Wittgenstein and the Question of Responsibility

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Abstract

Within psychology, the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein tends to be confused with that of the behaviorists and social constructionists. However, by considering the manner in which Wittgenstein's thought might be used to address the question of responsibility, one will find that the positions taken by the behaviorists and social constructionists differ substantially from the position taken by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein, like the behaviorists and social constructionists, repudiates the Cartesian ‘mind’ or ‘inner,’ and thus demonstrates how responsibility can be assigned. But unlike the behaviorists and social constructionists who struggle with deterministic and relativistic explanations, Wittgenstein maintains a view of human beings which allows responsibility to be assigned without compromising the nature of that responsibility. Wittgenstein thus brings one back to that ordinary understanding of men in which it is possible and makes sense to hold men responsible for their actions. He thereby stands apart from the behaviorists and social constructionists.

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