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Wittgenstein and Foucault
Application of analvtical methodologies to the historical epistemologv of Foucault

Matteo Vagelli

'A good simile refreshes the intellect`

L.Wittgenstein, Culture and Jalue, 1929.

The target oI this presentation, in its limits, is to attempt a comparison between two oI
the most inIluential philosopher oI the XIX century, normally ascribed to very diIIerent
(when not considered irreconcilable) cultural horizons: Ludwig Wittgenstein and
Michel Foucault. Putting these two names close together is uncommon, since each is
placed strictly into diIIerent philosophical containers`: the Iirst one into the analytical
and the second one into the political philosophy. This traditional historical placement
not only prevents the possibility oI a Iair conIrontation but may also lead to a
misinterpretation oI their works. We could start Irom many points in trying to make
these two thoughts overlap, many points oI departure to notice the similarity between
some statements oI the Iirst and some oI the second; but instead oI taking such a general
and external point oI view we should rather try to start Irom something more speciIic.

In a series oI Iive conIerences titled 'La verite et les Iormes juridiques¨, held in
1973 in Rio de Janeiro, Foucault makes an explicit reIerence to the Anglo-American
analytic philosophy. In my opinion, Wittgenstein was the philosopher Foucault had in

L. Wittgenstein,¨, Culture and Jalue, The University oI Chicago Press, 1980, p. 1: 'Ein gutes Gleichnis
erIrischt den Verstand¨.
It`s also hard and maybe wrong to compare 'contents¨ oI the two, piece by piece, theory` by theory`,
deIinition by deIinition, book by book, as it were, since Wittgenstein is such a non-systematic
philosopher. We cannot compare two philosophical doctrines. We should rather compare them Irom an
analogical point oI view, Irom a Iormal or methodological point oI view. We can compare two
philosophical approaches.
mind. Foucault surely knew the work oI Wittgenstein and did not ignore the relevance it
had on the philosophy oI the XX century, not only on the philosophy oI language. This
reIerence may nevertheless appear very general and vague in a way: this unexpected
comparison could be interpreted as superIicial and just transient. The reIerence in
question occurs right at the beginning oI the Iirst conIerence, while Foucault is
declaring his axes oI research together with the methodology he wants to put in use Ior

Le moment serait alors venu de considerer ces Iaits de discours non plus simplement sous leur aspect
linguistique, mais, d`una certaine Iaçon et ici je m`inspire des recherches realisees par les Anglo-
Americans -, comme jeux, games, jeux strategiques d`action et reaction, de question et de response, de
domination et d`esquive, ainsi que de lutte.

Foucault introduces the theme oI the conIerences as a methodological one, with
the status oI 'hypotheses de travail, d`hypotheses en vue d`un travail Iuture¨, but
presenting it as the point oI intersection among 3 or 4 existing researches. His Iinal
target is the redeIinition oI the theory oI the subject (third axe oI research), through the
historical revaluation oI the social practices (Iirst axe) and the analysis oI discourses in
terms oI strategy (second axe). Only the second axe, the one in which the reIerence to
the Anglo-American philosophy occur, is considered properly methodological.

Ici encore il existe, il me semble, dans une tradition recente mais deja acceptee das les universites
europeenes, una tendance a traiter le discourse comme un ensemble de Iaits linguistiques lies entre eux
par des regles syntaxiques de construction.

