March 16, 2010
At the heart of Jaakko Hintikka's philosophy of logic and language stands the idea that all philosophers must subscribe either to the view of language as a universal medium or to the view of language as calculus. The gist of the matter, according to Hintikka, lies in the idea of the ineffability of semantics. Hintikka himself defends the calculus view of language. His critique of the ineffability view is motivated by his notion that it undermines the idea of analytical philosophy as a systematic, problem-solving endeavour, paving the way for irresponisble relativism in philosophy at large. The organizing idea in Hintikka's interpretation of Wittgenstein is that Wittgenstein, throughout his career, maintained that semantics is ineffable. Hintikka sees Wittgenstein as one of the main sources of the theory-fatigue which he finds typical of, and detrimental to, contemporary philosophy. The author argues that Hintikka is mistaken in attributing the “ineffability of semantics” thesis to the author of the Philosophical Investigations . As it would be implausible to attribute the calculus view of language to the later Wittgenstein, this finding implies that Hintikka's suggested “grand distinction” between the universality and calculus views of languages does not have the kind of generality Hintikka attributes to it. Generalizing on the same finding, the author goes on to argue that Hintikka in essence gets Wittgenstein's later philosophy wrong in the same way as some of the anti-constructive philosophers Hintikka criticizes, including Richard Rorty. Like Rorty, Hintikka reads the later Wittgenstein's philosophy of language as destructive for philosophy's commitment to reason. The author suggests that such readings of Wittgenstein's later work fail to give an adequate account of how it transforms, but does not delegitimize, that very commitment.