The Groundless Grounds of Wittgenstein & Heidegger
A friend of mine recently brought Lee Braver’s book Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (2012) to my attention, and I must say, it is so far an incredible book. In the introduction, Braver sets out the overall frame of the book, which should be of some interest to anyone concerned with the similarities of the early work of Heidegger and the later work of Wittgenstein:
Both Heidegger and Wittgenstein argue that philosophy that suspends our activity in the world, taking a disengaged theoretical stance, is a problem (Ch 1). Both argue that this problematic view comes about by conceiving of things as changeless, self-contained objects (Ch 2). For Heidegger, this is the “present-at-hand”. For W, it is atomism and private language. Such bare inert objects do not give us a proper and full view of human life and meaning. Both argue that we need to see things as holistic and interdependent (Ch 3). While reality has been primarily understood in terms of knowledge, thought rests on non-rational and unjustified socialization, which includes our spontaneous and responsive activity (Ch 4). This new conception of thought has particular ramifications, calling into question the Law of Non-Contradiction (Wittgenstein) and the Principle of Reason (Heidegger) (Ch 5). Our lack of justification in thought does not make thinking worthless. Rather, it shows us what we take as “groundless grounds”, what we rely upon even if it is always somewhat and in some ways unreliable.