Continuity and Discontinuity in Visual Experience

Critica 24 (70):3-15 (1992)
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This paper investigates the role of visual experience in Wittgenstein's work. The specific thesis is that visual experience provides not only diverse illustrative examples of what could be an explanation of meaning, but that it also provides a recurrent metaphor for the whole process of meaning and understanding. Wittgenstein uses a great number of visual examples in his texts. Their diversity may be accounted for by the great diversity of ways in which he attempts to describe the relationship between a word and its meaning. The resultant variety of visual examples may be summarised by what I call the Visual Discontinuity Thesis. However, beneath this diversity there lies a thread of continuity. This is provided by the persistent use of visual experience in the description of the word-meaning relation. This use underlies the projection relationship of the Tractatus and the "seeing-as" relationship of the Investigations. This recurrent visual metaphor may be summarised by what I call the Visual Continuity Thesis. This paper presents the latter thesis in the context of a description of the former.

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Michael Biggs
University of Hertfordshire


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