Review article: whose wittgenstein? Phil Hutchinson and Rupert Read

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Philosophy 80 2005 431

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Phil Hutchinson and Rupert Read
Wittgenstein’s Method Neglected Aspects
By Gordon Baker
Oxford: Blackwell, 2004 pp. 328. £40.00 HB. (Hereafter BWM)
Wittgenstein’s Copernican Revolution The Question of Linguistic Idealism
By Ilham Dilman
Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002. pp. 240. £52.50 HB. (Hereafter DWCR)
Wittgenstein: Connections and Controversies
By PMS. Hacker
Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2001 [pb 2004]). pp. 400. £45.00 HB;
£19.99 PB. (Hereafter HWCC)
Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations An Introduction
By David G. Stern
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. pp. 224. £40.00 HB;
£10.99 PB.(Hereafter: SWPI)
Since the publication of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations in there have appeared a huge number of secondary texts published on different aspects of his life, his work and his place in the philosophical canon.
The sheer volume of texts alone might indicate to a non-philosopher (or at least to someone who does their philosophizing outside the universities of the UK and USA) that Wittgenstein was the preeminent philosopher of the twentieth century and the philosopher of that century that can be truly said to take up a place alongside the greats Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas,
Descartes, Hume, Kant…etc. However, from those doing their philosophizing within the academy there is an increasingly apparent and contrasting sense that Wittgenstein is not only less significant than those philosophers who are usually considered as taking their place in the canon,
but less significant than his twentieth century contemporaries Frege,
Russell, Carnap, Turing and even than many of those who have been preeminent in the latter part of the century Quine, Davidson, Kripke, (early)
Putnam etc. It is common to hear young professional philosophers talking of Wittgenstein as if his contribution to our subject amounted to something akin to a statistical blip—that is, while appearing to many fora short period in the mid twentieth century to have done nothing less than transform our subject, he is now, with the perspective afforded by history,
seen as bordering on the insignificant in light of the wider picture—of the progression of our subject—that we now have. Indeed, research grant applications do well to leave out the W word. Young academics are advised to play down any interest in Wittgenstein when applying for jobs.
And if one wants one’s critique of a particular philosophical picture to be
Philosophy 80 2005
©2005 The Royal Institute of Philosophy
treated on its merits alone one better not mention that critique’s
Wittgensteinian debts or heritage.
So, how can this be Think of the questions raised here. For instance,
how can one of the most notoriously difficult-to-grasp philosophers of the twentieth century spawn a publishing industry of his own, an industry with its decidedly populist end An industry, that is, which ranges from books on ‘Tractarian’ logical form, written by logicians and impenetrable to all but those trained informal logic, to books on a ten-minute argument, written by a couple of journalists, who acknowledge that no one present at the argument (between Popper and Wittgenstein) really remembers what was said, a book marketed to the departure lounge and the for book-buyer? In short, Wittgenstein’s name sells books almost anywhere but knowledge of and admiration for his philosophy does not necessarily help you to sell yourself as a philosopher, one bit. We think the answer to the question posed at the head of the previous paragraph is to be found in that vast secondary literature, which spans the two extremes we invoked. We suspect that the interest in Wittgenstein that leads to publishers commissioning so many books indicates far more on the part of the book-buyers than a mere voyeuristic interest in a somewhat eccentric and domineering character we think it also indicates that his interest as a philosopher lies in more than his contributions to the early- twentieth-century development of philosophical logic (narrowly construed. Furthermore, we argue that those who summarily dismiss
Wittgenstein’s lasting significance are generally found to be dismissing a straw Wittgenstein, though crucially a straw Wittgenstein often fashioned by friends and foes alike.
In what follows we review four recent secondary (academic) texts. All these are significant texts by leading contemporary Wittgenstein scholars and while two (HWCC & SWPI) of them contain some discussion of
Wittgenstein’s Tractatus we shall focus our review, in the main, on issues in the later Wittgenstein, especially in PI exegesis.
