Wittgenstein and Kripke on Rule-Following: The Problem of Empty Philosophical Explanations

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In my paper I raise questions about the kind of explanation that is given when it is said that rule-following is a practice or that rule-following involves or is based on communal agreement. I argue, and take Wittgenstein to hold, that a certain type of explanation, often attributed to Wittgenstein, where communal agreement figures as a necessary condition for the possibility of rule-following, something upon which a rule having certain definite sense depends, is problematic. Closer inspection reveals such explanations to be empty. They constitute merely apparent explanations that can’t do the explanatory job they are intended to do, and are better understood as merely descriptive. Consequently, the role of practice as part of a grammatical clarification of what rule following is, must be understood differently. In the last part of the paper I outline such an account which I believe to be a better fit with Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach and methodological ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein and Practice
Subtitle of host publicationBack to the Rough Ground
EditorsKevin Cahill
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

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