Friday, August 03, 2018

Hilary (Whitehall) Putnam on Ludwig (Josef Johann) Wittgenstein

“ … I think [Wittgenstein] gives us an example of how philosophical reflection can be something other than creating new tempests in old teapots, or of finding new teapots to create tempests in. At its best, philosophical reflection can give us an unexpectedly honest and clear look at our own situation, not a ‘view from nowhere’ but a view through the eyes of one or another wise, flawed, deeply individual human being. If Wittgenstein wants to make a bonfire of our philosophical vanities [e.g., the desire for metaphysical certainty or the quest for metaphysical foundations, or the alienated ‘attitudes’ incarnate in relativistic ‘escape’ or hard (or constitutional) skepticism], this is not a matter of sheer intellectual sadism; if I am reading Wittgenstein correctly, those vanities, in his view, are what keep us from trust, and, perhaps even more important, keep us from compassion.” From the concluding paragraph of Putnam’s chapter, “Wittgenstein on Reference and Relativism,” in his book (which ‘grew out of the Gifford Lectures’ delivered in 1990 at the University of St. Andrews), Renewing Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1992): 178-79.

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