Fighting Relativism: Wittgenstein and Kuhn

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As Ilham Dilman puts it: 'language is the source of the system we find in nature'. There is no conception of reality independent of language. There are at least three problems with this – Kuhn's and Wittgenstein's – way of thinking: (1) the problem of incommensurability; (2) the problem of idealism – in the case of Kuhn and Wittgenstein, a linguistic idealism; (3) the problem of conceptual relativism. In this paper, I argue that 'incommensurability' is a non-problem. I then defend Kuhn and Wittgenstein against the charge of linguistic idealism by showing that and how, on their view, our concepts attach to reality. Finally, I deflate the charge of conceptual relativism by arguing that although they reject the existence of an objective basis lying outside all human conceptual frameworks and world-pictures, neither Wittgenstein nor Kuhn endorses an acceptance of all conceptual schemes. In conclusion, however, we shall see that only Wittgenstein finds the stopping-place of relativism – in his naturalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRealism, Relativism, Constructivism
EditorsChristian Kanzian, Sebastian Kletzl, Josef Mitterer, Katharina Neges
PublisherWalter de Gruyter
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-052342-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Publication series

NamePublications of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society


  • Wittgenstein
  • Kuhn
  • relativism
  • certainty


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