serve as norms for claims concerning knowledge or doubt. (Cook 1980). and (Stroll 1994). (Stiers 2000). 1 Book-length treatments of On Certainty include (McGinn 1989). (Morawetz 1978). (Moyal-Sharrock 2005). Anthologies that substantially address On Certainty include (Kölbel & Weiss 2004).

(Stroll 2005). and thus don‘t appear to be contingent. attempting to 4 5 (Conant 1998). (Stock 2007). most of these readings share two common characteristics: 1) They take Wittgenstein to be engaged in a familiar theoretical philosophical activity.‘7 while others have investigated the consequences of the work on the theory of knowledge. (Koethe 2004). (Hutto 2004). (Soles 1982).8 Regardless of what aspects of the book have drawn the interest of interpreters. The affinities between this account of Wittgenstein‘s hinge propositions and Kant‘s conception of the synthetic a priori is apparent.6 Some interpreters have found in On Certainty a more systematic characterization of Wittgenstein‘s concept of a ‗language-game. yet as hinges they are unable to be confirmed or disconfirmed. (Wolgast 1987) 8 (Bouchard 2004). (Caraway 2004). (Stroll 2002). (Williams 1990) 7 (Haller 1988). (Luckhardt 1978).4 shares some similarities with current disputes on the sense of tautologies in the Tractatus. 5 Hinge propositions such as ‗the world has existed for many years‘ appear to be empirical. (Garver 2004). This debate. (Hertzberg 1976). (Winch 1988). (Kober 1996). (Stroll 2002).some have argued. (Stroll 2004). (Morawetz 1974). (Pritchard 2005). Hinge propositions thus seem to occupy an interesting middle ground between logical and empirical propositions. Another group of readers has focused on the implications of On Certainty for the distinction between logical and empirical propositions. (Garavaso 1998) 6 (Brenner 2005). as some commentators have remarked. (McGuinness 1972) (Ellenbogen 2003). as several commentators have noted. (Wright 2004b) 163 . such as specifying the conditions for knowledge.

in order to 9 Orr (1989) and Buchanan (2000) have explicitly pointed out this tension.refute skepticism. In doing so. they offer theoretical interpretations of the book. 2) They treat On Certainty as a work by citing remarks from various parts of the book indiscriminately and assuming that Wittgenstein‘s philosophical goals and methodologies remain constant throughout the text. 164 . with a particular focus on identifying Wittgenstein‘s therapeutic goals and procedures. but sufficient evidence has now been presented to conclude that On Certainty is actually a collection of thematically related texts that Wittgenstein did not consider to be continuous or of equal status.9 The editorial preface to the book also encourages it to be read as a work. and thus that a satisfactory reading of the text should be based on an account of that book‘s structure. In the preceding chapters I aimed to show that these two assumptions are unfounded. readers come to an understanding of On Certainty that is in tension with his repeatedly stated intentions to avoid theories and engage in therapy. I identify items from the secondary literature that take the two factors of therapeutic method and textual structure into consideration. or characterizing the class of necessary or a priori propositions. Yet in associating these theoretical remarks with Wittgenstein‘s overall goals in the book. Many of Wittgenstein‘s remarks in On Certainty invite theoretical interpretation. In what follows. developing a general account of language.

which are ―relatively continuous notes from a single manuscript in which direct mention of such things as propositions which ‗stand fast‘.e. seeks to develop a reading of the book that does not focus on characterizing the status of hinge propositions. Minar contends. world pictures and frameworks is absent‖ (ibid. ―On Wittgenstein‘s Response to Scepticism: The Opening of On Certainty‖ (2004). 255). p.establish the context in which my interpretation is best situated.10 The focus of his reading is on the first 65 remarks (i. Edward Minar‘s essay. and the ‗nonpropositional‘ account of Stroll (1994). which seeks to transition from talk of abstract propositional entities to consideration of how certainty is manifested in a way of acting. but they also misinterpret Wittgenstein as intending to advance a philosophical theory: Wittgenstein is not offering a theory of hinges that shows the limits of inquiry. Two leading interpretations of On Certainty are briefly considered: the ‗propositional‘ approach of McGinn (1989). thought or language (with the intended 10 (Moyal-Sharrock & Brenner 2005) 165 . Part 1). which identifies hinge propositions and explains their semantic and normative status.. For this reason his piece is included as an example of the ‗therapeutic reading‘ in Moyal-Sharrock and Brenner‘s anthology. Both of these approaches. Then I show that each of these readings faces an interpretive dilemma that is avoided or overcome in my account of On Certainty. hinges. are not only unsuccessful in refuting skepticism.

