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Keywords:

  • Aristotle;
  • cultures;
  • essentialism;
  • relativism;
  • social criticism

There are two widely held views in the literature as regards Wittgenstein’s philosophy. One says that Wittgenstein in his later work appeals to ordinary language in his effort to show how the philosophical problems can be dissolved, and the other says that his investigation is a grammatical one. This paper undertakes to examine what is meant by a grammatical investigation, especially in view of the fact that this investigation relies on empirical facts that have to do with linguistic usage. The examination is carried out by concentrating on what Wittgenstein has to say on the issue of knowledge – in particular, how the way we use the word contributes to the dismissal of Moore's answer to the challenge of scepticism. The conclusion is that Wittgenstein's resort to ordinary language is not typically empirical. The examples of ordinary usage that he cites may be contingent, but they could not have been different given the language games they are part of. The correct use of words Wittgenstein appeals to is not fixed by some kind of essence, but neither is it decided by a majority rule. It gets entrenched in a complex nexus of practices. Wittgenstein's reference to “use” instead of ‘usage”and to “linguistic facts” instead of “sociological facts” lends support more to a logical than to an empirical investigation.