The “Proper” Work of Philosophy

In wittgenstein on 19/07/2011 at 11:27 pm

That there can be no … superior tribunal has also been one theme of contemporary analytical philosophy in Britain, beginning in the late 1930s and gaining strength since the war. Philosophy as a kind of antropology of knowledge and belief is a conception revived in the later work of Wittgenstein. His suggestion was that we should turn our attention to the justification of belief, and of claims to knowledge, which are customarily accepted, and not look for a rationally satisfying justification altogether outside our established habits of thought: such a justification could never in principle be found. The proper work of philosophy is purely descriptive, to set out the linguistic facts that reveal our habits of thought … (Professor S. Hampshire, in David Hume: a Symposium, ed. D.F. Pears, London, Macmillan, 1963, p. 5)


  1. Perhaps some people wonder why I bang on about the problem of induction all of the time. This is why.

    Contemporary philosophers may no lot be logical positivists, but almost all of them tacitly accept the same research program. The different schools of modern philosophy can be distinguished by how they dealt with the problem of induction within that context. Two of the most prominent are Bayesianism, which sought a solution to the problem on induction in the mathematics of probability, and analytic philosophy, which solved the problem of induction by making induction valid on its own terms.

    [Among the most] common solution[s] to the problem of induction is to unshackle it from deduction. In this view, induction was mistakenly jury-rigged into a system of deductive inference where it did not belong, i.e. induction was considered subordinate to the apparatus of basic logic.

    Induction could be liberated from the constraints of deduction by positing it as an alternative logic of equal standing. The traditional problems of induction were thereby dissolved: induction is valid on its own terms. Evaluating induction by deductive standards was something like a category error. Sense observation remains the only legitimate source of synthetic knowledge, and science had its own special logic to derive universal theories.

    From this solution, it is but a series of small steps to there being countless incommensurable “forms of life.”

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