Friday, December 6, 2019

Thoughts on Wittgenstein’s Legacy

Wittgenstein is described by several scholars as a profound, brilliant, and the most influential philosopher of the 20th century. But what about philosophers like Edmund Husserl, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre? Is Wittgenstein’s contributions to philosophy greater than the work done by these philosophers? These philosophers were Wittgenstein’s contemporaries but none of them cared to use his theories in their own philosophy. Russell and Moore have praised Wittgenstein, but they never made use of his philosophy. In fact, they disagreed with Wittgenstein on almost everything.

It is puzzling that Wittgenstein’s name continues to be a major brand in philosophy. His claim that the problems of philosophy will vanish if we pay proper attention to language has been rejected by the analytic philosophers and the logical positivists. In fact, the views of Frege and Russell are far more popular today. The concerns regarding language are more than 2000 years old—Plato has talked about it, and so have Bacon and Berkeley. Wittgenstein overstated the problem when he made the sweeping claim that all our philosophical problems are related to our misunderstanding of language. His views on meaning, rule-following, cognitive relativism are unsound.

Not much scholarly work has been done on Wittgenstein. Far more work has been done on the ideas of Husserl, Frege, Russell, Heidegger, Sartre, and Moore.

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