for the skeptic ends up undercutting his own grounds for critique when he brings into question the legitimacy of our practices in toto.consequence that the sceptic shall see that his questions lie beyond the limits). (ibid. 260) The skeptic emphatically holds to ―the notion that knowledge has a real. then it is likewise impossible to defend them wholesale. 266). The anticipated result is that the sceptic will no longer find his questions natural or mandatory. for if it is incoherent to doubt the legitimacy of all our practices simultaneously. the purported stance outside all of our practices from which the skeptic wishes to make his challenge is seen to be illusory. 254) This treatment also aims at Moore. practice-transcendent structure‖ (ibid.. (ibid. This demonstration should help the skeptic to abandon his radical doubts: Wittgenstein‘s reminders prod the sceptic to account for his sense that something is amiss in our dealings with the world. So the attempt to refute skepticism is misguided. p. then... Minar‘s reading has several advantages. Wittgenstein is read as trying to undermine the grip of this false picture by calling upon the skeptic to explain why our epistemic practices are suspect. Wittgenstein‘s is a strategy for responding to both scepticism and the impulse to refute it. p. It is 166 . He places himself among the relatively small number of readers who acknowledge some kind of internal structure in On Certainty by noticing that most of the resources for constructing a theory of hinge propositions occur in Part 2 of the book. Ultimately. What he does instead is to provide reminders for the purpose of undoing the confusions that lie behind the quest for philosophical accounts of such limits. p.

to help him see how no skeptic could possibly accept his purported refutation. It is difficult to see how an attempt to demotivate skeptical urges could have been prompted by discussions with Malcolm about his recently-published article. this is being done.g. 167 . I believe. This reading. however. It is also not entirely evident what makes this treatment a therapeutic one. though.also wise for him to avoid attributing philosophical theories to Wittgenstein. While I agree that Wittgenstein uses some of these early remarks to show that the skeptic is posing an ‗external‘11 question. whose aim was to criticize the manner in which Moore went about trying to refute skepticism. namely that of clarifying just how radical skepticism really is by showing how it rules out the possibility of a response that relies on any of our normal epistemic methods. puts Wittgenstein‘s focus on the skeptic. looking at one‘s hands in a well-lit room. explicit talk of therapy does not actually enter in to his discussion. And he appears to be accurately picking up the aim of one strand of the remarks in Part 1. this reading offers no explanation of the relationship between Part 1 and the remaining remarks 11 Stroud (1984) uses this term to characterize the peculiar character of the skeptic‘s demands in his discussion of Moore‘s proof. As it stands. Most troublesome. for Moore’s benefit. e. though Minar is described by Moyal-Sharrock and Brenner as a therapeutic reader. is that Minar seems to avoid attributing theories to Wittgenstein simply by avoiding the large number of remarks in Part 2 that invite such a reading. rather than Moore.

The alternative to this view is a ―pragmatic‖ one. In a nicely structured presentation. but actually nonsense. Wittgenstein shows that the skeptic is assuming a very questionable stance that experiential knowledge (e. In what is called the ―therapeutic phase‖ (ibid. p. sense-data) is epistemically basic.g. 86).. he takes one aim of Wittgenstein‘s to be the demonstration of just how radical the skeptic‘s demands are. thus unsuitable for formulating the empirical hypothesis the sceptic or idealist would like to express‖ (ibid. according to which ―the normative structure of doubting and justifying is implicit in practices of enquiry which. and thus provides us little understanding of that book as a whole. 95). but like me he sees this as being done mostly for Moore‘s benefit. p.. since ―‘physical object‘ is a piece of logical or semantic vocabulary. Michael Williams also limits his focus to just the remarks of Part 1. On this point I believe my interpretation proves more successful by acknowledging and accounting for the variety of remarks found in On Certainty. Williams then argues that sentences such as ―there are physical objects‖ are not examples of hinge propositions that need to be appropriately characterized. for the intended result of 168 .. Like Minar. In ―Wittgenstein‘s Refutation of Idealism‖ (2005). are subject to change‖ (ibid. p. Williams thus operates with a much different conception of ‗therapy‘ than the anti-theoretical one I have attributed to Wittgenstein in these chapters. 88) of the presentation.in On Certainty. as human institutions.

