Wittgenstein's Problem and the Methods of Psychology: How ‘Grammar Depends on Facts’

John T. Jost, Donald F. Gustafson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The philosophy of Wittgenstein is often used to attack scientific approaches to psychological subject matter. Maraun (1998) furthers the anti-psychological interpretation of Wittgenstein by criticizing contemporary assumptions about reliability, validity and the measurement of psychological concepts in general. On one reading, Maraun's argument amounts to the modest claim that scientific measurement is (in part) a matter of following prescriptive rules and norms. A more substantial but seriously problematic version of the argument is that measurement claims are entirely independent of empirical evidence. Drawing on textual analysis and scientific examples, we demonstrate that conceptual and empirical issues are interdependent in a variety of ways and that this interdependence is consistent with Wittgenstein's observation that ‘grammar depends on facts’. By clarifying the significance of Wittgensteinian philosophy of psychology, it is hoped that conceptual confusions concerning measurement techniques may be cleared away so that meaningful empirical investigations may flourish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-479
Number of pages17
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1998


  • Wittgenstein
  • conceptual analysis
  • construct validity theory
  • philosophy of psychology
  • psychological measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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