Two Forms of Domination by Reason

A Reply to Oskari Kuusela


  • Matteo Falomi University of Essex



Wittgenstein, rationality, modernity, clarification, James Baldwin


In his paper "The Problem of Domination by Reason and its Non-Relativist Solution" Oskari Kuusela describes a problem about our conception of rationality, which he labels the problem of “domination by reason”. This problem has contributed to generate, Kuusela notes, a widespread dissatisfaction with reason, which has resulted in a tendency to discard ideals of rationality altogether. Kuusela, in his paper, provides a response to this dissatisfaction. He argues that Wittgenstein, if we read him correctly, exemplifies a conception of reason that doesn’t incur the problem he indicates. In my response, I suggest a possible extension of Kuusela’s reflections. Domination by reason, as I argue, may also take another form, different from the one recognized by Kuusela. This alternative form is interesting for two reasons. First, those concerned about rationality’s dominance have quite often in mind this latter problem. Second, it is not obvious that the alternative version of the problem can be solved by appealing to the conception of rationality Kuusela locates in Wittgenstein: it could even be argued that such a conception, on a certain construal, may contribute to reinforcing it. I suggest that, if we focus solely on the aspects of Wittgenstein’s method highlighted in Kuusela’s paper, then such methods may be taken to promote domination by reason (in the alternative sense I introduce). There are, however, other aspects of Wittgenstein’s philosophy - most notably, his conception of ethical language - which may help us to dispel this version of the problem.

Keywords: Wittgenstein, rationality, modernity, clarification, James Baldwin

Author Biography

Matteo Falomi, University of Essex

Matteo Falomi is a Lecturer at School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex. He studied Philosophy at The University of Rome “Sapienza”, and took his PhD in Philosophy and Politics at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. After his PhD, he held a Junior Research Fellowship in Philosophy at Essex. He has been teaching at Essex since 2011. He has published articles on Wittgenstein and the Wittgensteinian tradition in ethics, and is currently working on a book on Cavell’s notion of Moral Perfectionism.