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Wittgenstein: Comparisons and Context$
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P. M. S. Hacker

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199674824

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199674824.001.0001

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Wittgenstein's Anthropological and Ethnological Approach

Wittgenstein's Anthropological and Ethnological Approach

(p.111) 5 Wittgenstein's Anthropological and Ethnological Approach
Wittgenstein: Comparisons and Context

P. M. S. Hacker

Oxford University Press

Wittgenstein remarked that he adopted an ethnological or anthropological approach in philosophy. The approach of the Tractatus was logico-metaphysical, an investigation into timeless truths and their representation in language. Language was conceived as an atemporal system of forms. Linguistic behaviour and the performance of speech-acts were not mentioned, and both communication and understanding were relegated to psychology. In the Investigations, he dealt with language as a human practice. Now he argued that grammar is autonomous and, in an important sense, arbitrary. There is no semantic connection between language and reality. Ostensive definition does not forge such a connection, for samples belong to the means of representation, not to what is represented. Concepts are not correct or incorrect, but only more or less useful. Concept-formation, possession, application, and utility depend upon general facts of nature, as well as on common human nature. Wittgenstein's later conception of language is anthropological, and his conception of human languages is ethnological and cultural.

Keywords:   language, concepts, grammar, ostensive definition, representation, communication, practice

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