M. Foucault. 'La verite et les Iormes juridiques¨, 1974, Dits et ecrits II, Gallimard, Paris, 1994, p. 538.
In this short passage we can Iind the resumption oI a polemic against the analytical
philosophy previously developed in the Archeologie du savoir. In the chapter called
'DeIinir l`enonce¨, Foucault strongly criticizes the traditional approach oI the analytical
philosophy, seen as only interested to the mere linguistic Ieatures oI language. He Iinds
this approach as opposed to the one he wants to put in use in his archaeology, which
Iocuses on the statement and not on the proposition. A discourse is a historically
contingent set oI statements and a statement is the 'atome du discours¨, its minimal
unit, and it detaches itselI either Irom the proposition oI the logicians, Irom the phrase
oI the grammarian and Irom the speech act` oI the so called 'analysts¨. According to
Foucault what characterizes a proposition is a deIinite internal structure, with
determined truth-values and restricted possibilities oI correct application. ThereIore we
can get diIIerent statements out oI the very same propositional structure and, vice versa,
multiple propositions out oI each statement
II a speech act` is to be intended, as Foucault does, as the single and material operation
eIIectuated with the emergence oI the linguistic expression itselI (an order, a promise, a
deal and so on), then the speech act cannot coincide with the statement, but it`s a sort oI
juxtaposition oI multiple statements

Il est, dans son mode d`être singulier (ni tout a Iait linguistique, ni exlusivement materiel), indispensable
pour qu`on puisse dire s`il y a ou non phrase, proposition, acte de langage.

The statement is the presupposition, the 'Iunction d`existence¨ oI propositions, phrases
and speech acts`, which makes possible to recognize whether in some linguistic signs
we can Iind those linguistic unities or not. So how can we Iind the right placement Ior

The given example Ior the Iirst kind is: 'Nobody heard¨ and 'It`s true that nobody heard¨; Ior the
second kind: 'The actual king oI France is bald¨.
A pray is made by many diIIerent statements, but it remains the very same speech act`.
M. Foucault, Larcheologie du savoir, Gallimard, Paris, 1969, p.114.
the statements? How can we overcome the narrowness oI a syntactical and Iormal
deIinition oI the statements and thereIore oI the discourse as a whole? Foucault talks
about the champ de stabilisation oI the statements as something which provides a strong
connection and anchorage oI the language to the whole complex oI the human
. A champ de stabilisation is the set oI 'schemes oI utilization, rules oI usage,
strategic virtualities oI the statements¨. Which means that a single statement is
embedded in a Iield oI strategic Iorces made by the real use oI that statement, in
accordance with all the human practices in which that statement arise and operate. This
leads Foucault to consider at least as useless a totally internalist view about language,
like the analysts have, Iocusing just on the syntactical internal rules oI construction oI a
well-Iormed proposition. Foucault is not concerned with truth-conditional values oI
propositions or with a traditional reIerence theory
. To understand the real Iunctioning
and the strategic relevance oI language in our societies we have to overcome this strictly
analytical approach, we have to analyse language as intrinsically connected to power, as
a struggle.

Ainsi conçu, le discours...apparaît comme un bien Iini, limite, desiderable, utile qui a ses regles
d`apparition, mais aussi ses conditions d`appropriation et de mise en ouvre; un bien qui pose par
consequent, des son existence (et non pas simplement dans ses 'applications pratiques¨) la question du
pouvoir; unbien qui est, par nature l`obiet d`une lutte, et d`une lutte politique.

We will not go into any Iurthers details examining the complex Ioucauldian approach to
language, we just have to raise the Iollowing question: why is Foucault taking the
example oI the Anglo-Americans Iour years later then? The passage quoted Irom 'La

Ibidem, p. 136 '.il s`agit du rapport du signiIicant au signiIie, et du nom a ce qu`il designe; du rapport
de la phrase a son sens; ou du rapport de la proposition a son reIerent. Or je crois qu`on peut mntrer que la
relation de l`enonce a ce qui est enonce n`est superposable a aucun de ces rapports¨.
Ibidem, p.117.
Ibidem, p.158.
verite et le Iormes juridiques¨ is intended to take the 'researches oI the Anglo-
Americans¨ at least in the very concept oI language-game as a good model to imitate
Ior his proposal oI an 'analyse des discours¨. That`s only because the methodological
concept oI language-game helps Foucault exactly to dissociate himselI Irom that
analytical philosophy, that way oI analysing discourses, considered as 'un esamble de
Iaits linguistiques lies entre eux par des regles syntaxiques de construction¨. He is doing
nothing but playing Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein`s conception oI language against the
traditional one belonging to the great majority oI analytical philosophers oI language.
This retrospective re-union with the methodologies, the tasks, and the goals oI the
wittgensteinan philosophy oI language made by Foucault, is built as an analogv. Not an
equivalence, not an identity. Not an equivalence in the contents, but an analogy between
their approaches and instruments. In short, an analogy between language and power,
and thereIore more speciIically between language-games and relations of power.

