Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism

Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism

Essays on the Later Philosophy

By Marie McGinn

Anthem Studies in Wittgenstein

The essays in Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism cover the later Wittgenstein’s thought on scepticism about the external world; scepticism about other minds; knowledge and belief; meaning and rule-following; and the nature of psychological concepts. Focusing on topics in the later philosophy, the essays provide a distinctive understanding of the nature of philosophical development of Wittgenstein’s thought from the early to the later work.

PDF, 198 Pages


December 2021

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 198 Pages


December 2021

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

Central to any interpretation of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is an understanding of his philosophical method and the nature of the turn which characterises the evolution from his early to his later work. In the essays in Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism, Marie McGinn argues that the methodological shift has at its heart a highly distinctive form of naturalism. 

This form of naturalism has nothing to do with the kind of scientific naturalism that is associated with accounting for all phenomena in terms of the conceptual resources of the natural sciences. It is closer to the Aristotelian naturalism defended by John McDowell, although, in Wittgenstein’s case, the principal influence is Goethe, whose conception of how to understand the phenomena of nature is self-consciously opposed to the reductive approach of scientific naturalism. Goethe places the emphasis on achieving a clarified view of complex, natural phenomena in their natural setting, with a view to describing patterns and connections that are in plain view. The novelty of Wittgenstein’s later work is that it applies these methods to the task of conceptual clarification, which aims at dissolving philosophical problems and paradoxes.

The essays in Wittgenstein, Scepticism and Naturalism cover the following topics: scepticism about the external world; scepticism about other minds; knowledge and belief; meaning and rule-following; psychological states and the distinctive first-person use of psychological concepts; the relation between the early and the later philosophy; and the nature of Wittgenstein’s naturalism.


This book brings together 11 papers by Marie McGinn—written between 1998 and 2014—all of which concern Wittgenstein's later philosophy. Engaging in fruitful and original ways with many central topics in Wittgenstein's scholarship, they cannot but stimulate any reader to pause and think about the issues concerned. On the whole, the essays may be seen as articulating an overarching view, revolving around McGinn's ascription to Wittgenstein of a ‘highly distinctive form of naturalism’ (vii),1 which she ties to Wittgenstein's remark that ‘what we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings’ (PI, §415). This naturalism does not concern nature as it appears ‘in the controlled and artificial conditions of the laboratory experiment’ (128), but nature is the environment in which our daily lives are embedded - Philosophical Investigations 2022; Scepticism and Naturalism: Essays on the Later Philosophy Marie McGinn, Wittgenstein; Wim Vanrie Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Author Information

Marie McGinn is Professor Emerita in Philosophy, University of York, UK. She is the author of The Routledge Guidebook to Wittgenstein’s ‘Philosophical Investigations’ (2013) and has published widely on all aspects of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.


Anthem Studies in Wittgenstein

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; Works by Wittgenstein; Chapter One Wittgenstein on Certainty; Chapter Two The Real Problem of Others: Cavell, Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein on Scepticism about Other Minds; Chapter Three The Everyday Alternative to Scepticism: Cavell and Wittgenstein on Other Minds; Chapter Four Wittgenstein and Knowledge; Chapter Five Wittgenstein and Williamson on Knowing and Believing; Chapter Six Wittgenstein and Moore’s Paradox; Chapter Seven Wittgenstein and Naturalism; Chapter Eight Naturalism and ‘Turning Our Whole Inquiry Around’; Chapter Nine Liberal Naturalism: Wittgenstein and McDowell; Chapter Ten ‘Recognizing the Ground That Lies before Us as Ground’: McDowell on How to Read the Philosophical Investigations; Chapter Eleven Grammar in the Philosophical Investigations; References; Index.


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