International Salon-Journal (ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 9 No. 2, January 2005







Matt Lee


'No Theory' Theory, Anti-theory, and the Arts:

On _Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts_



_Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts_

Edited Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey

London: Routledge, 2001

ISBN 0415228751

302 pp.


In _Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts_ Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey have put together a collection of 11 essays by a variety of Wittgenstein scholars with a specifically polemical purpose, which is to challenge the basic methodology underlying any attempt to develop theories within the humanities. Implicit in their stance is the view that the humanities have become indulgent of theory, using and developing theories in an invalid context. They pose their collection as a propadeutic, suggesting therefore that there is something quite fundamentally wrong in attempts to theorise within the humanities and that those who do so need to be, in some way, 're-trained'. The central purpose behind proposing a propadeutic role for Wittgenstein's anti-theoretical approach is to connect this work with the practical examples and concerns of art theorists. This central task is then complemented by the inclusion of broader exegetical work by a number of authors, including Oswald Hanfling and P. M. S. Hacker. To reflect this doubled task the volume is divided into two parts where, broadly speaking, the first is the more general, the second the more specific.


The Introduction to the volume by Allen and Turvey provides us with an overview of the target and an outline of the Wittgensteinian approach they advocate. This introductory essay sets the tone and context for the remainder of the collection and so I will first outline briefly the line of thought put forward there. The issue, then, is Wittgenstein's rejection of theory in relation both to language and psychology (3). Allen and Turvey define theory broadly as any practice that (1) tries to unify diverse phenomena and which (2) tries to do so through positing an underlying principle or category which has to be uncovered by theory. They make explicit that they are predominantly interested in the later Wittgenstein and go on to argue that central to Wittgenstein's work throughout both his early and later periods was the notion of an anti-naturalistic break between the natural and human sciences. This is defined (taking philosophy as an example) by claiming that its questions, problems, solutions, and methods are different from the natural sciences because they are not 'empirical in character' (4). One implication of this division is that the different practices (natural science/humanistic studies) have to define their goals and their purposes differently and that this effects the structure of explanation. With science no longer the model for explanation -- or for what it is we think we want when we want an explanation -- Wittgenstein proposes descriptions as tools of perspicuity, ways of making 'perspicuous characterisations' (5). The idea here is that if the problem is described in the right way then we will be able to recognise something in such a way as to dissolve the problem. One of the big changes that occurs in Wittgenstein is the role he sees language playing in this process of perspicuous description. Breaking from the account of language in the _Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus_ as a representational structure connected to the world through the practice of naming, Wittgenstein moves in his later philosophy to the idea of an autonomy of linguistic meaning (see 10-11).


With the idea of an autonomy of linguistic meaning -- something like a linguistic holism -- combined with the definition of theory, the basic argument or description is in place. We are always within language use and can use language as competent language-speakers without having a 'clear view' of what we are doing. Linguistic meaning arises as a result of the language practices, in the midst of them as it were, and is not fixed in advance by rules or the like. In 'ordinary language use' it is not a problem to be unable to survey the language (its grammar), but in philosophy, science, and what we might call 'rational studies' in general, this lack of an overview can lead to confusion. The danger of lacking an overview is that the theorist will 'lapse into nonsense' (11). This is in fact what happens, according to Allen and Turvey. The way to solve this lapse into nonsense is to abandon the need for theory and turn to description as a dissolution strategy for problems.


The next step is to take us through some of the implications of this situation. It means, for example, that notions of intention as used in psychology and philosophy of mind are confused because an intention 'can only be grasped by surveying the uses of the concept of intention in the context of human behaviour' (14). It also means that the distinction between cause and reason changes, as reasons for actions cannot be reduced to some further psychological cause. This point is central to the confusion found in the work of Freud, explored in more detail in Chapter 11 by Louis Sass. Freud is a major example of the way in which something like a Goethian *Urphanomen* (primary phenomenon) can be diagnosed. The idea of a primary phenomenon is exactly the sort of error Allen and Turvey point to when they suggest that one element of a theory is its positing of an underlying unifying principle or category.


