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The picture of a paradox : rule-following after Wittgenstein and beyond



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My thesis aims to show that Wittgenstein’s view of rule-following involves a misleading picture of the rule. Since he saw the rule as something fundamentally independent of the rule-follower and something with which the rule-follower must comply, he inevitably became entangled in the paradox of compliance: that is, the idea that there must be something other than the rule-follower for rule-following to exist, even though he knew that there was really nothing there to guide the rule-follower or to measure his action. This paradox, dimly expressed within key Wittgensteinian problems relating to how one is able to follow a rule and whether one can follow a rule ‘privately’, eventually gave rise to the question over the social nature of rules. In that debate, Wittgenstein’s commentators vigorously argued, and continue to argue, whether the concept of rule-following presupposes a community of practitioners or not. I argue that this debate itself is misguided, since both sides in this debate take as their starting point a picture of compliance which sees rule and rule-follower as essentially different. In contrast to a ‘compliant’ picture, I offer a different picture of the rule, which I will call the ‘pliant picture of the rule’. I will show that rule and rule-follower are fundamentally the same, and are related to one another, not socially or grammatically, but genealogically. This relationship of identity is in fact exhibited in the relationship between teacher and pupil, when the pupil becomes what his teacher already is through following his teacher. Although compliance can be said to define this relationship initially, it ends with the pupil learning, or becoming, the rule. To conceive of the rule in this way is to avoid the paradox of compliance; that is, it is to go beyond Wittgenstein’s picture of a paradox.



mathematics, language, rules, Wittgenstein, rule-following, compliance, metaphor, Kripke, imitation, teacher and pupil, the sign, identity-in-difference, identity, Baker and Hacker, Malcolm



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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