The Fall 2009 issue of Common Knowledge contains an article by John McDowell (Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh), entitled “Wittgensteinian ‘Quietism’.” To access the article, click here.
Here is the abstract:
In his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein describes, and represents himself as pursuing, a way of doing philosophy without putting forward philosophical theses. I exemplify his approach with a sketch of his treatment of rule following. I focus in particular on the simple case of following a signpost, conceived as an expression of a rule for getting to a destination. Wittgenstein uncovers a threat that we will find it mysterious how one could learn from a signpost which way to go, and he dissolves the threat, not by putting forward philosophical theses, but by reminding us of things we already knew about signposts. Insofar as the point of Wittgenstein’s procedure is to give philosophy peace, the label “quietism” fits. I take issue with readings of Wittgenstein’s quietism that represent him as uncovering a need for positive philosophical work, but using quietism as a pretext for declining to do the work himself. Wittgensteinian quietism is not a stance of complacency or idleness. The kind of thing Wittgenstein does is difficult and laborious. It requires accurate and sympathetic engagement with frames of mind in which positive philosophy seems to be necessary.