Unravelling Certainty

  • Danièle Moyal-Sharrock


Wittgenstein’s last work1 was posthumously entitled Über Gewissheit – On Certainty. This is because certainty is the subject-matter of the work. In German, Wittgenstein speaks not only of Gewissheit, but also of Sicherheit, and he uses other equivalent expressions.2 Wittgenstein uses these terms in an attempt – inspired by G.E. Moore and Norman Malcolm’s discussions of the subject3 – to circumscribe the nature of our basic assurance, of our assurance about such things as ‘Here is a hand’ or ‘I am standing here’. At the very outset of his examination of that assurance, Wittgenstein dissociates it from knowledge: ‘If you do know that here is one hand, we’ll grant you all the rest’ (OC 1). But of course, he does not leave it there. Much of On Certainty is devoted to fleshing out the distinction between certainty and knowledge.


Basic Belief Doxastic Attitude Grammatical Rule Empirical Proposition Ordinary Belief 
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Copyright information

© Danièle Moyal-Sharrock 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danièle Moyal-Sharrock
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck College, University of LondonUK

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