In Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe, Going On to Ethics, Cora Diamond follows two major European philosophers as they think about thinking, as well as about our ability to respond to thinking that has miscarried or gone astray. Acting as both witness to and participant in the encounter, Diamond provides fresh perspective on the importance of the work of these philosophers and the value of doing philosophy in unexpected ways.
Diamond begins with the Tractatus (1921), in which Ludwig Wittgenstein forges a link between thinking about thought and the capacity to respond to misunderstandings and confusions. She then considers G. E. M. Anscombe’s An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (1959), in which Anscombe, through her engagement with Wittgenstein, further explores the limits of thinking and the ability to respond to thought that has gone wrong. Anscombe’s book is important, Diamond argues, in challenging contemporary assumptions about what philosophical problems are worth considering and about how they can be approached. Through her reading of the Tractatus, Anscombe exemplified an ethics of thinking through and against the grain of common preconceptions. The result drew attention to the questions that mattered most to Wittgenstein and conveyed with great power the nature of his achievement.
Diamond herself, in turn, challenges Anscombe on certain points, thereby further carrying out just the kind of ethical work Wittgenstein and Anscombe each felt was crucial to getting things right. Through her textured engagement with her predecessors, Diamond demonstrates what genuinely independent thought is able to achieve.