Workshop "Ordinary Language and Metaphysics" Åbo Akademi May 12-13, 2016

Ordinary Language and Metaphysics

Workshop at Åbo Akademi University, May 12-13 2016
Location: Auditorium Westermarck, C 101, Department of Philosophy, Fabriksgatan 2

Participation is free, but those who are interested should send Prof. Martin Gustafsson margust (a) an e-mail before May 5 to register.

Thursday, May 12
9.30-9.45    Opening words
9.45-11.00    Wolfram Gobsch (University of Leipzig): Hegel’s Conception of Philosophy’s Relation to Life
11.15-12.30    Oskari Kuusela (University of East Anglia):   Misunderstanding the Role of the Ideal in Our Language
12.30-14.00    Lunch
14.00-15.15    Stefan Giesewetter (University of Potsdam/Åbo Akademi University): Later Wittgenstein’s ‘Piecemeal’ Approach to Philosophy
15.30-17.00    Anne-Marie Søndergaard Christensen (University of Southern Denmark) : Wittgenstein on ‘Metaphysics as a Kind of Magic’
19.00    Dinner

Friday, May 13
10.00-11.15    Martin Gustafsson (Åbo Akademi University):  Categories, Reality, and Ordinary Language
11.45-13.00    Jean-Philippe Narboux (University of Bordeaux III):
    The Indirect Significance of the Philosophical Appeal to Ordinary Language
13.00 -    Lunch, and continuing informal discussion at a suitable venue

The workshop is organized within the Academy of Finland research project, “The Philosophical Import of Ordinary Language: Austin, Ryle, Wittgenstein, and their Contemporary Significance”.
Contact: Martin Gustafsson,

Overall Themes and Questions
Wittgenstein – early and late – sometimes talks of metaphysics as if it were one single project resting on one fundamental sort of error. As in Zettel 458: “Philosophical investigations: conceptual investigations. The essential thing about metaphysics: it obliterates the distinction between factual and conceptual investigations.”
Here and at other places, Wittgenstein seems to ignore the Kantian distinction between critical and dogmatic metaphysics. Critical metaphysics proceeds from the notion that the metaphysical order of reality is the same as the logical order of thought and language, and that metaphysics can therefore be meaningfully pursued only by investigating this shared logical order. Dogmatic metaphysics, on the other hand, conceives of reality’s order as separate from what it sees as our merely subjective or conventional means of representation. Consequently, whereas the critical metaphysician will reject dogmatic metaphysics as a confused attempt to investigate the world “from sideways on,” the dogmatic metaphysician will conceive critical metaphysics as a subjectivist form of idealism.

Dogmatic metaphysics was always one of Wittgenstein’s central targets. His relation to critical metaphysics is less clear. The Tractatus is often read as a work of critical metaphysics, and it is fairly easy to see why. But what about his later philosophy? Interpreters who emphasize the independence and arbitrariness of Wittgensteinian grammar will deny that his later project can sensibly be conceived as a form of critical metaphysics. Other readers, including Anscombe, McDowell and Putnam, seem much more open to a critical-metaphysical way of inheriting Wittgenstein’s later thought.
Central here is later Wittgenstein’s view of the philosophical import of ordinary language. What is the exact significance of his stated aim to “bring words back from the metaphysical to their everyday use” (PI 116)? It has often been said that later Wittgenstein’s emphasis on ordinary language goes hand in hand with a deep criticism of philosophy’s traditional aspiration towards system-building. Now, a systematic aspiration of the sort Wittgenstein seems to reject is present not only among dogmatic but also among critical metaphysicians. Indeed, as Kant’s own work aptly illustrates, systematicity is often seen as absolutely central to the critical-metaphysical endeavor. So, does Wittgenstein’s rejection of system-building in philosophy show that he is not doing any sort of metaphysics at all? Or, is his point that critical metaphysics can somehow be done in a non-systematic fashion? Or, is there a deep tension at the heart of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, between his attack on system-building and an aspiration to do critical metaphysics? Or, is Wittgenstein a systematic philosopher in the relevant sense, after all?

Similar questions arise not only with regard to Wittgenstein, but also with regard to other 20th century thinkers who have emphasized the philosophical significance of ordinary language, including J. L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle, and Stanley Cavell. The overall aim of the workshop is to discuss this tangle of issues, exegetically and systematically. Individual papers need not engage in exegesis, but can well look more systematically at one or several of the difficulties involved.