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date: 20 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

In Philosophical Investigations §415, Ludwig Wittgenstein gives what appears to be a general characterisation of his method in philosophy: ‘What we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings; we are not contributing curiosities however, but observations which no one has doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always before our eyes’. This article argues that this remark points to quite an important dimension of Wittgenstein's later thought, a dimension that has largely been bypassed or underplayed (perhaps even by Wittgenstein himself). It concerns the importance, for our way of thinking about language, of recognising the ways in which the language we speak is contingent on the circumstances of our lives. In Philosophical Investigations, II, xii, Wittgenstein is contrasting two approaches to the dependence of our concepts on facts of nature. From large parts of Philosophical Investigations one may get the impression that the recognition problem is the central issue where language learning is concerned.

Keywords: Philosophical Investigations, nature, Ludwig Wittgenstein, concepts, natural history, language, philosophy, language learning

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