‘Blind’ to the obvious

History of the Human Sciences 27 (4):59-76 (2014)
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The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein cites the Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Koehler almost as often as he cites William James in his posthumously published writings on the philosophy of psychology. Yet, few treatments of the Wittgenstein–Koehler relation in the philosophical literature could be called sustained discussions. Moreover, most of them treat Koehler as a mere whipping boy for Wittgenstein, one more opportunity to criticize the practice of psychologists. This article emphasizes how much the two thinkers agreed, and the extent to which some of Wittgenstein’s work not only agreed with but also has a logical structure parallel to some of Koehler’s text. Both thinkers hold that the theoretician should strive to recognize and resist the impulse to step in and purify, distill, streamline, or exclude phenomena: common, everyday experience for Koehler and common, everyday uses of words for Wittgenstein. They both aim to counteract the tendency to discount and disparage what is ordinary and common.
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