The next major step is to argue that if linguistic behaviour is essentially an autonomous practice and if, as it seems, linguistic behaviour is 'thoroughly interwoven' with human behaviour more generally, then rational studies in the human sciences should be 'methodologically of a piece with understanding and explaining meaningful linguistic behaviour' (22). What this does is to take Wittgenstein's concept of language and meaning and use it as a fulcrum point from which to transform the goals and means of humanistic studies. The anti-naturalistic break with science becomes complete in that its methods become irrelevant for any study of human behaviour, including artistic.


The basic assumption behind much of this is that there is something specifically human about human behaviour and language -- that is, that there is something that is a break from the natural causal structure of explanation. Allen and Turvey explicitly claim that,


'in as much as the questions asked by scholars of the arts are about what makes artistic phenomena distinctively human, about what sets them apart from natural phenomena -- namely, the rules that govern them, and the reasons for which human beings engage in them -- then such questions can only be answered by forms of explanation that can make reference to these rules and reasons' (26).


What this passage shows quite clearly is the way in which any attempt to provide naturalistic or descriptive accounts of practices such as artistic production is to be ruled out of court as inappropriate since it is precisely the normative structure of that practice that is central. Therefore, any account that relies upon a scientific methodology is going to be reductive when faced with the humanities and unable to account for the specificity of artistic or any other 'human' practice.


This central target of the collection is discussed in more detail by Peter Hacker in Chapter 2, where he stages an attack on 'scientism', the '*illicit* extension of the methods and forms of explanation of the natural sciences' (42), in favour of the 'autonomy of humanistic understanding'. Whilst Hacker notes that there is the problem of reductivist science, this is not his principal target. The main problem for Hacker is the idea that there is a perceived 'methodological homogeneity of scientific and humanistic understanding' (42). Given the same historical origins for scientific method and the humanistic approach, what are the real divisions between the two?


Humanism (*umanisti*) originates in the Renaissance retrieval of ancient wisdom (see 44-45) and the rise of the view that reality is rational, 'that the power of human reason can render the world intelligible' (45). This underlies humanism and science, but science arises later than the idea of a world understandable through reason, and is centred on the idea of a mechanistic universe. At this point the major conceptual break occurs that is of central concern to Hacker and the Wittgensteinians arguments in this collection: 'the laws of nature were no longer seen as constitutive of a cosmic *normative* order, of which humanity and human society were part. Nature was now envisaged on the model of clockwork, intelligible in the language of mathematical and geometrical physics.' (46) Design was eventually reduced to little more than the clock/clockmaker analogy . . . which was finally removed in the Enlightenment by thinkers like Hume.


The mechanistic model produces conceptual incoherence according to Hacker, retelling what is by now a familiar story. The main incoherencies Hacker points to are the familiar free will/deterministic problems addressed by the compatibilism/incompatibilism debate. In contrast to this mechanistic and conceptually incoherent model, Hacker points to a line of thought centred on what might be called, very broadly, a hermeneutic current. He goes from Vico's idea that 'the true and the made are convertible' (54), through Kant's distinction between an 'explanation of natural events in causal terms and the understanding and explanation of human behaviour in terms of reason' (55), to the post-Kantianism of Herder and Schleiermacher. Though he does not endorse this hermeneutic line of thought, nor assimilate it to the thought of Wittgenstein's later work, he does argue that these thinkers understood that there was a necessary division between the methodology of the natural sciences and that appropriate to the humanities. Vico's notion of *fantasia* (reconstructive imagination) and Herder's *Einfuhlung* ('entering into') are cited as examples of the need to avoid a third person 'objective' standpoint when examining human life. Some sort of empathy (what William James might call a 'sympathetic' method) is what Hacker sees as vital to the accurate study of human subjects. In effect this combines a number of things, however, which are not made entirely explicit. Firstly there is the notion of a constructivism, indicated in the reference to Vico, which is also to be found in the neo-Kantian tinge of much of what Hacker writes. Secondly there is a conventionalism of meaning, this time much more Wittgensteinian. Thirdly there is an anti-naturalist standpoint, such that the 'unity of science' is to be avoided in methodological terms. All of these things are wrapped up in the idea that it is language that is the absolutely central distinctive and determining feature of human practice (59).


