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First Steps and Conceptual Creativity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein on Objectivity, Intuition, and Meaning
EditorsJames Conant, Sebastian Grève
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781108151764
Publication statusPublished - 2019

King's Authors


In section 308 of Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein talks of the first step in philosophizing being ‘the one that altogether escapes notice ... that’s just what commits us to a particular way of looking at the matter’. In this essay, Michael Beaney explores some of the connections between conceptual creativity and the kind of first steps of which Wittgenstein spoke. Beaney argues that a good example of such a first step is Frege’s use of function–argument analysis and the associated conception of concepts as functions, which led to almost all his characteristic doctrines. And Beaney shows that, while it is tempting to see the conceptual creativity involved in this case—that is, in Frege’s reconceiving concepts as functions—as originating in some ‘Eureka!’ moment and as catching on when others can exclaim ‘Now I can go on!’, all this needs careful description to avoid mythologization.

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