Wittgenstein’s Criticism of the “Atmosphere” Conception of Meaning in PI §117: A Problem for Therapeutic Readings?

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Inrecent years, so-called “therapeutic” readings of the laterWittgenstein have centered on the claim that his treatment ofquestions involving ‘meaning’ should not be seen as playing afoundational role for his approach of treating philosophical problemsby clarifying the grammarof expressions. As they argue, the treatment of problems involving‘meaning‘ should not be seen as playing a special role for thisapproach as such. Now in Investigations§117, Wittgenstein is bringing in his criticism of the “atmosphere”conception of meaning – which he links directly to his approach ofclarifying the grammar of expressions figuring in philosophicalproblems. Assuming the widespread view that what should be pittedagainst this “atmosphere” conception are remarks clarifying thegrammar of ‘meaning’, the problem apparently confrontingtherapeutic readings here is that the clarification of the grammar ofthis particular wordmight thus appear to assume yet a special relevance forWittgenstein’s clarificatory approach as a whole. My aim in thispaper is to show that this dilemma is not a real one – by showingthat there is actually a problem with the view that remarksclarifying the grammar of ‘meaning’ could play a privileged rolein debunking the type of misconception Wittgenstein introduces inPI §117.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)203–225
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Language
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • ordinary language philosophy

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