We can also think oI the whole process oI using words in (2) as one oI those games by means oI which
children learn their native language. I will call these games 'language games¨ and will sometimes speak
oI a primitive language as a language-game|.|I shall also call the whole, consisting oI language and the
actions into which it is woven, the 'language-game¨.

Wittgenstein himselI had to go through the crisis oI his own conception oI language as
calculation and as propositional system: this happened during the middle 30`s, when he
realized that the linguistic practices are not governed by strictly Iormal rules oI a
grammar which is independent Irom our use oI the language. We cannot interpret the
rule as an analytical Iunction which generates automatically an inIinite course oI
numbers or actions. On the other way round is the rule that has to be explained by the

L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Basil Blackwell, 1958, §7. The example oI language
numbered as (2) is the one oI the two builders, built on the description oI language given by St. Augustine
in the Confessions and reported in §1.
actual practice
. For in order to understand the Iailure that we sometimes experiment in
understanding the meaning oI speciIic words, instead oI investigating the rule oI the
grammar, we should observe the context, the speciIic game in which the word was
pronounced. To some regards the language-games were created as a more precise
analytical tool, Ior a better and closer look to the real Iunctioning oI a language.

Here the term 'language-game¨ is meant to bring into prominence the Iact that the speaking oI language
is part oI an activity, or oI a Iorm oI liIe.

Why are these games interesting Ior Foucault? As we can see Irom the Iirst quotation
language-games are embedded in a set oI human practices and attitudes, strictly
connected to the non-linguistic Iacts oI liIe. And this is the Iirst point interest Ior
Foucault, Ior what we said above. Moreover there`s the analogy with the relations oI
power. Namely there is no unique language, but as many languages as many language-
games there are. Language-games are plural and multiple just as the relations oI power
are. They are conceived as local, speciIic, just as the power-games, or relations oI power
are: there is no power as a material thing localized somewhere, or an essence,
conceivable in an unique way, but local relations oI power, contextualized games oI
power. The various games oI power have only the common Ieature oI being game, oI
being played, oI being practices governed and structured by rules and norms, tactics and
strategies; among the diIIerent games oI power these are nothing but Iundamental familv
resemblances: they don`t deIine the content, the goal oI the power itselI - Ior they are
intrinsically individual -, but they rather deIine the Iormal structure, the analytical
structure oI power. To analyse the variety oI kinds oI languages we need to create, to

Let`s consider only this late remark oI Wittgenstein to understand the decreasing role accorded to rules:
'Not only rules, but also examples are needed Ior establishing a practice. Our rules leave loop-holes open,
and the practice has to speak Ior itselI¨, On Certaintv, § 139, Basil Blackwell, 1969.
L.Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §23.
invent some tools such as the linguistic games. It`s a common mistake to interpret the
wittgensteinian language-games as a list oI existing, real, delimited language practices
in liIe: instead they are a useIul analytic tool to understand how our real linguistic
practice works.

Our clear and simple language-games are not preparatory studies Ior a Iuture regularization oI language
as it were Iirst approximations, ignoring Iriction and air-resistance. The language-games are rather set up
as obfects of comparison which are meant to throw light on the Iacts oI our language by way not only oI
similarities, but also oI dissimilarities.

