M. O’C. Drury on Wittgenstein and the history of philosophy

It is said that Wittgenstein knew little about the history of philosophy and spoke with some contempt about what had previously been called metaphysics. This is not true. Certainly he would not allow a philosophical discussion to be side tracked by irrelevant references to the statements of previous thinkers. And he thought it dangerous for a student of philosophy to spend a lot of time puzzling over say Kant or Hegel, when he should be thinking about what really puzzles him. Isn’t it a great relief to read a philosophical text such as Wittgenstein’s which is not weighted down by a mass of learned historicity? But that Wittgenstein was in any way arrogant towards the past or thought that he, or any of us, because we lived in the twentieth century were therefore more advanced in our thinking that is the very reverse of his belief. He shewed always a most remarkable and rare humility towards the past.

from “1967 Dublin Lecture on Wittgenstein,” in The Danger of Words and writings on Wittgenstein, (Thoemmes Press, 1996), 2.

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