Groundless Grounds

Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger

Lee Braver
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 370
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  • Book Info
    Groundless Grounds
    Book Description:

    Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are two of the most important--and two of the most difficult--philosophers of the twentieth century, indelibly influencing the course of continental and analytic philosophy, respectively. In Groundless Grounds, Lee Braver argues that the views of both thinkers emerge from a fundamental attempt to create a philosophy that has dispensed with everything transcendent so that we may be satisfied with the human. Examining the central topics of their thought in detail, Braver finds that Wittgenstein and Heidegger construct a philosophy based on original finitude--finitude without the contrast of the infinite. In Braver's elegant analysis, these two difficult bodies of work offer mutual illumination rather than compounded obscurity. Moreover, bringing the most influential thinkers in continental and analytic philosophy into dialogue with each other may enable broader conversations between these two divergent branches of philosophy. Braver's meticulously researched and strongly argued account shows that both Wittgenstein and Heidegger strive to construct a new conception of reason, free of the illusions of the past and appropriate to the kind of beings that we are. Readers interested in either philosopher, or concerned more generally with the history of twentieth-century philosophy as well as questions of the nature of reason, will find Groundless Grounds of interest.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30171-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    First, let’s get the obligatory biographical parallels out of the way. Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein were both born in 1889 in adjacent German-speaking countries (Germany and Austria, respectively). After flirting with other occupations (priesthood and engineering), they both came to study under leading philosophers of the day (Edmund Husserl and Bertrand Russell), each of whom recognized in his pupil not only an heir apparent but the savior of philosophy as a whole.¹ Both published a first book in the 1920s (Being and Time and Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) which employs their mentors’ method (phenomenology and logical analysis) while criticizing their mentors’...

  6. 1 What Is Philosophy?
    (pp. 13-52)

    The topics philosophers discuss are as diverse as the types of things there are in the universe, and plenty of them ignore even that restriction. But there is one topic that all great philosophers address, and that is philosophy itself. This issue carries personal significance for Wittgenstein and Heidegger since their methodological innovations were partially undertaken in rebellion against their mentors.Being and Timestruck Husserl as a personal betrayal, especially since Heidegger had concealed the extent of his apostasy while Husserl was furthering his career.¹ Russell was, for a time, broken by Wittgenstein’s criticisms, abandoning the book he had...

  7. 2 What Is a Thing?
    (pp. 53-80)

    Chapter 1 explained Wittgenstein’s and Heidegger’s diagnoses of philosophical confusion as the result of being guided by a picture or understanding of being during reflection, instead of by the tacit understanding that informs pre-reflective acting and speaking. In this chapter, I want to look at the specific picture/conception of being responsible for more befuddlement than any other, what Wittgenstein sometimes calls “meaning-objects” and early Heidegger calls present-at-hand objects.

    Wittgenstein’s later work is known for its fertility and diversity; one of his goals is to correct philosophy’s tendency to fixate on a single notion or kind of example.¹ However, the more...

  8. 3 The Whole Hurly-Burly of Human Actions
    (pp. 81-118)

    Atomism in some form or other has been the default ontology for most of the history of philosophy: objects are what they are because of their own intrinsic nature, gaining only superficial features from whatever relationships they happen to enter into. This metaphysical structure can then secure semantic determinacy: synching words with referents that retain their nature regardless of circumstances makes words’ meanings independent of their context. They simply mean what they mean regardless of when, where, or by whom they are employed. Chapter 2 showed how theTractatusbases all language ultimately on the relationship between a name and...

  9. 4 What Is Called Thinking?
    (pp. 119-172)

    We began this study by examining Wittgenstein’s and Heidegger’s projects as therapeutic treatments of the pseudo-problems that strike us when we disengage from normal, ongoing activity. We then devoted a chapter to each of the perspectives or stances that frame their thought—the theoretical notion of static, discrete meaning and being, in chapter 2; the dynamic and holistic processes we actually live in, in chapter 3. Now I want to turn to the conceptions of thinking that correlate with these respective views.

    The theoretical view pictures thought as the explicit and articulate, or at least fully articulable, thematic consideration of...

  10. 5 The Essence of Ground
    (pp. 173-222)

    As we have seen, Wittgenstein and Heidegger challenge a number of the assumptions and aspirations that have guided philosophy since its inception. One of these, foundationalism, is the attempt to trace all knowledge back to a source or set of claims that, as necessarily true, secure the truth of all that is derived from them. Just as a valid argument produces only true conclusions from true premises, so a properly built system insulates the circulation of truth throughout its entirety. As Descartes argues, if we don’t know that we know what we think we know, then we may not know...

  11. Conclusion: Original Finitude
    (pp. 223-240)

    Like all great philosophers, Wittgenstein and Heidegger discuss a wide range of topics; I have surveyed those I consider to be central to their work and of greatest interest. One topic at the foundation of much of their thought is the idea of limits or finitude. Wittgenstein’s early work plots the limitations of what we can think and speak. Focusing on language rather than thought, and on what language can say while leaving what it can’t unspoken, helps Wittgenstein avoid the trap of transgressing these limits in the act of tracing them. Language limns the contours of cognition, entailing the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 241-324)
  13. References
    (pp. 325-350)
  14. Index
    (pp. 351-354)