Wittgenstein and pyrrhonism: on the nature of philosophy



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3. This conception of philosophy has nothing to do with the so-called Cartesian scepticism of the first Meditation, which aims at destroying every belief to rebuild sciences from new and solid foundations, and, at first, neither it resembles Humean scepticism, which results from an empirical science, whose purpose is to discover the principles of human mind. In Wittgenstein, a universal doubt is not possible, nor is philosophy an empirical science. However, the conception of philosophy presented by Sextus Empiricus reveals itself very close of the Wittgenstein's conception exposed above. A comparison between them presents a series of affinities, to the point that we can characterise Wittgenstein's conception as a sceptical conception28.

In the first place, Wittgenstein holds that the task of philosophy is eminently critical and negative. We have seen that philosophy was defined as a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language, only destroying “houses of cards”, i.e., metaphysical thoughts. By refusing to construct arguments to arrive at conclusions, it did not formulate theses, only combated, with the means of language itself, those theses proposed by philosophers. This first idea is the one that says philosophy must become a therapy. The speculations about "the structure of the real" must cede their places to the descriptions of language, and we acknowledge that, in the origin of philosophical questions, lies a problem to be solved.

Sextus Empiricus would certainly subscribe to this characterisation of philosophy29. In contrast to the dogmatists, who formulate a positive thesis about the possibility of knowledge of the “real”, and to the Academicians, who formulate a negative one, the Pyrrhonian investigations do not result in any knowledge, whether positive or negative (PH 1.1-3). There would be, then, according to Sextus Empiricus, three species of philosophy: the dogmatic, the academic, and the sceptical (PH 1.4), in which the specificity of the latter would consist in its abstention from the formulation of any philosophical thesis. The sceptic does not hold any dogma, if by “dogma” we understand, “to assent to some unclear object of investigation in the sciences; for Pyrrhonists do not assent to anything unclear” (PH 1.13).

If in dogmatic and academic philosophies, arguments sustained theses about the supposed “real world”; in Pyrrhonism, they assume a very different function. If we understand "argument" as a discourse that articulates premises and conclusions with the purpose of establishing theses about reality, then there is no sceptical argument, only dogmatic arguments that come into conflict with one another, annulling themselves mutually, and producing suspension of judgement. With respect to argumentation understood in this sense, what is proper to the Pyrrhonist is not in the formulation of any particular argument, but in the disposition or organisation of the arguments. The Pyrrhonist ascertains the conflict, the diaphonía, of opinions and points at the impossibility of finding a criterion that can solve it. Incapable of pronouncing himself about the existence of the real, due to the equipotence of the various discourses elaborated by philosophers, the Pyrrhonist is led to suspend judgement.

Dogmatism is seen as a species of disease, which consists in self-love (PH 1.90), in the conceit and rashness of the philosophers (PH 3.280), and must be cured by Pyrrhonist. Sextus Empiricus also employs a medical metaphor to explain the way by which the Pyrrhonist treats the dogmatist’s posture: just as the physician applies stronger medicine to the most severe diseases, the Pyrrhonist employs stronger or weaker arguments conform to the intensity of the dogmatist’s disease (PH 3.280). Everything that is constructed of "positive", for both Wittgenstein and Sextus, assumes philosophical relevance from that destructive intention. In effect, the Pyrrhonist conceives his arguments as an aperient drug that, by expelling the contrary argument, is expelled with it (PH 2.188). In the same way, for Wittgenstein, the description of language is distinguished from the grammarian’s work precisely because it serves to eliminate the philosophical confusion. It is noteworthy that the Tractatus (6.54) employed the same metaphor that Sextus did (M 8.481) to characterise the philosophical work as a necessary step to be subsequently abandoned: after we use the ladder to climb the wall, we knock it over.

