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Much attention has recently been given to Martin Heidegger and his disturbing relationship to fascism. I want here to look at another philosopher in this context: Ludwig Wittgenstein. As a source of insight into the politics of modernism, Wittgenstein would seem to have at least three strikes against him. His explicit political pronouncements are rare; his relationship to literary modernism is unclear; and the political implications of his philosophical writings are notoriously difficult to assess. Perhaps for these reasons, discussions of modernism usually omit Wittgenstein, and discussions of Wittgenstein usually ignore modernism. Stanley Cavell is an important exception to this tendency, and his early essays collected in Must We Mean What We Say? will be my starting point here. I will be reviewing in very general terms how Cavell defines modernism; how his definition encourages us to read Wittgenstein as a modernist philosopher; and, finally, how aligning Wittgenstein with modernism can shed light on its troubling politics.

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Johns Hopkins University Press


Baltimore, MD

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Philosophy and Literature