Presenter: Dr. Désirée Weber 

Title: Teaching and Learning with Wittgenstein in Dark Times: or How I Learned to Stop Doubting and Live with Contingency

Abstract: By tracing the teaching and learning references in Wittgenstein’s last writings, especially On Certainty, I will explicate his unique conception of certainty and doubt and the centrality of the learning process to our ability to navigate said certainties and doubts. Many treatments of this text make sense of Wittgenstein’s position in relation to traditional philosophical debates about certainty. My approach shifts the focus so that Wittgenstein’s remarks on certainty and doubt are contextualized in the larger arc of his later work, and especially its relation to his own teaching experience. This line of inquiry also relies on my extensive work on the Dictionary for Elementary Schools which he authored while he was a schoolteacher for 6 years in rural Austria, as well as textual exegesis of other later works such as the Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein’s unique position on certainty and doubt – and how the processes of teaching and learning relate to them – has implications for both philosophical and specifically epistemological questions, but also for our understanding of politics. The conditions of certainty and doubt are a perennial political concern, but especially in democracies where claim-making is contested– and even more so in our current dark times.

Bio: Dr. Weber’s expertise includes modern and contemporary political theory, with a particular focus on language, discourse and argumentation in political thinking. Her area of specialization is the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein and other language philosophers on political understanding and judgment. She teaches a variety of political theory courses. She is currently working on a monograph about the role of teaching and learning in Wittgenstein’s biography and later work – and the implications for understanding our capacity to make meaning as well as judgments about meaning. In collaboration with renowned contemporary artist Paul Chan, she has contributed a critical introduction to a new edition of Wittgenstein's Wörterbuch für Volksschulen [Dictionary for Elementary Schools] which will appear in November 2020. 

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