Beginning in the early s Peter Hacker’s name has steadily become almost synonymous with Wittgenstein scholarship. With his early (later much revised) Insight and Illusion (1972 [1986]), through the magisterial four-volume Analytical Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations (the first two volumes were coauthored with Gordon Baker volume one has recently undergone revision by Hacker alone) to his Wittgenstein’s Place in
Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy and the collection under review here. These texts alone would warrant great respect. However, one should add to these several more the coauthored (with Gordon Baker) Frege:
Logical Excavations, (1983) a book which subjected the German logician’s work to critical reappraisal, suggesting that Frege’s own philosophy lacked coherence and that modern interpretations of that philosophy misrepresent it the book spawned an (entertaining) exchange with
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433 On these points, there is little doubt that we, Hacker and the ‘Swansea
Wittgensteinians’ would very largely agree.
Michael Dummett in Philosophical Quarterly that spanned five years, volumes 34, 37, 38 & 39). In Language, Sense and Nonsense
(1984) Baker & Hacker launched a stinging—and typically polemical intone assault on prominent trends in contemporary linguistics and philosophy of language. The polemic was positively informed by their interpretation of Wittgenstein’s later work and negatively so by the flaws they took to be inherent in Frege’s work and the influence they deemed the latter had exercised upon contemporary theoretical linguists and philosophers of language, such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Dummett, respectively. In Scepticism, Rules and Language (1984) Baker & Hacker turned their attention to the treatment of rule-following in the contemporary philosophy of language and in particular the reading of Wittgenstein advanced by Saul Kripke. Once again the style was certainly polemical,
maybe caustic it certainly upset the object of the polemic considerably.
And while one maybe inclined to lean towards Baker & Hacker (if one must lean, on such matters) regarding Wittgenstein’s rule-following remarks when the target of their criticism is Saul Kripke’s exegesis—given that the latter (notoriously) selectively reads Wittgenstein’s remarks in order to generate ‘Wittgenstein-the-rule-following-sceptic’ or
—this does not blind one to the somewhat gung-ho and overreaching approach adopted in that work nor to a recognition that there is in play therein an understanding of Wittgenstein on following a rule which, while avoiding the pitfalls of Kripke’s reading, saddles
Wittgenstein with a substantive philosophy of questionable value.
So where do we find Hacker at the start of the twenty-first century?
And does he, as the most prominent Wittgenstein exegete writing today,
make a cogent case for Wittgenstein’s continued philosophical relevance?
It is with these thoughts in mind that we approach the collection under review here.
Hacker’s current collection contains papers spanning seventeen years.
The two earliest papers in the collection are coauthored with Gordon
Baker, Hacker’s regular coauthor in the s. The rest are authored by
Hacker alone, with nine of the essays first appearing between 1999 and
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434 And thus we certainly cannot agree with the letter of Stern’s remark,
on p. 3 of SWPI, that Kripke’s bookmarked a decisive step forward in the literature on the Philosophical Investigastions’. Given our opening
(somewhat anecdotal) observations regarding the attitudes toward
Wittgenstein’s (and Wittgensteinians’) work found among contemporary analytic philosophers it is pertinent to note here how this is made manifest in discussions of Kripke: it is far from uncommon to hear philosophers dismissing entirely the significance of Kripke’s blatant selectivity in his reading of Wittgenstein’s rule-following remarks.
In very brief there are moments in their critique of Kripke when,
anxious to avoid the imputation of scepticism to Wittgenstein (à la
Kripke), they instead saddle Wittgenstein with an implicit theory or even metaphysics or mythology of rules.

