Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations as a war book

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Abstract

I argue that the Philosophical Investigations is a work that in its center-piece (the anti-“private-language” considerations, often called “the private language argument”) responds to the great issue of its time: the World War, and the racism and failure of interhuman acknowledgement both underlying and horrifically played out in that war. Seeing a human being as an automaton, or seeing an everyday object as a swastika: these two possibilities that Wittgenstein at one point in his book discusses in one and the same sentence index (respectively) that failure and the needful vigilance of our response to it. Acknowledging the pain of other human beings rather than wrongly modeling that pain in a way that makes others’ being inaccessible to us is what at the deepest level is required if we are to avoid falling back into the mindset that led to World War II and the Holocaust.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-612
Number of pages20
JournalNew Literary History
Volume41
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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