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Wittgenstein and Surrealism

30 January 2012


There are two aspects to Wittgenstein’s method of deconstructing pseudo-philosophical problems that need to be distinguished: (1) describing actual linguistic practice, and (2) constructing hypothetical ‘language-games’. Both methods were, for Wittgenstein, indispensable means of clarifying the ‘grammar’ of expressions of our language – i.e., the appropriate contexts for using those expressions – and thereby dissolving pseudo-philosophical problems. Though (2) is often conflated with (1), it is important to recognize that it differs from it in imprtant respects. (1) can be seen as functioning as a direct method of ‘proof’ (i.e., attempt to convince the reader of some thesis), and (2) as an indirect method of ‘proof’ – proof by reduction ad absurdum. This essay will be devoted to clarifying (2) by forging an analogy with surrealism in art.


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