Wittgenstein's Anti-scientistic Worldview

In Jonathan Beale & Ian James Kidd (eds.), Wittgenstein and Scientism. London: Routledge. pp. 59-80 (2017)
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This chapter outlines ways in which Wittgenstein’s opposition to scientism is manifest in his later conception of philosophy and the negative attitude he held toward his times. The chapter tries to make clear how these two areas of Wittgenstein’s thought are connected and reflect an anti-scientistic worldview he held, one intimated in Philosophical Investigations §122. It is argued that the later Wittgenstein’s metaphilosophy is marked out against two scientistic claims in particular. First, the view that the scientific method is superior to all other means of learning or gaining knowledge. Second, the view that scientific knowledge is superior to all other kinds of knowledge and understanding. Wittgenstein’s opposition to these claims is brought out through examining a fundamental aim of his later philosophy, producing the ‘kind of understanding which consists in “seeing connections”’ (PI §122), and his attempts to expose certain philosophical confusions. It is argued that these reflect his antiscientistic worldview. Through discussion of Oswald Spengler’s influence on Wittgenstein, the chapter outlines how Wittgenstein’s opposition to scientism underwrites his negative cultural outlook and how this is connected with the anti-scientistic elements of his later philosophy discussed. The work of Ray Monk (1999; 1990) and Hans-Johann Glock (1996) is instrumental in what follows.

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Jonathan Beale
University of Reading (PhD)


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