Popper and Wittgenstein as schoolteachers

Some time ago in this essay on the three world theory and literary criticism I suggested that there was a degree of similarity in at least one of the problems confronted by Popper and Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein, like Popper and Piaget, was taught by Buhler and he refused to take on board the mechanistic cause-and-effect model of physics to account for human language and behaviour. Wittgenstein’s response is his doctrine of  forms of life and language games. This may be compared with Popper’s answer – the three world theory, critical rationalism and conjectural objective knowledge. These divergent lines of thought are generally considered to be incommensurable and none of the myriad of books and articles generated by the Wittgenstein industry even mentions Popper. But once their common problem is recognised then they can be compared in terms of the fertility of their different solutions.

Bill Bartley did some research on the careers of Popper and Wittgenstein and turned up a lot of interesting information which adds some support to that proposition. The important factor was the exposure that each receive to the ideas of the Wurzburg school of psychlogists, especially their theories of language. He wrote a very long (10,000 word) paper on Wittgenstein and Popper as Austrian Schoolteachers. Because the paper is so long, I have done a short form which is less than half the size in case this is more helpful for busy readers who don’t need all the scholarly details. Even the short form is still very wordy, so be prepared to skim!

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