Tag Archives: computers

“Die Machine als Symbol ihrer Wirkungsweise”: Wittgenstein, Reuleaux, and Kinematics / Review of work on Quine

Volume 7.7 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open-access.

It features an article by Sébastien Gandon entitled “‘Die Machine als Symbol ihrer Wirkungsweise’: Wittgenstein, Reuleaux, and Kinematics”. Here is an abstract:

In Philosophical Investigations 193–94, Wittgenstein draws a notorious analogy between the working of a machine and the application of a rule. According to the view of rule-following that Wittgenstein is criticizing, the future applications of a rule are completely determined by the rule itself, as the movements of the machine components are completely determined by the machine configuration. On what conception of the machine is such an analogy based? In this paper, I intend to show that Wittgenstein relied on quite a specific scientific tradition very active at the beginning of the twentieth century: the kinematic or the general science of machines. To explain the fundamental tenets of this line of research and its links with Wittgenstein, I focus on Franz Reuleaux (1829–1905), whose works were known to Wittgenstein.

The first payoff of this investigation is to help distance the functionalist framework from which this passage is often read: Wittgenstein’s machines are not (or not primarily) computers. The second payoff is to explain why Wittgenstein talks about machines at this place in his discussion on rule-following: it is not the machine model in itself that is criticized in PI 193–94, but the “philosophical” temptation to generalize from it.

The volume also contains a review of Frederique Jansen-Lauret and Gary Kemp, eds., Quine and His Place in History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), written by James Andrew Smith, Jr..

JHAP is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!