Wittgenstein’s ‘Grammatical Naturalism’

  • Jonathan BealeEmail author
Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


The dominant interpretation of the later Wittgenstein as a naturalist is that he endorses a form of liberal naturalism. This chapter argues that liberal naturalism cannot be ascribed to Wittgenstein for four reasons: first, liberal naturalism offers an ontology; second, liberal naturalism can be construed as a theory; third, Wittgenstein sometimes appears to be hostile towards science; fourth, Wittgenstein does not reject all forms of supernaturalism. It is argued that Wittgenstein’s later philosophy can nonetheless be described as ‘naturalistic’ for two reasons. First, observations concerning natural facts play an important role in his method of providing surveyable representations of grammar. Second, his opposition to metaphysics and the absence of recourse to metaphysical phenomena in his philosophical investigations. While ascribing naturalism to the later Wittgenstein is misleading because of the four caveats raised, the chapter suggests that if we are to describe the later Wittgenstein as a naturalist, his position can be described as such insofar as there are the two naturalistic strands in his later philosophy, both of which are important to his method of grammatical investigation. This position is dubbed ‘grammatical naturalism’.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Researcher-in-ResidenceTony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning, Eton CollegeWindsor, BerkshireUK

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