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The New Wittgenstein is a family of interpretations of the work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In particular, those associated with this interpretation understand Wittgenstein to have avoided putting forth a "positive" metaphysical program, and understand him to be advocating philosophy as a form of "therapy." Under this interpretation, Wittgenstein's program is dominated by the idea that philosophical problems are symptoms of illusions or "bewitchments by language," and that attempts at a "narrow" solution to philosophical problems, that do not take into account larger questions of how the questioner conducts his life, interacts with other people, and uses language generally, are doomed to failure. According to the introduction to the anthology The New Wittgenstein (ISBN 0-415-17319-1):
Wittgenstein's primary aim in philosophy is – to use a word he himself employs in characterizing his later philosophical procedures – a therapeutic one. These papers have in common an understanding of Wittgenstein as aspiring, not to advance metaphysical theories, but rather to help us work ourselves out of confusions we become entangled in when philosophizing.
— Alice Crary, “Introduction,” The New Wittgenstein, p. 1
While many philosophers have suggested variants of such ideas in readings of Wittgenstein's "late" work, associated with the Philosophical Investigations, a notable aspect of the New Wittgenstein interpretation is a view that Wittgenstein's early work, exemplified by the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and the Investigations, are actually more deeply connected, and in less opposition, to each other than usually understood. This view is in direct conflict with the longstanding, if somewhat old-fashioned, interpretation of the Tractatus advocated by the logical positivists associated with the Vienna Circle.
The therapeutic approach of the New Wittgenstein scholars is not without critics: Hans-Johann Glock argues that the "plain nonsense" reading of the Tractatus "is at odds with the external evidence, writings and conversations in which Wittgenstein states that the Tractatus is committed to the idea of ineffable insight".
There is no unitary "New Wittgenstein" interpretation, and proponents differ deeply amongst themselves. Philosophers often associated with the interpretation include a number of influential philosophers, mostly associated with (although sometimes antagonistic to) the traditions of analytic philosophy, including Stanley Cavell, James F. Conant, John McDowell, Matthew B. Ostrow, Thomas Ricketts, Warren Goldfarb, Hilary Putnam, Stephen Mulhall, Alice Crary, and Cora Diamond. Explicit critics of the "New Wittgenstein" interpretation include P.M.S. Hacker, Ian Proops and Genia Schönbaumsfeld.
- The New Wittgenstein, ed. Rupert Read and Alice Crary. Routledge, 2000 (ISBN 0-415-17319-1).
- P.M.S. Hacker, Wittgenstein, Carnap and the New American Wittgensteinians, Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2003), pp. 1 –23.
- Ian Proops, The New Wittgenstein: A Critique, European Journal of Philosophy 9:3 (December 2001), 375–404.
- A Confusion of the Spheres: Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein on Philosophy and Religion, Genia Schönbaumsfeld. Oxford University Press, 2007 (ISBN 978-0-199229-82-6).
- Post-Analytic Tractatus, ed. Barry Stocker. Ashgate Press, 2004 (ISBN 0-7546-1297-X).