Is to this kind oI analytical instrument that Foucault is interested: his reIerence to the
language-games is a methodological claim to be applied to the analysis oI discourse and
Another important Ieature oI the language-games, is that they do not hide`
anything behind or beyond them: there is no substance, whose the games would be the
surIace oI. Behind the use oI the language in a speciIic game (which is the only possible
use) there are no substances such as meanings (as existing independently Irom the use
and the context oI the use), mental states (which are traditionally taken to accompany
the process oI meaning or understanding)
, subjects (as a centre that produces mental
states which are linked or labelled with words and then to external objects) or pain.

I deposit what belongs to the essence among the paradigms oI language.

I say, however: iI you talk about essence- , you are merely noticing a convention.

L.Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §130.
Wittgenstein`s opinion about the mere existence oI mental states as such is in most cases ambivalent,
but he is clear about the Iact that they cannot be taken as physical explanation oI linguistic processes such
as understanding or meaning (see Investigations §665, §693).
'L. Wittgenstein, Remarks on the foundations of matematics, Basil Blackwell OxIord, 1956, p.13.
17 Ibidem, p.23. II an essence is a convention, then a convention is matter oI human agreement
(Investigations §241) and hence a convention is related to rules (Investigations §224) and thereIore to

Wittgenstein, with his Iamous argument against the so called private language, insists
on the necessity Ior the language to be external, overt and social in a way. Sharable.

It is the same way that the reduction oI power to its components, to its constitutive
elements - such as laws, punishments, disciplinary procedures, praises,
acknowledgments, repression- with the intent to dismantle it, to look inside it is
misleading. There is no inside and outside prospective, neither Irom language, nor Irom
power. Neither are localized, they are everywhere: in this sense we cannot talk Irom an
external perspective (external to the language, external to the power, external to the

Le discourse est cet ensemble regulier de Iaits linguistiques a un certain niveau et de Iaits polemiques et
strategiques a un autre niveau. Cette analyse du discourse comme jeu strategique et polemique est, a mon
sens, un deuxieme axe de recherche.

With this remark it reIers to the discourse itselI, as understandable, structured,
playable, analysable, at two different levels: the linguistic and the strategic one. The
diIIerence between these two levels is the diIIerence between a traditional analytical
approach to language and the method oI Wittgenstein, who seems to study and to
approach language in the second oI the Ioucauldian ways, the strategic one. Neither
Foucault nor Wittgenstein want to destroy logical analysis oI propositions, the analysis
oI the propositions according to their syntactical rules oI construction, but both oI them
believe that the power and importance oI language, the real role played by language in

L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, § 293: 'Now someone tells me that he knows what pain
is only Irom his own case! Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a 'beetle¨. No
one can look into anyone else`s box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his
beetle.-Here it would be quite possible Ior everyone to have something diIIerent.The thing in the box
has no place in the language-game at all, not even as something: Ior the box might even be empty.¨
M. Foucault. 'La verite et les Iormes juridiques¨, p. 538.
our liIe goes beyond the mere linguistic one. What has to be done is, according to
Foucault, analyse the discourse in terms oI strategy, so to say, in terms oI his intricacy
and eIIects in real liIe.

The origin and the primitive Iorm oI language game is a reaction; only Irom this can more complicated
Iorms develop. Language I want to say is a reIinement, in the beginning was the deed`

And this multiplicity is not something Iixed, given once Ior all; but new types oI language, new language-
games, as we may say, come into existence, and others become obsolete and get Iorgotten.

The language-games, like language itselI, Ior Wittgenstein are nothing but reactions`.
This means basically two things: one is the Iact that they are a just one among the others
human practical activities, like walking or eating, and there`s nothing superior, nothing
intellectual in their roots
. Secondly, they create a strategic Iields oI quasi-mechanical
actions and reactions, interconnected one with the other. The second oI the last two
quotations is important to understand how the language-games, the Iields oI actions and
reactions (just like the champs de stabili:ation), are not ideal and eternal but historically
determined, subject to changes over time.

