Wittgenstein And Therapy
April 27, 2011 4 Comments
This is the first section of an essay published in the Spring 2011 Journal Of Leeds University Philosophy Society.
This essay will examine therapy as a theme uniting all of Wittgenstein’s arguments in the Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein, 2001). It will begin by observing some translation errors and omissions which bear directly on how that idea should be considered, and will then continue by considering how therapy permeates Wittgenstein’s approach in several of the arguments presented in that work. In particular, it will be shown that the `popular’ conception of Wittgenstein’s meaning in several quotations that are widely known in philosophical circles is incorrect. Also an intriguing insight into Wittgenstein’s intentions is gained by consideration of the frontispiece quotation and its context.
The therapeutic background to Wittgenstein’s position is considered in relation to Freud, and this brings out common elements with the work of Ryle. This leads to characterization of Wittgenstein as being primarily a negative philosopher concerned to eliminate false conceptions to which we are prone. This is the primary therapeutic aim; going beyond mere elimination of error, which would be an aim of all argument. Wittgenstein aims to show how deep-seated are the errors to which we are naturally prone and to permit us to heal ourselves rather than persuade us of the truth.
Further, Wittgenstein may be seen as using multiple voices in his work. This echoes psycho-therapeutic practice but also is a method to require our engagement in disentangling his own voice — should that figure — and those of ourselves as objectors. Wittgenstein is also very prone to use of similes. All three of these characterizations are viewed through the therapeutic prism.
Several of the major arguments in the Investigations will be reviewed from the perspective gained. Finally other works by Wittgenstein, primarily On Certainty, will be considered in the same light.