Wittgenstein on Scepticism

Duncan Pritchard

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Wittgenstein on Scepticism

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  • History of Western Philosophy


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The problem of scepticism informs all of Ludwig Wittgenstein's writing, from the remarks on solipsism in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to his final notebooks dealing with G. E. Moore's famous commonsense response to scepticism, published as On Certainty. Wittgenstein offers a picture of the structure of reasons that is the very picture that we ordinarily employ, at least when we are not in the grip of the alternative philosophical picture which the sceptic employs. Wittgenstein refers to hinges as propositions throughout On Certainty. The proponent of the non-propositional view has a fairly stiff exegetical task on her hands. A less radical form of non-epistemicism which avoids this difficulty holds that while hinges are indeed propositions, they are not fact-stating propositions but rather express norms. According to contextualism, the hinges are known just so long as one does not enter a context where such hinges are brought into question. It would seem that Wittgenstein's approach to scepticism has important ramifications for contemporary epistemology even if it is set within an externalist framework.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; scepticism; G. E. Moore; On Certainty; non-epistemicism; contextualism; epistemology; hinges; propositions

Article.  14770 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Epistemology ; History of Western Philosophy

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