Foucault comes back on this very analogy some years later, during another
conIerence held in Japan in 1978 and meaningIully titled 'La philosophie analytique de
la politique¨. Here Foucault is concerned with the analysis oI the general political

L. Wittgenstein, Culture and Jalue, p. 31: 'Der Ursprung und die primitive Form des Sprachspiels ist
eine Reaktion; erst auI dieser können di komplizierteren Formen wachsen¨.
L.Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, § 23: 'Und diese MannigIaltigkeit ist nichts Festes, ein
Iür allemal Gegebenes; sondern neue Typen der Sprache, neue Sprachspiele, wie wir sagen können,
enstehen und andre veralten un warden vergessen¨.
Ibidem, §25: 'It is sometimes said that animals do not talk because they lack the mental capacity. And
this means: 'they do not think, and that it why they do not talk.¨ But they simply do not talk. Or to put it
better: the do not use language iI we except the most primitive Iorms oI language. Commandin,
questioning, recounting, chatting, are as much a part oI our natural history as walking, eating, drinking,
context in which the issue oI the prison is embedded, with 'la question de la penalite¨.
Foucault traces a brieI history oI the relation between philosophy and the power: Irom
playing the Iirst a sort oI critical role and limit Ior the second in the ancient times, to the
birth oI the philosophical states in the XIX century and their abuse oI the power.
Philosophy, according to Foucault, has nowadays to re-deIine it is very relation with the
power and in doing that it can only succeed iI she drops the traditional juridical
conception oI power. Power is neither only negative, nor repressive, nor just or unjust.
We have to overcome these moral schemes about power. Philosophy has to drop its
Ioundational ambitions towards power, to dismiss his prophetical attitude and start to
work as a counter-power: 'analysing, clariIying, making visible, intensiIying¨ the
struggles and the tactics around power itselI.

Il y a longtemps qu`on sait que le rôle de la philosophie n`est pas de decouvrir ce qui est cache, mais de
rendre visible ce qui precisement est visible, c`est-a-dire de Iaire apparaître ce qui est si proce, ce qui est
si immediate, ce qui est si intimement lie a nous-mêmes qu`a cause de cela nous ne le percevons pas.

This way oI conceiving philosophy as Iundamentally opposed to the scientiIic attitude
oI discovering something always new, as limited to the process oI 'making visible¨
what is so common and so close that cannot be seen, as concerned with the better
consideration oI what we already have rather then the creation oI something new is
shared with Wittgenstein:

The aspects oI things that are most important Ior us are hidden because oI their simplicity and Iamiliarity.
(One is unable to notice something because it is always beIore one`s eyes).

M. Foucault, La philosophie analvtique de la politique, Dits et ecrits III, Gallimard, Paris, 1994, pp.
L. Wittgenstien, Philosophical Investigations, § 129. See also Culture and Jalue: 'How hard I Iind it
to see what is right in Iront oI my eyes!¨ (1940) and 'God grant the philosopher insight into what lies in
Iront oI everyone`s eyes¨ (1947), pp. 39,63.

To realize his peculiar task Foucault indicates once again the same model:

On a tout a pres de nous un certain modele d`un pareil usage de la philosophie dans la philosophie
analytique des Anglo-Americans. Apres tout, la philosophie analytique anglo-saxonne ne se donne pas
pour tâche de reIlechir sur l`être du langage ou sur les structures proIondes de la langue; elle reIlechit sur
l`usage quotidian qu`on Iait de la langue dans le diIIerents types de discourse.

According to the Wittgenstein`s claim about the ordinary language words have to be
driven back Irom the metaphysical realm in which philosophers apply them to their
actual use in the everyday liIe. That is why I think we should interpret 'structures
proIondes de la lingue¨ not as a proIound grammar` (which according to Wittgenstein
is Iundamental to dissolve philosophical puzzles about language) but either as an only
internal and syntactical analysis oI language, either as a metaphysical use oI language,
stretched beyond its own limits.

