Philosophy as Therapy

An Interpretation and Defense of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophical Project

By James F. Peterman

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy and Psychotherapy
Paperback : 9780791409824, 158 pages, July 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409817, 158 pages, July 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents




Chapter 1: Philosophy as Therapy


Philosophical Therapy

Therapeutic Issues

The Interpretive Project

Chapter 2: Wittgenstein, Ethics, and Therapy


An Overview

Clarity and Silence as Goals

The Notions of Sound Human Understanding and the Human Good

Philosophy, Ethics, and Method

Ethics and Philosophy

Epistemology, Therapy, and Clarity

Chapter 3: Confession and Dialogue


Confessional Text

Temptations and Inclinations

I, You, and We

Torment and Disturbance

Cavell on Confession

Chapter 4: The Role Of Similes in Illness and Health


Spengler and the Importance of Simile

Optimism or Pessimism?

The Significance of Simile


Chapter 5: The Conflict between Philosophy and Science


Freud: Science, Myth, and Therapy

How Not to Criticize Wittgenstein: Chihara and Fodor

How Not to Defend Wittgenstein: Hunter

Chapter 6: An Evaluation of Wittgenstein's Therapeutic Project I


The Form or Forms of Life?

Agreement in Forms of Life

Agreement in Forms of Life as an Ideal of Health

Individual Versus Cultural Health

The Therapy Fully Clarified

The Question of Conservatism

Chapter 7: An Evaluation of Wittgenstein's Therapeutic Project II


The Problem of Justifying the Therapeutic Method

Aesthetics as the Model for Therapy

Philosophy as the Handmaiden of Culture

The Question of Precedence




This book presents an account and defense of Wittgenstein's later philosophy emphasizing its therapeutic character. Peterman argues that any therapeutic philosophy must present an account of human health, a related account of the mechanisms of health and illness, and finally an account of how philosophy can bring someone from a state of illness to health. In light of this general model, he presents an interpretation of Wittgenstein's therapeutic project that emphasizes the continuity between it and the earlier ethical project of the Tractatus. The book confronts the problem of continuity by arguing that the earlier ethical goal of coming into agreement with the world as such is replaced in the later views by the therapeutic goal of coming into agreement with forms of life. In the course of the argument, Peterman challenges standard interpretations of Wittgenstein's project and standard modes of criticizing and defending it. The book also contributes to contemporary philosophical discussion by showing why we should take seriously the project of philosophical therapy.

James F. Peterman is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at The University of the South.


"The book is a thorough attempt to read Wittgenstein in his own terms. It is rare to see a scholar take as seriously as does Peterman Wittgenstein's own image of philosophy as a kind of therapy. Thus the book is a useful (and practically unique) contribution to the literature.

"I very much like his master-notion of agreement ('agreement with the world' in the early work; 'agreement with the form of one's life' in the later) as a way of organizing what Wittgenstein was up to in his philosophical efforts. Peterman has seen something important here, something that no other commentator has grasped in the same way he does. This notion is the major contribution of the book to Wittgenstein studies. " — James C. Edwards, Furman University