Nonsense and the New Wittgenstein

Dissertation, Cardiff University (2006)
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Abstract

This thesis focuses on 'New' or 'Resolute' readings of Wittgenstein's work, early and later, as presented in the work of, for instance, Cora Diamond and James Conant. One of the principal claims of such readings is that, throughout his life, Wittgenstein held an 'austere' view of nonsense. That view has both a trivial and a non-trivial aspect. The trivial aspect is that any string of signs could, by appropriate assignment, be given a meaning, and hence that, if such a string is nonsense, that will be because we have failed to make just such an assignment. The non-trivial aspect is this: that there is no further, non-trivial story to be told, and so nonsense is only ever a matter of our failure to give signs a meaning. Hence, too, logically speaking, all nonsense is on a par. That view, both of nonsense and of Wittgenstein, has attracted a great deal of controversy. It is particularly controversial in relation to Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus', where Wittgenstein famously declares, in the penultimate remark, that the reader is to recognise Wittgenstein's own elucidatory propositions there as nonsensical, and must eventually throw them away in coming to understand Wittgenstein himself. I defend the austere view and its attribution to Wittgenstein, early and later (but focussing primarily on the earlier), against a number of exegetical and substantial criticisms put forward by, for instance, Peter Hacker, Hans-Johann Glock and Adrian Moore.

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Edmund Dain
Providence College

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References found in this work

The foundations of arithmetic: a logico-mathematical enquiry into the concept of number.Gottlob Frege - 1960 - Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press. Edited by J. L. Austin.
Metaphysics and the philosophy of mind.Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe - 1981 - Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Some Remarks on Logical Form.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1929 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 9 (1):162 - 171.
The Search for Logically Alien Thought.James Conant - 1992 - Philosophical Topics 20 (1):115-180.

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