Je crois qu`on pourrait imaginer de la même Iaçon une philosophie qui essaierait de montrer de quoi il
s`agit, quelles sont, de ces relations de pouvoir, les Iormes, les enjuex, les objectiIs. Une philosophie qui
porterait par consequent plutôt sur les relations de pouvoir que sur les jeuc de langage, une philosophie
qui porterait sur toutes ces relations qui traversent le corps social plutôt que sur les eIIets de langage qui
traversent et sous-tendent la pensee. On pourrai imaginer, il Iaudrait imaginer quelque chose comme une
philosophie analytico-politique.

To understand the Iunctioning oI language and the one oI power we have to ask the
same question: what happens in the ordinary way oI operating with the language and

M. Foucault, La philosophie analvtique de la politique, p. 541.
Ibidem, p. 541.
with the power, within very local and speciIic language-games/power-games
Analytical philosophy tries to reply to this question avoiding any appeal to any sort oI
moralization oI the language itselI. So has to be done with the analysis oI power, which
is neither 'bad¨, nor 'good¨, but just like language, it merely exists and then it has to
played as such.

Plutôt que ces disqualiIications ou ces qualiIications massives, la philosophie anglo-saxonne essai de dire
que le langage ne trompe jamais ni ne revele jamais non plus. Le langage, cela ce joue. Importance, pas
consequent, de la notion de jeu.

Foucault works in several occasions on the concept oI game during the Iollowing here.
In a text written in 1984 as a selI-presentation, Foucault talks about the 'feux de verite`.

|.| les 'jeux de verite¨: c`est-a-dire non pas la decouverte des choses vrai, mais les regles selon
lesquelles, a propos de certaines choses, ce qu`un sujet peut dire releve de la question du vrai et du Iaux.

The Ioucauldian truth-games come out oI the political and historical contingent
relationship between the modalities oI 'subjectivation¨ and those oI 'objectivation¨.
Truth is neither a Ieature oI some ontological item, neither the value oI a well-Iormed
proposition, nor the correspondence between a judgment and the reality out oI it. Truth
is none oI these things more than it is the transitory result oI a strategic struggle due to
the contextual and transitory game among the relations oI power.

'Plutôt que d`etudier le grand jeu de l`Etat avec les citoyens ou avec les autres Etats, j`ai preIere |.|
m`interesser a des jeux de pouvoir beaucoup plus limites, beacup plus humbles et qui n`ont pas dans la
philosophie le statu noble, reconnu qu`ont les grands problemes: jeux de pouvoir autour de la Iolie, jeux
de pouvoir autour de la medicine, autour de la maladie|.|¨, ibidem, 542.
Ibidiem, p. 541.
M. Foucault, Foucault, Dits et ecrits II, Gallimard, Paris, 1994, pp. 1450-1455.
Let`s now try to draw some more general conclusions. What we tried to point
out is that Irom a certain point oI view the wittgensteinian conception oI language is
closer to the Ioucauldian concept oI discourse as a set oI statements then to the
traditional way oI conceiving language by philosophers. In some oI the conceptions
Wittgenstein wants to criticize language it is considered as glassv essence which reIlects
the world in transparency. A language still conditioned by the Aristotelian triangular
relation between objects in the world-thoughts (internal or mental states)-words oI
language, with the strong illusion that every word correspond to a physical and external
object into the world.
Wittgenstein is absolutely not a political philosopher, we cannot Iind any sketch,
doctrine, theory oI political relevance in his work. I would disagree both with the ones
who tried to interpret him as a conservative and reactionary thinker, and with those who
vice versa tried to get some leIt` or revolutionary philosophy` out oI him. Every
attempt that has been made in both the two directions is bound to Iailure.

Philosophy may in way interIere with the actual use oI language; it can in the end only describe it.
For it cannot give any Ioundation either.
It leaves everything as it is.