The centrality of language, however, is posed in terms of its autonomy as a structure (61). The basic claim is that no amount of naturalistic explanation can access or explain the notion of meaning inherent in language and that language itself constitutes its own meanings and their limits, expanding the range of available and possible human behaviours beyond anything other animals possess and beyond anything naturalistic methods could understand. Two main arguments are used to support this claim: the first, that language is public and that meaning is established by application and use -- words are deeds for Wittgenstein, as Hacker notes (60); and the second is that meanings or expressions have an 'internal or logical' (61) connection within the language structure. There is no comment made by Hacker on what might seem like a strange inconsistency at this point. If language is public, it is also -- if it is to sustain internal connections -- in some sense an autonomous structure. This autonomy is readily acknowledged but what is not readily considered is how far this autonomy extends. Is the autonomy of language such that we might be able to use it without, in fact, having an adequate knowledge of it, since presumably it is autonomous *of us* (if it is not *us* that it is autonomous from, then quite what it *is* autonomous from is unclear). Yet this would be to go against another fundamental claim that lies right at the heart of Allen and Turvey's account of Wittgenstein's philosophy and which underpins their contention that theory is not necessary as a tool to uncover hidden structures in art and human practices since these must always be open to view (public). The question which is never really addressed within this book is, if language is both public and yet also autonomous, is there any conflict between these two elements?


Whilst this may seem like an abstract and obscure objection it can be important for specific questions that arise, particularly those centred on accounts of normative structures in language. For example, Hacker claims that it is impossible to follow a rule without knowing the rule (61, 62) and then seemingly elides the notion of a rule into little more than familiarity with a practice, turning a rule into a skill or ability. At best he maintains the idea of a rule as little more than 'common sense' explanations (60-61). Without the notion of a rule, however, the central feature that the Wittgensteinians here want to rely upon, that there is a normative structure in human practices that is inaccessible to naturalistic explanation, would be unsustainable. If this notion of a rule is then ambiguous or vague, vacillating between tradition, acculturation, and skill, it seems difficult to understand clearly what, exactly, this notion of normative distinctness is, other than a particular form of behaviour. The force of the normative distinction is such that is must constitute a radical distinction between the human and the non-human and yet it appears too vague or imprecise to specify exactly what this distinction consists in, other than language. Language must be normative and it is this normativity that makes human practice distinct, goes the argument. Yet language is also a behaviour, public and accessible, and the force of the 'must' in the claim that 'language must be normative' is entirely unclear, appearing at times like little more than a philosophical prejudice.


It is also unclear just how far these arguments can gain purchase on the use of theory to understand the arts and human practices. For example, the methodological distinction between natural sciences and the humanities that Hacker argues for might be thought to underlie the claims of Allen that cognitive theory is next to useless in understanding films (Chapter 8). What we need to focus on for the Wittgensteinians are the context-bound meanings of the films, not the perceptual structures underlying film-watching advocated by either psychoanalytical or cognitive film theorists. Yet the methodological distinction is not quite as radical as it at first appears. In effect the claim is reducible to little more than the notion that hard and fast laws identical to those found in Newtonian mechanics are inapplicable to film studies or the humanities -- but is anyone seriously putting forward such claims? If they are, then when they do I would side with the Wittgensteinians in showing them the illusions they are resting their methods on -- but if not, then the large amount of theory presented within this collection, aimed as it is at addressing the fact that there is too much theory in the humanities, appears a little like a sledge-hammer to crack a nut, and a sledge-hammer that is not that constructive when all the accounts are rendered. Hacker, for example, in the end argues that there is the possibility of generalisations within the humanities, but generalities that are 'nomological' but not 'nomethetic' (71). In other words, we can generalise to certain sorts of laws providing we acknowledge that these are not mathematically rigid and trans-historical laws fixed for eternity. I don't think Hacker will find a large number of opponents to this claim, even amongst cognitive film theorists, psychoanalysts, Marxists, or any other 'theorists'. Of course, if we can allow a certain degree of nomology into our studies, on pain of excluding generalisations in general, then the role of psychology comes back in, albeit in the form of providing laws that constrain not explain (72). This, however, hits the possible nub of the problem -- the sort of explanation we can provide and its truth status.


