Although philosophers have remained occupied by philosophical problems, these problems have resisted solution to the extent that it becomes difficult to see exactly what constitutes progress in philosophy. While proving that philosophical problems cannot be solved would be a self-defeating enterprise, we may ask what role philosophy can have if it is not to solve those problems. My thesis deals with this question through a reading of two Germanic philosophers rarely associated with each other: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Theodor Adorno. The juxtaposition of Wittgenstein and Adorno is motivated by the idea that however great their differences, neither philosopher aimed at answering philosophical problems in their philosophical writings.
In the first chapter, I present Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, defending a therapeutic reading. On this account, Wittgenstein does not point out philosophical errors, but challenges the reader to investigate the presuppositions he relies on as he begins to do philosophy. However, noting how the application of Wittgenstein’s approach to a given question seems to depend on a strict distinction between philosophical and non-philosophical questions, I subsequently turn to a discussion of Wittgenstein’s relation to moral philosophy, where the distinction is far from clear-cut. After discussing three kinds of Wittgensteinian moral philosophy, I raise two concerns about the most wittgensteinian of them.
The second chapter begins with a presentation of Adorno’s philosophy, emphasizing how it can be seen as a philosophy that does not answer philosophical questions. Then, I engage Adorno to expand the criticism raised at the end of part 1, from pertaining to not onlya wittgensteinian moral philosophy, but to Wittgenstein’s philosophy in general. Lastly, I consider what Wittgenstein’s response to this criticism might look like.
The final chapter starts out assessing what kind of philosophy it is that Wittgenstein and Adorno exemplify, by contrasting my view own of their philosophies as possibilitydemonstrating philosophies with Christoph Demmerling’s account. The extent to which their possibility-demonstrating philosophies are indeed possible philosophies in the absence of conclusive philosophical answers is bounded, I argue, by considerations about the moral permissibility of the particular philosophical activity. The initial question of the thesis, aboutthe role of philosophy, will not receive a final solution here, since that the lack of such solutions was taken as premise. However, exposure to two forms of philosophy that are prima facie viable in the absence of such solutions makes the question itself become less urgent, while at the same time redirecting our interest onto still other problems.