OIten the interprets recall this section oI the Investigations to justiIy their opinion about
a conservative political view in Wittgenstein. But, despise the readings oI the sections, I
think it leads us to that very way oI conceiving the task oI philosophy we tried to sketch
out some pages above: as non synthetic, non Ioundational (neither towards science, nor
language, nor power) but just as analytical`, explanatory. This consideration obviously
has as a consequence the remark oI some Iundamental diIIerences between Wittgenstein

L.Wittgenstein, Investigations, §124.
and Foucault. The French, as well illustrated in the conIerence 'La philosophie
analytique de la politique¨, wants to use the analysis, the diagnosis oI power to be able
to interact in more conscious and eIIective ways with power itselI, to be able to use
philosophy as a proper counter-power. Hence he gets to some conclusions to which
Wittgenstein surely did not get.
Nevertheless we can draw a Iairly clear philosophical methodology out oI many oI
Wittgenstein`s remarks, a methodology which would be interesting to try to apply or to
imagine at work in the Ioucauldian historical and political epistemology.
Both oI them reject some kind oI re-rising metaphysics (the one oI the use oI words out
oI their application in the use, the one oI the external point oI view in history) with a
philosophical attitude that reject the search and the appeal to any Ioundation, any
essence. This attitude may place them in the line oI a contemporary Kantian
philosophy`, basically Ior the reason just given and Ior two additional. The Iirst is the
dealing oI Wittgenstein with the problem oI the limits oI the language (Irom the
Tractatus) and the development by Foucault oI 'critical philosophy¨. The second is the
sharing oI a certain kind oI concept oI the transcendence`, in the very Kantian sense oI
'conditions oI possibility¨. This can be Iairly clear Ior Foucault whose work is totally
directed towards the studying oI the conditions oI possibility oI the real Iorms oI the
subject and the real Iorms oI the knowledge. Wittgenstein deals with the transcendent`,
obviously without using the word, in On Certaintv, where he thinks at our
anthropological and relative set oI certain truths (deeply embedded in our Iorms oI liIe)
as a presupposition, a Iooting Ior our use oI the language and Ior the very possibility oI
the activity oI doubting
We can ask ourselves whether Foucault was guided in his deeper consideration
oI Wittgenstein`s philosophy by the reading that Pierre Hadot did oI the Austrian

L. Wittgenstein, On Certaintv, §115: 'II you tried to doubt everything you would not get as Iar as
doubting anything. The game oI doubting itselI presupposes certainty¨.
philosopher between the 50`s and the 60`s. Hadot was the Iirst to introduce Wittgenstein
in France: Iirst the Tractatus and its theme oI the 'limites du langage¨ and then the
Investigations, with the more prominent theme oI the language-games (a concept really
important in Hadot`s consideration oI the supposed incoherence oI the ancient
. Moreover, still around the interpretations oI Wittgenstein 'as ancient
philosopher¨, we could observe how both him and Foucault were deeply interested in
ethics, also seen as a presupposition Ior the truth: Wittgenstein himselI, throughout his
liIe, thinks as the sincere, non-dissimulated, relation to oneselI as a necessary condition
to reach any kind oI truth
But all these are nothing but suggestions Ior possible Iurther and more speciIic
researches, Iurther similes or analogies.

The clariIication oI a simile does not necessarily lead to a new discovery or to a new
synthetic truth: it may just help you to consider better the things you already have, to
look at them Irom a diIIerent perspective. And in so doing, maybe to reIresh your


P. Hadot, Wittgenstein et les limites du langage, Librairie Philosophique J.Vrin, Paris, 2004.
See the 'Secret diary¨ Wittgenstein wrote during his voluntary military service in the Iirst world war
and, among the others, some remarks collected in Culture and Jalue about the necessity oI a selI-
revolution to be revolutionary`(p. 45) and those about the necessity oI a conIession, a moral puriIication,
a struggle against the pride (p. 26) and the dishonesty, the necessity oI being a 'good men¨ to be a
'decent philosopher¨.