Where the River Meets the Sea: Wittgenstein and the Context of Rationality
University of Hamburg / Europa Kolleg Hamburg; University of Cambridge - Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS); Harvard University - Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES) ; Sciences Po - L'Institut d'études politiques (IEP) de Paris
May 27, 2010
The works of Ludwig Wittgenstein are famous for many terms and ideas: language games, private language, rules and rule-following, are widely known beyond the borders of philosophy. However, rationality as a central concept in occidental philosophy never seemed to have sparked Wittgenstein’s interest. At least, the term does not explicitly show up in his works. Does this in fact mean that he did not have a notion of rationality? Is it really the case that Wittgenstein simply missed out on one of the most important concepts of philosophical thought? On the contrary: not only did he deal with questions definitively ascribed to the conceptual history of the term, but he also worked towards a transformation of the notion of human rationality and its philosophical applications. Wittgenstein’s efforts were aimed at showing that there is nothing within human nature that defines what is perceived as rational, irrational or non-rational, but that the differences are produced in human action and language. Put another way, there are no fixed and timeless criteria of rationality that we can ever explore. The necessity of such a transformative perspective on rationality, however, can only be adequately captured and appreciated by recognizing the taxonomy of Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, and the systematic arrangement of some of his best-known concepts. It will be argued that this systematic arrangement has to be completed by another concept that fits in between form of life and language: the context. It is only here that rationality can be properly addressed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: Wittgenstein, rationality, context, context rationality, language, philosophy of language, rational choiceworking papers series
Date posted: May 27, 2010 ; Last revised: December 10, 2011
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