2001. Therefore, barring a few anomalies, this is Hacker’s most up-to-date statement of his position on Wittgenstein. However, what of those anomalies We find it somewhat odd that these early coauthored papers find a place in this collection. Not only are two of them substantially older than the other papers in the collection, by at least six years, but Gordon Baker,
Hacker’s coauthor in these papers, had, from 1991 onwards, not only explicitly distanced himself from the Baker & Hacker reading of
Philosophical Investigations but also frequently used Baker & Hacker’
readings as a stalking horse for his own new reading (see BWM: p. 47, n, 5, 6, 8, & 11; p. 48, n. 13; p. 49, n. 20; p. 50, n. 26; p. 51, n. 28; p. n. 21; p. 259, n. 68; & p. 278, n.10;
in addition, critical references to
Hacker alone are almost as numerous, as are those to Anthony Kenny, and
Hans-Johann Glock). We find it odd that in HWCC—and in fact in the entire large volume of literature published by Hacker on these matters—
he has never sought to seriously engage with Baker’s post ’90 ‘apostasy’.
Particularly so since Baker explicitly identifies continuities between his own (post Baker & Hacker) reading of PI and the readings advanced by
Stanley Cavell, James Conant, Cora Diamond and Burton Dreben
(BWM: 104: n. 2; & Diamond alone at p. 222: n. 37). What is significant about Baker’s change of mind is not that he did so a change of mind does not necessitate progress. What is significant is the extent to which Baker’s later work stands as a powerful critique of the reading propounded by he and Hacker in the sand by Hacker since.
The details of the differences are many and we cannot do justice to them here. However, the crucial distinction between Baker & Hacker and Hacker on the one hand, and the later (post ’90) Baker on the other, is in the understanding of Wittgenstein’s method (or views on / practices in the proper
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435 For brevity we note only the page references to notes here. It is in the notes where Baker explicitly—and frequently/repeatedly—identifies the reading he is juxtaposing to his own in the body of the text as that of Baker Hacker. Therefore, the details of his departure from and the substance of his criticism of those readings are to be found in the text of the essays to which these are the notes.
We understand that Hacker is—at long last—addressing the issue in his contribution to Kahane, G. Kanterian, E. Kuusela, O. (eds) Wittgenstein
and his Interpreters essays in memory of Gordon Baker. Oxford Blackwell.
The significance of Baker’s alignment of his reading with that of
Cavell, Conant, Diamond and Dreben and Hacker’s lack of comment upon that alignment is to be found in Hacker’s numerous critical remarks regarding those same readers, e.g. in HWCC (p. xiii) and also in Hacker (Wittgenstein, Carnap and the New American Wittgensteinians’ The
Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 210; pp. 1–23. Regarding what Hacker has to say in the latter about Conant and Diamond on TL-P one might also see Diamond’s (2005) response Logical Syntax in Wittgenstein’s
Tractatus.The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 218; pp. And his followers such as Hans-Johann Glock.
task and practice of the activity of philosophy. In short, Baker’s post ‘position’—expounded throughout BWM—is that Wittgenstein’s method is radically therapeutic: therapeutic in that the aim is to relieve mental cramps brought about by being faced with a seemingly intractable philosophical problem radically so in that how this aim is achieved is person relative, occasion sensitive and context dependent. (Seethe following chapters of BWM: 1, 2 & 9; the latter of these appeared posthumously, and much shortened, in the pages of this journal.
A key indication of the difference can be gleaned from the understandings of the place of
‘perspicuous (re-)presentation’,
of which
Wittgenstein writes in PI §122, that it is of fundamental importance for us. For Baker perspicuous presentation does not denote a class of representations as it is usually thought to do (in the work of Baker & Hacker for instance, though, to be sure, not only there. It rather denotes what works:
what achieves the therapeutic aim. And that this form of representation does so here, now, for this person, etc. does not imply that it will do so again, (or) for someone else. Therapy is achieved by facilitating one’s interlocutors (or) one’s own) arrival at a position where they might freely acknowledge hitherto unnoticed aspects. Acknowledging new aspects helps free one from the grip of a philosophical picture that initially led to the seeming intractability of the philosophical problem. Any presentation which serves this purpose can therefore be said to have been perspicuous—
for that person, at that time, thereabouts. Perspicuity, on this understanding, does not denote a property of a class of representations but is rather an achievement term perspicuity is accorded to the presentation that achieves the bringing to light of new aspects which are freely accepted by one’s philosophical interlocutor. One consequence of the later Baker’s rendition of perspicuous presentation is that it allows one to reinterpret what our grammar might be when we consider ourselves to be perspicuously presenting it (see BWM:
chs. 1 & 2). For (later) Baker grammar is best read as our grammar’;
while for Hacker, grammar is to be read as ‘the grammar’. So, for Hacker a perspicuous presentation comprises the clarification of the rules of (the)
grammar (of the language, by making clear the similarities and dissimi-
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436 Indeed, Hacker confirms this in the Preface to the revised edition of volume one of the Analytic Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations.
