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Expressing the World

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ISBN 0-8126-9534-8

$29.95   paper

280 pages


Expressing the World

Skepticism, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger

Anthony Rudd

Skepticism, the view that reliable knowledge is beyond our grasp, has defied refutation throughout the history of philosophy. Professor Rudd argues that skepticism cannot be avoided as long as knowledge is considered purely as an intellectual matter, but that genuine knowledge can be established if it is thought of as being especially tied to patterns of practical activity and to our emotional lives. He outlines a provisional defense of skepticism, then relates it to work by Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Skepticism about "other minds" is dealt with by developing Wittgenstein's approach, with the result that we have to reject the assumption that true knowledge requires a detached observer. Finally, the author considers whether our knowledge of the physical world can be understood in a way analogous to our knowledge of other minds. Here he suggests that there are important similarities between Wittgenstein's reminders of the "expressive" character of our experience and Heidegger's account of ways in which we can experience the physical world "expressively."

"In Expressing the World, Anthony Rudd takes the best from both the analytic and continental traditions as he even-handedly—but always unassumingly—deals out criticism to any movement or individual who overreaches philosophy’s proper caution. Against the background of what he calls global metaphysical skepticism, Rudd nevertheless argues for the practical reliability of our knowledge of the world and of other minds. Wittgenstein’s view that mental states are expressed in behaviour is extended to embrace the expressive power of the nonhuman world. Romanticism and phenomenology help us to interpret this expressiveness, though Rudd is careful not to forget his own caution and remains (rightly, I think) vigilant against over-ambitious ontological claims. The concluding comparison between Sartre’s, Buber’s, and Heidegger’s descriptions of what can happen in just looking at a tree is a tour de force: I wish I’d written it!"

—Dr. George Pattison, University of ┼rhus, author of The Later Heidegger

"Building on understandings of our being in nature that are present in Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Romanticism, Anthony Rudd advancess the thought that alert attunement to others and to nature may be a central mode of both knowledge and decent human comportment. Though this thought may seem astonishing in modernity, Rudd’s readings lend it a plausibility that exceeds what then emerge as the shallower charms of representationalism and volitionalist existentalism-pragmatism."

—Prof. Richard Eldridge, Swarthmore College, author of Leading a Human Life: Wittgenstein, Intentionality and Romanticism

"'Expressing the World' reconfigures the debate in exciting ways, ranging as it does from enigmatic late Heideggerian texts to recent analytic philosophy. The writing is honest, incisive and engaging throughout . . . The conclusions are tentative, as befits a book purporting to take skepticism seriously. But that the book is a serious response to modern skepticism—rather than another attempt to 'refute' some place-holder for an interlocutor, or 'dissolve' some alleged pseudo-problem—is surely reason enough to read it thoughtfully."

—from a review by Daniel Watts, Trinity College, Dublin, in Review of Metaphysics 59, no. 3 (2006).

Anthony Rudd is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, St. Olaf College, Minnesota.

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