One of Michael Dummett's arguments against Wittgensteinian ideas is that they are too destructive and Hacker's piece begins with a sub-section titled 'Not merely destructive' (39). What is it that might be destroyed? On the one hand it is the idea of a 'systematic theory', an intellectual tool with the same scope and explanatory power as we find theories in the physical sciences possessing. On this count I would probably side with the Wittgensteinians, but then so would the majority of 'postmodernists' who long ago gave up 'grand narratives' (by which is generally meant the idea of systematic theory with universal application). On the other hand, however, there is the distinction between force and sense (*Sinn* and *Kraft*), between a pragmatism and a semantics, which Dummett holds to be essentially Fregean and which he also holds to be destroyed by Wittgenstein's' work. [1] In addition, Dummett suggests the notion of *truth* is replaced by the notion of *justification of an utterance*. [2] On both these latter points it is not clear that Wittgenstein or the Wittgensteinians of this collection can offer any positive contribution to a Wittgensteinian understanding of the arts that can defend itself from these problems. Whilst they can and do point to conceptual confusions, the major confusion of a 'scientistic' theoretical stance seems a weak and perhaps non-existent target. The more positive implications of the arguments collected here would be to deny the legitimacy of any theoretical structure as an explanatory tool with which to investigate the humanities. It must then be asked, what would be left? Attention to context? Explanation on the basis of meanings determined by use or application?


The key question that has to be answered is how can we make explanations without generalising and how can we then generalise without, in practice, constructing a theory of sorts? We can describe, for example, films or artworks phenomenologically; we can ascribe subjective reactions to works of art; and we can share these things in a friendly (perhaps the word should be 'civilised') conversation, but this amounts to little more than the activity of a dinner party conversation. At what point are we going to be allowed a notion of explanation that is attached to a notion of *knowledge*? We can all *offer an explanation* of a film but how are we to begin to differentiate between *competing explanations*? In the end the attack on theory, whilst offering itself as attentive to the cultural objects under study, often appears as an attack on any revaluation of these objects grounded on a theoretical understanding of the *force* these objects have.


Graham McFee's contribution (Chapter 4), for example, attempts to lay out a Wittgensteinian approach to judging artworks by taking the judgement process to be an act. In a rather complicated and dense chapter he attempts to take us through the delicate structures of justification for particular judgements but it becomes obvious he must rely upon a notion of a 'competent judge'. He argues that 'Wittgenstein's insight is that the idea of a competent judge does not require concretization . . . when the powers and capacities of such judges operate smoothly, there is nothing more to be said: they are marked out as competent judges . . . by this role in the explanation of art' (105-106). Underlying this competence in explaining art is the acceptance of the explanation -- the fact that it explains, that it helps us see something or gives us some insight which involves a process of valuing as much as simple perception (100-102). This is acceptable, perhaps, to a point and that point is precisely when I am given *two or more* explanations or insights which compete or even contradict each other. This situation seems impossible to rule out *a priori*, so we are left with a philosophical approach that is unable to do anything *precisely at the point when it is most needed*.


The issue of explanation, and quite what sort of explanation is needed with respect to the humanities, is central to a number of these essays and to the overall line they take. The basic gist of the argument is to point to a difference between the type of explanation called for in science and that which is called for in understanding the arts. In particular the difference between *showing a cause* and *giving a reason* is used to motivate a basic claim that there is conceptual confusion whenever someone tries to show the cause of some artwork or human intentional act. Human beings act in such a way that there are not really *causes* for their actions, even though they can still give *reasons*. Obviously this claim, so crudely put, could be denied by simply saying that there are obviously physical causes for many actions (such as hunger being the cause of hunting or gathering food). The Wittgensteinians instead want to point to things beyond simple needs, which may well have causes, and point to the notion of actions which could have been otherwise. [3] It is these actions, capable of being otherwise and thus in some sense understood to be 'free', which need to be understood through the distinction between showing a cause and giving a reason. If the person X gives a reason for action Y then that reason is a justification for that action if it is sincere and makes sense. If it is then argued that there is in fact some hidden cause for the action Y (sub-conscious drives and their particular construction in terms of the trauma of the individual, for example) then according to the Wittgensteinians we have missed the point.