‘Friedrich Waismann: A Vision of Philosophy in Philosophy 78 pp. There is some dispute over how best to translate Übersichtliche
Darstellung; while it has traditionally been rendered, following
Anscombe’s translation, as perspicuous representation, a number of authors, such as Stanley Cavell (2001 [1996]) and Nigel Pleasants (have argued (independently) that it should be better translated as perspicuous presentation. We favour the latter. (For more detail in respect of this segment of our argument, see our The significance of perspicuous presentations, forthcoming in Daniele Moyal-Sharrock’s Wittgenstein’s
philosophy of psychology.)
larities in our employment of words in our language. Hacker writes:
The main source of philosophical puzzlement and of misconceived philosophical theories is our failure to command a clear view of the uses of words. The grammar of our language is lacking in surveyability,
for expressions with very different uses have similar surface grammars:
‘I meant looks akin to I pointed, I have a pain to I have a pin, He is thinking appears akin to he is talking, to have a mind looks like to have a brain, ‘2 is greater than 1’ seems akin to Jack is taller than Jill’.
Hence we misconstrue the meanings of expressions in our philosophical reflections. We think of meaning something or someone as a mental actor activity of attaching signs to objects, take pain to be a type of object inalienably possessed by the sufferer, imagine the mind is identical with the brain, assume that statements of numerical inequalities are descriptions and soon. What is needed is a perspicuous representation of the segment of grammar that bears on the problem with which we are confronted. It enables us to see differences between concepts that are obscured by misleadingly similar grammatical forms of expressions. For this no new discoveries are necessary or possible—only the description of grammar, the clarification and arrangement of familiar rules for the use of words. We must remind ourselves of what we already know perfectly well—namely, how expressions, the use of which we have already mastered, are indeed used. […] Complementary to the conception of
philosophy as the quest fora surveyable representation of seg-
ments of our language that give rise to conceptual perplexity and
confusion is the conception of philosophy as therapeutic.
(HWCC: 31. emboldened emphases ours) There is much we can find pretty agreeable in the above passage. However,
there is also much which does damage to Wittgenstein as the philosopher of significance we think him to be. For instance, is it really plausible that the errors of philosophers are of the crude type—of ‘type-confusions’—
made central in the early part of this quotation Isn’t this precisely the kind of crude criticism of philosophers—as little more than linguistic idiots who fail to notice the most elementary distinctions between different words etc.—that is likely to put people off, put readers backs up That is to say Not persuade; Not dissolve delusions Not lead the philosopher themselves to give up those claims which they are inclined to make?
We focus hereon the claim that there are two complementary strands,
clarificatory and therapeutic, in Wittgenstein’s philosophy. We can find no evidence for these being discrete though complementary strands. Yet
Hacker repeatedly asserts them to be so (in addition to HWCC: pp. 23, 31,
37; see also Hacker 1996: pp. 232–38 and app. However,
leaving the question of textual evidence aside, asserting them to be so certainly has unfortunate implications for Hacker’s ‘Wittgenstein’.
