Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951)

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence
      by means of language.

(Philosophical Investigations, 1953)

Two philosophical camps emerged from the last century: The first camp views philosophers as those who endeavor to answer profound and fundamental questions, or to construct systems for doing so. The second camp views philosophers instead as uber-kibitzers.

The first camp is usually called analytic, and mimics the methods of science and mathematics in its practice. The second camp is usually called continental (since its legacy goes back to some philosophers of Germany and France vs. Britain and America), and operates more like literary criticism.

The second camp watches in amusement as the first camp tries to hold a mirror up to the world: to find a representation in language — either English (or French, German, ...) or mathematics — of what the world really is. The second camp says there is no mirror outside of the natural world — outside of the brains of the philosophers. Since the language one wants to use in philosophy is itself part of the natural world, it cannot be given any privileged status.

Wittgenstein could be looked at being at the center of the second camp that includes Nietzsche, Derrida, Rorty, Price, and even Hume and Quine. Language — and therefore philosophy — is ultimately ambiguous and bewitching.

Even the above quote of Wittgenstein is ambiguous: Do philosophers use language to battle the bewitchment of our intelligence, or is language the cause of it?

This post is the third in a series of seven for the 7 Day Blogging Challenge for Bloggers from +Jenson Taylor.