Skepticism, Metaphors and Vertigo

Wittgenstein and Cavell on the Human Condition

Rico Gutschmidt 1
  • 1 Dresden


The relation of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy to skepticism seems to be ambiguous, since he rejects radical skepticism but also highlights the groundlessness of our beliefs. In this paper, I am going to discuss Wittgenstein’s hinge propositions in this respect. Against the usual view, I will show that they do not function as a contextualist or foundationalist refutation of skepticism. What is more, they also do not confirm skepticism. In contrast, I will argue that following Wittgenstein skepticism is neither false nor true, but still has a point, which can be elucidated with Stanley Cavell’s concept of a truth of skepticism. This concept roughly states that we can not know about the existence of the world and the others, but that we have to acknowledge them. With the help of Wittgenstein, I am going to clarify this position. The key idea is that the problem of skepticism can be understood as a metaphorical way of presenting the finiteness of the human condition and that vertiginous skeptical irritations lead to an adequate human self-understanding in this respect.

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The yearbook is designed as an annual forum for Wittgenstein research. Wittgenstein-Studien [Wittgenstein Studies] publishes articles and materials on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s life, work and philosophy and on his philosophical and cultural environment.