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Chapter 12 - Some Socratic Aspects of Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2019

James Conant
University of Chicago
Sebastian Sunday
University of Oxford
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This chapter begins with an examination, testing the reader’s knowledge of Socrates and Wittgenstein. It goes on to consider the question of why the exam might be a difficult one, and the question of what this difficulty shows about Wittgenstein. The chapter further discusses, on a more general level, the questions of why the claim that a philosopher’s conception of philosophy bears a Socratic aspect was once a tautology and why the claim that Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophy bears a Socratic aspect is no longer a tautology. Along the way, the chapter argues in favor of several claims of this latter, non-tautological sort. (All three parts of the exam are also provided, detached from the text, in the form of three appendices; a fourth appendix contains the correct answers.)

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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The Preliminary Exam

Wittgenstein. Britton, Karl,Portrait of a Philosopher,” in Flowers III, F. A., ed., Portraits of Wittgenstein (Thoemmes Press, 1999), volume 2, p. 209.Google Scholar
Socrates. Charmides 163d. Plato’s dialogues are cited after The Collected Dialogues of Plato, edited by Hamilton, Edith and Cairns, Huntingdon (Princeton University Press, [1961]).Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. The remark occurs, in German, in a letter to his sister Helene Salzer (née Wittgenstein) dated “Saturday [1934].” See Wittgenstein: Gesamtbriefwechsel / Complete Correspondence (Innsbrucker Electronic Edition), second release, edited by Coda, Anna, Citron, Gabriel, Halder, Barbara, Janik, Allan, Lobis, Ulrich, Mayr, Kerstin, McGuinness, Brian, Schorner, Michael, Seekircher, Monika, Unterkircher, Anton, and Wang, Joseph (Intelex, 2004/11), Scholar
Socrates. Meno 84b; translation amended.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Culture and Value: A Selection from the Posthumous Remains, edited by von Wright, G. H. in collaboration with Nyman, Heikki, revised edition of the text by Pichler, Alois, translated by Winch, Peter (Blackwell, 1977/98), p. 88e. The original quotation reads: “Anything the reader can do for himself, leave it to the reader.”Google Scholar
Socrates. Hadot, Pierre,The Figure of Socrates,” in Philosophy as a Way of Life, edited by Davidson, Arnold I., translated by Chase, Michael (Blackwell, 1995), pp. 149 and 153.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Malcolm, Norman, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, second edition with Wittgenstein’s letters to Malcolm (Clarendon Press, 1958/84), p. 26.Google Scholar
Socrates. Gottlieb, Anthony, The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance (Norton, 2000), p. 133.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 47.Google Scholar
Socrates. Gottlieb, op. cit., p. 143.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 27.Google Scholar
Socrates. Gottlieb, op. cit., p. 155.Google Scholar
Socrates. Ibid., p. 160.Google Scholar

The Exam Proper

Socrates. Apology 36b.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. von Wright, Georg Henrik, Wittgenstein (Blackwell, 1982), p. 23.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 25.Google Scholar
Socrates. Symposium 220c.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. von Wright, Georg Henrik,Autobiography,” in Schilpp, Paul Arthur and Hahn, Lewis Edwin, eds., The Philosophy of Georg Henrik von Wright (Open Court, 1989), p. 14.Google Scholar
Socrates. Laches 187e.Google Scholar
Socrates. Apology 28b.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Geheime Tagebücher, 1914–1916, edited by Wilhelm Baum (Turia + Kant, [1991]), entry for 13.9.14 (translated from the original German).Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Ibid., 7.10.14 (translated from the original German).Google Scholar
Socrates. Phaedo 64a (translated from the original Greek).Google Scholar
Socrates. Gottlieb, op. cit., p. 154; the embedded quotation is a translation of Joël, Karl, Der echte und der Xenophontische Sokrates (R. Gaertner, 1893), p. 256, quoted in W. K. C. Guthrie, Socrates (Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 138.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Knut Erik Tranøy, “Wittgenstein in Cambridge 1949–1951: Some Personal Recollections,” in Flowers III (ed.), op. cit., vol. 4, p. 126.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Ibid., pp. 128–9 (transposed into the present tense to better suit the purposes of the exam).Google Scholar
Socrates. Symposium 218a.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Tranøy, op. cit., p. 125.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Culture and Value, op. cit., p. 69e.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein. Ibid., p. 41e (punctuation altered).Google Scholar
Wittgenstein, . Philosophical Occasions: 1912–1951, edited by Klagge, James C. and Nordmann, Alfred (Hackett, [1993]), p. 119.Google Scholar
Socrates. Theaetetus 189a (translation altered, and italics added, following Wittgenstein’s rendition; see next answer).Google Scholar
Wittgenstein, . Philosophical Investigations, edited by Anscombe, G. E. M and Rhees, Rush, revised edition by Hacker, P. M. S. and Schulte, Joachim, translated by Anscombe, G. E. M., Hacker, P. M. S., and Schulte, Joachim (Wiley‐Blackwell, 1953/2009), §518 (after he quotes the above passage from the Theaetetus).Google Scholar

The Extra Credit Portion of the Exam

Both.Wallgren, Thomas,Radical Enlightenment Optimism: Socrates and Wittgenstein,” in Perissinotto, Luigi and Ramón Cámara, Begoña, eds., Wittgenstein and Plato (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 298.Google Scholar
Both. Joel Backström, “On Wittgenstein, Socrates, and the Morals of Metaphysics,” unpublished manuscript, p. 2.Google Scholar
Both. Niklas Toivakainen, “Socrates Examining, Wittgenstein Investigating,” unpublished manuscript, p. 14.Google Scholar
Both. Sunday Grève, Sebastian,The Importance of Understanding Each Other in Philosophy,” Philosophy 90 (2015), p. 292.Google Scholar

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