Review of Ludwig Wittgenstein by Edward Kanterian (2007)

Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization Michael Starks 3rd Ed. (2017) (2017)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Overall, it is first rate with accurate, sensitive and penetrating accounts of his life and thought in roughly chronological order, but, inevitably (ie, like everyone else) it fails, in my view, to place his work in proper context and gets some critical points wrong. It is not made clear that philosophy is armchair psychology and that W was a pioneer in what later became cognitive or evolutionary psychology. One would not surmise from this book that he laid out the foundations of the modern concept of intentionality (roughly, personality or higher order thought) which has been further advanced by many (most notably in philosophy by John Searle in “The Construction of Social Reality” and “Rationality in Action”). There is no clear explanation of how W defined the class of potential actions, which he called dispositions or inclinations, (now often called propositional attitudes), differentiating them from perceptions, memories and actions and showing how they lack truth value. He notes that W spent much of his time discussing the foundations of mathematics but fails to provide any explanation as to how this relates to his work on language and logic. In fact, as W came to realize, they are all names for groups of functions of our innate psychology with many differences and none are dependent on the others. It is not really made clear that all our behavior depends on the unquestionable axioms of our evolved psychology and thus differs totally from the testable empirical facts which they enable us to discover. It is not explained that W’s frequent references to “grammar” and to “language games” refer to our innate psychology. All these failings are the norm in behavioral studies. He notes that W described thinking and other dispositions or inclinations (W’s terms)-- (ie, judging, feeling, remembering, believing etc)-- as behaviors and not as mental activities but I don’t see that he really makes it clear that another pioneering discovery of W’s was that dispositions describe public actions and cannot be mental phenomena for the same reason that he so famously rejected the possibility of a private language. He repeatedly and correctly notes (eg, p176) that the core of W’s work is the nature of language but (again the universal failing) does not make it clear that language is for humans (as opposed to animals) almost coextensive with thought (public behavior as W insisted) and thus with our evolved psychology. Like most people, philosophers or not, Kanterian has not followed W and taken the final step towards understanding and describing behavior from an evolutionary standpoint, the only viewpoint that makes sense of it, or indeed of anything. Those wishing a comprehensive up to date framework for human behavior from the modern two systems view may consult my book ‘The Logical Structure of Philosophy, Psychology, Mind and Language in Ludwig Wittgenstein and John Searle’ 2nd ed (2019). Those interested in more of my writings may see ‘Talking Monkeys--Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Religion and Politics on a Doomed Planet--Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 3rd ed (2019), The Logical Structure of Human Behavior (2019), and Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century 4th ed (2019)
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
First archival date: 2016-10-21
Latest version: 2 (2016-12-12)
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
106 ( #43,232 of 2,448,722 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
14 ( #39,744 of 2,448,722 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.