Hearing Voices: A Dialogical Reading of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations

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T.S. Eliot’s early drafts of his poetic masterpiece The Waste Land famously used an offbeat line from Dickens as a rather cryptic working title: ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’. These words might serve equally well — perhaps, indeed, rather better — as a title to a philosophical masterpiece by one of Eliot’s contemporaries: Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. At some points in Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein shamelessly violates the rules of ordinary language — only to be stopped and cautioned by another voice, which goes on to spell the rules out. At other times, he gets lost and asks for directions — whereupon a different voice emerges from the text to set him back on track. If the text is loitering, a voice will speak up to move it on; if the text is rushed, a voice will slow it down and pull it over for speeding. The word ‘Investigations’ in Wittgenstein’s title suggests detective work,1 but in actual fact his philosophical practice has as much in common with an old-fashioned bobby on the beat, walking down the mean streets of linguistic philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterature and Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationA Guide to Contemporary Debates
EditorsDavid Rudrum
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780230598621
ISBN (Print)9781349524655
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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