Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are both considered among the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. Both were born in 1889 in German-speaking countries; both studied under leading philosophers of their day – Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, respectively – and were considered their philosophical heirs; and both ended up critiquing their mentors and thereby influencing the direction of thought in both the Analytic and Continental traditions. In Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (MIT Press, 2012), Lee Braver, associate professor of philosophy at Hiram College attempts to build what he calls a “load-bearing bridge” between these often polarized traditions. He argues that both thinkers have similar arguments for similar conclusions on similar fundamental issues. Both blame the disengaged contemplation of traditional philosophy for confusion about the nature of language, thought and ontology, and that attention to normal, ongoing human activity in context presents alternative fundamental insights into their nature. The groundless grounds of the title is the idea that finite human nature gives us everything we need to understand meaning, mind and being, and that to insist that this ground requires justification itself betrays confusion.
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