“Quine and Wittgenstein on the Science/Philosophy Divide” by Diego Marconi

Short while after I posted my text distinguishing between philosophy and science with the help from Ludwig Wittgenstein, I found a nice article which dealt with the same issue.

Quine and Wittgenstein on the Science/Philosophy Divide by Diego Marconi

The way Marconi presents it, I think goes well along with how I distinguished between philosophy and science in my earlier post. Though the approach is different, mainly I think the same things are being said. This is one of the reasons I like Marconi’s essay.
It does become a bit boring when he speaks of Quine, but when he comes to Wittgenstein things are getting clearer.

Wittgenstein has gotten famous for claiming that there are no /should be no theses in philosophy. Marconi modifies this by saying “It is not so much that there are no philosophical theses; it’s rather that there are no controversial philosophical theses”. All this seems fine, I think Wittgenstein would’ve agreed.
Then one can wonder if that is not self-contradicting, isn’t it a controversial thesis that there are no controversial theses in philosophy?
I remember reading G.H. Wright once, he claimed that a philosophical strength of Dostoevsky, is that Dostoevsky almost writes in paradoxes. I think similar thing can be said about Wittgenstein. A lot of what he writes appears self-contradicting and paradoxical, but looking closer you find why it’s not quite a paradox anyway.

Central theme in Marconi’s essay is the conceptual-factual distinction. Quine is denying this distinction, while Wittgenstein is more inclined to accept it. As usual, I prefer Wittgenstein’s view. Maybe because Wittgenstein is more inclined to both accept and deny the distinction. Wittgenstein is applying different perspectives, attacking from both sides, musing in the seeming contradictions etc. Quine on other hand appears to me more just-one-perspective, just-one-opinion, just-one-correct-answer (I haven’t read much by Quine, but what I read I found tedious)… As I see it, the conceptual-factual distinction is very central and very important, but not so simple and clear.

(Was thinking of a parallel, not sure if it’s good at all…
imagining if a person in a 3d world were to explain if it’s possible to move through an obstacle to a person in a 2d world. The right answer to a 3d person would be that it’s not possible to walk through, but it’s possible to walk around it – but imagine now that the 2d person cannot make any sense of the concept “around”. The 2d person want to know, if it’s possible, or if it’s not possible to walk through it?
Both to answer yes and to answer no, would be bad answers.
The better answer would awaken the imagination that it’s somewhat both possible and impossible, and attack this seeming paradox from different directions, and finally make the 2d person see it’s not quite a paradox anyway.)

Marconi discusses the quote by Wittgenstein “Our interest does not fall back upon these causes of the formation of concepts; we are not doing natural science; nor yet natural history – since we can also invent fictitious natural history for our purposes”
– it is central quote by Wittgenstein which we’ll have reason to look more into. Marconi points out that this is problematic, and I think he has right of doing so. In a sense it is true what Wittgenstein says, and in another sense it’s false. At other times Wittgenstein speaks differently, indicating that philosophers do take interest in facts, but only simple obvious facts that everyone already knows (or something similar)

Further reading
Wittgenstein’s Lectures on Philosophy

Internal links
Distinguishing between philosophy and science with the help from Ludwig Wittgenstein
Selected quotes of Ludwig Wittgenstein and commentary
On logic and Socratic method etc.


About Dandre

Former student of philosophy, maths and literature. Now studying master program in sociology. Some thinkers of central interest include Ludwig Wittgenstein, C. G. Jung and Pierre Bourdieu.
This entry was posted in Logic and science, Metaphilosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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