Richard Allen's essay (Chapter 8) takes aim at what many Anglo-American inspired philosophers will see as the main source of an over-theoretical stance within film-philosophy, the cognitivism inspired by David Bordwell. Along with Bordwell, who Allen views as being redeemed in part through the 'concrete investigation and analysis of the ways in which we consciously engage with narrative film' (176), the other main target of Allen's attack is Gregory Currie, and both Currie and Bordwell are taken as indicative, if differing instantiations of the wider framework of cognitivist film studies. The principal line of argument is that cognitivists share 'the same underlying, and mistaken, picture of the mind' (176). Given this approach Allen's essay unsurprisingly takes issue less with 'concrete analyses' than with the subject of mind and psychology more generally. If Allen's strategy was to work it would deal a damaging blow to the coherence of a cognitivist strategy, but unfortunately to fulfil his strategy would involve a far more substantial argument than can be provided in the 35 pages of his essay. What Allen does provide, however, is a succinct and useful indicator of the overall line of argument against cognitivism that can provide the grounds for further ongoing debate.


To begin with he outlines the context in which cognitivism arose, that being the prevalence of psychoanalytical film theory, the central premise of which is that the 'language' of films is essentially irrational -- that what we see on the screen only bears a passing resemblance to everyday perception and that film operates on the spectator like an irrational connector of images. Against this 'irrationalism' so prevalent among what Allen calls 'psychoanalytic-semioticians' (175), cognitivism proposes to take film watching as just another case of watching, using the same basic framework of perception as is used in everyday life. What both of these theories share, however, is their common assumption that a theory is going to be needed to recover the essential elements of the activity for our understanding. This is the main target of the book since, of course, if a theory is needed to understand the film or work of art then that work is no longer 'open to view' as it must be if Wittgenstein is correct with regard to meanings (32). Allen does not simply reject cognitivism on the grounds that it is a theory but examines it as a theory to determine its usefulness. What he then argues, in effect, is that *even if we accept the need for a theory*, cognitivism doesn't provide a useful one since it relies upon an interiority of the mental. Drawing on Wittgenstein and the work of P. M. S. Hacker, Allen argues for the incoherence of this idea of a mental interiority, and thus for the incoherence of cognitivism.


There are a number of problems with Allen's approach. First of all, simply because the forms of cognitivism so far proposed may rely upon unconvincing psychological models and methodologies doesn't imply anything about the general strategy of cognitivism, merely about it's current instantiations. Given a better and more coherent psychological model, cognitivism's idea that analysing film spectatorship as we would analyse other modes of perception in order to understand the films being watched, still seems entirely plausible. Attacking the particular instantiation or theory doesn't invalidate the general principal of the method.


Secondly, Allen relies heavily on Wittgenstein's theories of mind in order to argue that Bordwell and Currie use incoherent psychological models of mental interiority. Whilst this may appear as a fairly radical anti-Cartesian move in many respects, it is worth bearing in mind the close relationship within philosophy of mind between Wittgenstein and behaviouristic models. Wittgenstein may offer some useful negative comments with regard to the conceptualisation of mind, but if pushed into a positive *account* of mind he is liable to collapse into a form of Skinner-like scientism in which consciousness is a dirty word and mental states are given up for dispositional attitudes. There may still be some defenders of behaviourism within philosophy of mind but they are few and far between I think. Allen ends up, then, arguing for the incoherence of a psychological model by relying upon a Wittgensteinian criticism that itself collapses into an incoherent psychological model. This doesn't mean Allen's Wittgensteinian attack on cognitivism is wrong, but it does suggest that something is missing and that cognitivism may be able to mount a more than adequate response to Allen's criticisms.