Conant is especially interested in Wittgenstein‘s use of the term ‗nonsense‘.this therapeutic encounter is for us to adopt something like a contextualist theory of knowledge. nonsense results from asserting something which. Like some of the readers we‘ve already encountered. cannot be meaningfully asserted. 224-5). in effect. pp. has Wittgenstein saying that there isn‘t any problem about what claim the skeptic want to make – there isn‘t 169 . As Conant understands them. who ―understand Moore-type propositions to belong to a special class of judgements: those that are immune to doubt‖ (ibid.. in that particular context. including Frege and the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus. His presentation focuses on the therapeutic encounter with Moore (beginning at OC 347) that was of considerable interest to us in the last chapter. These readers take the theory of hinge propositions to underwrite Wittgenstein‘s use of ‗nonsense‘ as a term of criticism. but cannot be meaningfully uttered in these particular circumstances: McGinn. these readers treat Moore‘s (or the skeptic‘s) propositions as if they already are fully meaningful. though he also draws connections to other thinkers and texts. such as McGinn. James Conant (1998) offers one of the most developed therapeutic readings of On Certainty in the literature. and wants to clarify what Wittgenstein is doing when he accuses Moore of speaking nonsensically. Conant aims to criticize those who attribute a theory of hinge propositions to Wittgenstein.

. p. and another. 241).e. moving from words only having sense in the context of a proposition.. 239). but rather that ―it is not clear. to sentences only having sense in the context of a languagegame (ibid. p. and not with meaning something that it can‘t make sense to assert in these conditions. Wittgenstein‘s criticism of Moore is not that he has used a particular phrase in the wrong context. additional (pragmatic) constraints on assertibility. as having an application. 170 . as we saw in the last chapter.any problem about what his proposition means – … the problem just is that these claims run into conflict with various. concerning the meaningfulness of sentences themselves. p. This understanding of sentences as acquiring sense through their employment in particular circumstances is. what is being said – if anything‖ (ibid. 226) This. when these words are called upon in this context. The basis for this line of criticism is traced to Frege‘s context principle. concerning the intelligibility of asserting these propositions in particular contexts. and Wittgenstein is claimed to already have put this principle to work in the Tractatus in his declaration that a sign only has sense if we recognize it as a symbol – i. (ibid. In contrast to this reading. implies that there are two kinds of nonsense: one. as it were.. Conant argues. The later Wittgenstein generalizes this principle. Conant claims that Wittgenstein is accusing Moore of failing to mean anything in particular with his words.

) Wittgenstein‘s criticism of Moore‘s statement as ‗nonsense‘ is thus not directed at the sentence. for Moore has yet to provide that sentence with a particular context or use. Conant‘s interpretation suffers from a number of problems that my reading is able to avoid or rectify. Instead he is claiming that Moore‘s statements have not yet been given a sense at all. Wittgenstein‘s stated confusion at OC 347 about what the sentence ‗I know that that‘s a tree‘ means in this particular context (if anything) is sincere and not feigned. Conant‘s reading has a number of affinities with the one presented in the previous chapter. In particular.contrary to Moore‘s belief that a sentence retains a fixed meaning independent of its use: The philosopher takes there to be something which is the thought which the sentence itself expresses. Similarly to how Minar and Williams focused solely on the remarks in Part 1. not determinate. but at Moore himself for not providing a context for his sentence to acquire a meaning – not giving it anything to do. or now at least. Since Wittgenstein claims that the meaning of this proposition is. Despite these similarities. to argue that Wittgenstein is not presenting a theory of sense and then accusing Moore (and the skeptic) of overstepping those bounds. in this article Conant limits his attention to the handful of remarks around OC 350 171 . this shows that he is opposed to Moore‘s view that the meaning of a sentence is fixed once and for all by the meanings of its internal components. (ibid. he calls upon the remarks at §§ 347 ff.

