Dissolution of philosophical problems and the transformation of thinking

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In this essay I discuss Wittgenstein’s view of the dissolution of philosophical problems. I argue that dissolution for the later Wittgenstein is never merely a matter of showing the nonsensicality or unworkability of a philosophical view, or that there is something wrong with philosophical problems as they have been posed. Instead, dissolution necessarily involves the introduction of an alternative view in the context of which the problems in question no longer arise. Hence, Wittgensteinian dissolutions involve as an essential component the transformation of ways of thinking. This has consequences for the interpretation of what Wittgenstein means by philosophizing without theses or theories. Philosophizing without theses or theories cannot be understood as a matter of only dissolving problems without offering any views in their place. Accordingly, not having theses or theories is not a matter of not having philosophical views. In conclusion I contrast the proposed interpretation with Rupert Read’s recent reading of Wittgenstein’s philosophy as liberation from philosophical views, and this kind of liberation, which involves no commitment to any views as more correct than others, as the ethical goal of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. I argue that, whilst liberation from the thrall of views is part of Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach, this cannot by itself explain the role of ethical considerations as an aspect of his philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgensteinian Exercises
Subtitle of host publicationAesthetic and Ethical Transformations
EditorsLucilla Guidi
ISBN (Print)978-3770567454
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023

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