Wittgenstein on dispositions as abilities. A de-naturalized perspective

  • Alice Morelli
Keywords: Wittgenstein, Dispositions, Abilities, Naturalism, Knowledge-how


This paper focuses on Wittgenstein’s use of the notion of disposition. In the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein characterizes understanding as a mastery of a technique. This is a dispositional notion and many scholars have rightly presented dispositional readings of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy in virtue of his remarks on meaning and understanding. Wittgenstein seems to suggest that understanding the meaning of a word is best characterized as having the disposition to correctly use that word, that is, as knowing how to employ the word. However, scholars think that the notion of disposition as an ability– even if it is correctly ‘applicable’ – is not endorsed by Wittgenstein, because they think that he had in mind a narrow and materialistic conception of disposition as a state of a physical apparatus. This paper argues that Wittgenstein does not endorse a materialistic and narrow conception of disposition. By contrast, Wittgenstein criticizes one particular misleading use of the concept and he actively employs a de-naturalised notion of disposition as acquired ability, or embodied practice.


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How to Cite
Morelli, A. (1) “Wittgenstein on dispositions as abilities. A de-naturalized perspective”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 12(2). Available at: http://www.rifl.unical.it/index.php/rifl/article/view/506 (Accessed: 29September2023).