The Myth of the Quietist Wittgenstein

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This paper seeks to extricate Wittgenstein from the quietist and reductively therapeutic image that has overshadowed him, by showing in what ways he was an interventionist philosopher both within philosophy and for the sciences. We shall find that his view and practice of philosophy are not only about the dissolution of problems but their solution; not only about demystification but about positive understanding. Perceptions of his philosophy as fenced in by language and unconcerned by the connection between word and world will be found unwarranted. For, although Wittgenstein’s 'perspicuous presentations' are as removed from scientific, scientistic or metaphysical speculation as can be, look across his desk, he did. Aware that conceptual elucidation cannot be insulated from our ways of living ('words have meaning only in the stream of life'), Wittgenstein upheld and practised the untendentious observation of 'what is always before our eyes'. He also explicitly advocated philosophical clarification for scientific investigation. The myth of a quietist Wittgenstein has contributed to mainstream philosophy’s depreciation of a great philosopher; it is hoped that the demystification in this paper will help correct this flawed picture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein and Scientism
EditorsJonathan Beale, Ian Kidd
Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
ISBN (Electronic)9781315276199
ISBN (Print)9781138829398
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017


  • Wittgenstein
  • Quietism
  • Therapy


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