Filling out the picture: Wittgenstein on differences and alternatives
Bowell, T. (2009). Filling out the picture: Wittgenstein on differences and alternatives. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 17(2), 203-219.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2746
At several points in his later writings Wittgenstein discusses imaginary forms of life and ways of thinking that appear queer or alien from our point of view; concepts so different from ours that those who think from within them seem to be alternatives to us. In this paper I argue that reflection on the notions of difference and possibility in play here shows that imaginary cases of alien conceptual schemes or forms of life such as those considered by Wittgenstein are not all cases of concepts that are entirely unintelligible for us; rather they may represent possible, albeit distant, ways of thinking for us. Such cases serve to aid imaginative reflection on our own case(s). By making us appreciate the possibility of the strange, they help us better to appreciate the arbitrariness of the familiar. I end the paper by considering what the implications of this reading of Wittgenstein's position might be for Donald Davidson's rejection of conceptual relativism.