‘If ever any kind of history has suggested the interpretations which should be put on it, it is the history of philosophy’.1 In a period of philosophical history which has managed to find itself largely indifferent to philosophy’s historical character, Merleau-Ponty’s sharp observation is a timely reminder that the resources for reading philosophical texts are not wholly independent of the texts of philosophy that have been read. Concerned in his own case that we may unwittingly fall back on traditional interpretive keys for reading a philosophical score that may be performing something new, Merleau-Ponty urges us not to conclude too quickly that we know what is emerging in the movement that is bringing phenomenology to being. It seems to me that a good deal of the controversy over the interpretation of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy in general and the distinctive writing of the Philosophical Investigations in particular has been bound up with a similar problem. It is the problem of coming to terms with the novelty of its teaching, a difficulty of reading posed by the fact that the history of philosophy, its terms of criticism and self-understanding, may stand in the way of ‘letting this book teach us anything’.2
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- 47.S. Kierkegaard, ‘A Cursory Observation Concerning a Detail in Don Giovanni’, published in Fædrelandet (The Fatherland) in 1845.Google Scholar