What's wrong with Wittgenstein?

Actually I wanted to start the first English post with an article for a new series that discusses the new "movement" of New Realism. But I heard a talk of a lecturer of mine at the university in Erfurt which I really enjoyed. It was all about Wittgenstein and his struggles with his own philosophy.

Since I read Wittgensteins "On Certainty" I had the feeling that something is wrong with the project Wittgenstein persued. And even Wittgenstein himself seems to feel that. His remarks are so incomparable because you feel how he struggles with his own philosophy. But what is wrong with Wittgenstein?

I call the following theses "Wittgensteins contextualism": He says our language is absolutely fine in an everyday context. But if we use our ordinary language in a philosophical context we are starting to fabricate nonsense. We think we say something but actually we don't! And that's where our philosophical problems come from. (Remember in "On Certainty" where he is philosophizing with a friend in a bar and a friend asks what they are talking about and he answers: Ah don't worry we are just philosophizing.)

Now I think the main problem with this is the notion of "ordinary language". Is it really clear what this even means? What is an ordinary language? If I want to know what the notion of an electron is then I have to watch for the ordinary use of the word. But does the notion of an electron belong to our ordinary language? Or not? And if not is the notion of an electron nonsense? Couldn't we say that the notion of an electron and all its strange usages (you can describe it as a particular AND as a wave etc.) is just a notion of the "ordinary language" of the physicists? And if so have lawyers, medics, yes even philosophers their own "ordinary language"? (That it is their ordinary language is very well shown by the fact that they crack jokes in that language. The "ordinary" man on the street doesn't understand them because he is just not speaking the ordinary language of the physician.)

Is that not differentation of our language that Wittgenstein doesn't pay much attantion if he thinks that everything can be reduced to "ordinary language"? What makes the difference for modern physical vocabulary is just that you can't reduce it to ordinary language which talks about middle sized objects. Such an object just can't be on two different places at once. I think here you can turn Wittgenstein against Wittgenstein: He blames the good old philosophical theorys of language for overemphasize one aspect of language (the denotation by names like he shows in the "Philosophical Investigations") he takes another one of these aspects (the "ordinary language") and proclaims that this is the essential part of our language and if it can't be translated into a ordinary context with ordinary language it's nonsense.

He just doesn't see how versatile and adaptable our language is. Thomas Nagel critizises Wittgensteins for denying that we can develop and extend our concepts beyond the ordinary context. In "On Certainty" Wittgenstein tries to describe our usage of concepts like truth or certrainty and so he wants to show that there is not really a problem of scepticism if we just use the words how we do it in everyday life. But you feel him struggle with that. Until the last paragraph just before he dies. There he is back at the problem of the dream argument of Descartes.

I think that is really a problem in Wittgensteins oeuvre and often overseen by Wittgensteinians.


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