Wittgenstein and British Philosophy

Eight classes x 90 minutes

Michaelmas Term: Weeks 1–8, Wednesdays 1430–1600

Graduate Common Room, Raised Faculty Building, Sidgwick Avenue

Dr N Krishna (nk459)

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work, spare and suggestive in style, needs and rewards close exegetical scrutiny. But this isn’t, and hasn’t, been the only way of putting his thought to use.  This class looks at themes from Wittgenstein’s work, in all its phases, as they figure in the writings of his British contemporaries, disciples, students, fellow travellers and critics, most of them working from Oxford, the dominant centre of British philosophy after the war. The point of the class is not to use the work of these philosophers to throw light on Wittgenstein’s writings, but rather to see how they used his writings to throw light on the problems that concerned them. The themes we shall look at include language, the explanation of action, the nature of philosophical problems, the foundations of ethics, the nature of pictorial representation, and the possibility of a Wittgensteinian politics. We shall be reading essays by GE Moore, John Wisdom, Gilbert Ryle, GEM Anscombe, JL Austin, PF Strawson, Iris Murdoch, Peter Winch, Bernard Williams and Richard Wollheim.

Open to Part II, MPhil and PhD students; others may attend with the permission of the class convener. The starred reading listed for each week is required, the passages from Wittgenstein are recommended, any further readings are optional.

Cambridge students may contact the convenor (nk459) for access to scanned copies of all set readings, available here (password-protected).

1 Philosophical problems and language / Gilbert Ryle
2 Common sense and hinge propositions / P. F. Strawson
3 Ordinary language / J. L. Austin
4 Action / G. E. M. Anscombe
5 Inner life and ethics / Iris Murdoch
6 Philosophy of Social Science / Peter Winch
7 Political philosophy / Bernard Williams
8 Aesthetics / Richard Wollheim

Schedule

1 Philosophical problems and language

* Gilbert Ryle, “Systematically Misleading Expressions,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 32 (1931): 139–70. Biography: [ODNB] Video: [URL]

– John Wisdom, “Philosophical Perplexity,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 37 (1936): 71–88. Biography: [ODNB]

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1958), 58–9 (‘Now when the solipsist … of the greatest variety.’).

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Revised edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), §§115–133.

2 Common sense and Hinge Propositions

* P. F. Strawson, “Scepticism, Naturalism and Transcendental Arguments,” in Scepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties (London: Methuen, 1985), 1–29. Biography: [ODNB] Video 1 [URL] Video 2 [URL]

– G. E. Moore, “A Defence of Common Sense,” in Contemporary British Philosophy, Second Series, ed. J. H. Muirhead (George Allen and Unwin, 1925), 192–233. Biography: [ODNB]

– G. E. Moore, “Proof of an External World,” Proceedings of the British Academy 25, no. 5 (1939): 273–300.

– G. A. Paul, “GE Moore, Analysis, Common Usage, and Common Sense,” in The Revolution in Philosophy, ed. A. J. Ayer (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1956), 56–69.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Revised edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), §§217–19.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, trans. Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969), §§93–106. [PDF]

3 Ordinary language

* J. L. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, 57 (January 1, 1956): 1–30 (esp the discussion of philosophical method, pp. 7–15).

* J. L. Austin, Sense and Sensibilia: Reconstructed from the manuscript notes by G. J. Warnock (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 1–5.

J. L. Austin: Biography: [ODNB] Also: Nakul Krishna, “How not to be a chucklehead,” Aeon Magazine, November 23 2016. [URL]

Stanley Cavell, “Austin at Criticism,” The Philosophical Review 74, no. 2 (1965): 204–219.

Stanley Cavell, “Must We Mean What We Say?” in Must We Mean What We Say? 2nd edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012 [1958], 1–43. Shorter and more accessible summary: Stephen Mulhall, “Introduction: On Saying What We Mean,” in Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1–20.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Revised edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), §109, §116, §126.

‘Linguistic Philosophy: Bernard Williams talks to Bryan Magee’ [URL]

4 Action

G. E. M. Anscombe, “Intention,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, 57 (January 1, 1956): 321–32.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Revised edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), §§611–47 (esp §§611–21).

5 Inner life and ethics

* Iris Murdoch, “The Idea of Perfection,” in The Sovereignty of Good (London: Routledge, 1970), 1–45; reprinted in Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (London: Penguin Books, 1999), 299–336.

Stuart Hampshire, “Disposition and Memory,” in Freedom of Mind and Other Essays (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015 [originally, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972]), 160–182.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Revised edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), §§258–21.

6 Philosophy of Social Science

* Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough,” in ed. James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, Philosophical Occasions, 1912–1951 (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1993), 119–155.

Peter Winch, “Understanding a Primitive Society,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 1 (4) (October 1964), 307–24.

Frank Cioffi, “Wittgenstein and Obscurantism,” Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, 64 (1) (July 1 1990): 1–24.

P. M. S. Hacker, “Developmental Hypotheses and Perspicuous Representations: Wittgenstein on Frazer’s ‘Golden Bough’,” Iyyun: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly 41 (July 1992), 277–99.

7 Political philosophy

* Bernard Williams, “Saint-Just’s Illusion,” in Making Sense of Humanity and other philosophical papers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 135–150.

Bernard Williams, “Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline,” in ed. A. W. Moore, Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 180–99.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1958), 26–9 (‘Consider as an example … the discovery of the South Pole’).

8 Aesthetics

* Richard Wollheim, “Seeing-as, Seeing-in, and Pictorial Representation,” in Art and Its Objects, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 137–51.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and R. Rhees, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, 2nd reissued edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 193e–214e.