What’s Reality Got to Do with It? Wittgenstein, Empirically Informed Philosophy, and a Missing Methodological Link





The later Wittgenstein, Philosophical method, empirically informed philosophy, the practice turn, field work, case studies


“Don’t think, but look!” (Wittgenstein 2009: § 66). This insistient advice has served as methodological inspiration for several influential thinkers in the broad range of ‘empirically informed’ philosophy, which has flourished over the last decades. There is, however, a worrisome tension between Wittgenstein’s work and these turns to practices, history, science, field work, and everyday life: Wittgenstein is in general doing something different from what the thinkers who claim to be inspired by him are doing. An argument for the legitimacy of the move from Wittgenstein to empirically informed philosophy is so far missing in the literature. This article shows how this move can be justifiable within a Wittgensteinian frame, philosophically beneficial, and at times even necessary.

Author Biography

Cecilie Eriksen, Aarhus University

Cecilie Eriksen is Special Consultant at the National Center for Ethics, The Ministry of Health, Denmark, and an affiliated researcher on the research programme The Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (https://www.esdit.nl) and on the PROGRESS project (https://progress.sites.uu.nl/). She is the author of Moral Change: Dynamics, Structure and Normativity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), as well as the editor and co-editor of several volumes, including New Perspectives on Moral Change: Anthropologists and Philosophers Engage with Transforming Life Worlds (with Nora Hämäläinen, Berghahn 2022) and Philosophical Perspectives on Moral Certainty (with Julia Hermann, Nigel Pleasants and Neil O’Hara, Routledge, forthcoming). ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3080-8337.


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2022-09-29 — Updated on 2023-01-16