into his reading. 172 . there is relatively little explanation of how this encounter is supposed to be therapeutic. Yet as we have seen. clusters of remarks in other parts of the book invite other kinds of readings. We don‘t see Wittgenstein attempting to bring about a change in Moore‘s 12 He also brings OC 31. and PI 117.13 Although Conant emphasizes the lack of a substantial theory of hinge propositions underwriting Wittgenstein‘s critique of Moore. as well as the editorial decisions involved in turning those manuscripts into a book. One may still think that hinge propositions are of philosophical interest and look to Wittgenstein‘s text for insights concerning them. I explain why this is the case by investigating the conditions under which its manuscript sources were composed. Further.that are particularly susceptible to a therapeutic reading. I then provide grounds from Wittgenstein‘s correspondence for favoring one of these possible readings – namely the therapeutic one – over the others as most approaching what Wittgenstein intended for his best writing. some of them highly theoretical. that of course does not mean that his readers need to reach the same conclusion. 13 Just because there are grounds for believing that Wittgenstein preferred the therapeutic remarks in On Certainty over the theoretical ones. That is already an entirely legitimate way of approaching the text. Without having an account of those passages. all of which are given a central place in the interpretation in the previous chapter. so it is not necessary to distort the historical picture of Wittgenstein‘s development to justify reading On Certainty to that end. Conant‘s reading becomes just another voice competing for attention in the shouting match of On Certainty interpretation. OC 33.12 remaining silent on the rest (and the majority) of the book. I believe that my reading improves on Conant‘s by recognizing that there are multiple sections of the book that invite different readings.

each resulting in the satisfaction of making sense and the dissatisfaction of failing to establish a philosophically interesting point. The intent of this activity. Moore is set upon the task of working through a number of examples. not for him to reach an insight into the nature of languages and practices. in Conant‘s interpretation the waters are muddied by controversial readings of the Tractatus and the works of Frege. is to get Moore to at some point give up and just move on to those sentences that actually help him get further in his endeavors (OC 33). he is mostly trying to combat particular philosophical positions according to this reading.behavior. I claim. a therapy is found. and then connect them to the many instances in which Wittgenstein does give Moore‘s proposition a sense. The attempt to ground Wittgenstein‘s actions in Frege‘s theoretical writings makes the therapeutic endeavors in On Certainty look to be theoretically tinged. But the way that sentences are given 173 . When this is coupled with the observation that these successful attempts at making sense are immediately followed by a loss of everything that is philosophically interesting (OC 622). instead. In contrast I take the discussions of confusion and of the failure of words to be given particular meanings in context. or to become clear on the conditions for making sense and thereby understand why his utterances failed to meet those conditions. Finally. The background for what Wittgenstein is doing can be clearly found in his later conception of therapy.

Wittgenstein does not merely state that Moore‘s propositions are nonsensical. ―A Gesture of Understanding: Wittgenstein. 236). for Wittgenstein. Meyer makes similar criticisms of Conant in his article. or that he is a human being. yet seem ―perfectly justified and everyday‖ if they are uttered when there is some need for them (OC 553). Thomas A. After granting to Conant that Moore is accused of speaking nonsense in some early remarks of the book.determinate meanings in contexts is not a well-known theoretical insight that Wittgenstein is trying to pass on to Moore. Meyer is suspicious of the attempt to extend the ―austere interpretation of the role of nonsense in the Tractatus…to account for the project of Wittgenstein‘s later writings as well‖ (ibid. Wittgenstein seems to be discovering this remarkable fact right along with Moore. Moore. it is entirely ―queer‖ and surprising that certain statements strike him as ―unjustified and presumptuous‖ when they are uttered without any occasion. p..) Meyer makes two important observations that we can concur with: first. but also attempts (and succeeds) in giving them a sense. Meyer rightly notes that On Certainty does not appear to rest with its conclusion that Moore‘s epistemology advances nonsense. (ibid. and ‗Therapy‘‖ (2004). such that 174 . Wittgenstein instead appears to search for a way of capturing the sense that Moore‘s references to knowing he has hands. might be able to have. the positive search for sense after the negative declaration of its lack suggests there is an internal structure to the book. and second.

