Disputatio 8 (9) (2019)

Leila Haaparanta
Tampere University
There are several similarities between Robert B. Brandom’s and the later Wittgenstein’s views on linguistic meaning. Like Wittgenstein, Brandom rejects representationalism and takes linguistic practices to be the basis where all meaning rests. His inferentialism is a holistic view, already envisaged by Frege. The idea of a language game connects Brandom to Wittgenstein, although Wittgenstein’s idea has also been developed in various other directions. However, unlike Wittgenstein, Brandom pays special attention to the game of giving and asking for reasons. This difference already suggests that Brandom has a strong ethical overtone in his philosophy of language. For Wittgenstein, normativity seems to be normativity of language, while for Brandom it is basically normativity of actions for which persons are responsible. Brandom’s philosophy, which is loaded with deontic vocabulary, is a philosophy of human encounters. The present paper studies this very aspect of Brandom’s thought. It focuses on his theory of assertions in his Making It Explicit and elaborates a view of assertions that is possible on Wittgenstein’s terms. The paper then reappraises Wittgenstein’s views on philosophy and philosophical, particularly ethical, propositions. It seeks to show that Wittgenstein comes closest to the Brandomian ethical model of discursive practice in his comments on the limits of language. These comparisons also reveal that Brandom and Wittgenstein agree on the nature of ethical vocabulary; neither of them goes in for ethical theorizing. Brandom’s later works, such as his Reason in Philosophy, open up new perspectives on his ethical thought. This paper is primarily a study of the role that ethics plays in his philosophy of language in 1994.
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