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On our craving for generality

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Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his Blue Book, chastised philosophers for what he called “our craving for generality.” Philosophers (including the earlier Wittgenstein of the Tractatus) certainly have exhibited this craving, and despite his admonishment, we continue to do so. Philosophers seek general accounts of the nature of propositions, properties, virtues, mental states–you name it. Wittgenstein portrays the craving for generality as a kind of philosophical sin, but it is not that. First, it is hardly confined to philosophy–scientists crave generality, as do humans generally. Second, it can’t really be a sin–or at least an unpardonable sin–for without knowing anything general, we cannot succeed in understanding or acting in the world. But sinful or not, the craving can be dangerous, because the world often does not cooperate with our generalizations. The crux of our predicament is this: nature is heterogeneous and particular, but epistemic and practical needs require us to generalize. To. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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