Lyotard and the Postmodern Misunderstanding of Physics

in Theoria
Author: David Spurrett
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In a famous passage in his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein compares a language to an ancient city, saying that we can see it as ‘a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses’(1958: paragraph 18). Descartes exploited a similar analogy in his Discourse on the Method, drawn in his case between a city and a system of knowledge. His position, though, was strikingly different. Where Wittgenstein describes, he prescribes, stating, first, that ‘there is not usually so much perfection in works composed of several parts and produced by various different craftsmen as in the works of one man’ and going on to argue that the proper task of philosophy is to show us how, individually, we can ‘get rid of’ the opinions which form our existing epistemological landscape, ‘in order to replace them afterwards with better ones, or with the same ones once … squared … with the standards of reason’ (1985: Discourse 1).


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