We have already seen Wittgenstein's particular way of understanding the philosophical therapy, and it remains to see Sextus’s way of conceiving it. A brief exposition of the Pyrrhonian therapy already points at other similarities amongst both philosophers. In the origin of philosophising is a disquietude or disturbance, and therapy must supress this disquietude, conducing the philosopher to calmness and tranquillity (ataraxía) in relation to philosophical questions, by means of an opposition of arguments. At first, the Pyrrhonist has hoped to find, in the possession of truth, the end of his philosophical problems. The observation of contradictions in things, and the aporia in relation to which alternative he should accept, had disturbed the Pyrrhonist – before he became a Pyrrhonist. The investigation of the true and false in things seemed, at first, the solution to his disturbance and, hence, the Pyrrhonist – before he became a Pyrrhonist – dedicated himself to this investigation (PH 1.12). But from this investigation has not resulted the possession of truth, but the suspension of judgment (due to the equipotence of arguments). It occurred then, as if by chance, that to the suspension of judgment followed the desired tranquillity of the soul (dianóia) with respect to preventable issues (PH 1.28-29) Based on the repeated experience of the suspension followed by tranquillity, the Pyrrhonist has gradually abandoned the search for truth and replacing it with the pursuit of the suspension of judgment. The goal remained the same, the hope to achieve tranquillity, but the means to achieve it have changed in the course of his investigations.

With respect to this point, one has observed some similarities between Wittgenstein and Sextus. Therapy, to both of them, aims at restoring the lost tranquility in front of a philosophical problem that disturbs us. The cause of this disturbance is identified as being a contradiction and, of the two possible solutions – either reply to the philosophical question or abandon it –, only the latter propitiates tranquility, whilst the first only perpetuates the initial disquietude. It occurs, hence, a shift in the philosophy’s task, since truth ceases to be the horizon to steer its reflexions. Philosophy becomes a means to achieve, so to speak, a philosophical tranquility.

In both thoughts, moreover, one tries to curb the partiality of dogmatic philosophy by calling attention to other aspects involved in the question. Philosophy must be impartial. In Wittgenstein's case, that is done by counteracting (cf. BB, p. 28) the false analogies with descriptions and inventions of uses of words or attending to the diverse uses that a word has, without tying oneself to a single one nor imposing it to all uses of that expression; and, in Sextus’s case, by opposing negative arguments to positive ones. Pyrrhonism’s most characteristic feature is the opposition of arguments to arguments in order to produce a state of mind wherein one does not affirm nor denies any thesis that postulates the reality of things (PH 1.8). The method seeks after the frontal collision of two opposing tendencies that annul each other. The characterisation of the dogmatist as a lover of himself (philautós) –, i.e., as he who prefers his own opinions and elects himself as criterion to solve the conflict of opinions – corresponds to this denounce of his partiality in the consideration of the arguments and opinions involved in an issue.

This therapy demands from he who exerts it, whether in Wittgensteinian or Sextian form, a certain ability or capacity. I have described briefly the technique demanded from one who intends to dissolve the philosophical problems (to perceive grammatical facts, to know to ordain linguistic observations, to invent possible uses and to apprehend and express what the other wants to say). Will there be something in Sextus that corresponds to this ability of the philosopher? It is the very definition of scepticism and sceptic that gives us the answer. Being Pyrrhonism defined as a capacity (dúnamis) of opposing arguments and arguments (PH 1.8), the Pyrrhonist will be precisely the one who participates in this capacity (PH 1.11). Whilst the philosopher has the capacity of producing arguments and theses with respect to a supposed real, the sceptic has the ability to organise them with the purpose of annulling them mutually and reaching the suspension of judgement. The modes of Aenesidemus and Agrippa, e.g., can be seen as techniques of neutralisation of dogmatism. Besides, Sextus affirms the sceptics are “men of talent” (PH 1.12) who have been troubled by the contradictions of opinions and who contrived tranquillity by means of suspension of judgement; it is required, thus, to become a sceptic, some talent to acquire and exert this technique.

