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Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigations (PH936-20/30)

Programme content

This course will be devoted to a close study of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. We will study in some depth central themes in Wittgenstein’s later work – meaning, understanding, rule-following.

We will concentrate on a number of detailed areas of study to include such issues as:

  • How does the text open?
  • Does Wittgenstein criticise the role of ostensive definition and, if so, what is the argument?
  • Does the Augustine passage provide an account of language learning that Wittgenstein opposes and criticises, or is it a source for investigations?
  • What does Wittgenstein mean by training – in the opening sections (§6), in the passages on ‘game’ and family resemblance (§§65-71) and in the account of teaching concepts after the resolution of the rule-following paradox (§208)?
  • What is the role of ‘natural expressions of sensation’ in dissolving the inner/outer distinction?

Interpretational issues covered will include assessing Wittgenstein’s methodology and the status of his prescription that philosophy should offer descriptions not explanations.

Topics covered

The following is a list of topics for this module in the 2015/16 academic year; precise seminar content may change from year to year.

  • Augustine – language learning, names, ostensive definition
  • Family resemblance and the teacher/pupil relationship
  • Rule following
  • Private language
Timing and CATS

This module runs in the Spring term and is worth 20 or 30 CATS depending on your programme of study.