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Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Humility

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

David E. Cooper
University of Durham


In 1929, doubtless to the discomfort of his logical positivist host Moritz Schlick, Wittgenstein remarked, ‘To be sure, I can understand what Heidegger means by Being and Angst’ (WVC, 68). I return to what Heidegger meant and Wittgenstein could understand later. I begin with that remark because it has had an instructive career. When the passage which it prefaced was first published in 1965, the editors left it out—presumably to protect a hero of ‘analytic’ philosophy from being compromised by an expression of sympathy for the arch-fiend of ‘continental’ philosophy. It was as if a diary of Churchill's had been discovered containing admiring references to Hitler. This was the period, after all, when Heidegger was, as Michael Dummett recalls, a ‘joke’ among Oxford philosophers, the paradigm of the sort of metaphysical nonsense Wittgenstein had dedicated himself to exposing.

Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 1997

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1 References in the text to Wittgenstein are to abbreviated titles of the following works: Notebooks 1914-16, trans. Anscombe, G. E. M.(Oxford: Blackwell, 1961)Google Scholar [NB] Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. Barrett, C. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967) [LC];Google ScholarPhilosophical Investigations, trans. Anscombe, G. E. M. (London: Macmillan, 1969) [PI];Google ScholarOn Certainty, trans. Paul, D. & Anscombe, G. E. M. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969) [OC];Google ScholarTractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Trans. Pears, D. F. & McGuinness, B. F. (London: Routledge, 1974) [TLP];Google ScholarWittgenstein and the Vienna Circle: conversations recorded by Friedrich Waismann, ed. McGuinness, B. F. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979) [WVC];Google ScholarRemarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, trans. Miles, A. (Retford: Brynmill, 1979) [RF];Google ScholarCulture and Value, trans. Winch, P. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980) [CV];Google ScholarRemarks on the Philosophy of Psychology: Vol. 1, trans. Anscombe, G. E. M. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988) [RPP];Google Scholar‘Lecture on ethics’ [LE] & ‘The big typescript’ [BIG] in The Wittgenstein Reader, ed. Kenny, A. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994).Google Scholar

2 Stanley, Cavell, Philosophical Passages: Wittgenstein, Emerson, Austin, Derrida (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 13.Google Scholar

3 I discern this ‘prevailing treatment’ in, inter alia,Google ScholarRichard, Rorty, ‘Wittgenstein, Heidegger and the reification of language’ in his Essays on Heidegger and Others (Cambridge University Press, 1991);Google ScholarKarl-Otto, Apel, ‘Wittgenstein and Heidegger: language games and life forms’, in Critical Heidegger, ed. McCann, C. (London: Routledge, 1996);Google ScholarJürgen, Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking: philosophical essays, trans. Hohengarten, W. (Cambridge: Polity, 1992);Google Scholar and Ross, Mandel, ‘Heidegger and Wittgenstein’, in Heidegger and Modern Philosophy: critical essays, ed. Murray, M. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978).Google Scholar

4 Op.cit. note 3, 50, 52,63.

5 References in the text to Heidegger are to abbreviated titles of the following works: Identität und Differenz (Pfullingen: Neske, 1957) [ID];Google ScholarErlaüterungen zur Hölderlins Dichtung (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1971) [EH];Google ScholarOn Time and Being, trans. Stambaugh, J. (New York: Harper & Row, 1972) [TB];Google ScholarGesamtausgabe: Vol. 56/57 (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1975— ) [G];Google ScholarThe Question concerning Technology (and other essays), trans. Lovitt, W. (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) [QT];Google Scholar‘Letter on humanism’, in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, ed. Krell, D. F. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978) [LH];Google ScholarBeing and Time, trans. Macquarrie, J. & Robinson, E. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980) [BT];Google ScholarOn the Way to Language, trans. Hertz, P. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982) [WL];Google ScholarEarly Greek Thinking, trans. Krell, D. F. & Capuzzi, F. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984) [EGT];Google ScholarBasic Questions of Philosophy, trans. Rojcewicz, R. & Schuwer, A. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press) [BQP].Google Scholar

6 David, Pears, The False Prison: a study of the development of Wittgenstein's Philosophy, Vol. 1, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), 5.Google Scholar

7 Op. cit. note 3, 270.

8 On this point, see also Dreyfus, Hubert L., Being-in-the-world: a commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991).Google Scholar

9 For this way of speaking, see Heidegger (TB), and for a lively dismissal of the later philosophy's critical potential, see Edwards, James C., The Authority of Language: Heidegger, Wittgenstein and the threat of nihilism, (Tampa: University of South Florida Press, 1990).Google Scholar

10 Thomas, Nagel, The View from Nowhere, (Oxford University Press, 1986), 108–9.Google Scholar

11 See Heidegger (BT, 436ff) and Heidegger's various speeches collected in The Heidegger Controversy: a critical reader, ed. Wollin, R. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993).Google Scholar

12 Op.cit. note 6, 17-18. For a similar interpretation, see Edwards, , op. cit. note 9.Google Scholar

13 Stephen, Mulhall, On Being in the World: Wittgenstein and Heidegger on seeing aspects (London: Routledge, 1990), 199ff.Google Scholar

14 See, for example, George, Steiner, Heidegger (London: Fontana, 1978), 147.Google Scholar

15 For a detailed exposition of this idea of ‘dependence’—though one influenced by Heidegger, not Wittgenstein—Google Scholarsee Nishida, Kitaro, Last Writings: nothingness and the religious worldview, trans. Dilworth, D. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987).Google Scholar

16 Hilary, Putnam, Pragmatism: an open question (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 33, 50–1.Google Scholar

17 Max, Black, ‘Lebensformen and Sprachspiel in Wittgenstein's later work’, in Wittgenstein and his Impact on Contemporary Thought, ed. Leinfellner, E. et al. (Vienna: Holder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1978), 329.Google Scholar

18 I attempt a fuller exposition of what it is that changes in Heidegger's later philosophy in my Heidegger (London: Claridge, 1996).Google Scholar

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