The idea that the sceptic possesses a particular ability is consistent with the idea that there is no sceptical argument in that sense of argument I defined above, which is to be conclusive with respect to the reality of things, for the Pyrrhonist does not propose an argument that convinces the philosopher that he is wrong, but he proposes mainly a technique to achieve tranquillity, a path by which the philosopher can get rid of the problems that torment him. To the extent in which the conflict presents opinions and arguments of both sides and with equal persuasive force, the Pyrrhonist may intend his reflexions to be the most rational and rigorous result that is within our reach.

In Wittgenstein's conception, philosophy is not a theory or a contemplation of truth, but a practice, an activity of eliminating confusions and philosophical problems. The same can be said of Sextus Empiricus: Pyrrhonism also received the name of “zetetic”, from its activity of investigating and enquiring (apò energeía tês katà tò zetãn kaí sképtesthai) (PH 1.7). Furthermore, the idea that Pyrrhonism is a practice is entailed in the definition of sceptic as someone who possesses a determined technical capacity.

Not only to Wittgenstein, but also to Sextus, philosophy is nothing but this therapeutic activity. Albeit both of them recognise a scientific dimension and propose, each in their own way, a conception of science, the scientific activity is beyond the attributions of the philosopher qua philosopher. Science deals with phenomena, with facts; philosophy deals with the discourse about phenomenon, with concepts, and with language. The therapy is done exclusively in the discursive domain: “The sceptic, being a lover of mankind, wishes to cure by discourse (iásthai lógoi), according to his capacity (dúnamin), the conceit, and rashness of the Dogmatists” (PH 3.280, emphasis added). This aspect of Sextian philosophy becomes clear when one pays attention to the domain of suspension of judgement. This cannot be about phenomena, for they impose themselves to us, forcing us to an involuntary assent (PH 1.13 and 19); thus, one can only exert it upon the discourse that postulates the reality or unreality of phenomena. Wittgenstein also affirms to be language the instrument to cure the disease of the understanding: “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language” (PI, 109, emphasis added). The critical project is limited to fight dogmatism by means of discourse without resorting to science or phenomena.

With respect to this last point, one can make another approximation between Wittgenstein and Sextus. To Wittgenstein, the logical analysis does not furnish the hidden meaning of our language, as if the meaning needed to be unburied by an analysis of our language; ordinary language is perfectly in order, even if there are (or precisely because there are) indeterminations of meaning. Sextus, by his turn, condemned the philosophers’ attempt at finding, by means of an "analogy", a deeper grammar that would serve as criterion to distinguish good from evil Greek (M 1.41ff). To Sextus, the criterion of correct or incorrect use of words shall not be owed to a special art that discovers a deep meaning of the word, but only to its real and non-technical use (M.1.152-153 and 176ff). Common use is the criterion of what belongs and does not belong to the language of a certain community. The meaning of discourse is in the surface.

Another important idea of ​​Wittgenstein that finds clear resonances in Pyrrhonism is that we must speak like everybody, i.e., that we must employ words with the meaning they habitually have. According to Wittgenstein, the philosopher use common expressions to build, based on them, philosophical propositions (PI, 90), which is condemnable, but it is not condemnable the use of common propositions in appropriated circumstances. And the use of ordinary language does not entail the adoption of any philosophical thesis, for it is beneath any dispute between realists and idealists (cf. BB, p. 48). The Pyrrhonist, by his turn, acknowledges that he can say, when he is chilled, that he is chilled (PH 1.13). He can say the phenomenon without being thereby postulating its reality. All sceptical formulae used to indicate the suspension of judgement (PH 1.187-209) only express the phenomenon or the personal experience30 of the Pyrrhonian and do not indicate any form of dogmatism. However, the Pyrrhonist does not accept the discourse that attributes or rejects reality to phenomena, i.e., that discourse that, differentiating itself from the habitual discourse of men, intends to establish dogmas about what is real and what is not. Both allow themselves to use the common discourse without any ontological commitment and reject the philosophical discourse that intends to establish truths about the real. From this point of view, the similarity between the two thinkers could not be greater.

