Wittgenstein did not say a word about “social science.” He wrote (and spoke) of language, the world, mind, mathematics, and a myriad of concepts and issues that have provided rich repositories for asking interpretive questions. About certain domains of philosophical research such as religion, aesthetics, metaphysics, and some other more elusive categories, he wrote (and spoke) less, and enigmatically at that. About the terms to which he widely referred and which he massively discussed one can say that they are “interpretable,” i.e., that one can straightforwardly attempt to interpret his thoughts on said terms. Those about which he was less (explicitly) intense one can either interpret locally and sporadically, choosing to emphasize parochial statements within their contexts, or one can read (into) texts more creatively by applying other Wittgensteinian terms to the less obvious ones. This second type of avenue was traveled, by and large, far and wide, by the interpreters of his thought on religion. But how does one interpret Wittgenstein on something about which he said nothing? What can one mean by the phrase “Wittgenstein on social science,” knowing that Wittgenstein wrote nary a word about social science. If, in the case of religion, the interpreter permitted herself a borrowing and intermingling of terminology, using, for instance, the very manifest and palpable construct of “language-game” to assist in the interpretation of religious practice as described by Wittgenstein, in the case of social science there is nothing described to which she can now apply any Wittgensteinian construct.
KeywordsSocial Science Religious Practice Political Thought Primitive Society Private Language
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