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Realism and anti-realism in Wittgenstein's later philosophy

Tejedor-Palau, Maria Asuncion; (1995) Realism and anti-realism in Wittgenstein's later philosophy. Masters thesis (M.Phil), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The aim of this thesis is to provide a clear account of Wittgenstein's later views on sensations, necessity, and ethics, and to determine where they stand with regard to the realism/anti-realism debate. Examining Wittgenstein's treatment of these three areas of discourse provides us with an invaluable perspective from which to consider the place of his later philosophy as a whole in the debate between realists and antirealists. In the Introduction, I describe the two main types of interpretation that are currently given of Wittgenstein's place in the debate: the internal realist one and the quasi-realist one. I also briefly consider Boghossian's view that irrealism about meaning entails global irrealism about truth, and explain why it should be rejected. In Chapter 1, I begin by describing the traditional conceptions of realism and anti-realism about sensations. I then examine and elucidate Wittgenstein's thoughts on self-ascription and other-ascription of sensations, and reach the provisional conclusion that, given the traditional understanding of the debate, Wittgenstein's position on sensations exhibits anti-realism. In Chapter 2, I give a brief delineation of the traditional conceptions of realism and anti-realism about necessity (Platonism and conventionalism). I then examine the conventionalist interpretation of Wittgenstein's thoughts on necessity, and Wright's alternative understanding of them, and provide grounds for rejecting them both. Finally, I put forward my own interpretation of Wittgenstein's "middle way" between Platonism and conventionalism. In Chapter 3, I aim at elucidating Wittgenstein's later views on ethics. In order to do so I consider two different approaches to this topic. The first focuses on Wittgenstein's later remarks on meaning, and concludes that a realist view of ethics can be derived from them. The second begins by examining Wittgenstein's earlier (i.e. Tractarian) notion of transcendental ethics, and contends that his later ethics remains equally transcendental. At the end of the chapter, I bring these two approaches together and put forward what I believe is the most accurate understanding of Wittgenstein's later conception of the ethical. Chapter 4 introduces Wright's framework for the assessment of a discourse's realism. Wright isolates four different types of debate between realists and antirealists (a debate on convergence, a debate on factuality, the Dummettian debate on evidentially unconstrained truth, and the debate on the explanatory asymmetry between truth and superassertability - i.e. the Euthyphro contrast). I then delineate Wright's four criteria for assessing the place of a discourse in each of these debates. Finally, in Chapter 5, I apply this framework to Wittgenstein's later views on sensations, necessity and ethics. I conclude that the language-game of sensations exhibits internal realism about facts, realism in the Cognitive Command sense, Dummettian anti-realism, and neither realism nor anti-realism in the Euthyphro sense. The discourse on necessity, on the other hand, exhibits realism in all senses except for the Dummettian one. The subject matter of ethics exhibits anti-realism about facts, and in the sense that it does not display Cognitive Command, but bypasses the two other debates.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil
Title: Realism and anti-realism in Wittgenstein's later philosophy
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Anti-realism; Realism; Wittgenstein, Ludwig
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106138
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