It shall not follow from there, to the Pyrrhonist, as to Wittgenstein, that common use is untouchable. Both conceive meanings as a human convention. Wittgenstein warns, in the Blue Book, us so that we do “not forget that a word has not got a meaning given to it, as it were, by a power independent of us... A word has the meaning someone has given to it” (BB, p. 28). Likewise, Sextus says that language is conventional (M 1.37-38; 142ff). Therefore, nothing prevents that one gives new meaning to words, or even that one invents new words, and both conceive an evolution in language and a refinement of our vocabulary. To Wittgenstein, this reform of language must be done in conformity with practical purposes to avoid misunderstandings in the practical use of language (PI, 132)31. And Sextus, criticising the dogmatists about their incapacity to distinguish ambiguities, says the same thing, “for, if an ambiguity is a word or phrase having two or more meanings, and if words have meaning by convention, then those ambiguities that are worth resolving – i.e., such as occur in some practical situation – will be resolved, not by the dogmatist but by the people practised in each particular art, who themselves have the experience of how they have created the conventional usage of the terms to denote the things signified” (PH 2.256)32. This passage of Sextus is very significative, since it also attributes to those who deal with empirical and practical questions the responsibility of avoiding the ambiguities of language that arise from the equivocalness of words. And even in the common course of life, when it is useful to draw a distinction to avoid an ambiguity, people do not hesitate in drawing it. “Thus, it is the experience of what is useful in each particular case that propitiates the distinction of ambiguities” (PH 2.258). On the other hand, the ambiguities that dogmatists try to solve are not involved in the practical experiences of life. Of these considerations by Sextus about ambiguity, one can say that the philosopher tries in vain to solve ambiguities that escape to practical life, whilst common people and artisans overcome their difficulties from experience. The invention of new terms, to avoid the ambiguities of the old ones, is due to the necessity of distinguishing in the practical domain what was not distinguished before, being this um of the modes by which language seems, in the Pyrrhonist's eyes, to evolve.

Another similarity is that the new task of philosophy is endless. In the case of Wittgenstein, both the functioning of language and his method of dealing with philosophical issues led to the conception of an infinite task for philosophy. In the case of Sextus, one also conceives the idea of a constant rebirth of dogmatism, and, as the investigation about truth has not reached any definitive result, it remains open the possibility of one discovering the truth. Thus, each new proposed argument is a threat to the Pyrrhonian position and must be investigated, whether to re-establish the equipotence of arguments or to recognise that the "truth" has finally been reached. Either way, both "condemn" themselves, by the own internal logic of their reflexions, to a permanent critical task.

A basic idea, therefore, animates both Wittgenstein's and Sextus' thought: that life goes on just fine without the dogmatic philosophy. To Wittgenstein, as we have seen, common sense is neither realist nor idealist, being beneath these philosophical disputes (BB, p. 48). Thus, when we employ affirmative proposition current in our common language, we are not committing ourselves philosophically to any theory, but only living our lives and using language as a useful tool to them. Dogmatism is like a pair of glasses upon our noses, and it distorts our view of things; it is so close that it seldom occurs to us to take them off (PI, 103). However, it is only when we remove the dogmatic lenses that we can see things as they are. Sextus thinks, “it is enough to live by experience and without opinions, in accordance with the common observations and preconceptions” (PH, 2.246). The propositions in which the Pyrrhonist employs the verb "to be" do not express the acceptance of a dogma, for the verb "to be" must be read as indicating what appears to the sceptic, thus the suspension of judgement is integrally preserved (PH 1.135). By renouncing to philosophise in its traditional moulds, the Pyrrhonist returns to common sense and live his life as an ordinary man, albeit without the dogmatic beliefs of the latter. The Pyrrhonist, in effect, does not attack common life and even speaks on its side, since he refutes those who have risen up against common judgement (M 8.156-158). To both, we can make affirmations following the common use of language, adopting the common way of seeing the world, without, however, making of this conception a philosophical theory. In other words, if, on one hand, there is a continuity between the dogmatism of both common person and philosopher, on the other hand, Sextus and Wittgenstein defend common life (or sense) against the philosophical criticisms and expurgate what they contain of dogmatism.

