“In a certain sense we cannot make mistakes in logic”: Wittgenstein’s Anti-Psychologism and the Normativity of Logic

Disputatio 10 (18):165-185 (2021)
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Wittgenstein’s Tractatus construes the nature of reasoning in a manner which sharply conflicts with the conventional wisdom that logic is normative, not descriptive of thought. For although we sometimes seem to reason incorrectly, Wittgenstein denies that we can make logical mistakes (5.473). My aim in this paper is to show that the Tractatus provides us with good reasons to rethink some of the central assumptions that are standardly made in thinking about the relation between logic and thought. In particular, the rejection of logical mistakes is to be understood in connection with Wittgenstein’s non-psychological approach to the thinking subject (5.641). On Wittgenstein's view, inference, understanding, and meaning are holistically related; cases of defective reasoning are to be explained in terms of a defective grasp of meaning which manifests in an indeterminate use of signs. Invalid reasoning therefore does not count for Wittgenstein as a species of reasoning, but rather as the mere illusion of reasoning. The rejection of logical mistakes thus gives voice to a radical disjunctivist approach.

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Gilad Nir
Universität Potsdam


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