Tuesday philosophy blogging: Wittgenstein in 60 seconds

Take almost any problem from the philosophical canon. What is the source of the problem? In many cases, it is that we have convinced ourselves (or have become convinced by others) that something we take for granted can only be true if something else, something far more exotic, is also true.

Take, for example, the so-called problem of free will. Here, what we take for granted is that we act and make choices. Many of us, however, are also convinced that action and choice require that there exist a faculty of will which is capable of operating independently of outside causal influence. The problem arises because we are physical beings, and as such, we cannot possess a faculty that operates independently of outside causal influence. And so it becomes tempting to either adopt an extravagent metaphysics or to say that we don't really act or make choices -- that it is all an illusion.

What Wittgenstein pushes on here is the idea that we need to identify some kind of occult faculty -- the will -- in order to provide a grounding for our talk of action and choice. We can, Wittgenstein points out, talk perfectly sensibly about actions and choices. Trouble begins only when we start introducing concepts that can't be talked about sensibly.

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