So many and so important similarities seem to justify the characterization of Wittgenstein's conception of philosophy as Pyrrhonian. A negative and therapeutic philosophy, whose purpose is tranquillity, which demands a determined technical capacity from he who practises it, which deals only with discourse, rejecting the philosophical and accepting the common without any ontological commitment, and conceived as an endless attitude. This more general conception of philosophy is shared by Wittgenstein and the Pyrrhonists.


4. To the conclusion that the conception of philosophy by Wittgenstein is Pyrrhonian, however, is possible to oppose some objections. One could say that, if the general conception does not differentiate one thinker from the other, in its details we find noteworthy differences. The way by which we achieve tranquillity in each philosophy has little in common, employing analyses and argumentations of very different nature. If the landscape is the same, the path shall be different.

Naturally, in a therapy, the diagnosis plays a foundational role, for it is in function of it that we determine the medicine to be ministered. Sextus identifies in self-love, in rashness and in conceit the major defects that lead a man who is willing to philosophise to dogmatism. Here it is the root of all their evils: by not examining an issue from every possible angle, by not reflecting maturely about every argument involved in a determined problem and by preferring his personal opinions, without taking in due considerations the ones of others, a man naturally incurs in an arrogant and precipitated dogmatism. Wittgenstein’s diagnosis is different: a thinker becomes a dogmatist less for his psychological characteristics than for a dynamic proper to language. It seduces him and bewitches his understanding; incapable of resisting this temptation, the philosopher experiments a sensation of deepness and starts to reflect upon the “structure of the world”, when the cause of his reflexion is actually a contradiction of the rules of language that moves away the common use of words. Thence the importance that Wittgenstein attributes to philosophy, for the philosopher is not only "hasty", but also the one who experiments and denounces basic contradictions of language in his theories. It is when language goes on holiday that one is tempted to philosophise.

Of these different diagnoses, result different therapies. The Pyrrhonist's activity is to show to the dogmatist the various opinions sustained with respect to a questions, the equal force of the arguments employed by different philosophical schools and the impossibility of discovering a neutral criterion to decide the controversy. The activity of the Wittgensteinian philosopher will be very different: it is necessary to do, from remembrances of common use of words, a punctilious description of the workings of our ordinary language, inventing, if necessary, language games to illuminate our grammar, so that the philosopher can recover from his illness. The great novelty of Wittgenstein's style of philosophising is tied, thus, to his particular way of proposing a philosophical therapy.

What is the scope of these objections to the previous suggestion that the conception of Wittgenstein's philosophy is a Pyrrhonian conception? One could say that the differences, albeit can serve to deny the character strictly Pyrrhonian of Wittgenstein’s thought, point to what could be a contribution to the history of scepticism: Wittgenstein would turn much more acute the conscience that it is in discourse that lies the origin of dogmatism. If this idea was already present in Sextus, it was not present the idea that it is due to a malfunction of language (to a contradiction between its rules) that arise the problems posited by philosophers. The specific analysis of various processes involved in the functioning of our language and of how words end up losing meaning and “idling” would significantly advance the comprehension of the illusions that lurk dogmatism.

To the extent that the Pyrrhonist is that who has the ability to oppose argument to argument in any way at all (PH 1.8) to reach tranquillity of the soul by means of suspension of judgement, one could think that Wittgenstein offers a new way of reaching tranquillity. (Let us remember that Wittgenstein admits the possibility of various therapies). In addition to the modes of Aenesidemus or Agrippa and all the opposition of particular arguments in the various branches of knowledge, the sceptic would now have at his disposal a new and powerful mean by which we could learn or acquire that technical ability to become sceptical: by identifying the false analogies that produce philosophical illusions and describing the good functioning of language so that he would see that the use proposed by philosophers does not make sense or, if it does, it is only a new way of speaking that does not have epistemological or ontological implications, as dogmatism would like it had. To identify false analogies that are in the foundation of philosophical illusion, to recognise where our grammatical rules enter in conflict, to apprehend exactly that the philosopher wants to say, to describe correctly a part of our habitual language, and to invent different language games, but useful to therapeutic purposes, would be tasks that would demand an refined discernment and that would have an enormous persuasive efficacy. Wittgenstein would promote, thus, a species of renovation of the Pyrrhonian tradition, in a very original sense.

