Very General Facts of Nature

Lars Hertzberg

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199287505
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Very General Facts of Nature

Show Summary Details


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

Article.  12228 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.