Dialogical Grammar: Varieties of Dialogue in Wittgenstein’s Methodology

  • Lemberger D
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The dialogical character of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations has received scant attention in the literature, given the work’s status in his total oeuvre, and is dismissed as a marginal as compared to the other differences between the Tractatus and the Investigations. The main lines of interpretation that have been proposed see dialogue as a rhetorical technique intended to present erroneous positions and then refute them, as an exemplification of what can be expressed in language (McGinn 1997; Rhees 1998), or as a reflection of Wittgenstein’s informal teaching method (Malcolm 2001; Savickey et al. 1990). The present article adopts the perspective that Wittgenstein’s use of dialogue makes it possible to track the various modes of language-acts, consonant with his directions to examine the daily use of language (Wittgenstein 2009, §116 and esp. §132), “when language is, as it were, idling.” In his later inquiries, Wittgenstein frequently considers the nature of mental states, accompanied by an attempt to characterize the differences between them while at the same time dealing with the cases in which it is difficult to distinguish them. In this process he made a variety of uses of dialogue, each of which embodies a different aspect of language action.  Subsequently I will demonstrate that these different uses are not haphazard. A scrutiny of the nature of the dialogue can help us understand the nature of the activity carried out of the state of consciousness. Finally, I propose a distinction among three main types of dialogue: technical, conversational, and reflexive.




Lemberger, D. (2015). Dialogical Grammar: Varieties of Dialogue in Wittgenstein’s Methodology. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 3. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2015.132

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