Apparently stronger objections, however, could be formulated. The difference of method between Sextus and Wittgenstein would point to a deeper and more decisive difference to our question, viz. that the Pyrrhonian sceptic remains stuck in the field of traditional philosophy, whilst Wittgenstein would have emancipated from it. One would show that of two ways. On one hand, the sceptic would share a presupposition with philosophers: “that we possess knowledge of our own subjective experience, that we know with absolute certainty how things are with us, has been the common ground of agreement between sceptics and their opponents ever since philosophical debates about the extent and possibility of human knowledge began”33. The idea that phenomena are not open to investigation, that they are azétetoi would not result from their inevitable character, as Pyrrhonists claim. To Wittgenstein, the exclusion of doubt is rooted in grammar and not in the nature of that which is right; for example, nothing is considered as doubt about our internal states: it is senseless to say, “I may be in pain or I may not, I am not sure”34. Thus, the sceptic would remain stuck to the traditional conception of philosophy, for he would attribute the impossibility of doubting to an intrinsic propriety of phenomenon, when, in fact, the absence of sense of this doubt lies in our language. On the other hand, the method of Wittgenstein, instead of opposing argument to argument, assuming a philosophical presupposition, has the goal of identifying this presupposition and extirpate it: “it seems to have been an almost instinctive maxim of his that where philosophical debate has polarized between a pair of alternatives that seem exhaustive, the appropriate method to follow is not just to examine the conflicting arguments on each side and then opt for the seemingly stronger ones. Rather we should find out what was agreed by all participants in the centuries-old debate and reject that”35.

The force of this objection lies in the attribution to Pyrrhonists of a common presupposition with the dogmatists; the opposition of arguments and acceptance of phenomena would show the presence of the sceptic in the traditional territory of philosophy. But it is precisely in this attribution that the objection is wrong, for the sceptical only makes use of dogmatic arguments to reject them, as an aperient drug that is expelled along with the substances present in the body, without ever compromising to them (PH 2.188). On the other hand, the common presupposition that the sceptics would share with dogmatists would be that we cannot doubt the ideas in our minds or the immediate data of our consciousness. Now, this formulation is strictly modern and cannot be imputed to Greek Pyrrhonists. However, it is true that the sceptic does not attribute to grammar the exclusion of doubt about phenomena, but here we go back to the different already mentioned in the previous objection, and that I do not hesitate to recognise: the Pyrrhonian and Wittgensteinian way of fighting dogmatism are very different.

One could insist in the objection and say that, to Wittgenstein, dogmatic theses and arguments lack meaning, and, hence, a method of opposition of arguments would be equally meaningless, which would show that the only alternative to whom wishes to do a therapy would be to reject the implicit presuppositions of the debate. But, on one hand, this method would not distinguish Wittgenstein from the philosophers who intended to shift the philosophical scenery (think, for example, of Berkeley and his critique of materialism; of Kant and his "Copernican Revolution"; or of Bergson and his considerations upon space and time); and, on the other, Pyrrhonism had also said to be incompatible the dogmatic notions (cf., for example, PH 3.2-5, to the case of God or PH 3.13, to the concept of "cause"). The way by which the Pyrrhonist fights dogmatism generally admits of two levels: firstly, one questions our ability to conceive the dogmatic discourse, conflicting the various definitions of the investigated terms and, secondly, one opposes different arguments invoked in favour of the sustained dogmatic positions. Everything happens as if Wittgenstein, considering decisive the first level – which questions the meaning of philosophical discourse –, ended up suppressing the second, since, strictly speaking, it lacks sense. That does not prevent the sceptic to be capable of conceiving, in an ample sense of the term, that which the dogmatist says (PH 2.1-12). Likewise, Wittgenstein is capable of apprehending what the philosopher would like to say, but cannot say. Thus, the opposition of arguments makes sense to the exact extent in which one can conceive, lacto sense, that which the dogmatist says. Only a theory that postulated what really is the meaning of words could criticise the sceptic this way, but evidently, as it is known, it is not Wittgenstein's position: the idea that use is meaning does not constitute a theory of language.

