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Hamann, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein on the Language of Philosophers

Tuesday 31 July 2012

de Jonathan Gray, Royal Holloway, University of London

«In this chapter I shall examine some of Johann Georg Hamann’s claims about how philosophers misuse, misunderstand, and are misled by language. I will then examine how he anticipates things that Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein say on this topic. All three thinkers are suspicious of philosophers who consider artificial systems of “pure reason” or “formal logic” more valuable than natural language in the search for philosophical insight. They all challenge the notion that natural language “gets in the way” of reason, and should be radically formalized into (or even retired in favor of) a more logically or conceptually perfect language. Hamann is responding to the enthusiasm for reine Vernunft exhibited by his friend Immanuel Kant and the loose-knit group that would later come to be known as the Aufklärer. Nietzsche is profoundly critical of the idealism of many of his philosophical predecessors, including Kant, Hegel, and Schopenhauer. Wittgenstein turns away from Frege’s and Russell’s logical philosophies, and rejects the British idealism (deeply influenced by Kant and Hegel) that had been dominant in earlier decades.»

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