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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 42, Issue 1, January 2016

James Pearson
Pages 1-31

Wittgenstein and the Utility of Disagreement

This paper focuses on the theme of intersubjective disagreement in the late Wittgenstein and how his thought can be applied to our understanding of deliberative political practice. To this end, the study critically compares the contradictory readings of Wittgenstein that we find epitomized in Saul Kripke and James Tully. Drawing on Tully (and Stanley Cavell), I argue against Kripke that widespread disagreement over meaning does not necessarily threaten the utility of social practices. Notwithstanding, I also demonstrate how Tully’s reading, which can be considered pro-disagreement, is in need of refinement if certain misreadings are to be foreclosed and Wittgenstein is to be properly invoked as theoretical support for more comprehensive approaches to deliberative practice.

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