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Wittgenstein and Anscombe’s Intention


  • Marie McGinn



Anscombe G.E.M., intention, action, grammatical investigation, Wittgenstein Ludwig, Wiseman Rachael


Rachael Wiseman has argued that we cannot make sense of G.E.M. Anscombe’s Intention unless we recognise that it is an “exemplification of [Wittgenstein’s] grammatical investigation”. While Wiseman is alive to the Wittgensteinian nature of Anscombe’s method, and to her deep Wittgensteinian sympathies, she is not preoccupied with the question of influence. This is the question I am concerned with in the current paper. I argue that in focusing on the concept of intention, Anscombe was homing in on a pivotal concept in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, and that most of the basic elements of her account were being worked out by Wittgenstein during the period when she was his pupil. However, as Anscombe worked through Wittgenstein’s idea’s afresh, in her own more systematic and analytic mode of philosophical investigation, she often cast ideas that were sometimes merely nascent in Wittgenstein’s work in a new light. Moreover, some of her most seminal ideas had their origin in concerns which she did not share with Wittgenstein and were entirely original to her.

Author Biography

Marie McGinn

Marie McGinn is Professor Emerita at York University, UK, where she taught from 1979–2007. She is the author of the Routledge Guidebook to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (2013), and Elucidating the Tractatus: Wittgenstein’s Early Philosophy of Logic and Language (OUP: 2006); her collected papers, Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism, was published by Anthem Press in 2022; her paper “Wittgenstein’s Naturalism and the Skeptical Paradox” will be published in Kripke’s ‘Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language’ at 40, edited by Claudine Verheggen, early next year (CUP: February 2024).


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