The unfortunate implications are if elucidation and therapy
(connective analysis, perspicuous presentation) are distinct endeavours,
though both undertaken in PI, then what motivates the elucidations It is
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difficult, without relating, i.e. subsuming, the practice of elucidating to the therapeutic thrust of PI, to understand why Wittgenstein would want to engage in such clarifications of our language. For if the clarification of our grammar is not occasion-sensitive—not carried out on a case-by-case basis with a particular interlocutor—then Wittgenstein, it seems, is embroiled in something of a performative contradiction. For if clarification per se is a goal then it presupposes a particular view of how language must be (contra,
that is, PI §132). In clarifying language in this way Wittgenstein is taken to dissolve philosophical problems by showing us (clarifying, perspicuously representing) the rules of our grammar (linguistic facts. Again this raises the prospect of Wittgenstein, at a really quite basic level, contradicting his own metaphilosophical remarks in the very text in which he makes those remarks a text, we should recall, that he laboured over for sixteen years.
Indeed, it turns Wittgenstein into a closet metaphysician. This problem of motivation then presents further problems for Hacker if he insists upon
‘connective analysis as separate and distinct from therapy, then this must
(at the least) imply that Wittgenstein does have a picture (or a theory) of
‘language’; such that it enables us, as it were, to take up a stance external to that language and survey it and that these elucidations serve some non- person-relative and non-occasion-sensitive elucidatory purpose.
This is important because holding onto the idea that there is more than therapy hereabouts leads Hacker to saddle Wittgenstein with a form of conventionalism. Hacker seems not to realize why others find his form of
‘Wittgensteinianism’ easy to dismiss. But a glance at the following passage might indicate why it is.
[D]espite his own pronouncements[!], Wittgenstein’s philosophy also has a complementary constructive aspect to it, which he himself acknowledged. Side by side with his demolition of philosophical illusion in logic, mathematics, and philosophy of psychology, he gives us
numerous overviews of the logical grammar of problematic con-
cepts, painstakingly tracing conceptual connections that we are all too prone to overlook. The conceptual geology of the Tractatus gave way to the
conceptual topography of the Investigations. In place of the depth analysis envisaged by the Tractatus, he now described the uses of expres-
sions, the various forms of their context-dependence, the manner in which they are integrated in behaviour, the point and presuppositions of their use, and their relations of implication, compatibility, or incompatibility with other expressions. Such a connective analysis of philosophically problematic concepts that give rise to philosophical perplexity aims to give us an overview of the use of our words. The concept of a perspicuous representation, he wrote is of fundamental significance for us (PI
§122)—it produces precisely that understanding that consists in seeing connections, and enables us to find our way through the web of language,
entanglement in which is characteristic of conceptual confusion and philosophical perplexity. Providing such a perspicuous representation of some segment of our language, elucidation of the conceptual forms and
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structures of some domain of human thought that is philosophically problematic, is a positive, constructive achievement that is complementary to the critical and destructive task of shattering philosophical illusion,
destroying philosophical mythology, and dispelling conceptual confusion.
(HWCC: 37. emboldened emphases ours)
‘Logical grammar, topography we are in Gilbert Ryle territory here.
Some might not see that as a problem.
But we remind you of our concerns above. Let us look at what we generally take to be the purpose of maps. We don’t find it useful to talk of mapping the waves in the ocean.
Nor do we generally consider it useful even to map the (local, transitory)
sand dunes in the average desert. Maps rely, so that they might serve the purpose for which they are designed, on relatively static reference points holding around which the map-reader might orient themselves. The thought that mapping our language might serve a purpose (nonperson relative, non-occasion sensitive) relies on the assumption that certain relatively static reference points obtain within that language. From what vantage point might we be able to discern which parts of our language are mountains, which sand dunes and which waves, and furthermore, where new conurbations might appear that might impact upon these Indeed,
how might we know that in language mountains don’t become ‘waves’
before returning to being mountains To put this a little less metaphorically What vantage point on language would one need to assume so as to be able to discern that which would serve as (non-person-relative, non- occasion-sensitive) reference points?
Hacker might appeal to one of two alternatives here, neither of which,
we feel, help him. He might appeal to certain concepts as being central to human existence, after the fashion of Strawsonian descriptive metaphysics.

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