Toward a Wittgensteinian Social Psychology of Human Development

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It has been suggested that Wittgenstein's work on the philosophy of psychology contains the seeds of an anti-individualistic alternative to mentalism and behaviorism. Along these lines, I propose a social psychological reading of Wittgenstein based on Zettel§567 and related remarks. It is argued that Wittgenstein's views are social psychological because he claims that human behavior may be understood only in terms of the background of social practices and group norms, an assumption also shared by the social behaviorists Mead and Dewey. In particular, Wittgenstein emphasizes that psychological concepts, like all concepts, are systems of language-games supported by a complex variety of social practices, which he refers to as a form of life. According to Wittgenstein, people grow into the background assumptions of those around them through a process of socialization. On this view, human development is best understood as a progression through socio cultural sequences of increasingly complicated grammars. Some implications of Wittgenstein's account for contemporary developmental psychology are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-25
Number of pages21
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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