Wittgenstein, No Linguistic Idealist

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Against the position that our conceptual schemes are evolving attempts to track invisible conceptual seams already in nature (scientific realism), Wittgenstein holds that it is our language that is responsible for those seams. Language does not follow, or attempt to follow, an existing, though inconspicuous, outline in nature, which it is science’s business to render more conspicuous; language is itself responsible for the outline. This insistence on the ‘autonomous’ creativity of language has earned Wittgenstein the charge of ‘linguistic idealism’. This chapter argues that the importance of language in the constitution of our conceptual schemes does not preclude the involvement of reality, both in that language is itself ‘reality-soaked’ – that is, embedded in and conditioned by reality –, and in that its creations are an integral part of human reality. The chapter concludes by touching on the creativity of literary language with an appeal to F. R. Leavis and Merleau-Ponty.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein and the Creativity of Language
EditorsSebastian Greve, Jakub Mácha
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-47254-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-47253-3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015


  • Wittgenstein
  • linguistic idealism
  • certainty
  • Merleau-Ponty


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