Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century.
We can not get outside language there is no hill we can stand on and silently observe it
for even though we are silent we are still thinking in language so the argument goes that language is fascistic.
So, the great man himself.
Ludwig Wittgenstein made a major contribution to conversations on language, logic and metaphysics, but also ethics, the way that we should live in the world. He published two important books: the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (1921) and the Philosophical Investigations (1953), for which he is best known. These were major contributions to twenty century philosophy of language.
By the 1930s, Wittgenstein had decided that the picture theory language was quite wrong. He devoted the rest of his life to explaining why. ‘Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow’, he commented. ‘You doze off and die in your sleep’.
Wittgenstein’s shift in thinking, between the Tractatus and the Investigations, maps the general shift in 20th century philosophy from logical positivism to behaviourism and pragmatism. It is a shift from seeing language as a fixed structure imposed upon the world to seeing it as a fluid structure that is intimately bound up with our everyday practices and forms of life. For later Wittgenstein, creating meaningful statements is not a matter of mapping the logical form of the world. It is a matter of using conventionally-defined terms within ‘language games’ that we play out in the course of everyday life. ‘In most cases, the meaning of a word is its use’, Wittgenstein claimed, in perhaps the most famous passage in the Investigations. It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it, and the context in which you say it. Words are how you use them.