Wittgenstein's Inspiring View of Nature: On Connecting Philosophy and Science Aright
This paper explicates Wittgenstein's vision of our place in nature and shows in what ways it is unlike and more fruitful than the picture of nature promoted by exclusive scientific naturalists. Wittgenstein's vision of nature is bound up with and supports his signature view that the task of philosophy is distinctively descriptive rather than explanatory. Highlighting what makes Wittgenstein's vision of nature special, it has been claimed that to the extent that he qualifies as a naturalist of any sort he ought to be regarded as a liberal naturalist (Macarthur forthcoming, Wittgenstein, Philosophy of Mind and Naturalism. London: Routledge). We argue, in contrast, that focusing solely on the liberality of Wittgenstein's view of nature risks overlooking and downplaying the ways in which his philosophical clarifications can act as a platform for productively engaging with the sciences in their explanatory endeavors. We argue that Wittgenstein's vision of nature allows for a more relaxed form of naturalism in which philosophy can be a productive partner for scientific inquiry and investigation. Although this feature of Wittgenstein's vision of nature is not something that he himself emphasized, given his interests and concerns, it is an inspiring vision in an age in which philosophy must find its feet with and alongside the sciences.