(61%)6th July 1993
ON CERTAINTY
Is anything of significance lost in giving up the idea of
absolute truth?
Throughout ‘On Certainty’, Wittgenstein’s aim is to remove the
false pictures created by traditional philosophers, by uncovering
the true way that our language functions in our lives, and
showing the irreconcilable difference between this and the way
that philosophers use language in different situations.While
Wittgenstein criticises the theories of traditional philosophers,
he himself does not come up with an alternative theory, as it is
the theorising of philosophers that he sees as creating much of
At the base of all of Wittgenstein’s writing in ‘On Certainty’
is the notion of language games.According to Wittgenstein, all
that we say only gets any meaning when seen in context.That is,
looking just at what we actually say will tell you nothing, but
you must look at the way that what you say fits in with the
language game employed.Wittgenstein uses the term ‘language
game’ to describe the way that we use our language in a
particular circumstance for a certain purpose.For instance, the
language game employed in describing the world is likely to be
different to that used in greeting a friend.
Wittgenstein’s rejection of absolute truth can be seen as
stemming both from the way that our language games originate, and
the clear differences that can be seen within them.Our language
game originates from and is shaped by the way that we live our
lives.It has developed to be the most effective way of
describing what we think and how we behave.”…A meaning of a
word is a kind of employment of it.For it is what we learn when
the word is incorporated into our language.” (Ludwig
Wittgenstein, On Certainty 61). So to understand a language game
according to Wittgenstein, i…

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