Wittgenstein's Use of Examples

Beth Savickey

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Wittgenstein's Use of Examples

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As Ludwig Wittgenstein moves from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to Philosophical Investigations, he dramatically alters his use of examples. His early work, almost entirely devoid of examples, gives way to later writings that could be described (with little exaggeration) as nothing but examples. Tractatus becomes an important example in the later writings, which Wittgenstein characterises as the description of ‘a field of varying examples by means of centers of variation’. The dramatic shift in Wittgenstein's use of examples expresses a new understanding of language, and enacts a new method of philosophical investigation. The use of examples becomes an important method of conceptual imagination. There are approximately three dozen examples in the Notebooks and Tractatus. These include examples of propositions and examples of systems of representation. In his later writings, Wittgenstein's focus shifts from logic to grammar. This is evident in remarks concerning ‘essence’.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; examples; Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; language; philosophical investigation; propositions; representation; essence; logic; grammar

Article.  16645 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy

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