Wittgenstein, Culture and Civilisation

This page is about works that discuss Culture and Value, and issues concerning Wittgenstein's influence on cultural theory and Philosophy of Culture and Civilisation, as well as of the philosophical understanding of man and society.

Pleasants, Nigel ‘Winch and Wittgenstein on understanding ourselves critically: descriptive not metaphysical’, Inquiry, 43 (3), 2000, 289-318.

This paper presents an ‘internal’ criticism of Winch’s seminal ‘Understanding a Primitive Society’ (1964). It distinguishes between two contrasting approaches to critical social understanding: 1. the metaphysical approach, central to the whole tradition of critical philosophy and critical social theory from Kant, through Marx to the Frankfurt School and contemporary theorists such as Habermas and Searle; 2. the descriptive approach, advocated by Winch, and which derives from Wittgenstein’s critique of philosophical theory. It is argued, against a long tradition of ‘critical theory’ depicting Wittgenstein’s philosophy as irredeemably ‘conservative’, that the descriptive approach is perfectly apt for generating a critical understanding of central Western institutions. Rather than seeking to provide an explanatory theory through which to discern what allegedly is imperceptible to theoretically-unaided perception (i.e. the metaphysical approach), the descriptive approach aims for a ‘perspicuous presentation’ of our everyday practices and institutions, in such a way as to see their ‘irrational’ and ‘alienating’ dimensions. Winch’s basic position in ‘Understanding a Primitive Society’ is endorsed, but it is argued that ultimately he fails in his descriptive intent. In place of the Christian prayer analogy that Winch invokes in order to make sense of Zande witchcraft, it is proposed that Western commodity production and exchange provide a more appropriate, instructive and critical comparison.

Kitching, Gavin & Pleasants, Nigel (eds.) Marx and Wittgenstein: knowledge, morality and politics, London: Routledge, (2002). 320 pages
ISBN-10: 0415247756
ISBN-13: 978-0415247757

Description and Contents of the book:
This book develops and extends the unorthodox view that there are deeper philosophical commonalities between Marx and Wittgenstein than may at first be apparent.
Table of Contents:
1. T. P. Uschanov Ernest Gellner's Criticisms of Wittgenstein and Ordinary Language Philosophy
2. Ted Schatzki Marx and Wittgenstein as Natural Historians
3. David Rubinstein Marx and Wittgenstein: Culture and Practical Reason
4. David Andrews Commodity Fetishism as a Form of Life: Language and Value in Wittgenstein and Marx
5. Terrell Carver Marx, Wittgenstein and Postmodernism
6. Keiran Sharpe Sraffa's Influence on Wittgenstein: a Conjecture
7. John B. Davis A Marxist Influence on Wittgenstein via Sraffa
8. Ted Benton Wittgenstein, Winch and Marx
9. Nigel Pleasants Towards a Critical use of Marx and Wittgenstein
10. Ferruccio Rossi-Landi Towards a Marxian use of Wittgenstein
11. Joachim Israel Remarks on Marxism and the Philosophy of Language
12. Gavin Kitching Marxism and Reflexivity
13. Rupert Read Marx and Wittgenstein on Vampires and Parasites: a Critique of Capital and Metaphysics
14. K. T. Fann Beyond Marx and Wittgenstein (A Confession of a Wittgensteinian Marxist turned Taoist)

Read more about the book in:

Pleasants, Nigel, Wittgenstein and the idea of a critical social theory: a critique of Giddens, Habermas and Bhaskar. London: Routledge, 1999.
211 pages
ISBN-10: 0415189535
ISBN-13: 978-0415189538

Description and Table of Contents
This book uses the philosophy of Wittgenstein as a perspective from which to challenge the idea of a critical social theory, represented pre-eminently by Giddens, Habermas and Bhaskar.
Table of Contents:
1. Wittgenstein and critical social theory
2. Does Wittgenstein mean what he says? The rejection of 'theory' and 'explanation'
3. Winch, Wittgenstein and critical social theory
4. Wittgenstein's rule-following remarks and critical social theory: deconstructing tacit knowledge and transcendental rules
5. Hayek's and Gidden's epistemological argument against socialism: a myth of symbolism?
6. 'Free to act otherwise'? Questioning the reality of Bhaskar's realist ontology
7. Milgram versus Garfinkel: are we cultural dopes or reflexive agents? A reflexive critique of ethnomethodology
8. Habermas and the idea of a critical social theory - a change of paradigm?
9. Conclusion

Lerner, Berel Dov , and Winch, Peter, Rules, magic, and instrumental reason: a critical interpretation of Peter Winch's philosophy of the social sciences, Routledge, 2002
179 pages
ISBN 0415253020, 9780415253024

Brief Description
This book provides a critical examination of Peter Winch's celebrated and controversial philosophy of the social sciences. Topics covered include rule following and the meaningfulness of human behavior, technical explanations of behavior, practical rationality, and the interpretation of "exotic" cultural phenomena, such as African magic, and the Hawaiian deification of Captain James Cook.

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