175 .14 Meyer wishes to stake a middle ground between the therapeutic reading of Conant and the theoretical reading of Hacker. Meyer takes the occurrence of these successful attempts to refute the therapeutic reading of On Certainty.Wittgenstein is not always engaged in the same activity at every point. Meyer doesn‘t clearly specify the joints of this structure as I do in the previous chapters. As I have attempted to show in these chapters. 3) invites the impression that this is the only way that a therapeutic interpretation can be given to the book. that Moore speaks a language 14 Moyal-Sharrock & Brenner‘s claim that ―the ‗Therapeutic reading‘ approaches On Certainty in the spirit of ‗New Wittgenstein‘ commentators‖ (2005. Conant‘s frequent interpretive opponent. Yet his description of the result of making sense with Moore-type propositions as illuminating the grammar of our language puts him quite close to Hacker‘s account of Wittgenstein‘s philosophy as attempting to identify grammatical rules: The notion that Wittgenstein does find a sense for Moore‘s remarks makes it difficult to maintain that these ‗do not say anything‘ according to Wittgenstein‘s more developed account: what they say is. at least possibly. for this is not generally recognized. Since Conant devotes much of his attention to what is involved in accusations of nonsense. but it is nevertheless noteworthy that he recognizes On Certainty to be a heterogeneous text. and little to Wittgenstein‘s successes in actually producing determinate senses for Moore‘s propositions. p. it is possible to give a therapeutic reading of On Certainty that is not an extension of a resolute reading of the Tractatus.

and that when he does so.3. For when Meyer sees these propositions being given a sense. Yet he later decides that he had ―been over15 Even though the evidence Meyer cites when observing that Moore‘s statements can be given a sense comes from Part 3 of On Certainty. 176 .within which certain statements characterize the grammar and can be regarded as true. and even taken this information into consideration when discussing the structure of On Certainty. He was a friend of Anscombe‘s and was granted access to some pieces of the Nachlass after Wittgenstein passed away.). p.51) is certainly written more fluently than the rest‖ (ibid. (ibid. he took this to indicate that Part 3 of On Certainty had a special status.. One reader who has recognized phases in Wittgenstein‘s thinking in his final years. Thus the vague demarcation he makes between earlier and later remarks isn‘t specific enough to separate the remarks of Part 2 and Part 3. p. 297). 237)15 A difficulty for this reading is accounting for how success is sometimes achieved in trying to give Moore‘s propositions a sense. the theoretical-sounding conclusions about what results from this activity are drawn from remarks in Part 2. is Denis Paul. nothing of philosophical interest remains. he argues that philosophical conclusions concerning grammar can be drawn. Yet this is in tension with Wittgenstein‘s observations that he generally only succeeds in giving a proposition sense when he puts it in an everyday context. especially since ―§ 300 onwards (starting 10. who was responsible for translating a portion of the book‘s remarks from German to English. Paul tells about hearing Anscombe‘s ―story of how unable to think Wittgenstein had been under the influence of his anti-cancer drugs‖ in 1950 (2007. Initially.

and furthermore that the ideas he was able to produce were not deemed to be of high quality. we saw that he did not simply complain of being unable to write clearly during 1950. but also that he could not even think clearly. noting that ―§ 66 onwards … reads fluently enough‖ (ibid. The individual remarks also tend now to be longer. but the content and method as well. 297-8). But from our comprehensive survey of Wittgenstein‘s correspondence in Chapter 1. to which §§ 1-65 are only a prelude‖ (ibid. Finding Part 2 to be sufficiently readable. so the remarks from Parts 2 and 3 should not be lumped together as a single 177 . 298). pp. But it is not merely the style of Part 3 that is noteworthy. Paul appears to presume that the anti-cancer drugs were at most affecting Wittgenstein‘s ability to write flowing and readable prose. and Wittgenstein is better able to sustain a train of thought over multiple remarks and even multiple days of writing (this may be what Paul has in mind when he speaks of these later remarks as reading ―fluently‖).impressed by [Anscombe‘s] story‖ of Wittgenstein‘s diminished capacity to work in 1950. I agree with Paul that there is a noticeable shift in style at the beginning of Part 3 of the book.. As indicated in the previous chapter. p.. This leads him to conclude that ―§§ 66-676 form a unit. multiple voices are now more frequently introduced. he is thus inclined to disregard the cessation of Wittgenstein‘s cancer treatments as marking a significant phase in the final writings. Thus the ‗curtain lifting from Wittgenstein‘s brain‘ in the spring of 1951 does mark a significant break.

but also the content of its remarks and the philosophical methods at work in them. we should examine not just Wittgenstein‘s writing style when trying to ascertain the structure of On Certainty. At the least.unit. 178 .

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