This objection can receive a final form that seems convincing to me, viz. that the Pyrrhonian way of fighting dogmatism does not go so far as to dissolve the philosophical question, as Wittgenstein does, and, hence, at least logically, the possibility of discovering the truth remains open to the Pyrrhonist. Thus, the interminable therapy to which they condemn has a different meaning, for, whilst one still thinks it is possible, albeit highly improbable, to reach the truth, the other has his investigation, so to speak, closed to the truth. It is impossible not to recognise that, in Sextus, there is no mention of a dissolution of philosophical problems, and that the questioning of the meaning of philosophical discourse always gives way to the opposition of arguments. It must be recognised that the difference in the manner of conducting the therapy involves this second difference, that the Wittgensteinian therapy dissolves philosophical problems, whilst after the Pyrrhonian critical they would remain significative. If, to modern taste, Wittgenstein is more radical, to Pyrrhonian taste, the dissolution of the problem and the consideration of the question of truth as over can have the flavour of a negative dogmatism of academician sort.

Another objection may come precisely from those who, having this Pyrrhonian taste, believe there is a form of dogmatism of language in Wittgenstein's philosophy. These people would see a superiority in Pyrrhonism, for the conflict of philosophies, and the polemical character amongst them, are not a theoretical construction of the Pyrrhonist, but a fact of the history of philosophy recognised by dogmatists independently from their particular belief. Wittgenstein, in contrast, would have elaborated a dogmatic conception of nature of philosophy and philosophical discourse and, based on it, he arrives at a position apparently similar to that of Pyrrhonists. Thus, there would be a species of unconfessed dogmatism in this philosophy of language36.

One could retort to this objection in the following way: not only the conflict of philosophies is a fact of history, but also it is a fact the philosophers often complain about the imprecision, and about the difficulties that common language presents to metaphysical speculation. Hence, they elaborate a technical vocabulary, refining common words or inventing new words one supposes better express the reached truths. Anyway, it is frequent amongst philosophers the establishment of a linguistic domain whose meaning amply differs from the meaning that words have in their ordinary use. If (as the Pyrrhonian sceptic) we place ourselves in the field of the pre-philosophical not knowing with the purpose of identifying which is the discourse that reflects reality, then we can ask ourselves, from common language, for the precise meaning of each philosophical discourse. In the very attempt to clarify the meaning of philosophical discourse, we recognise it does not have any meaning. Thus, one could say that Wittgenstein's therapy starts from other fact of history of philosophy, not constituting itself from a dogmatic conception of the nature of philosophy. Wittgenstein and Sextus Empiricus, therefore, set forth on from different facts of philosophy, without postulating an arbitrary beginning, and tread on different paths, albeit parallel, so that it fits to say that it is about two related conceptions of philosophy.

One could also object that the reach of the differences pointed above is ampler than it seems at first and that this new therapeutic method proposed by Wittgenstein leads, in contrast with what is suggested here, to a thought very different from Pyrrhonism when effectively applied to particular philosophical problems. This is indeed a question that remains open, and only the study of particular therapies may confirm, or not, Wittgenstein's fidelity to the way by which he conceived philosophy. But whatever it is the result of such investigation, it shall not diminish in any way the similarities with respect to the conception of the nature of philosophy, and that is all I intended to have shown here.


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