A Wittgensteinian Critique

By Garth L. Hallett

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Logic and Language
Paperback : 9780791407745, 237 pages, September 1991
Hardcover : 9780791407738, 237 pages, October 1991

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Table of contents



1. The Decline of Explicit Essentialism

A Theoretical Sampling

Wittgenstein's Critique

Carnapian "Explication"

Essences and "Rigid Designators"


Summary Reflections

2. The Persistence of Essentialistic Theorizing

Cajetan on Analogy

Wittgenstein on Language and Propositions

Williams on Knowledge

Dretske on Knowledge


3. Calculus and Mosaic

Meaning and Use

Second Series

Samples from the Other Side

Signs of Something Larger

4. Network-Reasoning

A Problematic Paradigm

Language as an Interlocking Calculus

An Alternate Line of Critique

One-Directional Reasoning

Back to the Beginning

5. Other Worlds

Real Concepts, Unreal Worlds

A Systematic Sampling

Gettier's Counter-Examples

Robot Cats, Sleek Toads, Etc.

Cartesian Selves, Bracketed Worlds

Kripke and Possible Worlds


6. Sources of Essentialism

A First Source: Language

A Second Source: Disregard for Language

A Third Source: The Will

A Fourth Source: Contagion

A Fifth Source: Argument


7. Diagnoses and Prognosis

General Theories: Scheler

Particular Theories: Wittgenstein

Calculus-Reasoning: Pitcher

Network-Reasoning: Graham

Other-Worlds Reasoning: Kripke



Works Cited


Garth L. Hallett, S. J. , is Dean of the College of Philosophy and Letters at St. Louis University. He is the author of Wittgenstein's Definition of Meaning as Use; Darkness and Light: The Analysis of Doctrinal Statements; A Companion to Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations;" Christian Moral Reasoning: An Analytic Guide; Logic for the Labyrinth: A Guide to Critical Thinking; Reason and Right; Language and Truth; and Christian Neighbor-Love: An Assessment of Six Rival Versions.


"This book develops Wittgenstein's account of language, and uses it to criticize a number of current philosophers and their writings. Wittgenstein argued that the act of our using a single expression to label a number of different things is no evidence that these things possess a single essence. Hallett identifies a number of current essentialists, and argues that they have simply misunderstood the workings of language. He provides an explanation why philosophers persist in this mistake, and proposes therapies to get philosophers to stop making it. " — John T. Kearns, State University of New York at Buffalo

"This book is valuable for its willingness to confront the comprehensive presence of essentialism in contemporary philosophical thought, and to confront it from an intelligent and discriminating Wittgensteinian perspective. " — James C. Edwards, Furman University