Anyone run into a good book or essay relating (discussing the arguable relationship between) Kant's embedding our 'conceptual scheme' (for lack of a better term for "the way we think", or what we presuppose in describing/explaining reality) in pure reason/the forms/categories and Wittgenstein's embedding it in [our] language?

  • A connection between Wittgenstein and Kant is well known ... just off the top of my google jstor.org/stable/2105631?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents . I'm not so sure about the particular relation you identify as they seem to be for opposite purposes to some extent.
    – virmaior
    Dec 4, 2015 at 6:37
  • Not quite sure what you mean by "opposite purposes". My curiosity is premised upon the fact that both philosophers purport to prescribe and delimit what one can properly (non-nonsensically) think (Kant)/say(Wittgenstein). According to one we are circumscribed by pure reason and according to the other by "logical structure" (TLP) or the "grammar" of language (PI). I've just never run across anyone expressly addressing the similarities that arguably exist in these projects.
    – gonzo
    Dec 4, 2015 at 7:58
  • I'd agree that both see things as circumscribed though Kant views there as being a single necessary circumscription in the categories of understanding. Conversely, Wittgenstein's language games (PI-style) etc. seem to be plenifold. But there's a lot of literature on Wittgenstein as a type of Kantian.
    – virmaior
    Dec 4, 2015 at 8:02
  • As an example, that theme seemed to be pretty prominent in amazon.com/Wittgensteins-Vienna-Allan-Janik/dp/1566631327 and in the graduate seminar I took back in 2007.
    – virmaior
    Dec 4, 2015 at 8:04
  • More literature wittgensteinrepository.org/agora-alws/article/view/2447/2618 oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/… sorites.org/Issue_14/weyls.htm (not the reference per se but Jonathan Lear's interpretation)
    – virmaior
    Dec 4, 2015 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


There is a book called Wittgenstein on the Arbitrariness of Grammar (Princeton University Press, 2004) by Michael Forster, who is also a Kant scholar I think, that has something to say about these parallels. Two quotes: p. 15:

Whereas Kant appeals simply to the human mind’s imposition of certain principles, Wittgenstein appeals to diverse human minds imposing diverse principles. Whereas Kant appeals to noumenal human nature constraining the human mind to this, Wittgenstein appeals to empirical human nature as one of the things that does so. Whereas Kant only appeals to human nature as such a constraint, Wittgenstein also appeals to social practices and traditions, as well as the usefulness and empirical applicability of the principles in question.

Does this make Wittgenstein’s position, like Kant’s, a form of idealism, then? The answer, I think, is that it does. This is so for two reasons. ...


In sum, it seems to me that, for the two reasons mentioned, Wittgenstein’s position can quite properly be described as idealist, in a sense closely analogous to that in which Kant’s was.

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