"Meaning is Use" and Wittgenstein’s Treatment of Philosophical Problems


  • Stefan Giesewetter University of Potsdam


Wittgenstein Ludwig, 20th century philosophy, meaning, use, method, therapeutic reading


What is the relation between later Wittgenstein’s method of dissolving philosophical problems by reminding us of how we would actually use words, and his famous statement that “meaning is use” in Investigations §43? The idea is widespread among readers of Wittgenstein that a close relation obtains between the two. This paper addresses a specific type of answer to this question: answers which have drawn on remarks of Wittgenstein’s where he explicitly establishes a connection between this method and certain misconceptions about meaning – remarks such as Investigations §117. The paper will discuss answers which have advanced the following claim: Since it is places such as §43 which play a main role in debunking misconceptions of this kind, Wittgenstein’s statement that “meaning is use” must be taken as directly related to the method of asking for the use of words. Drawing on so-called “therapeutic” readings of Wittgenstein, what I intend to show is that this seemingly straightforward answer fails to fully accommodate the fact that §43 is itself a reminder of how we would actually use a word. The paper sets out to show how truly acknowledging this forces us to rethink the relation between “meaning is use” and this method of Wittgenstein’s.

Author Biography

Stefan Giesewetter, University of Potsdam

Stefan Giesewetter lives in Berlin. He obtained his Ph.D. in 2011 from the Universität Potsdam under the supervision of Hans Julius Schneider and James Conant.


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