The third problem with Allen's attack is that it relies upon that rather simple and stubborn response that can be found in Wittgenstein to logical problems within empiricist philosophy. The practical problem of perception, of how raw sense data -- to use a very old-fashioned term -- are moulded into perceptual objects, is displaced by a Wittgensteinian emphasis on meaning, such that Allen's main argument against the psychological model which Bordwell relies upon is that there is 'a misconception about the nature of psychological verbs that is pervasive in psychology' (183). Now this is a valid philosophical move but it has one big drawback. If I turn round to psychologists and simply say that the problems of mind they have in front of them are the results of them misunderstanding language then what are my criteria for this? If our meanings are 'open to view' then they must be open to the psychologists and philosophers of mind too, which then begs the question of just what problems they think they're investigating? Might it not be the case that there is a *real* problem, merely poorly described? To dismiss the problems in philosophy of mind with an over-easy reliance on arguments about meaning use assumes that there is no problem other than the problem of language. Even if the psychologists and philosophers of mind are getting confused through mistakes in their language use, that is not an argument against the existence of a concrete problem they are investigating, only an argument that there is a lack of clarity in their approach to that problem.


Allen's essay on cognitivism shows a reliance upon language-centred strategies. It brings with it an understanding of what constitutes the humanities that appears to rule out of court a whole swathe of non-language-centred approaches and methodologies. This looks very much like a form of argument by definition, and yet the definition of human practices as being something distinct from natural events appears to be nothing other than stipulative. If it is accepted that there is this radical break between the one sort of object and the other then much of what the Wittgensteinians want to argue makes a lot of sense. Yet the problems in establishing and maintaining such a radical distinction seem immense and always appear to rely upon some sort of ethical move that prefigures rational investigation by stipulating the essential nature of human beings as human.


The other essays in the collection cover a range of issues. Hacker and Hanfling (Chapters 2 and 3 respectively) offer excellent and interesting accounts of Wittgenstein's later philosophy, whilst John Hymans provides a detailed account of the influence of the architect Adolf Loos on the work of Wittgenstein which is interesting if rather inconclusive. Part 2 of the collection begins with Ben Tilghman (Chapter 7), who offers a direct attack on the structuralist notion of a language that has been transferred to the study of art. Arguing that such theories of art as a language are nonsense, he ends by advocating a strategy of understanding art that relies 'on our own sensitivity and experience with art rather than theories' (172). Like many of the other contributors, the effort made in criticising theory junkies is in no way matched by a positive alternative that has a concrete content other than a vague notion of 'sensitivity'. Severin Schroeder (Chapter 9) continues in the vein of Tilghman, arguing that there is a 'coded message' model inherent in much theoretical discussion of literature. He uses the structuralists Jakobson, Lotman, and Riffaterre as examples, before finishing with a 'postlude' that widens his attack to any poststructuralist by asserting that they simply widen the scope of the original structuralist semiotic approach, now treating everything as some container for a coded message. His tone throughout is humourous and polemical, though his final move to include poststructuralism after analysing structuralism seems at best evidentially weak. Mind you, when he defines poststructuralism as 'a kind of perennial schoolboy's philosophy that combines a taste for metaphysical profundity, paradox and epater le bourgeois with a blissful freedom from the trammels of conceptual clarity and rigour' (226) we have a clear sense of his approach, which is polemical rather than investigative. Chapter 10 sees a reprint of Charles Altieri's essay from 1976 in which he specifically challenges Derrida's philosophical practice as, in effect, too reliant upon philosophical preconceptions rather than open to the insights of a pragmatic emphasis on use and convention found in Wittgenstein. Altieri's essay still holds a great deal of interest and is an excellent critical discussion of Derrida, and the collection has done a valuable service in making it easier to find. Finally Louis Sass (Chapter 11) offers a detailed and curious account of the relationship Wittgenstein had to the work of Freud. He argues that whilst Wittgenstein was sympathetic to much of Freud's work, he felt it suffered from a major philosophical problem in that it contained an incoherent account of mind, in effect providing us with an interesting mythology that is dressed in the confused garbs of an aspiration to scientific status.


_Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts_ offers a number of interesting but in the end polemical essays which serve to question certain tendencies in the humanities, but which come together under a shared banner of 'anti-theory'. Unfortunately this anti-theory banner is a slippery and at times reactionary anti-intellectual rallying point, and the editors make no effort to separate their collection from this sort of vituperative stance. [4] The broadness of the issues under attack at times makes the collection feel unfocused -- as though the anti-theory angle is the only thing that holds the essays together. The reliance on a heavily language-centred Wittgenstein is liable to appear antiquated (like a throwback to the days of 'ordinary language philosophy') and the polemical tone grates at times. The major weakness throughout the collection, however, is the failure to articulate exactly what the Wittgensteinians want to put in place of 'theorising'. There seems to be little beyond a reliance on sensitivity and on experienced or competent judges, and this smacks of an elitist approach, with cultural connoisseurs as arbiters of taste. Aside from the obvious problem of training such connoisseurs, this fails to engage at all with the social and cultural implications of artistic practices -- with the context, if you will, in which works are produced. Given the fact that the context is king in Wittgenstein's later work, this is a peculiar weakness, one that is peculiarly *un*-Wittgensteinian. That said, there are certain themes of interest: the opposition or problematisation of an underlying 'primary phenomenon' is a useful anti-dogmatic move; the attempt to point out the distinction between reasons and causes; and the general attempt to move aesthetics in particular away from an 'explanatory' paradigm into an 'exploratory' one.


There is one final problem worth noting, and that is the complete absence of any reference to the work of Morris Weitz. [5] This is a curious and almost incomprehensible gap, which leaves one wondering quite where the editors think their collection will intervene in the debate. Without an account being rendered of the major 'Wittgensteinian aesthetic theory' it seems as though a major piece of the puzzle is simply absent. In the end, however, this may offer us a symptom of the collection itself. There is much of interest here but the reader is liable to be left wondering about what's missing when they've finished with it. On the evidence here, there is a long way to go before Wittgenstein offers a concerted challenge to theorists within the humanities. To do that a body of positive rather than destructive and polemical work will need to be built that is simply not in evidence in this work.


Greenwich University

London, England





1. To keep things plain I am only going to refer here to Dummett's 1975 essay, 'Can Analytical Philosophy be Systematic, and Ought It To Be'; contained in _Truth And Other Enigmas_ (London: Duckworth, 1992), pp. 437-458.


2. Ibid., p. 452


3. This is also the arena of debate for Donald Davidson, John McDowell, R. G. Collingwood, and others. For an interesting discussion of Collingwood and Davidson which deals with the cause/reason distinction, see Guiseppina D'Oro, 'Collingwood, Psychologism and Internalism', _European Journal of Philosophy_, vol.12 no.2, August 2004, pp. 163-177.


4. For one example of the current fashion for academic bashing, particularly in film studies, see the vituperative article by David Weddle in the _Los Angeles Times Magazine_, 13 July 2003 (cover story).


5. 'The three dominant theories of art in our time have been George Dickie's 'institutional' theory, Arthur Danto's 'aboutness' theory, and Morris Weitz's Wittgensteinian 'no theory' theory. The options have been, then, the theory that something is a work of art if and only if it has been enfranchised by the 'artworld'; the theory that something is a work of art if and only if it at least makes sense to ask what it is about (and that it fulfils certain other conditions on its 'aboutness' too elaborate to go into here); and the theory (if you want to call it that) that 'art' is an 'open concept' and therefore cannot be defined at all.' Peter Kivy, 'Introduction' to Noel Carroll, _Beyond Aesthetics_ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. x. It is worth noting that Kivy makes this comment in order to go on to state that Carroll's narrative approach forms a new fourth approach.



Copyright Film-Philosophy 2005



Matt Lee, ''No Theory' Theory, Anti-theory, and the Arts: On _Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts_', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 9 no. 2, January 2005 <>.










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